PositiveVulture\"With scathing wit, fierce self-examination, and challenging syntax, Alyan’s fourth collection uses the threshold age of the title to investigate the poet’s struggles ... Alyan takes great risks, drips her full, naked self onto the page, and inspires her readers to embrace and examine our gravest mistakes, for every part of ourselves is a piece of a complicated puzzle that we can’t — mustn’t — stop trying to solve.\
PositiveVultureThough the canon abounds with war poets...fewer describe the complexities of the home front. Pamela Hart works to correct this by telling the stories, including her own, of the parents, spouses, and children of those who serve ... Hart writes...with unwavering humanity. Though some of the poems on their own might read as slight, when taken together they form a necessary counter-narrative to the war story we’re often told, dismantling what Wilfred Owen called \'the old lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori\': It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country.
Sally Wen Mao
RaveVulture\"By giving voice to, composing odes for, or revising [Chinese] figures, Mao creates a poignant, albeit cautious, optimism ... Oculus is a deftly structured volume of hauntingly perceptive poems, peering backward through the 20th century while penetrating our contemporary moment. It’s an homage to pioneering Chinese Americans and an indictment of Asian representation in American culture, which never for a moment shies away from the difficult tasks of taking on race and history and technology all at once, but confidently looks them right in the eye, unblinking.\
RaveVulture\"Laux writes with startling directness of the physical and sexual abuse she and her sister suffered at the hands of her father ... But there are other poems, just as frank and openhearted, that celebrate the wondrousness of sex (so skillfully that fiction writers should take note) ... Beyond her admirable tenacity and spirit, Laux is just plain wise — and refreshingly unpretentious in her wisdom ... Laux’s new poems arrive at the end of the collection as a perfect finale, which benefits from what we now know of her life ... [Laux\'s poems allow us to] understand the bewildering complexity of this act of posthumous forgiveness, as well as the staggering generosity of the poet who committed it.\
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleMendelsohn examines the text of The Odyssey with depth and classical acumen; he explores the historical importance of Homer’s ancient poem with the comfortable clarity of someone who has spent decades immersed in Greek literature; he details his own relationship with Odysseus’ tale, from childhood to college to teaching the work himself; and, finally, he culls from the narrative many insights into his own familial bonds, specifically with his father ... The trouble with Mendelsohn’s multifaceted style is that deep scrutiny, personal narrative, literary history and classics-derived life lessons don’t all possess wide appeal. Readers may find they have more interest in one of the five braided techniques (most likely the narrative with Mendelsohn and Jay), which will mean they’ll have to plod through the other parts in order to get to the stuff they like. But for those with broad curiosity and a tolerance for intellectual hopscotching, An Odyssey is a journey worth taking.
RaveThe Rumpus...Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is brief, light on its feet and spare with descriptions. Where 1Q84 focused on many lives full of strange mysteries, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki focuses on the strange mysteries of a single life ...the division exists within a single character: on one side, Tsukuru’s investigation into his past; on the other, his dream life and his haunted feeling that those very dreams may have more dire consequences than he imagined ... He was more interested in leading Tsukuru to his own gentle epiphany—that he isn’t, after all, colorless. The novel ends ambiguously, but things are looking okay for Tsukuru ... The world of this novel, it turns out, does reflect reality— inadvertently or not, it is patriarchy in distilled form. A mostly bland male lives a mostly bland life.
RaveThe RumpusHere is a key to Smith’s spellbinding novel. Like the frescoes described here, George’s story functions like an 'underdrawing' to del Cossa’s story. By the end of del Cossa’s section, after he quits his work at the palace and flees to another city, he discovers that his fresco has mesmerized visitors...In George’s eyes, though, del Cossa’s fresco is loaded with meaning and beauty and personal significance. It was, after all, her mother’s final obsession, the last thing that seemed to fill her with life. Just as important is the connection del Cossa helps create between George and Helena … [Smith’s] inimitable writing sneaks into you with its deceptive readability, but it’s her radiating intelligence that stays with you. Her mind works wonders on a theme, able to find lovely and profound connections in seemingly anything.
RaveThe San Francisco Chronicle...an eclectically brilliant distillation of what photography can do, and why it remains an important art form ... Cole’s often brief commentaries function less like little helping-hand guides and more like an expertly executed and insightful narrative. These bite-size prose pieces are intricately structured, hauntingly written and add up to much more than the sum of their parts ... Cole has crafted a beautifully wrought and finely blended mixture of visual and narrative art. It is a chimera of thought and craft, of intellect and emotion, of the political and the personal, the historical and the contemporary.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewHabash has created a fascinating protagonist in Stephen, a hard-driven athlete with a convincingly thoughtful mind — though an erratic one, too. Just when you think you’ve got Stephen pegged, he surprises you ... But most important, I think, is the way Habash understands the limits of his subject matter. He does not try to extrapolate Stephen’s narrative into some all-encompassing portrayal of ambition and hubris, but remains firmly in the realm of this particular boy in this particular moment.
RaveThe MillionsGleick’s hybrid of history, literary criticism, theoretical physics, and philosophical meditation is itself a time-jumping, head-tripping odyssey, and it works so well. Even though Gleick can elucidate complex ideas into accessible language, he’s even better at explicating notions that remain perplexing. That is, he’s good at explaining paradoxes ... Though Gleick runs the gambit of physicists and philosophers and theorists (from St. Augustine to Stephen Hawking), he’s most fruitful and fun and alive as a writer when he dissects novels and films and television.
Roy Peter Clark
MixedThe New RepublicClark’s intent is admirable, his skills as a critic considerable, and the book he’s produced is not without its merits. Although Clark believes, in narrative terms, in the importance of 'showing,' he fails to see how young writers—about to step into a vast landscape with centuries of history—would be enormously grateful to simply be told.