Emily Gould is the author of And The Heart Says Whatever, Friendship, and the forthcoming Perfect Tunes. With Ruth Curry, she runs Emily Books, which sells and publishes books by women as an imprint of Coffee House Press. She is a contributor to Bookforum and The Cut. She teaches writing in New York City, where she lives with her family.
PanBookforumDaum’s attraction to exploring whatever can’t be said in public—which she instinctively feels must be the truth, and not just our worst impulses—has at last led her astray ... Reading this book is like reading Twitter for hours on end, which is what Daum admits she has spent most of the past few years doing. Daum has, in the past, been a near-perfect chronicler of the texture of her own experience. The experience she describes most often in this book is the experience of sitting in front of a computer, alone. The most galling moments in The Problem with Everything are the ones that make me wistful for what might have been possible if Daum had pushed herself to go beyond her immediate responses to the outrageous events of the past three years ... Daum is so brilliant that I’m still shocked she hasn’t considered that congratulating yourself for toughness is much less important than making a world where [women\'s] toughness isn’t necessary ... It’s disappointing, on a personal level ... Since anatomizing her own self-delusions has always been her greatest strength as a writer, it’s also a professional failing.
Thomas J. Campanella
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThankfully, Campanella takes a practical approach: Instead of attempting a chronology that traces themes or communities through the decades and centuries, he treats each chapter as a self-contained deep dive into a particular part of the borough ... For the purposes of this illuminating and sometimes maddening book, the history of Brooklyn is a series of experiments with unpredictable and uneven results ... In what might be the book’s most fascinating and evocative chapter, Campanella explores the little-known history of Barren Island ... The story of Brooklyn in the late 20th and early 21st centuries is much better known than anything else in this book, and as such it gets relatively short shrift ... His final paragraphs urge readers to \'flee the twee\' and follow him south, toward the \'Guyanese grills and Dominican bodegas\' where \'life is still lived unposed and uncurated and close to the bone.\' This conclusion deserves a closer look. If a quest for authenticity is the motor of gentrification, why on earth is Campanella encouraging his readers to follow him into the outwash plain? ... Campanella has a right to his Brooklyn, but the rest of us do too, whatever the highlights on our particular historical walking tours might be.
RaveLondon Review of BooksLong litanies comprised of sentences that all start the same way are one of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s things ... when we meet Toby and Rachel’s 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, for the first time, the words ‘Or because’ preface 12 different possible explanations for Rachel’s increasingly bitchy behaviour. Brodesser-Akner gets away with this maximalism. She doesn’t just get away with it, she uses these passages to add to her story’s landslide momentum. She doesn’t just get away with it, she downright relishes her refusal ever to land on just one perfect description or just one plausible explanation, because she’s a natural raconteur whose knack for trapping readers in her web must leave her editors in a state of exhausted inertia ... I imagine Brodesser-Akner’s editors throwing up their hands: move that Jenga brick and the whole thing really would come crashing down.
PanThe Washington Post\"Recent MFA graduate Kristen Roupenian’s You Know You Want This seems like [an MFA thesis] ... I felt absolutely enraged by [the book\'s] weaknesses. It does nobody any good, least of all the author, to pretend that the other stories in this collection are anywhere near as noteworthy or polished as \'Cat Person.\' They are student work, and they trumpet their influences baldly ... Roupenian is great with those grisly, gory details; she writes them with wit and humor and glee ... Horror is great, ambiguity is fine, but they both need to be deployed in the service of something besides themselves.\
RaveBookforumIt took me a while to get around to Circe, Madeline Miller’s extremely popular 2018 novel told from the perspective of the island-dwelling witch from The Odyssey. Friends had raved about it circa its publication. I’d read one page and put it down, finding it too hard to get into the narrator’s formal, serious Ancient Greekness. Then, two years later, novels featuring contemporary people stopped being able to hold my attention. Characters went to bars and museums, rode the subway, walked around with their faces uncovered. I couldn’t relate. Time to read about an immortal demigoddess with the power to turn men into pigs! ... As usual, I had managed to let a book’s popularity distract me from the possibility that it might be delightful. Circe, despite her seen-it-all attitude, is great company: long-suffering but never self-pitying, full of intriguing insights into the behavior of her fellow immortals ... the book’s heightened tone threatens to shift into melodrama but never does. The quotidian nature of sexual violence speaks for itself. Miller doesn’t belabor the idea that Circe, though exceptional in many ways, faces universal woes. The only difference is the literal eternity she has to live with her trauma.
