RaveHyperallergic... bitterly satirical ... You can almost imagine pitching the plot of Processed Cheese as a Hollywood movie: screwball comedy meets high-tech revenge thriller. The keyword is \'almost,\' because Processed Cheese is brimming with Wright’s riffs on the relentless, mind-numbing barrage of bullshit hucksterism that rains down on our heads all day long ... wildly imaginative mashups of American vernacular with brand names and catchy slogans memorably convey the growing sinkhole hollowness of everyday speech. People have names like RealDeal, Mr. FlavorAdditive, and Uncle Parsnips. The novel is as much about the replacement of language with gibberish as it is about the desire for the perfect lifestyle ... Wright’s humor is devastating, sharp, and constantly in-your face ... a musically cacophonous, devastatingly precise indictment of American shallowness ... Wright looks beyond America’s sugarcoated veneer of respectability with a clear vision of the ridiculously hideous place this country has become.
RaveHyperallergicIn her poetry, the ordinary becomes unsettling and magnetic. Ruefle shifts from one state of consciousness to another in less time than it takes to blink ... Ruefle makes unexpected connections and associations that might initially strike the reader as outrageous, but come to possess a certain stubborn, opaque logic ... She will then effortlessly pivot in another direction, which is one of the deep joys of reading Ruefle’s poems. You never know what she is going to do next. And yet, when she does it, it is bound to hold your attention ... Ruefle is aware that the only destination that awaits her is death, and that turning away from that awareness doesn’t alter the facts. She does not ask for pity or sympathy because death is democratic ... Ruefle will track the places her thinking takes her without pulling back or trying to turn it into a story, or imbue it with longing, or culminate in a revelation ... Ruefle understands fragility. She has a wonderfully odd sense of reality. She knows that \'At some age/the world begins to drift away,\' and she doesn’t try to hold on. In her \'journey of shedding,\' we are the lucky recipients of her indelible poems.
RaveHyperallergicPadgett writes in a relaxed, vernacular style. His poems often remind me of cartoon thought balloons floating above a solitary figure who has just had a revelation ... As a poet, Padgett’s poems make me gnash my teeth. Although I am sure this is not at all the case, I keep getting the sense that they came to him as naturally as a dog wagging his tail. He makes it all looks so easy, so effortless ... I sense something dark flowing beneath the surface of these self-mocking poems, filled with moments of lightness and tender humor ... A lot of readers have pointed out how generous, funny, playful, and witty Padgett’s poems are. While these characterizations feel true, it seems to me that one of the motivations driving the poems is the poet’s desire for knowledge, which he pursues without making any grand claims for this yearning. It is Padgett’s craving that animates his writing, and keeps him alert to the small and easily dismissed moments that make up our everyday lives.
Amanda Lee Koe
RaveHyperallergicGiving readers a lot to think about, while writing an entertaining, episodic narrative is precisely what Amanda Lee Koe has done in her marvelous debut novel ... It is clear from the episodes and set pieces that [Koe] has read a lot of background material, absorbed what she has read, and selected both major and minor incidents to fictionalize, usually by adding an array of diverse and wildly interesting characters ... Like a film camera changing its focus and frame, Koe is able to draw together a rich array of characters within a historical framework created with a dense tapestry of details and feelings ... Koe understands her subjects — their vanities and vulnerabilities — well enough to invent scenes that are simultaneously believable and fantastical. This is what makes the book riveting ... My only quibble with the book is that I thought Koe could have built upon some real-life incidents rather than changing them ... the strongest debut novel I have read in a very, very long time. Like the figures she writes about, Koe will soon become a star.
Jean Frémon, Trans. by Cole Swensen
RaveHyperallergic... an interior monologue that touches on many matters and, as with any complex individual, it is made up of many voices. This could be a stumbling block for many American readers, who prefer \'tell all\' biographies with an omniscient narrator, but that would be their loss. In another contrast to those doorstop monstrosities, which do have their place, Frémon’s text is less than 100 pages ... a synthesis Frémon’s talents as an art critic, novelist, and artist’s friend: this combination is what makes Now, Now Louison special and well worth an hour or two of your time. It occurred to me while reading this book—and I was drawn in immediately—that Frémon would likely understand aspects of her French childhood that an American writer might not quite grasp ... An art critic who uses fiction to expose the limitations of the interpretation and understanding of art, all done with humor and insight—now that’s not something you encounter every day. And, when I say that Frémon is an art critic, I, of course, know that he is far more than that.
