RaveThe New York Review of Books\"More than any other writer today, Diane Williams understands the essentially tragicomic nature of the penis, human or otherwise ... [Williams\'s] stories court laughter first, then, and only in retrospect, long-accumulated tears: tears of regret for opportunities lost, for people mislaid; tears of despair for the strangeness, the separateness that intimacy reveals and fails to overcome. You don’t have to read all three hundred and five stories to get the point. (Though you should. Williams can do more with two sentences than most writers can do with two hundred pages.) ... Language is as strange and wonderful a material as any, and Williams demands that you slow down to appreciate it, that you luxuriate in every letter, every word, the spaces and silences between them.\
PanThe Atlantic\"The novel seems to know that we exist in a state of desperate inequality and looming environmental catastrophe from which there is no obvious escape. Yet, also like a Sunday-morning talk show, Unsheltered is so busy flaunting its timeliness that it misses the underlying political and economic strains that have brought the country to this pass ... [Kingsolver\'s] novels specialize in self-congratulatory gestures of empathy: the clumsy representation of characters whom she finds obviously distasteful but wants to redeem, modeling the respect and understanding that she believes can open our hearts and minds and subdue our partisan acrimony. The result is not a bad novel—it is perfectly competent at the level of the sentence—but a novel that fails so dramatically to capture the corrosive realities of liberal capitalism that it just might deflate, once and for all, the middlebrow fantasy that stories can help us get through these dark times.\
MixedThe NationSince the imaginary order of motherhood is essentially an elaborate fiction, Rose routes her argument about the perversions of maternal love through representations of abject or homicidal mothers in fiction. The archive she draws from is rich and varied ... For Rose, the failures of mothers become legible as the failures of society at large, placing motherhood at the heart of contemporary debates over immigration policy and ethno-nationalism, racism and police brutality, and the future of the welfare state in the United States and United Kingdom ... Yet ... Rose at times seems so absorbed by her psychoanalytic approach that she ignores many of the structures of power that regulate how individual mothers move through the world ... Rose’s solution to the overtly political problems faced by mothers begins and ends with self-perception ... It is perhaps unfair to expect Mothers to provide a blueprint for the future, but then again, what else is a mother but a kind of soothsayer—someone whose sense of time is always forward-facing?
RaveHarper\'s\"To read Outline, Transit, and Kudos in succession is to wander through a gallery of metamorphosed characters (the old have been made young, the young old; humans have become animals, animals human), never lingering on one long enough to feel attachment or sympathy, revulsion or contempt, only a disinterested appreciation for how they look. This is beauty in the purest and the cruelest sense of the word ... More explicitly than Outline or Transit, Kudos shows Cusk surveying the contemporary literary field and assigning its players—writers, agents, editors, critics—to their proper places ... an object lesson in rigor, elegance, and fury delivered by a narrative voice that is alternately humble and boastful, cajoling and bullying ... Sometimes Cusk’s cleverness feels strained. Sometimes it feels claustrophobic, as if in her final act Cusk has decided to seal up her fictional world, securing it from outside interference by making the agents of literary judgment her ventriloquist dummies. Yet in spite of these weaknesses, the trilogy stands as an extraordinarily successful exercise in mythopoesis, creating an autonomous universe that operates according to Cusk’s rules, her voice a cosmological constant throughout.\
RaveBookforumEach of the stories in Landslide is a defiant and gleeful riposte to those who would dare treat narrative as a 'process': the humorless autobiographers and analysts who link sad memory to sad memory in what sometimes feels like a competitive bid for pathos without comprehension. Proctor prefers to laugh rather than cry at the wreckage of life—the dissolution of her marriage, the death of her mother—but hers is not the cruel laughter of the nihilist. Rather, it is filled with wonder, with love and patience, and, above all, with faith that one can still find something beautiful among the ruins ... Landslide offers us what Proctor calls 'non-stories': exquisite constellations of memories that cluster around a single, potentially transformative event—an illness, a death, a disastrous friendship, a failed marriage—but never settle into the classic dramatic arc of complication and unraveling, beginning and end. Lacking any apparent chronology, rife with misunderstanding and irresolution, Proctor’s nonstories collapse past and present, present and future. In its entirety, then, Landslide reads like an act of divination: a way of seeing, and thus accepting, the events one cannot change.
PositiveThe New RepublicSearls places the Rorschach test and its creator in the crosshairs of art and science, impressionism and empiricism, objectivity and subjectivity ... In Searls’s preoccupation with the Rorschach’s aesthetic valences, a second-order truth emerges. Writing about the Rorschach test is itself a projective exercise; one that often reveals as much about the writer as it does about the test. Searls seems to have no interest in either confirming or disproving the test’s validity as a diagnostic tool. He is not a cynic; The Inkblots is not an exposé. He is an aesthete, and to him the greatest value of the blots is as art objects ... Intended or not, the history of the Rorschach test that emerges from Searls’s account is, ultimately, a Rorschach test.