RaveObserver... masterful ... an incredible book. I haven’t read a book this close to the bone in a long time. It’s an edge-of-your-seat, gripping account of a world overrun by TERFs as they seek to eradicate trans women ... The novel is told in many strands, often producing a whiplash pacing that works best during battle ... As grim as it sounds, it’s an incredibly acerbic and witty read, going down with equal parts tenderness and brutality ... tackles difficult subjects with vision ... The interplay of cis power and trans vulnerability is never drawn in stark shades, instead both are capable of great harm and subversive acts of kindness.
PositiveAV ClubMorgan Thomas’ thorny debut short story collection, is a basket of tart winter fruit ... Manywhere explores the way history thwarts attempts at connection, and while some of these stories stumble as their narrators become lost in wonder, just as many enchant ... Intergenerational meetings between trans and trans-adjacent figures form the core of Thomas’ collection ... Though the archival text sometimes lacks the shimmer of Thomas’ contemporary-set prose, by projecting their characters desires’ onto sketches of historical figures, Thomas has created their own archive.
MixedThe ObserverWhen Hustvedt does address motherhood, she is sharpest when reflecting on the personal to theorize about larger structures ... Once a friend of mine told me an essay collection felt like a grab-bag of internet articles with no coherent theme. Hustvedt’s collection is similar. Some pieces are hardly a few pages, reading like fragments without heft. There are plenty of wonderful fragmentary books–but often these pieces fail to resonate ... These essays that touch on gender occasionally spark with insight but often retread well-worn paths ... Misogyny, homophobia, and racism are theorized alongside one another without much discussion of their differences.
PositiveObserverOrwell’s Roses shifts lyrically between Orwell’s life and a history of roses ... An important project of Solnit’s book is complicating pleasure ... The pleasure of reading Orwell or Solnit is in tracking through the labyrinth of pleasure and politics, of learning some arguments recur throughout history, even if few conclusions ever satisfy us. Is it wicked to stop and smell the flowers? Is it wicked to believe in love? For some, love is the ultimate betrayal in the face of obliterating monotony.
RaveThe ObserverOne of the best books to contend with the politics of desire ... The essays in Srinivasan’s new book balances historical analysis with a deep sense of how feminist philosophy functions in online and academic discourse, how it travels through whisper networks, and how it uneasily joins and diverges from other anticapitalist struggles. She can levy an acidic \'perhaps\' to send shivers down the spine of an argument she is about to perform decisive surgery on ... a fascinating and exciting work that contends with a full spectrum of ideas, even when gaps begin to show. In one essay, Srinivasan quotes a professor that there will \'still be heartbreak in utopia.\' This is the kind of nuance and fraught response this book can bring to feminist philosophy.
MixedObserverWhile there are moments that discuss what it means to be a good person, it feels like an unexplored road for Rooney considering how religious her Marxism can feel. In some ways, this seems to be the point of the novel, a hymnal of anxiety against the outside world ... Some of these moments, as when Eileen keeps a gratitude diary, feel full of sincerity. They contain the feeling of desperately trying to hold onto life as it keeps slipping away. But it can bubble over into absurdity when it seems every hue is \'glistening pink like a wound.\' Plenty of crisp light abounds and what at first felt like tasteful decor begins to feel like concealment ... Still, few write as cuttingly about waiting for a text as Rooney does. This push and pull of denying the self perpetuates internalized misogyny about deservingness, though she certainly observes masculinity with scrutiny as well. Rooney women frequently flail at asking for what they want and seem to only be aroused in situations where men exert power over them in a way they have (perhaps imagined) control over. It isn’t entirely clear that either of these women have all that much power in their emotional relationships. The book shies away from dealing with this in the end, instead choosing a rather saccharine ending with neat hugs and hot tears ... These little moments where Rooney can describe how fragile and slight human connection is, how difficult it can be to ask for what you want for fear of not getting it, these are the moments worth staying for if one can stomach the rest. I don’t believe Rooney writes as much about care so much as fragility. Being broken can be a sweet, horrific thing—especially if you have someone praying for you.
MixedObserverSohn’s treats sex radicals and reproductive rights with the aplomb of a former sex columnist ... This makes the book sound like a fun romp through progressive rights that tells us where we’ve been and how it can indicate where to go. It’s not. Nor is it an activist’s guide to girlbossing the future. Sohn skates over a variety of issues these white women themselves ignored ... It reads like a rebranding of Margaret Sanger’s work despite the fact that she and many free love advocates of her time held deeply racist and ableist ideas around population control ... If there is to be something drawn from Sohn’s book it is the way even activists like Sanger will throw someone under the bus for the sake of political purity. For his own part, Comstock seems like a man hellbent on destroying his own sexual thirst. Clearly he hated women but I’m not sure Amy Sohn proves this in her book. Instead he reads as just another man who wanted to outlaw desire, ghost sex and all.
Roberto Bolaño, tr. Natasha Wimmer
RaveObserver... despite the twilight horror, Bolaño writes beautifully. His maze is full of terror and fear, focusing on the experience of young men and their driving anger. If Murakami is seeking a cure to the loneliness of globalization, Bolaño is more worried about the violence of globalization. Often his characters witness tremendous trauma inflicted by the Pinochet regime’s coup. His characters continually reckon with the use of poetry in a war-torn world ... Bolaño constantly builds a web of fragments for readers to collect and relish ... Like Bolaño’s own stories-within-stories, the endless book projects toted out by his publishers lead us further into a video store with a basement and a secret tunnel leading us through the sewers to a secret library ... This world of collisions, mazes, hiding, and art is its own galaxy to explore. Cowboy Graves offers an intriguing and at times fragmentary detour into Bolaño’s world.
RaveThe Observer... a love story, a classic tale about how to build a family. It’s a huge, funny, heartbreaking romp of a book. It is also this year’s State of Queerness novel. Every year or so the publishing industry decides it’s time to give the gays everything they want: in one book only...This is an exaggeration, of course, and Detransition, Baby is about much more than gender, but the publishing industry’s refusal to grant a longer list of queer and trans novels is something we should all relish the chance to point out ... The novel takes a lot of stabs at explaining both Trans 101 and trans embodiment. In this way it has an appeal to both straight people and for trans people in its poignant moments of, as one character describes it, \'gender-feels.\' This is a strength and soft spot for the novel. Its characters think. A lot...Sometimes it can feel like the book wants to tackle every issue. But this is also, admittedly, what it can feel like to be a trans person today. Everyone has a take. And everyone thinks theirs is right. In this way, Reese and Ames are typical and even beautifully drawn ... Peters is incredibly insightful. Through her characters she is able to espouse and challenge many contemporary trans issues.