RaveHyperallergicJames gives a full, intriguing, detailed history of the island’s colorful visitors and expat residents ... In addition to his nuanced analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of South Wind, James goes into detail about Douglas’s life, including the people he knew and which writers have been influenced by his work. James possesses the rare gift to be able to do this: he is both bookish and a world traveler ... James can pivot from a description of the landscape to a subtlety gradated literary analysis, to a piece of unfounded gossip, to a trial record reported in a French newspaper, all in the service of presenting a fuller picture of his subject...I never felt disinclined to follow him, nor did I think that he was wandering off the subject. This is what is remarkable about Pagan Light ... James has an encyclopedic knowledge of his subjects at his fingertips: he seems to have read the most obscure and hard-to-find books and articles on his subjects and, more importantly, is able to present what he has dug up in precise, gorgeous prose ... all the translations in the book are credited to James, a feat in and of itself.
RaveHyperallergic... [a] wonderfully unsettling book of 10 masterful short stories ... Each story is like a rollercoaster ride ... What makes these stories so powerful is Ha’s ability to reveal, often microscopically, the slight, almost imperceptible slippage between the actual events and the protagonists’ perception of them. Eventually, whatever bonds exist between the protagonist and her or his reality are torn asunder, leaving the individual vulnerable and hopeless ... The constant slippage between the protagonists’ perceptions and the reality of the things around them carries through all the stories. The outcome of that ever shifting slippage is what keeps our attention ... Ha fully inhabits her very different protagonists ... feels as contemporary ... I would like to believe that Flowers of Mold — which has been translated into sparkling English by Janet Hong — receives the reception it deserves and this leads to her other books being translated into English, introducing her works to a larger worldwide audience.
RaveHyperallergic\"Each of the short chapters precisely details a specific moment of realization, however wayward and, at times, harrowing, that the author experienced on his bumpy, digressive path to becoming a writer. The result is a beautifully composed, accumulative portrait of Tuten at different stages of his young life ... What’s remarkable... is Tuten’s ability to transport you back in time ... For Tuten, there were not two roads diverging in the yellow wood. There was only the one he took: the one that he looks back upon and writes about brilliantly and tenderly.\
Sally Wen Mao
RaveHyperallergicTwo things are striking about this debut collection. The first is the amount of research that Mao has undertaken to write about such diverse subjects as the honey badger, Venus flytrap, Xenophon, and the Trinidad Scorpion, while also exploring personal states of consciousness ... I admire the defiant voice running throughout both of Mao’s books, and the degree to which she has raised the stakes in Oculus ... Mao never loses touch with what W.E. B. Dubois, in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), called \'Double Consciousness,\' the awareness that one’s identity is fractured and consists of multiple parts, and the difficulty, if not impossibility, of unifying them. It is to Mao’s credit that she never seeks refuge in the single identity, no matter what comfort it promises, because she knows it limits her in ways that she finds unacceptable.
RaveHyperallergicLeaving the Atocha Station is not another conventional, autobiographical novel told in the first person. For one thing, Gordon is too unreliable and self-lacerating, too given to exaggeration and lying, too addicted to prescription pills, and often too stoned to be considered remotely trustworthy … Leaving the Atocha Station interrogates the familiar claim to sincerity that propels autobiographical narratives toward their Chrysalis Moment, where the narrator, the ‘I’, experiences a cataclysmic realization on the road to Damascus (or Darien), and emerges a changed being...If this ‘I’ ever existed, it is one that Gordon, Lerner and this reader at least have seldom if ever, experienced … Without being escapist and retreating into a world without terrorism or inequality, and without making outlandish claims regarding significance, Leaving the Atocha Station is fresh, funny, disturbing and, perhaps best of all, a pleasure to read as it meditates on language, poetry, the internet and the unavoidable dislocations.