PositiveThe Atlantic...a screwball, vaguely Shakespearian comedy of errors in which the protagonist tries on and casts off characteristics we generally consider immutable ...just when it looks as though Zink is delving into pure fantasy—a world in which appearances don’t matter in the slightest— in fact she is exposing the reality of the one-drop rule, a system that has nothing to do with skin color.
PanThe New York Times Book ReviewThe latest Swedish blockbuster, translated by Rod Bradbury, features a centenarian named Allan who, tired of living in a nursing home, escapes out the window … It’s a cute premise, but the right-place-right-time concept obviously isn’t original (see Forrest Gump and Zelig). Moreover, it’s easy to predict what will happen to Allan, since his life follows the course of a 20th-century history textbook. From 1943 to 1945, he’s employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. A few years later, he finds himself in a Russian gulag. Where was the action in 1968? Why, Paris, of course. And Allan makes it there in time to witness the uprisings that nearly shut down the city. By then, the shtick has worn a little thin.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe charismatic and mysterious Lila is eminently crush-worthy, but it doesn’t take much hermeneutic detective work to see that Ferrante thinks her namesake protagonist is brilliant in her own right. She’s also more fortunate: Elena’s parents allow her to continue her education through high school, whereas Lila’s expect her to drop out and start working. By the end of this astute novel, which has been translated into lucid English by Ann Goldstein, these environmental differences have just begun to manifest themselves.
PositiveThe New Republic10:04 inhabits the liminal zone between kidding and not kidding in the sense that it is not strictly a work of fiction or non-fiction, but a meta-fiction preoccupied with the mysterious alchemical reaction that turns life into art. It is a brilliant novel, and one that left me with the uncomfortable suspicion that I was just possibly the object of a joke … Even when the narrative moves in a linear fashion it doesn’t feel linear since Lerner repeats himself—purposefully, of course … Lerner has written a rich, sophisticated novel, and maybe he’s not wrong to assume that he can make just about anything succeed on the page.
MixedThe AtlanticNicotine is a disappointment compared with its two wily, almost unclassifiable predecessors ... Yet beneath the froth runs the same rich theme that has informed her distinctive satiric perspective from the start: the slippery nature of our public identities and loyalties ... In prose that deploys social theory and delivers one-liners with equal antic verve, Zink makes sure that her role-shifting characters keep her readers off-balance ... Nicotine serves up light sexual comedy and broadbrush satire of social activist pretenses, recalling Zink’s previous work in what almost feels like self-parody ... Nicotine feels unfinished.