PositiveLocus... remarkable ... The book is crowded with characters...Every character has at least a few good moments, but the book starts to feel like a literary scrapyard toward its end, full of pieces of stories rather than a smooth narrative ... In a simpler book, the Ynaa, because they are Othered, would stand in for black people, and would suffer persecution and casualties to form the allegory. But The Lesson works harder than that ... In craft, The Lesson is hardly a perfect book. It has false starts (the opening makes it seem like a YA book), it juggles its many characters with less than ideal grace (Patrice, characterized inconsistently, has a convenient, low-stakes pregnancy), and its vague gestures to how the world beyond St. Thomas deals with the Ynaa’s existence are not enough to fully contexualize the event. But it’s a daring and thoughtful book, which is far better than a beautifully crafted snoozer. Moreover, it’s a book that presents racial issues and questions in a genuinely new way, which makes it a book that, I hope, will stand the test of time.
RaveThe Times Literary SupplementYelena Moskovich’s books defy summary ... They roam among time periods and groups of characters, loop back on themselves via reappearing objects and colours, and purposely blur the real, the unreal and the surreal ... She demonstrates a profound commitment to language, and undergirds a jazz-like approach to narrative with steely insight. Virtuoso is an unusual read, and a tantalizing specimen of Moskovich’s talent ... A novel like this might be fun to dissect, but it is much more compelling to soak Virtuoso up, like a patch of moss soaks up rain ... This is not a sensible novel. But in its attention to language, its ability to reveal detail with sharp, original turns of phrase, it is a hypnotic one ... Virtuoso is also a bold feminist novel: it contains a world of love and friendship between women in which men and boys are both indistinct and irrelevant ... a fully realized vision of a strange world.
PositiveThe Washington PostCandid, unapologetic ... In this thought-provoking account, Tobia shows how exposure to the world, and gentle, persistent expansion toward the femme, led to a self-knowledge of non-binary gender identity. The author writes with passion and candor, and what Tobia’s personal story lacks in drama, it makes up for in brash confessions ... Tobia narrates early, definitive incidents charmingly and wisely ... As narrator, Tobia is by turns snarky, self-centered, foul-mouthed, wildly intelligent, entertaining and, in places, grating. Sometimes the book dips into self-indulgence rather than self-study, and the word “glitter” appears so often that it might have served as a title. Still, Sissy is a valuable dispatch from a new generation of queer activists and artists — the first generation with the power to connect to themselves en masse without apology — and it would be a blessing if all such voices were as articulate and charismatic as this one.
PositiveThe Master\'s ReviewDespite the linear nature of time in the book, the stories feel circular, networked. The towns and nights blur together. Sometimes the show is pretty good, and other times it’s pretty bad, but it’s always the same show ... This sense of repetition is not wearying for the reader, but it deftly communicates the characters’ weariness ... A novel like this is about the people in it, and the multivocal narration of the troupe makes the book resemble its subject. Each new story is another act, another performer. But it’s a deeply sad book, full of heartbreak and injustice ... Allen’s work takes place at eye level, between people, not between societal forces ... she’s also a wonderful writer at the sentence level ... an unusual book on an unusual topic, and a fine fictional chronicle of a lost art.
