RaveThe Guardian (UK)It’s a brilliant comic novel about the ways in which the internet muddles all of our interior rivers while at the same time polluting the seas of the outer world, and about how these processes might be one and the same thing ... the descriptive prose is casually great ... a fascinating work of cultural analysis. Every sentence tells ... a prismatically intelligent work of art.
RaveThe Irish Independent (IRE)These are romantic stories, and Barry is a romantic writer. I mean romantic in the old-fashioned literary sense: mood-haunted, place-haunted, devoted to the themes of love and loss and self-creation ... Romanticism has its risks, of course. Romantic characters risk igniting themselves in the fires of a foolish passion. And the romantic writer risks collapsing into sentimentality, or into the mere performance of emotion. Barry is well aware of this. He knows that if you get romanticism wrong, your story ends up defaulting into histrionics, or banality. But he also knows that when you get romanticism right, it sets off a great depth-charge of emotion in the reader. What makes Barry such an extraordinary writer is how often, and how superbly, he gets romanticism right ... He gets it right particularly in his short stories ... it’s in his short stories that Barry seems most fully and brilliantly himself ... his third collection, is made up of 11 stories, and by my count, six of them are unimprovable masterpieces. Four of the others are merely (merely!) very, very good — better than the average run of short stories by some considerable distance ... a collection otherwise so good — so rich and so flawlessly crafted — that its best stories feel instantly canonical, as if we’ve already been reading them for years ... The densely woven prose summons up Roethke’s own spiky rhythms; it also echoes one of Barry’s great inspirers, Saul Bellow ... The other stories, with their casts of ghost-struck lonely men and not-quite-innocent young women, and with their gorgeous evocations of landscapes and interiors, are comparably gripping and rich. Following his courageous path, Kevin Barry remains the great romantic of contemporary Irish fiction. Like all of the most interesting artists, he gets better with every risk he takes. The courage may be his. But the rewards are all ours.
RaveThe New YorkerDeath in Her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh’s intricate and unsettling new novel, appears at first to occupy familiar territory ... Vesta’s speculations are every bit as vivid as Eileen’s ... Death in Her Hands is another tricksy novel. But it makes no real secret of its tricksiness—which is in itself grounds for mistrust. Vesta’s unreliability is flagged so thoroughly in the early pages that you begin to suspect that Moshfegh is playing some kind of higher-order game with narrative tension ... But creating this sort of narrative tension isn’t quite what Moshfegh is up to—or, rather, it’s only a fraction of what she\'s up to. The unreliable narrator, as a technique, appeals to novelists who are interested in the gaps (tragic, comic) that yawn between how we conceive of ourselves and how the world perceives us to be. Moshfegh has toyed with this technique in much of her work ... Moshfegh knows that when human company is swept away, a baroque inner life can often flourish, and Vesta’s increasingly monstrous inner life grows to occlude her view of the world ... it’s a haunting meditation on the nature and meaning of art ... Like a surgeon, or a serial killer, Moshfegh flenses her characters, and her readers, until all that’s left is a void. It’s the amused contemplation of that void that gives rise to the dark exhilaration of her work—its wayward beauty, its comedy, and its horror.