RaveCleveland Review of BooksA collection of eight oddball short stories that put a surreal twist on run-of-the-mill contemporary experiences ... In tone, the stories bear pleasant resemblance to Severance, with their wry humor and cultural savvy ... Ma has a knack for capturing the psychological realities of immigration and making vivid the feeling of belonging, but not quite, to two separate homes ... Ma has a sometimes exaggerated impulse to anticipate criticism and bake it into the prose itself ... Every story in Bliss Montage can reasonably be described as \'open-ended,\' with characters\' feelings left strikingly ambiguous, or their next move unclear. But Ma is not content to leave it there without first mounting a defense against the kind of dismissive attitude that would render her stories trite ... The winking asides in Bliss Montage are disappointing, but the collection is such a display of artisanship that it’s hard to write it off for a few lapses into trendiness.
PositiveThe AtlanticEven in essays that skew strongly toward despair, powerlessness never fully eliminates personal responsibility ... Near the end of her essay, Subramanian writes, \'We have returned to the times of mythology, and we need new stories to survive.\' The World as We Knew It is an attempt to write these stories, to hold a mirror up to our lives at a crucial moment in our collective history, and reflect the slew of compounding, often conflicting fears that characterize it. In many ways, storytelling while on the precipice of global devastation is no different from storytelling at any moment in our history. Delve into ancient myths and you’ll quickly realize that the human condition has always been marked by an uneasy awareness that even the most rigid systems are subject to the whims of fate ... Very occasionally, in the anthology, those anxieties are replaced by something else—a sense of peace and beauty that springs forth not despite the horrors of our world but because of them ... When our power and powerlessness can coexist without us feeling the paralyzing weight of their illogic. When living on a dying planet seems possible.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksAs much as Monarch is a conspiracy-theory-thriller, inviting the possibility that an amorphous, terrible something in one’s environment might be located and made legible, it is also a story about piecing together the fuzzy impressions of childhood, watching as they form into a coherent whole the way a photo develops in a darkroom. Wuehle is masterful, in the first half of the novel, at conjuring a child’s perspective—one that perceives but can’t contextualize, that is vivid but uncritical ... a prose style with a certain lawlessness, one that might be irksome in the hands of a lesser writer. Wuehle, however, is an artisan; one senses while reading her that she has absolute control over the page—could conjure any emotion or image with startling concision, no matter how surreal or uncanny ... With the sure hand of an accomplished poet, Wuehle crafts a story that—with all its impossibilities—feels strikingly real ... The awful of Monarch—the great violence at the heart of it—certainly won’t come off easily, but will stick with its readers a long while after they turn the final page.
RaveChicago Review of BooksFor all her gracelessness and impulsivity, Bea is a difficult narrator to dislike; she carries her burdens, if not with dignity per se, then with charming determination ... Gangi’s erratic, fun, and touching novel is, in many ways, a story about change and what it looks like to embrace or reject its attendant discomforts. Bea finds herself in a new, post-menopausal body, in a world with more nuanced ways of understanding and processing grief and trauma ... the underlying ethos of the story that makes it so quietly captivating...Change is inevitable.
RaveChicago Review of Books...fun in the same way frog dissection day in middle school biology is fun. It’s largely unpleasant (beyond the stomach-churning gore, there’s a vague sense of wrongness that underpins both) yet offers a kind of perverse permission to witness what Cornel West might call the \'funk of life\'...and has the power to fascinate, captivate, and perhaps even illuminate ... The novel is largely satirical in tone. Michel takes your average conflicts of late-stage capitalism—housing crises, insurmountable debt, employers with no sense of obligation or empathy for their employees—and exaggerates them into their most monstrous forms ... Of course, like all good science fiction (and satire), Michel tempts us to consider the ways in which this is already true: to what extent are professional sports leagues already corporate-run marketing schemes engineered to distract the public from an increasingly dire reality? ... The world Michel describes is complex, gnarled, full of unfamiliar lingo (Edenists, trogstoys, zootech), but he interweaves world building with plot so seamlessly that the rapid-fire pace he sets never feels bogged down by exposition ... The novel’s bent toward surrealism and its thematic concerns—many of which circle the elusive question of what constitutes the self—call to mind the work of Philip K. Dick in particular, but the sci-fi traditions Michel draws from are as varied and outlandishly collaged as the piecemeal humans of his imagined future ... one is never without the sense that Michel is having an enormous amount of fun in his sandbox, creating worlds with an equal measure of hard-won skill and a sense of spirited, mischievous play.
Euripides, Anne Carson, Illustrated by Rosanna Bruno
PositiveVol. 1 BrooklynBizarre, haunting, and hallucinatory illustrations by Bruno render the tragedy’s characters as animals ... What results is a gnarly, perfectly inscrutable dreamscape of Euripides’ tragedy ... I can merely speculate about Carson’s and Bruno’s intentions, but I can’t help sensing a touch of hostility in them. In the absence of legible symbology, I feel baited into pseudo-intellectual interpretations such as these. (The inherent asexuality of overalls? My God!) But perhaps, in its own bewildering way, this unmanageable little book does manage to capture something of the spirit of Euripides’ somber tragedy. There is, after all, something hostile about the play itself: First performed for an Athenian audience at the height of the Peloponnesian War, The Trojan Women is an unsparing look at the devastation and moral corruption that war inspires ... Bruno’s illustrations surely capture something of the tragedy’s tone: bleak, bleak, bleak ... Of course, for all its morbidity, there remains the essence of Euripidean playfulness and pitch-black humor ... For someone who’s devoted her life to the work of translation, Carson seems unconcerned with longstanding tenets of the practice—say, for instance, the notion that one ought to approximate what the characters actually say. This frenetic, unhinged interpretation seems to put forth the argument: if you can’t keep the words, the original syntax, why not abandon the pursuit of literal translation altogether?—why not abandon certain details, all historical context, even the species of the dramatis personae? ... When I look back on the Greek translation classes I took as an undergraduate, and the halting, uncertain tones with which we students fumbled through Herodotus and Sophocles—or on the translations we read and their formal, surreally ornate prose—it’s hard not to see value in a project as strange and manic as this one. After all, the magnificence of the theatrical production—of which Euripides’ text is a mere blueprint—has been lost to time. Who are we to say that this vulgar little picture book isn’t the closest thing we’ve got to the spirit of the original performance? Maybe it translates Euripides’ liveliness, his bent toward experimentation, his refusal of easy answers and plodding pedantry.