Esme Weijun Wang
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books\"Esmé Weijun Wang’s new book of essays... warrants much of the hype and anticipation surrounding it ... Wang is a highly articulate and graceful essayist, and her insights, in both the clinical and general senses, are exceptional ... [Wang\'s] perspective in The Collected Schizophrenias is encyclopedic and prismatic even without taking into account how her primary mental illness may have fractured her identity ... [Wang] writes with clarity about how it feels when a psychotic episode descends upon her, an experience only a fraction of us will ever have ... These essays are mesmerizing and at times bittersweet ... The Collected Schizophrenias is a necessary addition to a relatively small body of literature, but it’s also, quite simply, a pleasure to read. The prose is so beautiful, and the recollection and description so vivid, that even if it were not mostly about an under-examined condition it would be easy to recommend.\
PositiveThe Guardian\"Despite minor flaws and a relatively small scope, however, Something Like Breathing is an auspicious work from a writer unusually skilled with language and subtext. It’s a sad, serious, beautiful novel worth diving into head first.\
Niviaq Korneliussen Trans. by Anna Halager
PanLos Angeles Review of Books\"Nuuk [successfully offers a glimpse into life in Greenland], yet aside from the lure of its provenance and a handful of charms it isn’t a very good novel ... The thin story amounts to nothing more gripping than early adulthood drama sparked by infidelity, the struggle with sexual identity, and ill-advised love affairs. The characters that wrestle with their behaviors are more interesting than those that don’t ... the characters’ voices are hardly differentiated, so the sections don’t feel discrete ... The book resembles television in its quick scene changes, its multi-camera approach, its low-stakes conflicts, its shallow epiphanies ... Last Night in Nuuk is not up to the task of fully delineating the Greenlandic character, of telling American audiences all they need to know about living in Nuuk. Not even for one night. Less a novel than a clutch of loose stories, it reads like a long project by an undergraduate with lots to say and even more to learn.\
PositiveThe Los Angeles ReviewAnne Boyer’s A Handbook of Disappointed Fate roams, and then rages, like a graceful and passionate animal in heat ... She has an opinion on almost anything, I wager; she offers so many of them here, across so many different contexts, that reading the book leaves the reader mentally worn out, ready for a bag of Cheetos and the shallowest sitcom possible. And she disburses all of it with the same crystalline, unerring language, the consistency of which forms the durable connective tissue of this collection ... Boyer knows her stuff—she footnotes dutifully—and presents a tone of insistent intellectual rigor throughout. But the enormous range of topics, and the speed with which she covers them (many essays are between three and five pages, some much shorter), make this collection feel chaotic, ill at ease with itself. Every sentence is stuffed with meaning, and the sentences build relentlessly. The poet’s gift for compression contributes to the buzz each essay sets up in the reader’s brain, but Boyer’s evident, blazing intelligence doesn’t hurt ... Boyer is also funny ... I’ll read this book, and read it, and read it, well into the future, again and again. But not too quickly.
MixedThe Arts FuseNone of the major characters in the novel are kind, or noble; none of them act out of motivations more virtuous than self-interest. For nearly 300 pages, they repeatedly and grotesquely collide with each other and with their own histories. As a reader, it may be difficult to look away ... Hobson’s achievement here is in setting up these personalities to entwine with and oppose each other so naturally ... This is a psychological novel, and it moves glacially, examining every motion and spoken word in exhaustive detail, drawing past injustices to the fore constantly. This isn’t a negative quality for some, but Summer Cannibals will infuriate readers with no interest in microscopic depictions of family dysfunction ... How willing the reader is to keep going through all this depends on her taste for melodrama. Hobson continues to ratchet the stakes upward ... By and large, the writing is well-tuned and graceful, if unadorned ... Also, the juiciness of this story, with its Gothic overtones and symbolism, keeps it engaging. However, the conclusion is a major misstep: the book simply ends, nearly epiphany-free, smothering out some of its fires but supplying more oxygen to others. Hobson offers little real closure.
Agnaes Desarthe, Trans. by Christiana Hills
RaveKenyon ReviewSuch philosophical exposition in a novel is uncommon, especially for a novel so short. But this is no ordinary novel ... Desarthe’s graceful and illuminating prose dances across the page, weaving one perspective with another, evoking common human experiences poetically ... Part of the credit for this lovely book is due to its translator, Christiana Hills. At certain points in the book, Desarthe gestures to a quality of the French language, and these moments must have been difficult to realize in English without awkwardness ... Desarthe has written a marvelously compressed work of fiction that nimbly reveals memorable characters, considers big issues thoughtfully, and even upends expectations about what supernaturally \'speaking\' animals will have to say. As such, she has created a minor miracle of a book.
PositiveThe Masters ReviewThe Blurry Years, a debut novel by Eleanor Kriseman, is the kind of coming-of-age tale that we need ... It’s also a deceptively simple novel. No fancy narrative tricks, no framing devices, no division of the action into distinct cinematic acts—just Callie’s story, as she lives it, in lean and attractive prose ... Kriseman distinguishes herself by making Florida rather despicable and exploitative, blinding its residents with thick heat and an empty sun ... Callie is a heroine to remember.
