PanThe Seattle TimesMy Body is meant to signal a shift in Ratajkowski’s public persona, and to a certain extent, it does. She no longer seems quite as interested in convincing the world that there is political virtue in being sexy online ... Yet her gaze is provincial, rarely extending past the confines of her own skin even when she is critiquing systemic issues ... confessionals can come across as opportunistic and hollow. At their worst, Ratajkowski’s essays belong in this genre. She supplies details that seem designed to evoke sympathy, but read as rather strange and tone-deaf ... Ratajkowski has lived an extraordinary life, and some of these stories demand to be told ... But an extraordinary life does not necessarily birth extraordinary insights, and banality is what My Body ultimately suffers from ... The mere ability to recognize the rottenness of patriarchy and capitalism also does not exempt you from perpetuating these constructs. Ratajkowski’s is a reassuring system of logic because it ultimately asks nothing of her beyond her comprehension.
Jonas Eika, tr. Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg
RaveThe Seattle TimesIf one were to combine the deadpan eeriness of Yorgos Lanthimos, the campy yet grotesque body horror of David Cronenberg, and the Dada-infused homoeroticism of William Burroughs, the end result would look something like After the Sun ... Although a translator’s credit usually doesn’t extend past the small font on a book’s interior title page, the complexity of Hellberg’s task will be clear to any who crack open After the Sun ... Often, the mark of a talented translator is their invisibility; a typical reader doesn’t stop to consider the process of translation until a word catches or grates. However, Eika’s idiom is peculiar and disarming by design. It doesn’t move with the rhythm of ordinary language, and it brims with non sequiturs and offbeat metaphors. The effect is bewitching, and a certain level of incoherence is intentional. It would be hard to replicate in any language ... Some fiction seeks to expand your perspective, but Eika shrinks your gaze, pulling it toward his subjects precisely in the moments when distance is most desirable. His writing is scarily intimate, drawing attention to the social atomization that is a defining feature of life in an advanced capitalist economy ... Eika doesn’t traffic in archetypes or employ recognizable character tropes. Readers who seek a mirror to their own experiences won’t find it in After the Sun, at least not in a direct sense. Each story operates with its own internal logic, so as a reader, you’ll find yourself immersed in worlds whose boundaries you’re unsure of ... Eika’s critiques of capitalism are nimble yet rigorous, never slipping into the rote jargon of social media, which can be hard for authors to avoid these days, even in fiction ... Dreamy, febrile and thoroughly twisted, After the Sun is a collection from an author who aims to confound perception through language and small distortions of reality ... The book often reads like poetry, and like poetry, attempting to extract meaning from any one sentence or stanza is not always possible. But what you’re left with are impressions, feelings that break through and haunt you. A bold debut from an author who understands the generative capacity of fiction, After the Sun is a glimpse into our brutal world through Eika’s slanted gaze.
PositiveSeattle TimesWhile it is the love dynamics that provide the novel with an undeniable electric charge that keeps the pages moving, the most memorable relationship in the novel is that of Eileen and Alice, whose long, discursive emails punctuate the plotted chapters. Their messages are thoughtful Socratic dialogues...it becomes clear how much Rooney has developed as a novelist ... Beautiful World seems to want to apologize to the reader for its insufficiently symmetrical politics. This is regrettable; the arguments that Rooney stages between her characters are the most generative parts of the novel precisely because they show how complicated these issues are ... The primary object of Sally Rooney’s analytical gaze is Sally Rooney herself, which is to the novel’s detriment in the end ... Beautiful World veers from the potential displayed early in the novel. Despite this, it is as delicious and compulsively readable as a Rooney novel ever was, a fitting companion for our journey to the end of history.
Anthony Veasna So
RaveSeattle TimesThe profusion of coverage is enough to make anyone (or at least a contrarian like me) a bit skeptical. But less than a dozen pages into Afterparties, I understood why so many had a magnetic attraction to So’s stories ... A truly gifted writer doesn’t have to waste any pages trying to convince you that the world he created is real. They drop you into it, and you believe them ... So lovingly documents his community of \'off-brand Asians with dark skin,\' investing mundane moments of lived life with an extraordinary magic. While reading, you might have to occasionally pause to admire his talent, his supernatural capacity to map a story that hits every note. As you read his stories, you live them, and at their best, you forget who wrote them and why.
MixedThe Seattle TimesAlthough the manner in which Zara reaches for extremes in her arguments may lead readers to ultimately understand her as a symbol rather than a well-rounded character, her views on the purpose and utility of art represent legitimate ongoing debates borne of Trump-era cultural resistance ... Although the book’s ultimate position on this is unclear, the experiences of art in Virtue that inspire direct political engagement are extolled, while the more personal and aesthetic experiences of art represented in the novel are obliquely mocked — and worse, sometimes categorized as immoral. By letting one of the more interesting strands of the novel fizzle out, Hoby undercuts the nuance of what is otherwise a complex and insightful representation of millennial life.
