RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksMillet, choosing present-day Los Angeles for her tightly woven trove of adults and teenagers slowly losing and finding their minds, breathes more life and texture into life into sun-baked Southern California than anything since Robert Altman’s Short Cuts ... [Millet is] aware, however, of the richness embodied by each of [her] characters, and if you do grab a pen, as I did, and map out how and where the people in [her] stories overlap, you’ll be rewarded ... Millet has a knack for two specific, brilliant devices. First, infusing her prose with the part-confident, part-bored, part-ironic intonation of upper middle-class conversation in Los Angeles ... Second, trading from the beginning on the necessary maintenance of fact as fiction. \'Breakfast at Tiffany’s\' might be one of the best short stories I’ve read in the last 10 years. Millet dances between first and second person in the story, an interesting effort ... Very rarely in modern American literature is the reader afforded an opportunity to so fully absorb a character that it feels like he’s sitting right next to you.
PanThe A.V. ClubGreer is yet another female protagonist in a long line of them in contemporary fiction for whom the reader develops very little sympathy, much less hope ... Her book smarts do not translate to any visible intelligence, and Wolitzer employs prosaic language to describe her ... There’s a fair amount of sex in The Female Persuasion, none of which sounds like the sex people actually have, nor provides the characters anything but cursory insight into what should be an essential part of any conversation about liberation ... In the vacuum of language that doesn’t reduce female personhood to tits and ass, Wolitzer has done little to improve the tenor of fiction’s treatment of female bodies. She describes Greer’s \'tapering waist, and a vagina that menstruated in its secret, brilliant way each month\' ... Wolitzer paints with a broad brush that doesn’t capture any of the nuance in actual twentysomethings’ lives ... The search for this era’s Great American Novel continues.
PanThe AV ClubDespite the title Fresh Complaint, the stories within this new short story collection are as stale as airplane cabin air. Three were written after the turn of the millennium, and the remaining five in the previous century. Regardless of their date of birth, these stories belie unconditional lack of respect for characterization, focus, and detail ... It’s no crime to be a more proficient novelist than a capable short story writer. Middlesex is rightly heralded for its intricacy, warmth, and attention to detail. The Virgin Suicides captivated audiences on page and screen alike for its dreamy, haunting portrait of a family of girls who kill themselves, one by one. But starting with The Marriage Plot, Eugenides has another book to add to the loss column with Fresh Complaint.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksBeneath the catastrophes, the crush of human traffic and the rumble of the subway, Jennifer Egan has found the quiet melody of a young woman’s New York … Manhattan Beach is the first of Egan’s novels to use the technique [of anticipatory narration], and she employs it with elegance, building breathless anticipation passage by passage, chapter by chapter … The sex in Manhattan Beach is worthy of note because it allows Anna to practice ownership of her sexual experiences. Instead of infantilizing the emotions of the participants, or scrubbing away the context, Egan renders sex as a sincere, almost intellectual exploration — knowledge, even the biblical kind, for knowledge’s sake. Pleasure, however, is not abandoned.
PanThe AV ClubPerhaps it’s the plethora of issues and stances that lend her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, a kind of genre and narrative schizophrenia. What begins as a compelling tale of Anjum, a Muslim trans woman eking out a life in Old Delhi turns into a wide swath of narrative non-fiction, with no particular subject or theme in mind ... Roy sledgehammers the floodgates open, turning the prose into a primordial soup that makes it difficult to properly track a story arc, let alone care about it ... Unfortunately, [Roy] doesn’t know what sort of novel to write.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksI imagine the number of novels that employ sardonic commentary regarding the exploitation of 9/11 by authors and political entities is a very short list, if not nonexistent. Jin pulls no punches ... The two institutions on trial in the novel are writing as a vocation, and the Chinese government ... Jin’s criticism of modern-day Communist China is stunning, easily the best part of an already well-crafted novel.
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
PositiveA.V. ClubArmstrong proves herself the perfect guide to understanding who, what, when, where, why, and how this show came to define American culture in the ’90s...Seinfeldia is as funny and interesting as a good episode of the show it covers. Armstrong’s pacing and attention to detail makes it a book about pop culture that goes by almost too quickly.