RaveChicago Review of Books...[an] extraoardinary new collection ... rich and satisfying from beginning to end. Full of humor, heart, and intelligence, the collection intersperses longer, fully realized and multi-strand essays with short, creatively formatted pieces: lists, diary entries, quizzes, letters, and bits of advice ... Coulter is an acrobatic writer, deftly juggling mood and verbiage ... The particular flavor of this book is not drinking while being a member of the upper-middle-class ... Although sober life is the spine of this collection, there is so much more to it than commentary on sobriety. Unlike other essay collections unified by a single topic, a full and colorful illustration emerges of the personality behind this book ... it specializes in hitting both the sternum and the funny bone at once.
Rave3:AM MagazineWhat separates a diary from a chronicle? ... I puzzled over this distinction many times as I read Elle Nash’s novel, Animals Eat Each Other, as I marvelled at its odd, wry chapter titles and the economy of its language, as I fretted over its obsession with obsession and the avoidable mistakes the narrator kept making ... the narrator also performs a great deal of psychological and practical analysis of the novel’s events, which keeps the narrative from meandering ... Rarely has self-harm been described with such clarity, but the tone is, let us say, not uplifting ... The more I revisited the book, the more I admired its care and intention. However, it’s hardly a book for everyone. The events and actions depicted in this novel are almost universally unpleasant, even repellent, and some readers may have difficulty feeling sympathy ... its emotional territory is enormous and largely unmapped ... expertly written.
Debra Jo Immergut
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksIt’s a rare writer who takes a chance on form in a genre as standardized as the psychological thriller, but that is what Debra Jo Immergut has done with her first book in 26 years... [Immergut is] daring by telling stories with distinctly un-masculine shapes in a well-established, highly masculine genre ... Not a word is out of place in The Captives. What a rare gift. If you’re a reader looking for a multidimensional thriller with exceptional characterization, watertight prose, and a wealth of uncomfortable, fascinating ideas about family and identity, Debra Jo Immergut has, at long last, written one for you.
RaveThe Arts FuseThe pleasures of Never Anyone But You are, like the narrative’s focal companionship, discreet, private, and totally immersive. Thomson is rendered nearly invisible next to the power and endurance of the relationship he’s writing about. And it is his consistent attentiveness to the interiors of these women and their lives that makes this such a lovely reading experience. He’s written the kind of book all incorrigible novel addicts will treasure.
Kirsten Imani Kasai
RaveThe Adroit Journal\"The volume of melodrama turns up gradually as the novel progresses, both in theme and in language, but the book is so absorbing that this insistent music is hard to criticize without a particular distaste for the genre. Gothic fiction and melodrama share a lot of the same geography; this Gothic novel sometimes tips the carriage as it rides, breakneck, over its emotional territory. But in return, the reader is gifted with prose ... The House of Erzulie privileges the spaces of dreams, imagination, and sexual ecstasy (oh, no, this novel is NSFW). It does not care much whether it’s taxing the reader’s patience, or straining her credulity, and at some point, the reader must stop caring about these elements, too. Kirsten Imani Kasai wants to take you for a tour of a particular house in New Orleans, and the best option is to accept her offered hand and go along, eyes open. I suggest you leave the lights on while reading.\
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books\"Belly Up jangles with the voices of other writers. Her fearless characterizations echo Jincy Willett; her stark, unsettling sentences evoke Joanna Ruocco; her crafting of a tautological biosphere that only contains the kind of people who would appear in her stories suggests Miranda July; and, for many reasons, her work calls to mind Guggenheim fellow Mary Gaitskill. Singing through this braid of whispers is Bullwinkel’s own confident voice, which displays a talent for compression staggering in a debut collection and proves that the prose belongs to her alone ... Bullwinkel appears to be on the side of language, but beyond that her loyalties are murky ... these stories, like Gaitskill’s, are extraordinary, mature, and complete. They also showcase a knack for killer first sentences ... It’s hard to find fault with such skillful sentences. Still, what would these stories sound like if they had heart? In Belly Up, a profound talent has manifested, one that is experimental in the best sense.\
RaveThe GuardianThe dialogue is so quick and multilayered as to take one’s breath away ... The powerlessness and fury of women find an outlet in their spoken protests, their pleas to be heard by idiotic doctors, husbands who cannot see their marriages unravelling. Zumas elucidates, in virtuosic prose, the struggle to be valued running like a power line under every incarnation of feminism. Her talent is electric. Get ready for a shock.