RaveThe Seattle TimesThis attentiveness to detail, to the subtle rhythms of living, is what lends an elusive clarity to the lives of his characters and the societies they inhabit ... Even though Ishiguro’s narrators often dissolve into their surroundings to facilitate a \'fly on the wall\' type of storytelling, the power of his writing lies in the moments where it is suddenly clear to the reader that the narration is not omniscient, and rather, filtered through a very particular perspective ... Ishiguro’s newest work of speculative fiction joins recent shows like Westworld and novels like Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me and Ted Chiang’s novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects, which depict societies where ethics have not evolved to accommodate advancements in artificial intelligence ... The strength of Ishiguro’s fiction isn’t necessarily the questions his novels raise, but the way his characters relate to one another as members of their time and place. Klara deftly illustrates the existential distress of a postindustrial world, the malaise of an existence mediated by technology, but also all of the most basic aspects of being human that remain unharmed in such a setting.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesComposed of short, fragmentary paragraphs, bite-sized cultural observations, and jokes cloaked in multiple layers of irony, No One is Talking About This is a novel about social media that replicates its chaotic form, granting readers access to the inner mind of someone who is very online ... In a cultural moment that almost defies satire in its own self-evident absurdity, No One is Talking About This doesn’t present as parody. Written in the suffocating, disjointed prose of social media, Lockwood’s novel evokes the sensation of scrolling as it reads: moving from inane observation to obnoxious joke to occasional gem of social commentary ... No One is Talking About This does not end the way the trajectory of the first half of the novel might suggest. There is no real meditation on the emotional or interpersonal effects of the social media environment she helped to create. Instead, the contrast of the novel is meant to speak for itself by presenting two alternate styles of living, neither of them comfortable, but one infinitely more human than the other.
RaveShelf AwarenessWith The Inland Sea, Watts has produced a model of autofiction in the age of climate disaster, a genre sure to dominate the coming era. The motivating logic of the novel rests on a conflation of internal and external emergency that would likely ring true to many young adults. As the novel develops, it becomes clear that this is not a purely solipsistic device but, rather, a reflection of the permanent place the climate emergency holds in the minds of those who have grown up contending with its brutal realities ... Introspective with a febrile realism that borders on the surreal, Madeleine Watts\'s The Inland Sea is as evocative and haunting as works by Samantha Hunt or Ottessa Moshfegh.
Mercè Rodoreda, Trans. by Martha Tennent
PositiveShelf AwarenessThe style of Garden by the Sea is slow, observational and oblique, never strident ... Although the changing relationships of the vacationers is what moves this book\'s plot along, they become almost ancillary to the way that early 20th-century Catalonian class-politics are subtly articulated through the gardener\'s observations. The patient, eloquent and often digressive prose of Rodoreda, who wrote in Catalan, provides an aesthetic experience on each page that assembles itself bit-by-bit into an unforgettable novel ... Dark, comedic and written in lush detail, Garden by the Sea is a compelling portrait of the affluent vacationers of the beautiful Catalonian coast of the 1920s.
MixedThe Seattle TimesBy weaving together a composite of group psychological theory and political history in the trademark, rigorously logical style of Vox’s Explainer series, journalism, Klein traces the path of polarization ... Klein is astute in diagnosing the agitation and protection of identity as the primary driver in the polarization of politics; we guard our identities fiercely (even trivial ones), an unconscious or preconscious precaution rather than an intellectual one. But it is important to ask: How much does this reading of politics leave out? Klein’s willingness to cede autonomy to group psychology resolves in a neat, unified theory because it downplays the friction that culture, history and social frameworks have on our behavior ... Klein gives little attention to the venue where our most fractious, hyperpolarized arguments over identity occur: the internet ... The incentives of this structure have proven their ability to change our brain chemistry, which doesn’t seem like a coincidence in our current political era, in which Klein argues we are more polarized than ever.
PositiveThe Seattle Times... [a] compelling memoir-ethnography of Silicon Valley ... Wiener reflects, though never absolving herself of blame or fault. Her book is an attempt to unravel the mythology that has insulated big tech from meaningful assessment or oversight, but the book leaves readers with more questions than answers ... The future is a dark, unsettling frontier, and Uncanny Valley is a call to vigilance and action.
RaveShelf Awarenessblack hair proves to be a rich symbol for interpreting the insidious politics of race and class that play out each day in the lives of black Americans. Flowers\'s stories do not attempt to mask the harshness of poverty and racism, and they do not romanticize hardship. What Hot Comb does instead is celebrate the devotion of black mothers, the creativity of black children and the ingenuity inherent in the black experience. This is a deeply impressive debut and belongs on the bookshelf between Lynda Barry and Claudia Rankine. Ebony Flowers is a cartoonist to watch
RaveShelf AwarenessMade up of essays, short fiction, excerpts from her novels and bits of memoir, this collection is thoughtfully curated around the titular concept of a journal not kept ... Consistently perceptive with a wry humor lurking just beneath the surface, The Journal I Did Not Keep is a joy to read