PositiveThe Washington PostAh, yes: The bark of another Wayne Koestenbaum collection. Our great, roving, leashless dog of modern essay-writing — constantly sniffing at the groin of an idea, taking in its rich musks, savoring them with two wide nostrils — bounds up the slope, yet again, for a book of essays that audit a series of extremely indulgent, largely beautiful, mostly dissociated objects of fascination ... Understandably, your mileage may vary on all of this. It can be, sometimes, terminally and specifically precious — smilingly glib with a distinctive fatty gristle that lives in the meat of a lot of solipsistic writing. There are echoes of his friends and heroes within — Frank O’ Hara’s tendernesses, Dennis Cooper’s erotics — which, in comparison, makes Koestenbaum’s dominant texture feel all the more impish and sybaritic, like watching someone rehearse their laugh in a mirror ... Like all reflective objects though, the act of essaying has a twoness about it.
Jenny Hval, Trans. by Marjam Idriss
PositiveNational Public RadioAs per the title\'s promise, Paradise Rot seeps with goo. There are \'spit bubbles,\' \'pearls of fat,\' \'a pee soaked mattress,\' \'warm white globs\' and \'sticky black crotches\' frothing freely around; apple flesh \'bubbles in between teeth,\' sweat forms \'cold sweet sap,\' and velvety \'honey funguses\' sprout from space. Such freaky finery fills only a petri dish\'s worth of secretions from the sticky bildungsroman of Djåoanna, or Jo – a mousy, twenty-year-old Norwegian on semester abroad in the fictional seaside town of Aybourne, Australia – poised on the cusp of a fantastic sexual awakening. Lonely, curt and unmoored, little Jo tumbles into an oozy erotic fantasia in the same way that one falls asleep and enters a dream: slowly, then suddenly. \'Sometimes I\'m not sure what\'s going on,\' she whispers partway through her psychedelic trip through Aybourne. \'I don\'t know how to explain it.\'
RaveNPRShe does not attempt to follow the plot of her life – which is as dramatic as any of her invented characters' lives – as much as she allows herself to drift from memory to memory, letting her thoughts extend like far reaching spokes that span both literary references and personal memories ... For all of her logical twists and spiraling narratives, it is hard not to think like Li after reading her book. There is a magical property to her voice, one to absorb and admire in its absolution. I found myself, Li-like, sewing images of my own past to the passages and authors I respected, sustained by the personal language and private history I had created over time. Li had accomplished what she had set out to do: She had reached me.
RaveNPR...it is to Sharif's credit that her poetry flicks between lyric and lexicon while still sounding like music; in her hands, language is as pliant as warmed wax ... It is the central miracle of Look that Sharif shows us the real intensity of her conceit without veering into triteness. She is, in turns, icy and searing, but consistently fierce and beautiful. By her new code, we are urged toward vigilance and clarity, urged to always have eyes to see.