MixedBookforum... probing, recursive ... A magazine writer known for her laser-cut dissections of cresting cultural phenomena, Monroe brings a rare form of joy to her reporting: Her best pieces combine a focused effort to nail down a good story and a more expansive instinct toward unraveling, questioning, showing her work. Writing about social-media hucksters, dating-app con men, and new-old wellness elixirs, she exhibits a gift—perhaps prized even more by editors than it is among journalists—for the precise interval at which a sort-of thing is ready to become a full-on thing, to be caught mid-microcurrent, skillfully examined, and released into the slightly wider waterways that now pass for the mainstream ... The chapters are discrete, linked chiefly by their interest in the context Monroe expands by a sort of narrative stealth, broadening with each stroke our sense of the world within which women in particular might seek not just entertainment or relief but purpose in a carefully wrought proximity to crime ... Monroe’s lithe critical intelligence is the chief binding agent of chapters that wander and digress.
PositiveBookforumThat Taddeo is most fascinated by stories of female romantic and sexual abjection squarely in the Victorian mold is one complicating factor in a book framed as an immersive report on the current state of female desire ... Three Women reads like a work of psychological realism, every page showcasing the author’s radical empathy and almost occult communion with her subjects. Taddeo generally uses limited-third-person narration, moving freely between the subjects’ experience and their psyches. There is an unnerving charge ... If her approach is often distracting—rarely is such an effaced narrator this overbearing—Taddeo, who also writes ﬁction, is a master of character ... My own self-consciousness tended to rise in proportion to Taddeo’s success: The frothier the melodrama and purer the voyeuristic frisson, the stronger the impulse to watch myself as a reader, to clock and wonder at my own responses ... Taddeo is a savage observer of interpersonal economies of power, the market values of age, ﬂesh, gender, social status, class ... Are there women, really? Are there at least three of them? Read as an answer to that question, Three Women is an ambivalent document: involving, granular, and brilliantly observed as drama, but too scattered to mobilize concepts as vast and abstruse as gender and desire. Read untroubled by questions of gender essentialism, the book is a triumph, afﬁrming as worthy of considered, compassionate study the intimate lives of everyday women.
PositiveBookforumRobinson’s genius is for making indistinguishable the highest ends of faith and fiction, evoking in her characters and her readers the paradox by which an individual, enlarged by the grace of God, or art, acquires selfhood in acquiring a sense of the world beyond the self—the sublime apprehension that other people exist … Rolling between the title character’s present and her preceding decades of roaming, Lila parallels a coming into selfhood with an equally ambivalent coming into faith … Throughout Lila and its predecessors, Robinson elucidates the struggle to reconcile likeness and original; temporal and eternal; memory and reality; physical and ephemeral; flame and wick—a struggle as productive as it is without ultimate hope.
PositiveBookforumLovely, frank, fascinating—personal and startling ... a record of creative and linguistic restlessness, the culmination of an encounter that Lahiri likens to love at first sight.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...each of these essays is itself a kind of extended moment, within which Searcy pauses, turns ideas about, attempts to take it all in. Unstructured yet well fortified, Searcy’s long, hanging moments take on the contours of a rare, desperately private space. To join him there is to be astonished.