MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)You can sense how much fun Binet is having, rearranging the cultural collage and inverting the power dynamics...But the novel suffers from a lack of aesthetic ambition, a failure to lean all the way in to its bold concept. Most puzzling, for example, is the choice to model the vast Atahualpa section after Western historical writing as we currently know it. If the Incas took over Europe, revised its laws, ended its conflicts, and upended its religions, would the form be so familiar? My sense is that indigenous epistemology would have become so ingrained in the Fifth Quarter that its conception of history would be thrillingly new. Certainly, this would have been a tall order to pull off – but that is what Binet has set himself up to do ... an often gratingly procedural story, its sentences buckling under the weight of research ... One of the great historical tragedies, as Laurent Binet’s epigraph suggests, is all the stories that colonization never allowed to be told. Yet in this somewhat hollow revision, art doesn’t give life to what history killed: it just kills it again.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)That act of close listening is key to Kushner’s broader artistic project. Any social revolutionary process, she writes, citing both Marx and Balestrini, must be rooted in actual working-class experience. And in her novels, which frequently ask us to attend to voices on the margins, we can see this revolutionary process at work ... There is still much for this writer to pull into her work, both from the world and from herself.
MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)There is a problem: I wasn’t persuaded that Micah is as \'antisocial and crotchety\', as \'narrow and limited\', as Tyler would have us believe. He may not have a wife and children, but his family all live nearby, and he seems to see them regularly; his jobs bring him into jovial contact with strangers all day long; women find him, somewhat inexplicably, attractive; and he’s liked and respected by everyone he encounters. In short, he is deeply embedded in very real social relations. And in the atomized and anxious twenty-first century, perhaps there is something to envy in a man who’s gainfully employed, cooks and cleans with pleasure, and seems genuinely useful to others ... By the measure of the mid-twentieth century, however, a single, middle-aged man like Micah must be incomplete, and that assumption is consistent with the distinctly old-fashioned world of Tyler’s novel. The characters constantly say \'Darn\', there’s a peppy penchant for exclamation marks...and the movie theatres are full of \'slapstick or shoot-’em-ups\'. Because these elements jostle alongside mentions of online porn, text messages and solitaire apps, the realism that’s usually Tyler’s strength is fatally undermined.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)His voluptuously long sentences owe something to Henry James ... Greenwell may be the finest writer of sex currently at work. He is certainly the most exhilarating. What distinguishes him is an ability to make sex on the page genuinely dramatic, by integrating its motions and sensations into the established stakes of the narrative. There is a very profound sequence of this kind in the middle section of Cleanness ... Greenwell allows us to perceive how personal history courses through every gesture ... If the book is imagined as a body, then cleanness—a total lack of shame in putting sexual passion on the page—is what it achieves in these refreshing depictions. In one brilliant passage, Greenwell even redeems pornographic language itself[.]
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe first half of The Infatuations comprises the most mature meditation on death and dying in Marías’s corpus, perhaps a result of Julián Marías’s passing in 2005 ... The Infatuations invites us to acknowledge injustice, from private accidents to national catastrophes, as ultimately vital to our pleasure and peace ... María is the most ghostly narrator in an oeuvre populated by eavesdroppers, stalkers, and lingerers ... Marías’s novel weaves an intricate web, but its triumph is in the power of its narrator. By transforming a female into a kind of shade, Marías found the ideal voice — detached, inquisitive, and vigilant — for one of his finest novels.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review... [an] exuberant debut novel ... Wolff is clearly having fun as he shuffles his narrative deck ... But the novel’s superabundance finally works against it. A central issue is Wolff’s insistence on overburdening his characters with trauma. Conrad’s father is dying; his mother has died; his high school teacher and lover has died; his best friend’s sister is dying; his husband is sick. Wolff, aiming to convey how unbearable the death of a loved one can be—and how seductive a fantasy of immortal life might be in consequence—wagers that any one of these agonies will secure his reader’s sympathy. But the indiscriminate piling on of do-or-die stakes serves to diffuse concern. There is something inhuman about characters who always operate at the maximum pitch of experience. At the same time, the novel’s quieter, more nuanced elements...go largely unexplored. Yet while Wolff hasn’t struck quite the right balance in this first novel, it proves he’s already an author with a refreshing restlessness, who will try anything to entertain his readers. As the history of science shows, some experiments have value for their success; others for their failure.
Elena Ferrante, Trans. by Ann Goldstein
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of Books\"...one would be hard-pressed to find another contemporary author whose letters and interviews could comprise a compelling volume of nearly 400 pages ... Frantumaglia presents Ferrante as an author who has possessed a coherent artistic philosophy since the early days of her career ... she opens up [the] truth-seeking process with rare candor.\