PositiveThe Millions\"The novella’s plot moves in a straight line, event after event rolling along day by day. But The Parade can’t be reduced to its plot any more than life (individual or collective) can be reduced to bare events ... The inconsistencies in terrain distract, but overall Eggers succeeds in evoking a fractured Anyland, through which two men of opposing temperaments and views (mash them together and it’s Everyman) are tasked to pave a perfectly straight and level road ... Allegories don’t generally supply juicy psychological backstory, a complex plot, lush language. Even lacking such beloved elements of literary fiction, The Parade bestows in straightforward prose what only literary fiction can offer: a handful of time in which the reader can be embedded in another person, not to escape but to understand a part of our world that our own lives cannot reveal.\
Karl Ove Knausgaard, Trans. by Ingvild Burkey
MixedThe MillionsSummer falls more or less back in step with essays followed by diary entries, per month ... Summer I put down and picked up at leisure. This is the way to do it. A forced march through the essays is not recommended. Even avoiding surfeit by taking them three or four texts at a time, I pondered if these books [Summer and the others in the Seasons Quartet] would have been better, more honest, with the dreck trimmed out, published as a single, longish book ... In Summer, Knausgaard’s diary segues in and out of a fiction whose narrator is an old woman looking back on a disastrous love affair ... The old woman’s story never goes far; it’s like an abandoned novel whose ending I didn’t particularly regret missing, though I enjoyed reading what there was of it. The problem was, after the first entry, the transition began to seem gimmicky, a clever device—should the old woman story have been deleted? ... No. Leave them in, just as they are. The story and the way it’s told share the writer’s process ... The spirit of Knausgaard’s seasons quartet lies in its process and its flaws, its moments of physical loveliness, the hapless insights, emotions joyful and big-hearted, petty and bitter.
RaveThe MillionsAutumn and Winter are no more neatly plotted than life itself; like human life, they are constructed of stories. Ali Smith’s seasons are chockfull of other bookish treats and tricks: wordplay in a myriad of forms; luscious, textured prose; allusions galore; shifting points of view; characters who seem to jump right out of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare and our own circles of friends and family ... For in Winter, in winter, under the force of family dead, living or absent, masks slip on and masks slip off. Memory reveals and conceals the past ... Smith’s skill is to make us realize how much we miss the seasonal treasures cherished by the children of autumn and winter: the ponds and canals that used to freeze over and we’d get out our skates, the balmy gift of an Indian summer interrupting late fall’s death-grip chill.
RaveThe MillionsAli Smith’s seasons are chockfull of other bookish treats and tricks: wordplay in a myriad of forms; luscious, textured prose; allusions galore; shifting points of view; characters who seem to jump right out of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare and our own circles of friends and family. At times, all these goodies threaten to tumble us into a literary junk shop, but Smith exerts a literary master’s superb confidence in her readers; she trusts us to make of her glorious mess the novels she wants us to read.