PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksGabbert’s quest to translate the world around her—and make certain she is accurately and regularly translating it, too—pushes at the limits of language, connecting at unexpected points. Many of these pieces have a meandering rhythm, running from topic to topic and leaving it to the reader to put the pieces together ... In The Word Pretty, important life moments recur, sometimes treated briefly, sometimes in depth: a painful story about a friend being nearly crushed under a wall is told at least twice. Though the effect can at times be exhausting, Gabbert’s critical intelligence also makes for a powerful layering of thoughts. Her book is as much a guide to becoming and being a writer as it is about any specific personal transformation ... An assemblage of layers, Gabbert’s book acquires density and heft through its strategy of accumulation, creating a rich work of literary reflection that invites the reader to explore the works under consideration, as well as the wider world, from multiple, perpetually fresh perspectives.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksOn her multi-city pilgrimage, Walsh is prepared to explore every angle of the romantic action and eventual fallout. And she does so skillfully, weaving the concrete details of her travels and life into an in-depth study of love and connection in the 21st century. Break.up works as well as it does in part because Walsh provides room for the reader to examine these topics alongside her, in turn accomplishing what the best essays do: stir up more questions than answers ... a specialty of hers is exploring grief, or the onset of grief, while on the move ... The collaging of ghostly memories, conversations real and reimagined, and philosophical investigations of the nature of love allows what could have been a straightforward narrative hinged on a literary trope to become a rambling hybrid essay that urges the reader to dig deeper, too ... Because of the care Walsh has taken to create both a sound investigation and a narrator strong enough to carry the reader through the book’s experimental structure, Break.up maintains its momentum to the end, even as the novel-in-essays, predictably, meanders—between past and present, obsession and distraction, love and pain.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksLike a performance by Marceau himself, Shawn Wen’s debut book is a captivating exercise in style and form. It immortalizes the silent man in words ... Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause is indeed spare in its prose, which is, paradoxically, indicative of the fact that Wen has complete command of her subject ... Wen distills Marceau’s life by allowing his eccentricities, words, life, and work to speak for him. Wen’s admiration for Marceau is most evident in her beautifully wrought descriptions of his best-known performances; these careful renderings and thoughtful observations bring Marceau’s movements to life on the page ... When this passion is approached by an obsessive biographer like Wen, Marceau’s many legacies — including his penchant for amassing wild collections and his sublime ability to embody the infinite onstage — are not only understood, but also immortalized.