PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewThrumming along underneath all this, animating the book, is Attenberg’s life’s organizing principle: the drive to become a writer. She brings to the subject her gifts as a novelist: a fierce impulse toward honesty, a companionably cranky voice and an interest in the complicated, bobbing and weaving ways in which people navigate their desires ... Rarely do contemporary writers allow themselves to speak so freely about their careers; more commonly we see a lot of disaffection about the idea of ambition itself. Attenberg’s objectives, her pride and her desire fill every page of this book. I, for one, found it a relief. She has the writer’s fine-tuned sense of her own place in the literary cosmos ... I Came All This Way to Meet You is at its most affecting when Attenberg follows the darker thread of her own experience ... My main complaint about this one is structural: I Came All This Way to Meet You is arranged as a memoir in essays. This is not automatically a bad thing, but recently too many writers (and editors) have seemed to use this format as a way to dodge the exigencies of actual storytelling ... Her voice and her frankness lead the way through what can sometimes feel like a maze — but the satisfactions are thick on the ground, and we follow. And when we are finished, we hold in our hands the promised ending, the book itself.
PositiveThe Atlantic... a strange novel. The publisher calls it a fable, and perhaps it is, in the sense that many of Cusk’s books can be read as fables of female dissatisfaction. Drawing on the observational spareness of her celebrated Outline trilogy and the eccentric vigor of her earlier work, she powerfully blends evocations of personal turmoil with ruminations on art, truth, freedom, the will, men and women, and more ... lets us listen as one such woman tries to describe what happens to her—in her mind and her body, alone and in the company of others—as she finds herself stymied.
PositiveThe AtlanticThe unnamed narrator of Whereabouts practices a starker form of refusal, rendered in short, journal-like fragments so strongly and rightly voiced that other books sound wrong when you turn to them ... The effect is of someone making her way carefully through the world, always aware of the void below, well practiced in navigating with a command that both is and isn’t what it seems.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe book, from beginning to end, is a document of anger. There’s quiet fury at its center — a nuclear sun that radiates not out at the world, but back at the author herself. This is decidedly not the work of someone who’s worked through all her issues, as the jargon goes. And yet: The author’s anger gives the book its considerable power, its substantial grace and even, in the end, its meaning — which goes against every received idea of what good memoir is, and how it ought it to function ... Burton’s memoir is valuable because she goes beyond simply confessing her shame; she rakes herself over the coals, and in doing so she models how anger can be used to clarify a story ... [The] contrast between her controlled, achieving self and her uncontrolled eating self is enacted not just in the story, but in the voice of the memoir itself, with its berating of her younger self. Burton is alive to this contradiction ... Her book is fueled by just the kind of emotion that makes me uncomfortable, the kind we might call unprocessed. She isn’t the cool dispassionate narrator we are used to seeing. But her anger, in the end, clarifies and intensifies our view of her dilemma; it becomes an illuminating force. Burton ate because she was angry at herself; she’s angry at herself because she ate; it’s a circle of rage and shame that any addict can understand ... Her fury, then, is like a flashing light in a cave, or a portal. The force of it makes us not just appreciate but actually feel the force that drove her to commit her actions in the first place. The result is a book that wields a fearsome intimacy. Her anger takes us with her, back to that place of self-hatred and compulsion — back to the kitchen counter, scooping granola by the handful into her open mouth.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"... Katie Arnold does an admirable job of trusting the everyday material of her life ... Running Home is at its very best when Arnold writes about finding herself pulled away from her husband and young daughters by her running and her writing ... The book has a sweet and earned ending. Unfortunately, Arnold can’t resist goosing it a bit. Throughout the last 50 pages, she hits us repeatedly with blasts of the abstract, inflated language of wisdom ... These life lessons feel extraneous and are impatient-making, because loftiness is not, after all, the job of the memoir. Arnold has already fulfilled that job. She has ushered us into an interesting life and laid bare the darker feelings hidden there. We don’t require transcendent wisdom. A writer does not need to be a phoenix.\
RaveThe New York Times...a light-stepping, streamlined novel ... rage might be the signature emotion of the powerless, but in Wolitzer\'s hands, rage is also very funny ... Wolitzer deploys a calm, seamless humor not found in her previous novels ... they gradually accumulate, creating a rueful, sardonic atmosphere ... The book represents a real step forward for Wolitzer, and its success lies in its reticence ... if The Wife is a puzzle and an entertainment, it\'s also a near heartbreaking document of feminist realpolitik.
RaveThe AtlanticQuatro is good on the mores of this sort of courtship: the coyness, the posturing, the elaborately casual self-presentation ... We’re meant to understand why James makes Maggie swoony, but to us nonpoets he sounds tiresomely pretentious—so much so that I wondered whether Quatro intended us to roll our eyes...Prose as awful as this, from a writer of Quatro’s gifts, again raises the question of whether she means us to grow impatient with her protagonist ... Quatro repeatedly returns to this kind of egregiously full-throated religious language. The rest of the book—the descriptions of marriage and family—unfolds in a far less stagy register, allowing the reader to slip into the nuances of the novel’s emotional flow, only to be yanked out by this God stuff ... Worn down by Maggie’s breast-beating, I found myself missing the kinetic oddness of I Want to Show You More, a book that combines a charmingly flat, demotic style with a taste for the surreal ... we get God instead of such playful, parable-like turns. It’s not a trade-off I would’ve chosen. And yet. Eventually Quatro brought me around to her way of seeing things. The God stuff isn’t there to polish or to punish her adulteress. It’s essential to Maggie’s character and to what Quatro wants to say. In the end, the book is a profound, and profoundly strange, meditation on desire and how it connects us to the \'eternal\' ... I was stunned by the notion, and enchanted by the way the book built to a crystallized idea rather than a scene or an event—thinking as a dramatic gesture is a pleasure found more commonly in nonfiction than in fiction ... Rereading with this idea of unsated desire fresh in my head, I found that Quatro had seeded the problem of wanting throughout. What had seemed a lot of overblown palaver about God felt illuminated, now that the “Fire Sermon” echoed in my mind. Once I understood its creator’s design, the pattern of the book became beautiful to me. By the time she’s done bobbing and weaving her way through her narrative, Quatro makes us feel the absolute necessity of desire, which she reveals as something shining: a hammered-gold necklace, begged for, worn twice, given away.