MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewMarx’s first book — an investigation of the Japanese influence on the global fashion industry — succeeded precisely because of his narrow approach. Here, his comprehensiveness threatens to render Status and Culture a dull but effective teaching text. In his effort to cover everything — from conventions to signaling to complex questions of identity, counterculture and race — the author’s thesis gets lost ... Marx is engaging when tracing the evolution of products, such as the democratization of chocolate and Perrier from gourmet delicacies to deli staples. More plodding is his examination of those aspirational behaviors that gel into mass phenomena, like the Beatles \'mop top.\' While it’s interesting to learn that expensive purebred dogs are a relatively recent passion, a curiosity that became popular, the fact feels slight when juxtaposed with observations about race, which in turn gets relatively cursory treatment. But he’s done his homework, collating the zingers and wisdom of some of our best cultural critics, sociologists, and philosophers ... Marx is most convincing when addressing the perennial question of whether money can, in fact, buy class ... At times, you wish Marx would indulge in juicier class voyeurism ... Fans of the genre may wonder about certain choices ... In his effort to get everything in, Marx often presents his information blandly.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThough it doesn’t quite stick the landing, New Waves, the first novel by Kevin Nguyen...cleverly conjures a modern Gatsby-and-Nick-Carraway dynamic between the narrator, Lucas, and his co-worker Margo ... As with any novel featuring a distant object of idolatry, this one succeeds only to the extent that Margo is worth getting to know ... It’s exciting to see the workplace novel making a literary comeback...treating drudgery with a life-giving drollness. Nguyen’s own attempts to infuse New Waves with politics, heart and reality are admirable. He captures beautifully the subtle strains of being disenfranchised, poor and lonely in New York.
RaveBookforum[Wiener] was seen as dispensable; her memoir is anything but. If Silicon Valley had seen her potential, she would not have become one of the finest, most assured writers about the internet today. I read it in one sitting, overcome with the eerie sensation that my own life was being explained to me ... The experience of onboarding is smoother in this memoir than most ... I had the distinct feeling that everything she said applied to me ... The seductiveness of Wiener’s writing is the feeling that we’re as smart as she is. This book is proof enough that we are not. But it taps into our lived experience: We all use the internet for the majority of our waking hours, and have no idea how it really works ... Wiener is not drawn in by hyperbole or flashiness. She is not preoccupied with making herself look good or clairvoyant, refusing the temptation to rise to the tenor of jeremiad. It’s clear how easily this book could slip into parody, and she does document the idiosyncrasies of her colleagues, and the California-centric rituals of technocrats,, but never without centering herself in the narrative as complicit or jealous ... She excels at occupying several points of view all at once, a skill that results in a very charming and effective stylistic move where she positions ideas from a 3-D standpoint.
Fleur Jaeggy Trans. by Tim Parks
Positive4Columns... a novel particularly subterranean in its pleasures ... The themes are so potent and heavy-handed, their odor wafts like rotting fruit from the spine of the book ... If the book were longer I’d have to admit its flaws: repetitions (meant, perhaps, to mirror a disturbed mind), further culs de sac in the plot, some rather high-handed metaphors. But clocking in at a sharp 101 pages, you’re finished before you can lodge a complaint, its contents going down as smoothly as a martini served in an ice-cold glass.
PositiveBookforum... a robust collection ... One joy of reading the book is getting a concrete sense of [Wilmers\'] editorial idiosyncrasies and prowess ... The inclusion of a critique of obituaries and book reviews—in a book that includes both—is a clever nod to her agility. These pieces display a preference for dissection rather than heavy didacticism. Her lucidity on the page is notable given her desire to flirt with and even court paradox by showing all sides ... There is a danger—the threat of boredom—to publishing an essay collection of book reviews, since they are by nature directed at an insular audience and framed by topical concerns. This is mitigated somewhat by the decision to include, by and large, stories that are preoccupied with women and their concerns ... Women writing about women’s issues with men is currently in vogue, but Wilmers’s is perhaps not the ideal example. Her retrograde feminism is a rather open secret ... There is a trend in book reviewing to call outmoded or reductive ideas about feminism \'refreshing,\' but in this case it’s true ... She is adept at floating scenarios, allowing for the existence of opinions she doesn’t share.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...[an] enthralling book ... worth consuming in one sitting ... Monroe zeroes in on the aftermath of murder, on the morbid curiosity that draws eager civilians toward the crime scene and catapults them into starring roles. She avoids the formulaic professional tropes of true crime ... It might seem like a mistake, in the book’s \'Victim\' section, to focus on a crime as familiar as the murder of Sharon Tate, but Monroe has a knack for nosing a new story out of an old one, like a detective casting fresh eyes on a cold case ... Monroe’s only real misfire in Savage Appetites is the personal history she scatters through the book...The crescendo in each section is tempered by these vignettes, like a death knell muted by a leather baffle. To interrupt her narrative to describe her Googling a random murder in her hometown is akin to a friend pausing Law & Order to tell you about the time someone she never met was murdered hundreds of miles away ... By the end of the book, I found myself almost admiring the emotional plasticity of women who consciously scramble the logic of the predator-prey relationship in order to escape their unsatisfying lives.
