MixedNew YorkerWe lose track of where we are in time, which results in disorienting contradictions and ambiguities ... Avoidance of narrative tension comes to seem laborious, particularly when the elements of a compelling plot rise into view ... There are the makings here of a melodrama like the ones that Earl and the narrator enjoy watching. But these elements remain inert. Narrative is ordinarily created by the disruption of a status quo; Holleran seems to want a novel that is all status quo, no disruption. We are left with what he has called, in an essay, \'the actual dull reality of life\' ... Holleran is unusually frank about the continuing toll of queer shame, even in a liberated age ... Even as I value Holleran’s candor, and his refusal of triumphalist narratives of queer affirmation—sometimes it doesn’t get better, or not for everyone—these moments are painful to read.
PositiveThe New YorkerThe novel treads a fine line: the characters must be skeptical, so that we can take them seriously; but they must believe in their abilities enough to set the plot in motion, and it’s important for the earnest tone and emotional investments of the book that their belief never seem ridiculous. The result is a plot that never convinces or even, really, coheres. But plot is very nearly incidental to this novel; all of its real conviction lies in style, which is, in an age suspicious of ornament, defiantly baroque, studded with gratuitous beauties ... my frustrations with Crain’s beautifully rendered novel finally feel irrelevant in light of...what Crain uncovers...as he painstakingly tracks the inner lives of his characters. But psychological acuity alone does not account for the novel’s effect on the reader, which depends more profoundly on the curious plangency of its style ... Viewed ungenerously, the unconvincing plot elements of cyberespionage and comic-book telepathy might seem a claim to fashionable relevance made on behalf of this decidedly unfashionable book. But, at its best, the novel makes a more difficult, more convincing claim, one I was grateful for in an age obsessed with subject matter: that, in the sharpening of our senses and accoutrement of our sensibilities, the more profound relevance of literature lies in form.
Pajtim Statovci, Trans. by David Hackston
PositiveThe New YorkerStatovci’s refusal of the satisfactions of character is central to the book’s larger concerns. Crossing, in its rejection of fixed notions of identity, has a kind of kinship with recent books by other young queer writers, among them Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, with its joyfully shape-shifting hero/ine, and Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater, which features a protagonist who moves between genders, inhabited by the spirits of West African myth ... I thought of Genet often as I read Statovci’s novel; Bujar, in his voluptuous lying and his disruption of others’ lives, rivals any of Genet’s outlaws. But a more helpful antecedent may be another queer criminal: Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley ... Statovci’s writing at its best...[has] longing and rage compressed in a single sentence at once sweepingly plangent and rooted in granular detail ... Statovci’s critique of identity politics takes a heavily satirical hand. Bujar consistently rejects collective identities, from the classification of refugees as \'barbaric\' to the liberal championing of minorities. But Crossing is equally ruthless in its critique of the heroic individualism ... The novel memorably portrays the pain...labels can cause; it also suggests that we may not be able to live without them.
Édouard Louis, Trans. by Michael Lucey
PositiveThe New Yorker\"What distinguishes The End of Eddy from its autofictional antecedents is the urgency with which Louis seeks to separate himself from his previous self, a desire so intense that the novel can be seen as a kind of wake ... Throughout the novel, Louis catalogues the baffling contradictions of the world of his childhood: brutal racism next to friendliness toward the village’s single person of color; his father’s scorn for the bourgeoisie and his hope that Eddy will join their ranks; the villagers’ hatred of government, which they insist must take action against immigrants and sexual minorities ... The abstractions that Louis deploys can flatten out novelistic texture, rendering invisible any details that they can’t accommodate ... Louis knows that the language of social theory, which requires the kind of education the poor are denied, is complicit in the system that it seeks to make visible. His use of that language in The End of Eddy is freighted with an ambivalence that animates the book and gives it a devastating emotional force. To write the novel is at once an act of solidarity and an act of vengeance.\
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe publisher calls All That Man Is a novel, but there’s very little explicitly interlinking its separate narratives. The stories cohere instead through their single project: an investigation of European manhood ... The risk of heaviness in the symbolism is nearly always avoided by Szalay’s prose, which is frequently brilliant, remarkable for its grace and economy. He has a minimalist’s gift for the quick sketch, whether of landscapes or human relationships.
PositiveThe Washington Post...[a] rich, complicated story ... a compelling portrait of the community of activists that transformed queer life in the 1980s and ’90s ... Murphy’s novel is one of the few serious attempts I’ve encountered in literature to explore the crisis of meth addiction among gay men...No book has made me feel so intensely not just the ravages of AIDS but also the devastating cost of activism ... If the novel’s first hundred pages are disorienting and occasionally plodding, the last hundred have a rare narrative sweep and force.
RaveThe Atlantic\"...the most ambitious chronicle of the social and emotional lives of gay men to have emerged for many years ... Just as Yanagihara’s characters challenge conventional categories of gay identity, so A Little Life avoids the familiar narratives of gay fiction. Yanagihara approaches the collective traumas that have so deeply shaped modern gay identity—sickness and discrimination—obliquely, avoiding the conventions of the coming-out narrative or the AIDS novel ... In this astonishing novel, Yanagihara achieves what great gay art from Proust to Almodóvar has so often sought: a grandeur of feeling adequate to \'the terrifying largeness, the impossibility of the world.\'”