RaveThe Washington PostAs Petitjean seeks to better understand his father, Kahlo’s painting becomes his compass ... Petitjean’s meticulous research fills the gaps between his father’s anecdotes to render a compelling portrait of a young man exuberantly of his time: creatively charged, sexually free and politically engaged — someone not so unlike Kahlo herself ... Petitjean also captures the pop and fizz of artistic circles in Paris during the interwar years ... The Heart is a distinctively intimate undertaking, which is no small feat considering its well-known cast of characters. Yet in weaving together Kahlo’s biography with his quest to understand his father, Petitjean creates an unconventional and deeply personal biography
PositiveThe Washington PostSolnit writes vividly of her influences, from the thick atmosphere of gendered violence and discrimination to the open landscapes of the American West, where she house-sits in New Mexico, researches and hikes alone. She captures her tiny \'alabaster\' studio so vividly that you can close your eyes and be there, running a hand along the haunch of the velvet sofa ... Readers are offered snippets of a life—often in rich tones—but do we come away with a better sense of who is Rebecca Solnit, the person? Not really ... There is a sense of reserve that feels deliberate even as it is unsatisfying. Solnit obeys the conventions of the memoir genre sparingly ... Solnit reflects beautifully on the intricacies of [her first San Francisco] neighborhood at large, writing one of the most vivid sections of the book. Yet when she moves years later, she leaves a gentrified, white middle-class area that bears little resemblance to the Lyon Street of 1981, she has little to say about it ... rather than lingering solely on despair, Solnit pivots toward hope ... Her book then, might be read less as memoir than as manifesto—a voice raised in hope against gender violence.
RaveThe Washington PostEve Babitz’s talent for description is so otherworldly that she doesn’t even need to describe a perfume’s aroma to convey its essence ... On the page, [Babitz] is consistently self-referential yet never myopic, occupying the marginal space between fiction and nonfiction with panache ... In examining the quotidian moments of the rich and famous with wit and levity, Babitz opens her reader’s minds to simple truths lurking in plain sight. Her choice of topics showcases the ingenuity of her observations. Babitz may embrace pop culture, but she doesn’t forsake the classics, mixing allusions to Colette, Igor Stravinsky and Henry James with Jim Morrison, Rudolph Valentino and Arthur Murray. Flattening the hierarchy between highbrow and lowbrow, Babitz harks back to an earlier tradition of decadence without shame, while asserting that style, entertainment and intelligence are not mutually exclusive ... There’s a freedom in these pieces that sends readers flipping to the end to double-check that, yes, these were crafted as articles destined for newspapers and magazines. Babitz dances freely from what is strictly business to the kind of personal scenes and candid asides that never seem to make it into print nowadays ... her talent for composing humorous work with airy asides makes it easy for the casual reader to dismiss her strength. Despite her near constant name-dropping and appreciation for insider antics, there is sincerity at the core of everything she describes.
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books\"And like any good, realistic love story, Hollywood’s Eve is complicated, inspiring both elation and outrage, intellectual camaraderie and bitter disagreement. Anolik’s years of research, recorded interviews, and passionate reading and rereading of Babitz’s work give the book its heft, but it’s her overt subjectivity — her uncompromising affection for her subject — that makes Hollywood’s Eve sing ... We come to know [Anolik] through her analysis, and her asides and opinions work to create a conspiratorial bond with her reader. Though heavy authorial intrusion is normally aggravating, here it is both endearing and an apt stylistic homage to Babitz’s own voice and writing style ... However, when Anolik turns on Joan Didion, she loses me... Pages are spent criticizing Didion’s \'dismal view\' ... Like the best of Babitz’s own writing, Anolik’s biography shows us Eve in her raw entirety.\
RaveThe Washington Post\"... Normal People... is just as absorbing as the buzz would lead you to believe ... Rooney’s choice to anchor the plot so firmly to the rhythms of university life gives Normal People a sense of containment that feels incredibly safe in contrast with Conversations With Friends ... But Rooney’s main appeal lies in her apt observations on young love. Even as technological advances have made it easier to communicate, so much remains unspoken ... Using clear language, dialogue is rendered to express deadpan self-consciousness, revealing Marianne and Connell’s insecurities and evasions. Rooney’s ability to dive deep into the minute details of her characters’ emotional lives while maintaining the cool detached exterior of the Instagram age reflects our current preoccupation with appearance over vulnerability. Here, youth, love and cowardice are unavoidably intertwined, distilled into a novel that demands to be read compulsively, in one sitting.\
