PositiveThe BafflerDu Mez argues, using an extensive amount of research, that white evangelical culture often glorifies the aggressive, patriarchal idea of manhood, which has become intertwined with what it means to be a conservative Christian in the modern age ... One of the book’s subtle insights is that being evangelical isn’t just about agreeing to a certain set of theological principles—that’s just where the rest of the lifestyle management begins ... One of the book’s missed opportunities is a more thorough exploration of the prosperity gospel, or the bizarre notion that, as one book put it, \'Jesus Wants You to Be Rich.\' If ultra-manliness is the goal, then for Americans raised on the Protestant ethic money is the means to that worldly end ... Du Mez makes it clear that she’s not criticizing from the ivory tower or explicitly from the left. A history professor at a prominent Christian college, the author of A New Gospel for Women and a contributor to Christianity Today, she’s in an ideal position to expose the hypocrisy, crudeness, and chauvinism of the religious right. When she considers her deep roots in an Iowa city that welcomed a Trump rally with open arms, her personal pain speaks volumes about what’s really been lost amid the religious right’s rush to pound their chests and make Jesus Great Again
PositiveThe BafflerUnlike those who write dry, hyper-specialized academic criticism, Marcus isn’t afraid, as one reader of his once put it, to let \'everything remind him of everything else\' ... This intuitive collage of different voices can offer the reader insights that aren’t available otherwise. At his best, Marcus guides the reader through the secret cultural histories that wind under the shiny billboard of American life, where so much of the country’s real thinking about itself really happens. Other times, the reader is left wandering aimlessly through Marcus’s extended digressions about movies or records that they might not know or care about much ... Marcus reminds us what a collective slap in the face Tom’s assertion of hereditary dominance really is to the way America likes to think of itself.
Rodaan Al Galidi, Trans. by Jonathan Reeder
PositiveWords Without Borders...an engrossing and exasperating novel ...The first of Al Galidi’s works to be translated into English, the book straddles the line between fiction and memoir as it draws on the author’s own experience as a refugee in the Netherlands to construct a tale defined by protracted delays and seemingly endless waiting ... Although written as a novel, Al Galidi’s book often resembles an eyewitness’s critique of international refugee law and institutions, written with equal amounts of earnestness and style. His is a dogged assertion of the personality and humor of the contemporary immigrant ... Al Galidi wrote the novel in Dutch, which he taught himself despite being forbidden to attend language classes as an undocumented asylum seeker. Two Blankets, Three Sheets is a work of clean, spare prose, written in a matter-of-fact tone. The story sometimes feels less like a narrative than an essay, meandering through loose threads of thought toward a resolution as anticlimactic as much of the plot, or lack thereof. It is a labor of patience as dogged, we may think, as the experience of waiting for asylum for nine years.
PositiveThe Arts Fuse...a slim but sensitive and elegantly written novel that packs a lot into a relatively small space ... Greenwell knows what he’s doing. We are placed in the middle of the narrator’s struggle with language, to articulate the kinds of longing he feels ... In Cleanness, this embrace of existential uncertainty enhances the reading experience because it helps us to understand what’s vitally important to the narrator. In some ways, Greenwell is probing beyond what mere biographical facts would disclose. His deceptively smooth and lucid sentences suggest multitudes ... The exotic terrain (the author must have assumed that most readers wouldn’t know anything about Bulgaria) becomes an effective way to instigate the novel’s focus: the minute observation of interior shifts in mood.
RaveThe BafflerLittle Boy, an uncategorizable stream-of-consciousness bildungsroman offers an inspiriting case study of keeping the blessed callings of poetry, art, and political radicalism alive by example ... What Little Boy and Ferlinghetti’s poetry makes clear is his commitment to language above all else. Ferlinghetti’s long poetic career provides a wonderful example of how a poet can dance along the line between obscurity and accessibility ... this book offers a stellar example of how to reach out to the reader in good faith, using fairly clear and uncomplicated language, to offer some cheerful subversion along with the wonder at existence ... Ferlinghetti is a learned fellow, to be sure, but his references and range of experience are vast and stretches beyond the library; he’s also an accomplished painter and has traveled extensively, getting involved in progressive struggles across the globe ... Ferlinghetti’s work and life serve as useful reminders that radical poetics are really as American as jazz, baseball, and the atomic bomb.