MixedArts FuseThe odd world Stitch creates is enlivened by his vibrant characters and ornate prose, which blends the archaic, grandiloquent, and lyrical along with nuggets of the idiomatic and euphemistic. Stitch tries neither to faithfully recreate our own world nor to fabricate an entirely alien one. The mimetic effect is like something out of a dream, familiar and unsettling, a convincing achievement on par with the recognizable nowhereness of O’Brien’s The Third Policeman ... Humor is difficult to sustain in a novel. Yes, Lake of Urine will make you laugh. At times it seems like Stitch is trying too hard to put the reader in stitches. There’s a gag on nearly every page ... Jokes of every kind abound, including ones that play with language. These are difficult to pull off and, on more than one occasion, Stitch doesn’t quite do so ... that is where Lake of Urine’s weakness lies: on the level of structure. It sometimes feels as though the author intended this to be a much longer book, given the disproportionate time allotted to each character. Even though some of the finer passages and moments of genuine tenderness and hard-earned feeling can be found in the Emma section, it is hard not to expect that the wacky antics of Seiler will resurface ... That being said, Stitch shows off some impressive prose chops as he takes us through the remarkable and harrowing ups and downs of Emma’s life, flickers of dark humor always lurking around the next paragraph ... an imaginative pressure cooker, a modern Rabelaisian fairy tale that replaces enchantment with an antic version of the grotesquerie of contemporary life ... There is a narrative velocity here that dovetails the cartoonish and the Dickensian without suggesting we are reading a \'big ambitious novel\' ... the book should be credited with fully embodying the publisher’s manifesto ... I have no doubt that Stitch will find his dedicated, and suitably anarchistic, readers. But his work isn’t for everyone, particularly those who want to be inspired or self-improved by the blowhards on The New York Times best-sellers list. Like any successful satirist, Stitch rejoices in contortion, painful and hilarious, and his shape-shifting is aimed at breaking \'the monopoly of established reality (i.e. of those who established it),\' as Herbert Marcuse put it, in order \'to define what is real.\' Lake of Urine suggests that, even if the magic has gone out of this world, fiction might be able to offer a saving charm, or open a portal to a new one.
Maryse Condé, Trans. by Richard Philcox
RaveThe Arts FuseCondé’s scope is expansive: cosmic, global, and deeply personal. The result is a story from the perspective of the Global South that enthralls as it explores the urgent economic and cultural contradictions of postcolonialism, globalization, class, and alienation ... Ivan and Ivana are at once fated — and free. And that is The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana’s admirable imaginative strength: the story embraces these contradictory realities, it does not run away from them ... a splendid example of this kind of sharp-eyed analysis; it deals with the fluid pursuit of meaning and identity in a postcolonial period, the bedeviling clash between the abstract claims of historical justice and the concrete pressures of personal choice.
PositiveThe Arts FuseThis level of modernist difficulty will no doubt turn off many, who will condemn Strange Hotel as pretentious or self-indulgent. That objection might have some validity if the unorthodox structure didn’t make us curious about a mind whose personal observations approach the universal, if not the profound ... a book that exists in physical, artistic, and imagined liminal spaces ... McBride avoids delivering yet another potted self-empowerment message. She embraces the aesthetic maxim of Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus: the only \'proper\' art is suspended between the pornographic and the didactic ... McBride is clearly occupied by Bloomian (Harold, not Molly or Leopold) agon or anxiety of influence. She is not fending off a single predecessor, but the weight of the historical many, personal as well as literary. It is a battle well worth reading.