PositiveThe Washington Post\"In Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, Karina Longworth creates a candid portrait of the multifaceted millionaire, revealing the depth of his tendencies toward control, secrecy and manipulation of the women he kept close ... Known for her podcast \'You Must Remember This,\' Longworth, with Seduction, strengthens her reputation as one of our most knowledgeable researchers of Hollywood history. Her approach is twofold: Our focus is, of course, on Hughes in Hollywood... but we also gain insight into the lives of the actresses he pursued.\
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books\"Crudo is [Laing\'s] first work of fiction, written over seven weeks \'in real time,\' keeping pace with the fast-changing nature of the modern news cycle as events unfolded online ... With Crudo, Laing appropriates Twitter’s trademark intonation, writing in a flippant and conversational voice, concise to the point of discarding nonessential punctuation. The novel feels cathartic, written in the breathless rush of a Twitter thread. Even Laing’s choice to juxtapose images of Kathy’s upscale Tuscan holiday in Val d’Orcia alongside the mounting horror of the news cycle portrays the experience of scrolling ... Yet current events are contrasted against quotidian life, which for Kathy means her impending nuptials — and her mounting anxiety over her relationship.\
Laura Van Den Berg
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe Third Hotel is eerie and uncanny, layered and sharp. It will not be that book slipped into the beach bag to read in fits and starts while waiting for friends to arrive. It will be consumed in lieu of being present ... Strikingly, van den Berg allows the novel’s central mystery to stand unchallenged. The Third Hotel is not bound up in a neat little bow ... Moreover, van den Berg’s use of details furthers the novel’s uncanny atmosphere — particular and unexpected, they evoke the bizarre certainty of the dream world ... Van den Berg also subtly captures the nuances of the female experience ... Powerful and atmospheric, van den Berg’s novel portrays a haunting descent into grief and the mysteries we can’t quite solve.
Tara Isabella Burton
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksSocial Creature remains distinct through its explicitly millennial perspective... [and] seems just too glamorous and magnetic to be true. [Burton\'s work] hammer[s] home the mirror it lifts toward our irresponsible obsession with status and effortless living.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksOne of the strengths of this collection lies in her willingness to catalog her own flaws, even when exposing unflattering facets of her personality ... Babitz’s critiques are light, succinct, but unmistakable ... Babitz muses on the ways in which her generation dropped the ball. Comforted by the apparent success of the women’s movement, Nixon’s resignation, and the end of Vietnam War, they \'got sidetracked […] ‘White backlash’ happened.\' Police brutality, tense race relations, and disenchantment with the false veneer of progress are contemporary concerns, though Babitz’s light, palliating tone is not ... While her light take is undeniably frustrating, this self-centered framing is human, and uncomfortably relatable ... She may be self-absorbed and occasionally insensitive, but to a certain extent, she is aware of her failings and brave enough to expose them to her reader wholesale along with her effervescent party commentary ... Her writing seems effortless, airy, and conversational—descriptions that serve both as praise by her fans and backhanded compliments by her critics ... In that vein, Babitz is reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald: both writers described the fashionable excesses and wild antics of their youthful generation. Babitz undeniably proves her mettle, artfully weaving references to Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau, and Henry James without breaking her chatty tone, cementing herself as a Los Angeles intellectual without sacrificing the boho joie de vivre that infuses her work.
Andrew Sean Greer
PositiveLambda LiteraryGreer’s use of language, dramatic irony, and a mysterious narrator casts Arthur Less as the unwitting hero in this comedy of errors. Throughout the novel, comedy takes the edge off more serious matters, as we follow Arthur through the Frankfurt airport under the influence of too many sleeping pills, attempting to teach a five week university course in his hilariously faulty ‘fluent’ German, and chasing wild dogs in India … It’s the combination of these three failures—loss of love, professional oversight, and aging—that sets him into such a tailspin that he packs up on this bumbling odyssey rather than confront them head on.