RaveThe Washington PostElkin is most interested in the art these women made — as she should be; their art is fascinating — but the book also argues that this art is often a response to the social structures that threatened to inhibit them ... Like her many subjects, Elkin is a stylish, determined provocateur. But while she’s provocative and firm, she’s also careful and diligent about demonstrating her arguments. It’s a very satisfying combination. She has a clear and elegant style reminiscent of other sharp and cool feminist academia thinkers ... Art Monsters is not prescriptive or instructive — better, it’s exemplary. It describes a whole way to live, worthy of secret admiration.
RaveThe Washington PostA work of rigorous and lavish overthinking ... Kelleher approaches her subjects through a combination of cultural history, science writing, memoir and philosophy ... Kelleher interprets our ability to find beauty as a desire to connect to the physical world and a chance for revelation ... At once offers and exemplifies a sophisticated framework for what we do with our guilt in a world where there’s no ethical consumption
RaveThe Washington Post\"Terror propels Erica Berry’s exhilarating book ... the intuitive, winding nature of Berry’s approach shouldn’t suggest that this work is unfocused. The wolf wanders a meandering and highly focused path to find food, a mate, a home. No matter where Berry weaves, she sniffs out fascinating insights. And she writes about it in clear, beautiful language.\
Natalia Mehlman Petrzela
PositiveThe Washington PostPetrzela’s cultural history combines an academic approach with an activist’s urgency ... Her previous work with Equinox and Lululemon clearly informs her criticism, and many passages carry an exciting turncoat vigor. She writes against the \'lifestyle\' that her former employers represent ... Petrzela’s primary argument is unobjectionable: Exercise shouldn’t be available to the wealthy alone. But to make this point, she focuses mostly on flashy, culture-defining examples from the private sector. Petrzela surely understands that programs such as SoulCycle aren’t the root cause of inequality in fitness. But in her preoccupation with them, she seems to blame the supply side for the shameful inaccessibility of exercise in this country ... Despite its attempt to offer a broad view of exercise in America, Fit Nation is primarily a history of America’s fanciest gyms and trendiest programs, only punctuated with compact reminders that physical education programs are routinely underfunded and devalued ... But if these critical scissors are going to cut, she needs a second blade: a sustained critique of the failures of public infrastructure to provide options outside of exclusive gyms and expensive boutique classes ... Fit Nation is at its most exciting when it provocatively and firmly argues that fitness is not an unmitigated good in American culture. But even as Petrzela is circumspect about the resources, social and otherwise, that fitness demands from its participants, she hasn’t given up on a radical future for exercise ... Though Fit Nation is often distracted by the shiny fitness pursuits of the wealthy, the book offers a valuable foundation for activism around fitness. Petrzela rips back the plush carpet of elite institutions to reveal the rotting foundation beneath.
PositiveThe Washington PostThe Guest Lecture is a novel of ideas and feelings, of feelings about ideas and ideas about feelings ... It bursts with philosophy, jokes, factoids, tense academic social dynamics and fragments of formative memory ... Riker makes a credible critique of academia’s priorities ... The Guest Lecture analyzes how people live with their ideas, particularly when the world tells them those ideas are misguided. Defending personal philosophy in the face of rejection is always difficult, especially when the personal philosophy is optimism. A breathless, night-before-the-big-day cram feels like an ideal form for this expression. The book carries the exhaustive feeling that it’s captured everything the protagonist wanted to say. It doesn’t attempt the great unmastered art form of the age, to leave things out. A last hurrah shouldn’t skip any final word.
RaveLos Angeles TimesIn the tradition of the best existential farces, Enter the Aardvark keeps returning to the beginning of all things to ask: So how did we get here? ... like A.S. Byatt with a demented sense of humor, Anthony breaks the present action with dispatches about the finicky taxidermist who stuffed and sewed this very aardvark in Victorian-era London. The structure doesn’t so much intrigue as ensnare you, weaving its cat’s cradle of a plot as you lie there, strapped to a table. Dovetailing coincidences and epiphanies, profound and slapsticky, hilarious and depressing at once, Enter the Aardvark is brutally suited to our moment of absurd political theater ... Even with its wild oscillations...the book is too buttoned-up to feel surrealist ... Anthony’s energetic mind achieves...a straight tone with an absurdist philosophy ... character-driven, with a mean streak and a love of symmetry ... It’s a credit to Anthony’s authorial control that she can shift among characters who might, if they took the wheel, steer this story into their own genres ... Anthony opts instead for farce with a generous helping of sight-gags ... this novel falters, perhaps because the plot mechanics are propelled by a liberal fantasy. The book flirts with the hoary joke that all homophobic politicians must be gay. More fantastical is the premise that this white, pretty congressman would be deemed suspicious by authorities ... It’s a thrilling ride, even if disbelief remains unsuspended. I’d buy another ticket.
RaveGuernica...a dizzying first novel ... Leichter paints a bleak portrait of a spreadsheet-capitalist, productivity-centric, personhood-agnostic dystopia, one similar enough to ours that we can understand how it works ... But allegorical simplification keeps Leichter’s work quite light on its feet. Though there’s little joy in the book, there is absurdity ... What Leichter provides for her readers in terms of her social landscape is not a bracing shot of clarity, but a recognition of the mess. Temporary seeks not to understand how we got here, but to capture the wooziness that, it’s true, we can’t understand how we got here. It’s a field report on how it feels to be stuck inside intractable inequality, to never get your feet on sturdy ground, to live in a loop ... Leichter’s novel is emotionally convincing not just because of its narrative, but because of the linguistic dislocation that proves its premise. Language flips like it’s about to fall off the edge of the world ... We’re steeped in a world characterized by shift, begging for something sturdy to grab hold of. And so, when the book takes its few moments to soften and show its narrator’s yearning for stability...it shakes loose something similar in ourselves and hits the hardest.
Xuan Juliana Wang
RaveVICEIn her debut short story collection Home Remedies, Xuan Juliana Wang writes like she’s steadying herself against everyday whiplash. She has a careful ear and a steady gaze on lives that quietly, seismically shift under the rapid forces of globalization. Her mood is wary and her style is mischievous, but the animating force of her writing is always diligent curiosity ... [Wang\'s] fiction is chameleon-quick and only casually surreal, just to enough to stay true to the weirdness of living. Her asides are vicious and quick ... The collection is luxe, snaky, and perceptive, pulsing with new ideas about storytelling. The characters living in Home Remedies are written with unleashed tenderness. They’re so present a couple of times, it feels like crawling inside someone’s body and wanting to steer them away from various heartbreaks or self-sacrifices ... Home Remedies pushes against the perception that culture is bounded, and looks at what morphs when cultures shift locations and time.