PositiveNew City Lit... a structure that is clever, and makes the reader wonder how Rooney will have the momentum to pull it off continuously. While the emails between characters do tend to reveal more of the personalities of the characters, they feel like Rooney attempted to place essays on art, beauty, religion, and the problems with capitalism ... The prose is the reason for Rooney’s popularity. Nearly a whole chapter takes place with Simon checking his phone as the only surface action. It’s a small space of simple actions, but given the context of the messages and subtle reactions, Rooney offers graceful insight into their relationship and motives. Rooney’s work has been deemed millennial, because she knows how to use the ways technology and consumerism affect relationships and general communication. Beautiful World, Where Are You is an interrogation of beauty in a plastic world.
RaveNew City LitThis is a book about the loneliness of domesticity and the internal cost of upward comparisons, but with much humor in the dejection. It is as though Leonora Carrington wrote Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, yet truly original. The prose effectively draws the reader into the minutia that is the mother’s life ... Yoder creates a mythos around the mother that is intimate and admitting ... Yoder strips away the romanticism of a monster narrative with Nightbitch. There are no sexy vampires or a castaway modern Prometheus. There is only the stark reality of a woman trying to regain her sense of self.
Sara Mesa, trans. by Megan McDowell
PositiveNewCity LitThe prose, simple and beautiful, flies by before we realize we know nothing of these characters, aside from Soon’s inability to fit in at school and her beloved brother’s recent departure, as well as Old Man’s love of birds, fraying suits and Nina Simone ... Details are mysteriously unimportant in the larger story. The logistics of Soon’s school absences are accounted for. The whereabouts of Old Man’s past progressions and his demeanor are never directly named. These details do not need to be laid out, because Mesa’s writing is tight enough to note the reader’s questions, but direct the story where it needs to go for her desired effect, which is a story about uncertainty in humanity. The text constantly raises the question \'what do we want from each other?\' without providing an answer. I think that’s the point; even those who feel unable to connect can still make meaningful connections. It’s not so much the struggle for understanding, or even being understood, but finding moments of peace in a world that can be so cruel.
Emilio Fraia, trans. by Zoë Perry
RaveNewcity LitThough the three stories in Sevastopol aren’t explicitly connected, together they paint a true portrait of human suffering, equivalent to Tolstoy’s stories of the Crimean War. Fraia redefines the trauma of a physical battle through the lens of his characters’ struggles with nature, culture and the self ... I...was amazed by the visceral transition I had made within the pages ... Fraia’s collection of \'long-short stories\' is a much-needed format that feels fully explored, yet at once compact. The text is presented in long paragraphs and frequent section breaks, ending in memorable lines with the white space, allowing the lines to resonate. I want to be skeptical of comparisons here, especially since the allusion of Tolstoy is embedded in the spirit of the text, but it’s easy to conjure writers like Roberto Bolaño, Anna Burns and Denis Johnson engrained in Fraia’s prose. The over-layered voices throughout the book create vast worlds that feel nearly mythic, and all too real. Fraia’s aptness for storytelling in Sevastopol lies within the entrancing matter of human suffering.
Deb Olin Unferth
PositiveNew City Lit... a coming-of-age tale before it becomes a fairytale, then a radical manifesto turned love story. It’s an accumulation of styles to weave the entirety of the story. It’s a mysterious interview, a séance to alternative timelines, and the story of Bwwaauk, a hen on the lam ... Paragraphs move from interviews, interrogations, perspectives from a chicken, and chapters set in parenthesis, but the power of the prose lies within the omniscient narrator...The Vonnegut and Sontag influences are abundant and justified ... Despite the divine intervention, Unferth is careful to use the characters to tell the story. I grew weary reading work about farms or small-town life in Iowa, afraid the writer will reduce my homeland to a handful of blue-collar stereotypes. But Unferth is deft at steering the narrative toward a criticism of industrial agriculture, rather than small, family-owned farms, as well as giving characters whole identities ... heavily researched from the experience of USDA inspectors and of egg production facilities, down to the experience and brain functions of an average Leghorn chicken. If I’m still not personally a fan, after reading Barn 8, I have, at least, grown to appreciate chickens.
RaveNew City Lit...the essays don’t have time to wait for you. They start mid-moment, making you go along with wherever Perry urgently needs to take you ... Perry’s essays can’t be contained solely in print, but insist upon spilling over the page ... While another notable essay collection released this year, Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, turns the lens outward, briefly touching on the personal, Perry aligns you to his world view, only to expose his universal truths ... Perry’s lived experience and ability to make you look through a wider view is what makes these pieces successful ... Occasionally, there are disjointed moments in the collection, each skillfully used to demonstrate our narrator’s attempts piecing meaning together. Through arguments with racists in dive bars and going home with the wrong lovers, Perry is aptly self-aware to admit his wrongs, making you learn from the missteps ... He won’t give you the answer, but he’ll make you want to keep searching.
PositiveNew City LitWhile the plot and action of the novel are minimal, the vivid interiority of the narrator brings his world alive. While the strict practice of the translator’s real-time perspective could come off as tiresome in less-skilled hands, Reis brings out the humor of his character’s cyclical thoughts ... Reis has garnered comparisons to Kafka, and although The Translator’s Bride is less surreal, the influence is evident. It is Kafkaesque in the sense of the continual meandering of existence ... The translator is stuck in the bureaucracy of his lost love, which may be the ultimate human condition.