RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksChronic rereaders of the author’s essays, criticism, biographies, and memoirs will recognize in her spare and elegant new book, Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader, a familiar commitment to class consciousness, cultural politics, gender, and close reading — not only of literature, but of daily human relationships ... Unfinished Business takes us somewhere else with the same anecdote — further down the line of self-knowledge, through the aftermath of second-wave feminism, to the \'unfinished business\' that fuels Gornick’s present interest in rereading ... To read Gornick’s unabashed insights, with their hallmark clarity and searching self-scrutiny, is balm for the soul in uncertain times: this new book arrives at a good moment ... for Gornick, rereading, like reading, is also about pleasure, good company, playful internal dialogue, and intimacy ... The essays in Unfinished Business are hybrid forms in which literary analysis, close reading, personal narrative, anecdotal aside, and sudden revelation alternate and combine. Which is to say they are essays par excellence, in the best, most old-fashioned sense of the form, à la Montaigne, De Quincey, Woolf, Orwell, Ginzburg, James Baldwin ... The effect is to telescope reading and writing, in past, present, and future tenses: we are all patchwork and collage, haunted for better or worse by our experiences and ideas, and how we have tried to reckon with them — in life and in writing.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Undying...resists neat platitudes, easy images, and formal closure ... in The Undying there is no one story, one idea, one direction, one clause or cause, reason or remedy, message or moral ... her writing is singular—as in exceptional, forceful, brilliant ... The Undying is not the story of cancer as the dominant culture has taught us to tell or hear or imagine or understand it. It is anything but. In form, it is multiple, wayward, fragmented, rebellious, lucid, furious, beautiful, disorienting, unhappy, profound, painful, exquisite, precise, abstract, unfathomable ... As one of the undying, having lived through a battered and disabling process in order to keep living, and now still missing parts of her former self, Boyer harnesses language and form to produce a body of writing that creates, embodies, and produces the effects of its own conditions—even when the form this takes on the page is a utopian book, the one she wants to exist, wants to write[.]
Yuko Tsushima Trans. by Geraldine Harcourt
PositiveBookforumA lonely book. It is also angry, unflinching, and sometimes ashamed, afraid ... has the subtle, harrowing shades of Marie Darrieussecq’s My Phantom Husbandand Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment, though both were written decades later. Like these works, Tsushima’s novel chronicles the life of a woman who is in the process of reconstituting herself in the face of an absence. It is not a neat story of awakening or transformation but of the fearful joy of the unobscured horizon, of how the freshly unstructured life gapes with promise and paralysis alike ... an I-novel, a Japanese genre from the early twentieth century that now reads as a more beguiling, less embarrassed-sounding version of today’s autofiction ... In Tsushima’s unburdened territory, every corner is filled with light and there is nowhere to hide, for there need not be—not for those who seek illumination.
Esme Weijun Wang
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books\"... incisive and moving ... Wang’s writing throughout The Collected Schizophrenias is insightful, curious, and never condemnatory, with an eye for revelatory details that embody the complexities of schizophrenia as both illness and metaphor ... The essays of The Collected Schizophrenias continue this intuitive chain of connections, and tether Wang tenderly, intelligently, insistently to us. May she return again and again, for she has much to impart, in her brilliant prose, about how to write the shaggy, sharp-toothed thing and not the wolf.\
Fleur Jaeggy, trans. by Minna Zallman Proctor
PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksEnigmatic narratives in which lives do not emerge or elapse with biographical regularity, but instead emanate and hover, swing like ballasts, and collide in the margins and gutters. This is the space of Fleur Jaeggy’s These Possible Lives, three spare and telegraphic essays about Thomas De Quincey, John Keats, and Marcel Schwob, in which each account is self-contained and exquisitely precise, capturing the arc of a whole life with filigreed economy ... Figures — peers, foes, lovers, family members — come and go with indeterminate immediacy, lingering in brief and vivid portraits haunted by peculiar details ... The essay itself becomes a form of possibility ... Jaeggy includes many details of the lives in question that would be familiar to most readers — from childhood beginnings, to furiously productive interior lives, and, finally, to haunting scenes of death ... Jaeggy’s essays possess the cool, inevitable horror of fairy tales.
RaveThe Guardian..[a] moving and energetic debut collection ... As is often the case with deftly written child narrators (most of Zhang’s seem to hover around the age of nine), deceptively simple observations are occasions for poignant and difficult personal growth: parents seem human in a new way – their disappointments, personal and professional sacrifices pitted with all too familiar, childlike desire ... Sour Heart hosts a well of emotion, but its critical organs are also intimately linked to the young female body that is hot, sticky, brazen, penetrable. These sensibilities seep into Zhang’s prose, in which interior and exterior collide in narrative jumps, associative imagery and long passages of idiosyncratic dialogue ... Zhang gives life to a chorus of voices rich with reinvention, a narrative genealogy of what it is to be, to speak and to write across many forms of expression at once.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books...a skilled and evocative contribution to a genre that has long frustrated definition by critics and practitioners alike ... Chew-Bose’s collection bristles with slow and tender inquisitiveness, carefully wrought anecdotes and character studies, devotion to detail, and nuanced structure in which form engages with content ... In Too Much and Not the Mood, language is playful and liberating, a tool with which to investigate thought and expression ... With a cinematographer’s eye, Chew-Bose stills time to detail and interpret minutiae, imagining the burnished interior states that might correspond ... As in the best essay collections the stories, scenes, insights, and observations are individual and specific; but they are also analogies for a certain kind of looking, spending time and attention, as well as bestowing care and devotion on the animate and the inanimate alike.