PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewRuffin writes with the clipped motion of the best comic books, and the unsparing tenderness of a poet. Readers enamored with the relentless lyricism of his novel may be surprised to find a gentler voice guiding these stories, without judgment. This softness is exactly what binds these patchwork chronicles into a vibrant and true mosaic of a place. I was occasionally disappointed whenever the lives of these characters moved in the expected direction, but who can truly resist the domineering forces pushing our trajectories along their course?
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMohr’s fiction has garnered comparisons to Charles Bukowski, and there’s a similar romantic urgency in his autobiographical storytelling, in the way his impulses lead him toward excess. \'You can be Henry Miller, and I’m Anaïs Nin,\' his first wife says, a quote he repeats twice in the book. The repetition is a telling belief in the power of writing — or, more specifically, in the power of Mohr’s identity as a writer — to dredge clarity from self-reflection, no matter one’s transgressions. For much of Model Citizen, Mohr is a charismatic narrator, a role he relishes in life, too ... As a reader, I felt frustrated by the way Mohr pitches hard toward some emotionally tidy conclusions, and delicately pulls back from others ... Knowing that Model Citizen was conceived, in some part, as a potentially final literary document of Mohr’s life explains the gauzy, nostalgic patina tinting the entire text. He doesn’t regret anything because it all brought him here, to a place where he can attempt to live well even with the end in sight — a redemption story that’s easy to root for, if not always convincing to read. I hope he keeps writing for as long as he can.
Anne Helen Petersen
MixedThe NationDecentering the white middle-class millennial experience as the millennial experience is an ongoing and essential aspect of this project, Petersen writes. But she is a white middle-class millennial, and her frequent reliance on the plural “we” often hinders that decentering process ... a conflict arises between the universality of these issues and the unavoidable way Petersen ends up centering herself. More and more, her solutions to these structural issues end up sounding like ones that would best benefit another type-A achiever who desperately wants to find meaning in work. Some people might respond to burnout by switching jobs or moving to another city, but Petersen just wrote a book about it ... Petersen is no less bullish about her positions, but she’s more sanguine about the possibility of reorganizing the system from within rather than tearing it down altogether. Furthermore, she tends to write from a place of surprise that we’re in this situation to begin with ... She does a lot of related work to ease in those readers who might not be readymade radicals ... Few of the claims are novel (you could glean as much by scrolling through several months of Bernie Sanders’s tweets), but her dutiful approach is geared toward those who weren’t already aware or convinced of the circumstances swirling all around ... I want to stress how much I empathize, because I know a political awakening requires more than a list of facts. But as a reader, these types of generalizations are unsatisfying because they rely so heavily on trusting she has had a representative experience. Who are her friends? What’s the work they wanted to do? You don’t have to look far to find a social world of millennials who didn’t require decades to realize the American dream was flawed, internalized that lesson as teenagers and young adults, and adjusted their worldview accordingly ... unavoidably personal. Though every chapter incorporates multiple outside testimonies, most of which predictably underline whatever point she’s making, we almost always circle back to what she thinks, based on her life and experiences ... It’s her book, but it’s impossible to cultivate a position of objective expertise from such memoiristic subjectivity, especially given her rarefied work trajectory: academia to media, where she has built a sizable brand and audience ... Petersen’s book, rather than decentering its writer, makes her experience a heuristic and projects her assumptions onto the world.
MixedThe BafflerIdealized through...received wisdom and rendered into narratively compelling characters, the brothers of Delta Zeta Chi are not the raving drunks and violent abusers found when opening yet another viral article about some fraternity’s repugnant indiscretions, but somewhat—to use a controversial word—likable. They’re playfully homosocial ... while Fraternity is a charming collection and Nugent a sharp writer, the book is limited somewhat by its setting. The fraternal milieu would be much different had Nugent centered his research at a southern party nexus like the University of Georgia, or an upper crust terrarium like Harvard ... the one story in the collection that addresses hazing, is driven by the brothers’ belief that they can’t be as vicious to pledges as they might want because that type of treatment will go viral—nice of them, even as hazing deaths continue to happen every year. That’s perhaps a failure of imagination, though Nugent is free to write about what he wants. But it’s a convenient way of sidestepping the real darkness of Greek life, considering what a vicious ideological battlefield the contemporary fraternity is ... it’s the barbarians we’ve really got to watch out for, Nugent seems to suggest, the ones whose maintenance of inherently racist and sexist structures is finally coming up for debate and potential abolition. They’re nowhere to be found in Fraternity, but in the real world they’re everywhere, and you’d do well to take them seriously.
PositiveThe Outline...a new book that’s the most serious attempt to contextualize the show as a Great One since its series finale … Abrams’ framing is not particularly revelatory. The show’s quality is presented as self-evident, recognized by every potential reader...Because the show imbued so many of its characters with specific humanity that’s surprisingly difficult to find in dramatic television, it is simply nice to hear from so many personalities, all of whom have taken the time to think about why this show was so worthwhile.