MixedBookforumFrom the first pages, it’s clear that Hollinghurst is still writing some of the most beautiful lines currently to be found in English ... But this very mastery seems to have misled him; he seems to think he no longer needs to obey the fundamental rules of narrative ... The mood is sun-drunk, horny, and inescapably twee, giving the reader a sense of subliminally listening to the world’s most elegantly wrought Belle and Sebastian song ... if we knew these people better, or cared about what they did, we’d care a lot more when they started to decline and die.
MixedBookforum...a workmanlike biography ... How did she survive being in a band with not one but two acrimonious ex-lovers? Why did she ever put up with Buckingham, who is portrayed from the very beginning as angry, sarcastic, boorish, cruel, and even violent? Gold Dust Woman has a lot of detail about buffets, drug quantities, costumes, and tour schedules, but I never really expected it to answer those kinds of questions. Answers would have required Nicks to speak to a biographer, to remember accurately, and to be honest. None of that seems likely to ever happen ... Gold Dust Woman almost incidentally eliminates the glamour and romance of the accepted narrative. It becomes evident early on that Buckingham was bizarrely possessive of Nicks and verbally abusive, and that their relationship was already 99 percent over before they joined Fleetwood Mac. Davis alludes throughout the book to the fact that Buckingham could be physically abusive but tends to stop just short of direct accusation.
RaveThe GuardianEveryone is right: this is the most important book about men and women written in the last century. If you are not a man (or even if you are one) and you feel curious about why the current state of heterosexual relations leaves you feeling angry, empty or ill-used, you can use this book to explain yourself to yourself, and become a wiser, or maybe just more complicated, person.
PositiveBookforumIn anyone else's hands, this premise would be too ridiculous to generate pathos, but Saunders has long excelled at creating alternate realities ... Though Bardo is a novel, in many ways Saunders continues to capitalize on his skills as a miniaturist. The individual ghosts' monologues function as short stories unto themselves, sometimes freestanding, sometimes doled out in increments and interspersed with other characters' speeches. Saunders churns out ghost after ghost with virtuosic brio, endowing each with a unique voice and reason for being trapped in limbo ... These images start out vivid but then somehow turn vague. It is hard, even for Saunders, to maintain his typical level of absurdity, his stylistic comfort zone, over the course of an entire novel. The ghosts don't often describe themselves or one another and are tricky to keep in the mind's eye as one reads. Saunders struggles with some of the more unwieldy aspects of supernatural-world building ... The interior monologues that we overhear as Lincoln caresses his dead son's face and hands are almost unbearably sad. His struggles are all the more affecting in contrast with the ghosts' stories. Theirs, while perpetually replayed, are over. His suffering, his chances, and the consequences of his choices are still all works in progress ... Saunders takes a delightfully playful, salad-bar approach to various versions of limbo previously depicted in fiction ... It was poignant and bizarre to read this book in the week following the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, but not for the reasons I'd initially thought it might be. The brand of absurdist dystopia that was once synonymous with 'George Saunders story' has been rendered obsolete: Stories about a corporatized world full of near-slave workers ruled by murderous idiots are now impossible to read as satire, and are becoming tougher to distinguish from realist fiction. Soon they will be impossible to distinguish from reportage. It's lucky, then, that Saunders has turned his gifts toward historical fiction, giving us a glimpse of an imagined past when our country was divided yet eventually reunited...This long meditation on the importance of having someone wise and thoughtful and deeply sad at the helm of our democracy seems to be arriving just a moment too late.
PositiveBookforumThough Winter’s book is billed as a satire, it barely contains any exaggeration, which can be mildly disorienting; sometimes it’s unclear whether we’re confronting a caricature or a portrait...[her] sharp perceptions and fluent prose are so much fun to experience that you might forget to wonder what her aim is in rendering the micro-details of this unpleasant, hollow-souled milieu ... Winter’s book stands out, though, by making the stakes of Jen’s struggle to emerge triumphant from her stint at LIft so viscerally high.