PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksOval is a blistering diagnosis of how today’s social structures have shaped us. Western capitalism has generated a state of benevolent-seeming dysfunction, and Wilk is astute at rendering the social comedy of our malaise. But the book’s real drama unfolds on a more complex interior plane ... The book both soars and falters as it explores its characters’ unseen humanity — their contradictions, memories, and misunderstandings — and the ways contemporary capitalism reaches into our private lives ... Wilk is a skillful cataloger. She has DeLillo’s gift for revealing microscopic social interactions as whole paradigmatic traits of the way we look and live today. But, ultimately, she’s also onto something more ephemeral than the field of visibility can express. What remains unseen? Oval is most intriguing when it resists the need to document the details of our tech-dominated consciousness. In its willingness to draw characters both complex and unresolved — to observe the shadows in their composition — it transcends its influences ... Wilk attempts to offer a lot else, too. Her emotional observations are convincing, but they’re where the novel is most uneven, and sometimes amateurish. We end up with long poetic scenes punctuated with bland academese ... The book also runs into trouble where its dystopian technologies are concerned. It begins so many threads — from human tissue experiments to weird climate hiccups to Oval itself — that it has little space to tie each up satisfactorily. What lingers in Oval is a wish that we reconcile ourselves to a productive kind of uncertainty.
RaveThe New RepublicThere’s an aching sense, beneath the book’s surface, of the rigid corseting that just barely contains modern life ... Death and Other Holidays is the rare book that treats relentless, humdrum grief with humor and pathos—and without a shred of sentimentality. Before its publication, it won the Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize for the Novella, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a realist work in an unreal world. Vogel honors mortality and our awareness of it as the organizing facts of our humanity. With unparalleled tenderness, she recognizes our celebrations of life as heroic efforts to think about literally anything else. But over the course of one calendar year in April’s life she also reminds us: Death is never far away, try as we might to ignore it.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe book demands that its readers witness the personhood behind the experience of postcolonial violence in Dangarembga’s native Zimbabwe, one corner of the world that often goes unconsidered ... In This Mournable Body, the author’s uncompromising second-person voice insists that you, the reader, identify with Zimbabwe’s plight at the turn of the millennium ... Dangarembga investigates the ironic psychological demands of global capitalism on a country whose citizens have been fractured by that system. Complex and flawed, they are more than symbols. This Mournable Body makes their struggles visible ... She often writes the harshest scenes so obliquely that I had to reread them two or three times to decipher what unfolded. At first, this seemed like a flaw. But as I found the book’s rhythm, its effectiveness became clear: the subtlety forces our attention onto outrages ... This Mournable Body, set in the neocolonial milieu, brings the issue of consent into lurid relief ... Dangarembga is doing something sly and layered here. She romanticizes her country for a Western reader even as she makes an example of Tambu for doing the same. The book makes you, the reader, complicit too.
R O Kwon
PositiveThe New Republic\"Kwon’s lush imaginative project is to help us understand for [Will]. With the needle of her prose, she plucks at the fabric of the university, exposing the reactionary impulses that run through American life ... Kwon weaves this power dynamic into the fabric of the novel itself, allowing Will to speak in Phoebe’s voice. What often sounds like her first-person account is in fact Will ventriloquizing ... Part of The Incendiaries’s power lies in the way Kwon contrasts this campus with stereotypes of American campus culture today ... There are moments when Kwon’s novel verges on didactic. She sometimes puts lessons in her characters’ mouths that they’re ill-suited to deliver ... In the same way The Incendiaries isn’t about religion or the \'culture wars\' or abortion, it also doesn’t try to create a believable world of college kids or, really, a believable world at all. Instead, it’s an impression of the mysterious social forces and private agonies that might drive a person to extremes.\
PositiveThe New RepublicThe Garbage Times and White Ibis, a new pair of related novellas by Sam Pink, crackle with humanistic intimacy ... not much fiction chronicles the sheer weirdness of working-class life and labor today. Pink elevates these mundane concerns to sacred proportions ... Pink’s fiction is gritty and funny and deeply interior ... He has a natural eye for the way things fit together in our world: how objects belong with certain people, how thoughts arrive uninvited in certain social settings. His work is touching, even when it’s a bit neurotic ... At times, Pink’s relentless interiority is altogether oppressive to read. The same qualities that make his work supremely relatable can also spiral inward toward madness ... It’s the pathos of the ordinary taken to an impossible extreme. That’s both the gift and the trouble of Pink’s writing
PositiveThe New Republic\"The photos we capture—and launch from our devices onto Instagram, YouTube, Tinder—extrude our desires into the ether, and Tillman has attuned her antennae to their strange frequencies ... In a novel that overflows with obsessive, encyclopedic energy, her characters luxuriate in self-conscious play, double meaning, and provocative inquiry. The result is a work that enlarges our understanding of what the novel can be—and the sense of self we take for granted ... Tillman writes pictures the way Jeanette Winterson writes the body: with great and counterintuitive attention to detail, theorizing and revising as she goes ... It’s staggering to watch Tillman so precisely dissect Zeke’s Gen-X masculinity and its contradictions ... The pseudo-study [end section] feels like anticlimax...I’m not sure the novel needs it, and it appears as its own postmodernist formal convention.\