RaveThe Guardian\"Muñoz brings tenderness and immediacy to these fully realized stories of secrets and concealment, longings, vulnerability, and imperfect escape, creating an expansive and memorable world.\
RaveThe Guardian (UK)McLean writes at times with the hyper-keen vividness of nightmare: not surrealism but a kind of American expressionism, like a darker, gristlier Donald Barthelme – grotesque, comic and unsettling ... By working beyond the familiar artificialities of realism, McLean creates dense and memorable pictures of American life that are intensely and oddly real. Some themes or objects – a cat that lives in a pond, a pterodactyl out of time – are perhaps not meant to be read metaphorically, but as talismans of instability and mystery.
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel
PanThe GuardianMurakami, by his own account, is less interested in creating complex characters than in the interaction his characters have with the world in which he imagines them. Even so, the women in this book are remarkably less complex, less individual, than the men, existing primarily as a pretext for the male characters to find out, or fail to find out, about themselves. The playfulness with the identity of the narrator might be more rewarding, were it not for the stretches of tepid, underpowered writing. The conversational style can be slack and cliched, speckled with reflections on philosophical questions about ageing, identity, memory and what it is to know oneself ... There is a point in each story where the narrator scrutinises and judges the attractiveness of a woman or girl with a disquieting urgency and an unexamined sense of entitlement. Such a gaze is never turned on the narrator, and only rarely, and comedically, on the men ... The last story is the most taut and unsettling ... In the final line of the book, the narrator recalls [a woman\'s] words repeating, in a reproof to him, and perhaps the previous narrators: \'You should be ashamed of yourself.\' In a collection so dominated by a male point of view, this striking, admonitory tone might be read as the key to the book.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... deeply enjoyable ... Sometimes the stories work within the territory of the horror genre – they are atmospheric with fear and shock, threat and disorientation – but without the generic appurtenances of the supernatural ... Almost all the stories are told in the first person, but some give the unnerving impression of having come out of a non-human consciousness ... The pieces are set in unidentified places that seem very much like the US – the rural midwest or the suburbs of the great cities. Yet the settings feel fresh because the author refuses to draw on worn-out descriptive tropes ... This is not realism, but there is no dream fog about these stories. There is no kitsch, no irony, no postmodern nods and winks, no sentiment either. Through the power of her vision, Scanlan takes hold of the world and gives it to the reader with an intensity that is, paradoxically, both strange and familiar ... The stories are not flashes of fiction or experiments but carefully made works, executed with powerful economy. Scanlan pays minute attention to objects and persons, to construct stories that are exactly as long as they need to be. The emotional power is achieved, at points, partly through an ambiguous narration of events, which may frustrate readers who prefer their stories to lie flat. Conventions of dialogue, action and closure are eschewed, not as a provocation, but because this is the most engaging and convincing way the writer has found to reach this far into what it is to be human ... Scanlan requires that the reader remain sharply vigilant: a feeling that lingers long after finishing the book and will, perhaps, be part of what draws people back. On rereadings I found the stories to be both more beautiful on the surface, with finely made sentences that are sonically and rhythmically compelling, and more profoundly affecting at a deeper level of feeling. More evident still becomes Scanlan’s skill in exploring big human themes: grief, abjection, neglect, fragility ... a great source of pleasure.