RaveThe Boston GlobeAs in Strauss’s other books, the movement here is perpetual and multidirectional; it never stops, and it’s never driving exactly where you think it’s going. A close comparison would be to certain American filmmakers like Altman, Cassavetes, or the Safdies—always churning, developing ... Strauss takes his time ... the truth-telling is devastating ... The book could be conceived as a series of frames of reference that move around, sometimes containing each other and sometimes not ... One of the (many) painful lessons the book teaches is that we can’t ask questions...of human relationships because there are no answers that are comfortable for everyone. The book’s setting provides a broader frame of reference than either of the two marriages; we shuttle between Isidore’s world, the dawning suburban microcommunity in Long Island; the Desilu Ranch in California, where Ball and Arnaz fake happiness; and the various studios where Lucille thrusts and parries with suitor colleagues/male oppressors. Somehow we get a very clear sense of these places, down to their smell, with fairly spare description ... The author asserts himself, here as elsewhere in his books, through his rigorously playful approach to language ... as a document of history, both family and otherwise, it reads like a dream painted in bold and fearsome strokes.
RaveFull StopThe work of Chris Ware is deeply sad ... What keeps me coming back, and what makes this work so remarkable, is the soul running through it: in characters’ wizened faces, in their faintly plump bodies, and in the all-too-believable nuances of their dialogues and monologues. This is humanity ... And yet, by virtue of its sheer size and expansiveness, this collection of strips is a leap forward from the species of sadness Ware has explored before. Viewed in retrospect, the work reads as if Ware were painting a mural in illustration of a series of philosophical issues: what it means to love, what it means to be alone, what it means to be part of a social construct, what it means to be an inanimate object, what it means to be a city, and even, at certain particularly poignant moments, what it means to be a color. And as such, the title is an understatement: the real story told here is the story of the world, and how we live in it.
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe story of a lonely 9-year-old girl’s quest to perform at a Philadelphia jazz club on Christmas Eve rolls along much like a piece of music — different story lines wind and unwind like musical themes, and these stories are all threaded together with a consistently energized brio like one of the tunes played at the club giving the book its title. Each sentence, as well, is composed with a poetic ear; no line is wasted. That’s rare ... Bertino lays out these interlocking stories in brief bursts, the transitions between them as smooth but also as dynamic and as effective as jump cuts in a film ... It would be easy to say, given the lyrical nature of the prose here, that Bertino is going too far, that she’s trying to poeticize difficult subject matter: bereavement, romantic frustration, lust, alcoholism, a child’s alienation. In the jazz club scenes, the language takes on a faintly bebop quality that edges toward Kerouac. But careful thought and another look at the words on the page give a different impression. Bertino gets inside people, objects and experiences in the novel, imagining them, exploring them and reporting her experiences.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksJoyland is as genre-foiling as its author .... As you read the dialogue, the book becomes less a story about a summer’s mystery than a tale of entry into another, coexisting world, one with its own rules, codes, and language ...strengthens his storyline with a rich cast of supporting characters ...is quick reading, and its pleasures are simple ones. And yet it’s just complicated enough to force us to question the distinction between high and low literature.