PositiveThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette[Smith\'s] latest book, Year of the Monkey, is sister to M Train...and shares in the same quiet, melancholic mood. The young woman who enthusiastically poked at the status quo with her insurgent music in a bid to shape the future...finds herself in her 70s as an explorer on the outer rim, the future she challenged bearing down on her life in its ultimate guise — human mortality ... Nothing much happens in Year of the Monkey. ... Time moves and Ms. Smith observes its passage ... We could be in a Raymond Chandler novel or one of Jean Cocteau’s movies. Year of the Monkey is both and neither. There is a pervasive fog-bound atmosphere underscored by whispers of dread in these pages that Philip Marlowe would swaddle himself in.
There’s a dreamy weirdness to the interactions and conversations recorded here that seem to push into the territory of auto-fiction rather than straight memoir ... What is happening here?
PositivePittsburgh Post-Gazette\"Lest you think these essays are all airy and silly and hold no truck with the grind of the so-called real world, keep in mind that Ross Gay’s garden is concerned just as much with death as it is with pretty flowers. Most of this collection was written in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the weight of which applies pressure to the search for delight. There are tragic deaths, illnesses, racism and horror in these pages. Paying attention requires a deep focus lens; nothing can be ignored in favor of simple bliss. What is gained from this acute watchfulness? If not wisdom, then at least a certain clarity.\
RavePittsburgh Post-Gazette\"... extraordinary ... Right out of the gate, Ms. Trethewey asks the reader to reconsider what a monument is, what values it extols and whose ideology it serves.\
MixedThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteLethem's novel is at its strongest in its early pages. The fledgling friendship that must find a way to negotiate the racial divide is wonderfully, achingly rendered in his electric prose … Dylan and Mingus are never developed beyond these few fledgling brushstrokes. In comic book parlance, they were merely penciled in; no one bothered to finish them in inks. Upon these bare skeletons, most particularly in the case of Dylan, who is relating the story, are hung the pop-culture decorations of the times. The reader is inundated with references to books, movies and music. It is here that we lose sight of what Dylan is like and become acquainted with what he likes … While this novel may not fulfill its early promise and the characters are at best blurred forms in a blizzard of cultural reference, at least the soundtrack is pitch-perfect.
Jonathan Safran Foer
RaveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThe danger that Foer is braving here is the ease with which the work could have slipped into the exploitative and sentimental. The novel could have come off as crass and too clever for its own good. Or worse, reading this novel could have been painfully insulting and cruel … Placing the weight of Sept. 11 on the narrow shoulders of a young boy allows Foer to sidestep the politics of the event and focus completely on the emotional toll … Oskar, as precocious as he may be, is an amplified heartbeat of a character. Through him, Foer's incredibly moving novel rescues the victims from becoming objects, and in turn, it rescues the survivors as well.
MixedPittsburgh Post-GazetteThe reader’s enjoyment of M Train...may hinge entirely on the pleasure he takes in, or more accurately patience with, the seemingly endless cups of coffee imbibed by the author in these pages. Cup after cup in cafes from Greenwich Village to Tangiers is downed by the Godmother of Punk as this meandering, but ultimately satisfying book unfolds.