RaveThe New York Review of BooksIn this collection of always trenchant and at times luminous essays, [Tolentino] establishes herself as the important critical voice she has been on her way to becoming for some time, although comparisons with Susan Sontag and Joan Didion seem to me unhelpful—as if, for a woman writer, theirs are the only hills to climb ... Tolentino wants to have it both ways—to preserve her integrity while going along with the game. But having it both ways simply increases the difficulty of deciding where, in all of this, she belongs, and her awareness of this truth constitutes the unsettling core of her book. Tolentino knows she is implicated in the world she lays out here with such merciless precision ... Tolentino always has her eye out for the ugly history, the stain on the carpet that so many refuse to see ... It is easy to be lured by the exhilaration—the fun, even—of these essays, and to miss the depression, not to say nihilism—a word Tolentino uses—that runs beneath the stream ... Sometimes the energy and verve of Tolentino’s writing can feel slightly manic, oddly in sync with what it claims most passionately to hate. Just for a second, it can tempt you with the insane idea that you might be able to pole-vault over the horrors and injustices of the day. But only if you are blind and foolish enough, or have beauty and eloquence to spare ... Tolentino is especially cogent on how sex muddies the waters of reason and seems to have the power to turn the faintest hint of progress on its head ... Tolentino would not be such a gifted diagnostician if she did not at moments seem to hedge her bets on these matters. Her entire diagnosis of the ills of the world would be invalid if she pretended, like a bad psychoanalyst, to be immune to what she describes. It is because she is a self-confessed unreliable narrator that we trust her.
RaveThe GuardianSomehow Beard always manages to sound breezy, to recount the tales she is telling, however horrendous, with relish (a talent I admit to having mixed feelings about). In fact, Women and Power is deadly serious ... Beard has written an indictment, perhaps her most uncompromising to date, of an ancient past that she is hardly asking us – has never unequivocally asked us – to celebrate. As far as women are concerned, in relation to this ancestral legacy, there is very little to be proud about ... Today more than ever, we need a politics that makes space and time for human fallibility (and not just for women). The question I finally take from this brilliant book is: what would such power – no rape, no guns, no shutting up of women – look like?
RaveLondon Review of BooksIt would be possible to read Specimen Days as a novel orchestrated by moments such as these, with Whitman as the unconscious maestro of Cunningham’s earlier books. With its three movements, it repeats the structure of The Hours... We stay more or less in the same place, but we travel much further back and forwards in time, from the industrial revolution, to post-9/11, to a moment pitched 150 years into the future when New York is peopled by interstellar visitors and by clones ...Cunningham has made his novel a barometer or touchstone of this ambiguity in the poet’s work ... Cunningham’s clone narrative is as fast-paced as Ishiguro’s is deliberate and slow. His simulos know exactly who and what they are, and they are running away from their fate. This makes Specimen Days the far more optimistic book ...is Cunningham’s most ambitious novel and, for me, his finest.