MixedThe New York Times Book Review... elegantly written ... Lovers’ gender, Choi suggests, says little about emotional experience. This isn’t quite untrue, and you wouldn’t wish for a novel bogged down in identity politics. But there is something suspect ... Several earnestly heated sex scenes, for one, suggest otherwise. For even if psychologically we may ignore the facts of the body, sexually we depend upon them ... My Education shows...timidity with the relevant political stakes, perhaps to similarly apolitical effect ... the affair’s psychological effects on Regina, though made much of at the time, don’t reverberate deeply into her adulthood ... Choi is a graceful, perceptive writer, and all of her novels are striking for the visual beauty of her descriptions. At the same time, the somewhat indiscriminate attentiveness of her prose tends to plane smooth the texture of her narratives. A trivial dinner conversation in Choi’s hands receives the same careful scrutiny as a life-altering betrayal. The effect, in the end, is of a keen but somewhat purposeless talent. The more sweepingly Choi applies her considerable gifts, the more difficult it is to say what particularly matters to this writer and why.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewArsenault’s narrative follows the path of her research, beginning with her interest in her family’s genealogy and branching out into explorations of the area’s social and environmental plight ... Much of the book’s substance comes from interviews Arsenault conducted with residents ... Mill Town is preoccupied with a poisonous irony: Rumford’s citizens live and work in a place that makes them unwell, yet they cling to their jobs with prideful obstinacy ... By trade neither a scientist nor a science journalist, Arsenault is candid about her difficulties in making sense of her subject ... But while she questions her wisdom in embarking on the project, she seems never to question the shape of the project itself. Casting her handicap as a virtue, she implies that her struggles demonstrate how hard it is for an ordinary citizen to access reliable information about environmental standards or corporate practices ... Arsenault is nothing if not an earnest writer. Yet the stakes are so high that this murkiness about her task — Is she an investigative journalist or a memoirist? And whose story, exactly, is she telling? — is unfortunate. Not treating the book as purely investigatory means she doesn’t have to establish anything definite ... But a story rived by cover-ups and uncertainty is only further muddled by meditations on the uncertain nature of storytelling.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review\"Land’s memoir is not particularly artful. The narration advances with some circularity; the language is often stale. But her book has the needed quality of reversing the direction of the gaze ... Land survived the hardship of her years as a maid, her body exhausted and her brain filled with bleak arithmetic, to offer her testimony. It’s worth listening to.\
PositiveBookforum\"The exhaustive reports on furniture, cooking, renovations, and real estate aren’t thrilling, but neither are they boring, being possessed of a kind of homely tactile truth that is revealing and hypnotic in its way ... On occasion, the mundane stories suggest a kind of unsettling foreknowledge ... Most notable among the many hundreds of pages of this volume, however, are fourteen previously unpublished letters addressed to Plath’s analyst, Dr. Ruth Beuscher ... There is a kind of gusto to unhappiness of a high order, a sublimity to the utter depths. In many places, these late letters share the imperious frankness and throaty rage of the poems that made Plath’s name[.]
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewDiligently reporting on the troubles facing \'Middle Precariat\' families, Quart doesn’t offer much that is news ... What is perhaps unusual about Quart’s book is her attention to how we feel about it — specifically our peculiar willingness to take personal responsibility for problems that are not our fault ... Quart has tried to write a book that is not uniformly depressing, and at the end of some chapters she describes ways people have attempted to better their situations with unconventional arrangements.
David Foster Wallace
PositiveThe MillionsCertainly Wallace had set himself a problem masochistic or quixotic in its difficulty: how to write an interesting novel about that byword for tedium, the IRS? And how to write a religious novel–which is what The Pale King is, in its preoccupation with grace, illumination, and purpose–about the most disenchanted and secular of professions, namely accounting? … Wallace wants us to see what the examiners, at the height of their boredom, can’t, quite: the relation of the human skeleton to the bureaucratic thumb bone turning the page … The book’s inconclusiveness keeps alive his questions, and ours, in a way a completed work wouldn’t.