RaveBook SlutOn my first reading, Duplex felt less like a story and more like a forest of images and metaphors, something to be wandered through rather than followed to a conclusion, but on my second reading I saw loose ends tied up, questions answered, arcs completed, and it was clear that Duplex exists in a powerful middle ground between poetry and story, containing the satisfaction of figuring out mysterious events and the joy of sentences beautiful beyond their context ... Through Janice\'s stories, Davis argues that myths are not direct allegories for lived experience, but presentations of realities whose people, places, things, and physics follow different rules than we do. The point is not to make correlations between the image of teenage girls accidentally disintegrated by robots who mistook metaphors in romantic poetry for physical acts of love and some aspect of technology and romance in today\'s culture (though you could), but to discover the properties of our technology and romance through exploring the properties of Duplex\'s technology and romance ... How could such an imagination not be a standard by which other imaginations are assessed? How could her name not come up in yearly conversations about major body-of-work prizes?
Fiston Mwanza Mujila, trans. by Roland Glasser
PositiveForeword ReviewsThe idiosyncratic narrator swerves from summary to stream of consciousness to satiric dialogue, to deliver surprising lines of stunning poetic beauty ... Initially, the novel is difficult to navigate, but like Thomas Pynchon or David Foster Wallace—or free jazz, for that matter—Mujila rewards patience. The third-person narrator lurches forward like the train Lucien rides in on from the distant provinces. Eventually he finds his old friend Requiem. The events that follow form less of a plot and more of a series of episodes. Sometimes, Mujila drops the action or quirky dialogue onto the page, dislocating but offering a feeling akin to hanging out with a garrulous friend who can’t wait to show you what misadventure will come next ... Tram 83 isn’t for the faint of heart, but rather, it’s for those that have a sense of humor, an interest in seedy underbellies, and a willingness to, at times, feel a little lost in the haze of biblical imagery, flippant debauchery, free sex, and anarchy. Ezra Pound would be proud; Mujila \'made it new.\'
Jared Yates Sexton
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of Books...[an] insightful and important new book The Man They Wanted Me to Be is centered in Sexton’s personal experience...He says very little about how people of color experience toxic masculinity, the ways class impacts toxic masculinity, or about the experiences of women and people of other sexualities and genders. Sexton is open about these limits, and frequently clarifies when an experience is unique to straight white men. The story of toxic masculinity is bigger than one man and to tell it completely would require telling the stories of men of color and men of different classes and women and people of other genders and sexualities. But Sexton isn’t trying to tell the story of toxic masculinity, he is trying to find a path forward from it. The scope of his book needs to be narrow, because it needs to be driven by sharing his personal story, sharing the pain he felt, and sharing the help he sought to remedy that pain. As important as the data is and as insightful as Sexton is with that data, the most important thing he does in The Man They Wanted Me to Be is break the taboo about sharing vulnerabilities...
RaveThe Star TribunePorter upends any expectations of the traditional family saga by constantly shape-shifting ... Most things, however, don’t necessarily come full circle, resolve or round out — and that’s not a criticism. Sometimes a dark thing happens on a country road, and that’s that. The officer and the victim — or the victim’s family — move on with their lives. This lack of neatness feels closer to real life than most family sagas, whose stories often tidy up with easy reconciliation or syrupy sentimentalism. But those endings often detract from an otherwise complex story. And complexity is one thing Porter knows well.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of Books...instability appears in even seemingly straightforward poems. Distant, disconnected, and adversarial ideas and images juxtapose. Line breaks force ungrammatical relationships between words. Subjects and objects don’t always agree. Linear logic is optional. The best poems in no time like now celebrate the multiplicity this instability creates ... when it comes to navigating 21st-century New York City and the new media environment, Codrescu often falls flat and his penchant for multiplicity collapses. Like many non-digital natives, Codrescu doesn’t seem to understand social media, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but the poems about it feel like someone holding a fish at arm’s length ... Interestingly, his less \'timely\' poems allow him to connect more deeply with these themes. The line \'and back then I could barely impersonate the idea of me,\' from \'real history,\' is a better phrase for the anxiety of being an authentic self on social media than any of his direct engagements with tweets and likes.
Dorthe Nors, Trans. by Misha Hoekstra
PositiveStar TribuneTranslated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra, at times the novel’s word choices get murky, and conjoined clauses can feel like split lanes, two ideas going in different directions. It’s a tiny, if hardly noticeable, distraction. With this quietly moving story, though, Nors seems on the fast track to becoming a global writer ... Although this book feels like a more straightforward departure from Nors’ dark fables and experimental novellas, we’ll be lucky when new translations come in.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneGurba’s college years are harrowing and heartbreaking as she reckons with guilt and her own privilege, and casts a necessarily securitizing eye on rape culture ... the book sets itself up as a challenge — to empathize, to tell the truth and to stay awake to the violence done to women (and minorities) every day, and the various ways in which our society works to erase their dignities and identities, not to mention their bodies. The good news is that Gurba is a sensitive, occasionally caustic and always compassionate guide.