PositiveBookforum... tenderly caustic ... This is a book about white literary Brooklyn, and Americans who start every conversation with What do you do? and have trouble finishing one without letting you know where they went to college ... The quantity of backstabbing gossip at parties and happy hours in this book would qualify it as a comedy of manners, but it’s lite on laughs. Mechling doesn’t slide into parody or satire, but she doesn’t shy away from the details that allow it ... a more honest approach to how boring party conversation really is, how surface and unintellectual our thoughts. Petty insights are the backbone of this book ... The novel does not render an emotional world that brings us to our knees. It’s more like she’s making a case for rejiggering chick lit as the cruelest genre ... I found this book completely satisfying as an office novel.
RaveBookforumKmart realism has here taken on a fanatical glare, as if all the flickering bulbs in the supermarket aisle have been upgraded with halogen lighting ... Ma is satiric about the workplace, in a way that’s less snobbish than Nell Zink but just as funny and imaginative ... All the best metaphors in the book are cleverly crafted harbingers ... Her dexterity in joking about capitalism rivals the skill of the great Richard Powers, who once imagined a company selling a product to cure a disease it created ... There’s something so unimaginative and depressing and right about this book ending in a mall.
PositiveBookforumThere is something embarrassing and oddly compelling about a celebrated writer sincerely going back and forth over whether to have a child for 304 pages of first-person stream of consciousness. In chapters titled after her menstrual cycle, the narrator, whose name is Sheila, talks with mothers, and women who are pregnant, and struggles to determine if they are reliable narrators of their experience ... Sheila is funny, and idiosyncratic enough to rub contra to 2018, a time when the litmus test for a woman’s success is the extent to which her daily planner is a subject of marvel. How does she have time? ... The problem with the novel is also why it’s secretly a joy to read: It wasn’t written for us. I was amused to flip back and read the first line of Motherhood. \'Is this book a good idea?\' Well, no ... But then what was How Should a Person Be? but a woman’s 288-page quest to justify her decision to be an artist before she made any art worth admiring? James Wood rightly called it \'a kind of \'ugly novel\'.\' If her last novel was like a woman whose cover-up always looks a little orange because she reapplies it in ill-lit bars, Motherhood is like a woman looking in the halogen-lit mirror at a doctor’s office ... All the art monster can do in the face of an indifferent world is value her art; whether or not it’s a bad idea is beside the point.
PositiveBookforumDespite the sex-work theme, there are no prurient sparks to speak of, and although the project—with its electric shocks and structural exploitation of women—is unsavory, you do not feel, at any point, horribly for these women. I feel too outside their emotional turbulence. But it’s the kind of woman Lacey likes to portray: in medias res, a woman already hollowed out ... Lacey is particularly attuned to the emotional elasticity of her female characters, especially as they face problems that can feel physically taxing (poverty, listening to men, loneliness, being alone with a man in a room with a closed door) ... Lacey is onto something with her particular brand of disaffected characters. They believe they deserve everything that happens to them—and if that’s not a portrait of women today, I don’t know what is. As Rachel Cusk pointed out in a recent interview, 'Fate is a female system of self-deception.'”
MixedBookforum...the kind of '90s-era junkie memoir that lends itself to the morbid curiosity we reserve for anyone who dies before we discover their work ... It is worth reading a book by a woman who gets as sick as Cat does. Marnell defies, consciously or not, the social structures that keep women behaving well in private ... Often what catches the eye is not the pile of coke but the all-but-blinding whiteness of the girl imbibing it. (She is never arrested.) This book is a meandering tale of largely unchecked behavior by an upper-middle-class girl whose actions have not hampered her social mobility, or threatened her Manhattan zip code or her inexhaustible line of parental credit ... Marnell didn't care about what her life was like, per se; she cared how it appeared online. The only tragedy for Marnell is a life that doesn't have a second life in print.
PositiveBookforumIt is by no means a remarkable book, but it's thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless, thanks to the irrepressible levity of its author, from whom we get an honest play-by-play of the emotions required for domestic maneuvers and a handy, abbreviated history of the war on drugs. bristled only at passages that read too much like what they actually are—the musings of a middle-aged, middlebrow woman married to novelist Michael Chabon with a knack for alarming housewifely banalities ... If you find her too self-serious to be chic, or in fact cringe at this list as an enormous indulgence, it is perhaps because she does not recoil at any whiff of indignity that emanates from herself. I admit it at first struck me as close to the knuckle, but her relentless depiction of her fallibility, as always, won me over.
MixedBookforumThe laziness of these tactics has the effect of suggesting the entire book to be a feat of will, and that it is not on any register a literary project, but an obligation ... Repetition in memoir is rarely a compositional strategy, and this book could have benefited from more editing ... The joy one feels reading Janowitz comes despite her lack of craft—from the cult of personality she cannot help but conjure, a thick smog blanketing life and writing ... I don’t know why she gave us Scream, this self-portrait of a woman postlapse, but I can’t help but look.
RaveBookforum[An] icy, masterful first short-story collection ... It’s almost uncivilized how precisely Barrodale renders life as a banal grotesquerie in which you have the wherewithal to decide nothing ... It’s this perverse, quotidian heroism that I love. Barrodale’s are a people who do not need to present their epiphanies as having any visible symptoms—it’s enough just to feel changed ... Barrodale elevates anecdotes into art.
PositiveBookForumBabitz takes to the page lightly, slipping sharp observations into roving, conversational essays and perfecting a kind of glamorous shrug.