RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... not so much a cancer memoir as it is a flag burning. It is a work fueled by rage — against cancer, sure, but also against culture, and against the world which made her sick. It is an interrogation of everything that is difficult to look at directly ... Like Sontag at her best, Boyer is able to shed light on a darkness where most don’t dare to tread ... Her prose cracks and sparks, perhaps like only a poet’s can ... each page feels unmatched in its urgency, especially when she is ruminating on the writings of Aristedes and the 17th century metaphysical poet John Donne. Boyer is a library, and her ability to not just argue with canonical authors most of us fell asleep learning about, but to do so with an intellectual alacrity that makes those authors feel dreadfully important, is stunning ... The essays in The Undying are dizzying in their heights and angles. Boyer throws everything at the wall ... Boyer does not for a moment pull a punch, whether it be for cancer fetishists, vloggers, the sickbed, or for the systemic violence of capitalism that creates banal statistics ... The deep ambivalence Boyer feels for her engagement with her subjects drives the book forward in a way that is refreshingly grounded ... Anne Boyer carefully balances autobiography and theoretical argument with an action-forward method of engagement that shows intellectuals can have a place in our world. The Undying is a masterwork of uncompromising essays that proves an author can write stylishly about difficult subjects, with difficult citation, while encouraging real engagement. There are few authors that can pull off what Boyer has done in The Undying, and fewer still that would be willing to try. By its end, the rage that fueled Boyer is rightfully, inevitably felt by her reader, and as such might radicalize us to ask the question: what do we do now with this rage?
RaveFull StopThese stories are beautifully linked—a character here pops up there, a road name is recognized—such that it almost feels like living in a neighborhood and watching days go by for all the faces you recognize on the corners. Howland displays a sociological lucidity when addressing her native city ... Throughout the Chicago stories Howland’s political insights rise to be part of the text ... stories display a frenetic emotional register that jumps from page to page, telling the stories of women left isolated but not left alone. The titular story spreads like a spill and focuses on death ... Howland’s primary concern throughout the collection is the quotidian, and its existence as the expression of material, systemic struggle and existential, metaphysical struggle ... Her characters are single mothers, noisy neighbors, students living on the cheap, heavily accented cousins, shopkeeps, beat cops—all described delicately with boundless feeling but full of holes ... Calm Sea is a wonderful book ... criminally, there is not much else widely available—Howland published three books in her lifetime and we can only wait to see if they will come into print again. Of course this is a criminal state of affairs—we’ve forgotten a genius.