PositiveThe New York Review of BooksThe tension between the critic’s high expectations and the book’s low visibility tells you a good deal. On one, fairly banal, level, it points to a predictable disparity between the author’s popularity at home and her profile abroad ... And yet, in contrast to the large and roiling themes, there is Erpenbeck’s manner: coolly precise, leached of emotionality, almost disconcertingly austere ... much of the force of her fiction flows from the way she situates her female characters in time and history ... the publication of a \'memoir in pieces,\' consisting wholly of nonfiction essays, promised to fill some gaps and thereby enhance her profile. But whatever satisfactions some of those pieces provide, Not a Novel is too uneven overall—partly by design, partly not—to do anything but raise more questions than it answers ... Not a Novel is literally as well as figuratively uneven. \'Life\' is unsatisfyingly scant, while \'Literature and Music\' makes up more than two thirds of the book; \'Society,\' which comprised seven essays in the original, is reduced to just two pieces ... the resultant unevenness, the casual, occasionally sketchy quality of some of the work—to say nothing of the irritating verbatim repetitions of entire passages from piece to piece, from one magazine article or prize acceptance speech to another—suggests that the process of compilation was not as meticulous as you’d expect from Erpenbeck.When you’re a busy writer in midcareer, it’s easy to assemble enough material for a collection like this one; but a good collection is much more than a grab bag. Still, there is much here of great interest and high quality.