PositiveThe Washington PostIsadora is so confounded by her fame and grief that she’s in the dark about her own emotions, even as her expressive dances capture the world’s attention. Gray portrays that great irony in heartbreaking detail and psychological acuity, her language hinging lyrical flight with wry directness. It can be difficult, at times, to sit through Isadora’s sections. She’s selfish, rogue, headlong, unavailable. But the novel’s greatest test is also its greatest strength. You might not like me, it says, but what do you know of extraordinary grief?
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneDoerr writes sentences that are clear-eyed, taut, sweetly lyrical and never elusive … Eventually, Werner and Marie's stories converge, and Doerr offers up a surprisingly hopeful culmination of events. Seashells, waves, architecture, the brutal battlements of war, the power of radio, coming of age in the time of war: Doerr connects every seemingly disparate element. Every sentence is an act of compassion. There's not a fuzzy or lagging moment … This is a beautiful book, an astounding meditation on the paradoxes of fate, human relationships and nature.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneSome stories feel underdeveloped. A few of the marriages gone awry blur together. Others, however, widen Ferris’ range and prove stunning feats of compassion ... It’s Ferris’ great gift, and, indeed, readers will surely be struck dumb with empathy for these memorable cranks and depressives.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThe women here are complex, but not in the typical way of fiction. Much like Mireille, the protagonist of Gay’s profound and violent novel, An Untamed State, the women here reveal themselves in how their minds adjust to a world that seems bent on violating their bodies ... At their worst, the men here are pedophiles, rapists and sexists. At their best, they’re armchair chauvinists with occasional flares of the fist. (Which may make men the best audience for this book.) ... This collection begs for a slow, serious reading. Sure, some themes and scenes and gestures repeat. Maybe a handful of the stories could have been left out, but there’s too much richness to let that nettle.
Vi Khi Nao
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneAs in Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, this structure allows for different views on the same events, but Nao’s book feels more organic and textured, less convenient and, like grief itself, vulnerable to downshifts and undercurrents ... Vi Khi Nao seems the elusive love child of Anne Carson and Samuel Beckett, a preposterous connection that, somehow, in the end, makes a lot of sense.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneMeans’ prose is hard-cutting, incisive and occasionally lush. Long, winding sentences encapsulate chaotic moments — or in the case of Hystopia, beleaguered rants from head cases — and linger with imagistic, musical prose. But these strengths eschew showiness, even with the metafictional framing ... Situated somewhere between Denis Johnson’s searing and sad Tree of Smoke and the rambunctiously peopled Catch-22, Hystopia makes old wounds seem not so old ... here, where love, conspiracy, war and drugs contend in cataclysmic head trips and bleached landscapes, Means deploys impressive psychological insight in impeccably rendered increments.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksIt would be too much to say that Fox has ended the reckless use of 'pretentious' as a bludgeon against the unfamiliar, but whoever reads Pretentiousness will come away with a greater appreciation for art, ambition, exploration, and failure ... It’s easy to conclude that Fox’s essay, and the idea of pretentiousness in general, is only an issue for the arts, but Fox’s arguments are actually a strong base for wider consideration ... One potential criticism of the book is that Fox doesn’t offer examples of anything he actually considers 'pretentious' to counter reckless use of the term ... Fox’s goal is not to make everyone love the art he loves, but to stop, as much as he can, the wholesale and passive dismissal of certain modes of expression. It’s clear that I’m predisposed to take his side, but I think his prose is strong enough that even those who claim to speak out for the common people will find themselves agreeing with, or at least impressed by, Fox’s essay.
RaveMinneapolis Star TribuneLyrical, ruminative, sometimes wry and genuinely moving, this collection showcases Bass in his best form. Old classics, new favorites: There's much to savor here.
A. Igoni Barrett
MixedMinneapolis Star TribuneFuro’s trek through Lagos is sometimes blurred by clumsy language...There’s also a metafictional plotline that follows Furo’s sister’s Twitter persona, a “rebirth” parallel that lacks the compelling strangeness of the sections devoted to Furo. These split attentions contribute to a feeling of torn loyalty — am I supposed to care about anyone here? — in an otherwise charming first novel.
MixedThe Minneapolis Star TribuneOn the sentence level, the book is absolutely delightful. Quick-swipe descriptors of characters carry the sometimes exaggerative flair of Dickens. Waldy's musings throw the book into philosophical relief and keep it from teetering on too comical for its own good. The Lost Time Accidents crackles with exquisite impressions of eras long gone and close to home and is so immersive that it's sometimes difficult to pull yourself back to the real world.
MixedStar TribuneDespite [its] flaws, Avenue of Mysteries is still strangely compelling.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneOkparanta’s prose feels natural, effortless. She renders the Nigerian landscape in lyrical bursts — 'where rocks rose like hills and where the plantain trees grew high' — and, as in her short stories, the rhythms slide seamlessly into intimate, conversational tones, equal parts folk tale and confessional.”