PositiveThe New YorkerBeautiful World, Where Are You could be called Rooney’s version of a novel of ideas, and I confess that my tolerance for the characters’ roving disquisitions turned out to be pretty high. I found myself nodding sagely as the women riffed ... But the novel’s most interesting turns take place outside of the characters’ in-boxes ... All of the characters suffer from feeling ineffectual where they are, and the reader wonders whether this problem constitutes a specific identity, a set of circumstances, or a fixed condition of being ... Occasional phrases in the novel, such as the \'practised ease\' with which fingers navigate a touch screen, venture toward triteness. Yet the accretion of little gestures—hands thrust in and out of pockets, gazes redirected—is one of Rooney’s sharpest distinctions as a stylist ... I find that her precise, spare style can also have the effect of dilating scenes, making the reader pay close attention to every word. The sex in Rooney novels is hot because it is written in a syntax of pronouns, verbs, and body parts which won’t be distracted by adverbial overthinking. However much self-awareness she writes into her characters, Rooney also shows us that there is plenty to glean about how people get on with one another without taking up residence inside their heads. In the best moments of Beautiful World, Where Are You, Rooney does what I think of as \'meanwhiling,\' letting the routine of one character sidle up next to that of another, placing simultaneous, disparate doings in a kind of ambivalent solidarity ... No longer quite so normal, Rooney reaches for the banal and grasps tiny worlds.
MixedVultureCaste does not abandon racial terms. Wilkerson does not leave us to flounder with the labels she wants incorporated, though at times I wished she would ... as I progressed through this big book, saddled with terms I’m to understand are inadequate, I wondered why, a couple hundred pages in, I still wasn’t trusted with the training wheels off ... Caste proposes a remedy, yet its national articulation of present-day Black people raises more questions than answers ... Caste could benefit from more, or maybe deeper, research on the histories of resistance movements ... it finds comfort in sentimentality, faith that the answer lies in the heart ... I can’t blame Wilkerson, it’s a nice place to be, a place where we can believe people in power are one sincere interaction away from radical empathy ... we’ve been here before, have we not?