RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Srinivasan’s true subject is the need for nuance and generosity in contemporary discourse on sex. She demonstrates the value of clear thinking by testing it on a range of topics. You don’t need to agree with her on everything to admire her even-handedness, her commitment ... Stylistically I was reminded of What White People Can Do Next author Emma Dabiri’s wit: Srinivasan shares Dabiri’s gliding rigour and sharp edges ... Srinivasan has a wide audience and can’t address everyone at once ... Inevitably, though, Srinavasan is more exacting at some points than others ... in a work that does not meaningfully incorporate disabled perspectives, I think it is better not to mention us at all than to do so tokenistically ... I also found the treatment of LGBT+ activism woven a little too neatly into a general narrative of feminist achievement ... She takes her opponents at their strongest, she braves ambiguity, and she holds up contradictory evidence to see if her argument still works ... I’ve thoroughly audited why anyone should skip The Right to Sex, and I couldn’t think of any reasons. Srinavasan’s work is too interesting to be perfect. It’s superb.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)The structure of Misfits – a manifesto emerging from a lecture on carving out space in the creative industries – puts me in mind of A Room of One’s Own. Where Virginia Woolf insisted on monolithic female victimhood, Coel is more complex on identity and clearer on the purpose of personal revelation ... The register is well judged: precise but unpretentious, conversational without reading like the back of an Innocent smoothie. Coel doesn’t primarily intend for this book to make you laugh, but her formal mastery of humour means you inevitably will. Deadpan is second nature to her – the understatement, the elongated set-up, then the punchline ... Her beginner’s bravado gains credibility from her equal candour about moments of earnestness ... damning on the industry’s handling of racism and sexual assault, and equally so on the broader cultural context. Coel is sharp on the many geographies of London, where the hottest agents won’t cross the river to see her show, and what’s physically close can be social stratospheres away ... True to the form, you’ll be urging it on people. I read it in my local coffee shop and texted a friend who was on a boat in Greece. Misfits could not wait, islands be damned ... Coel’s manifesto does not attempt to be comprehensive or systemic, but it’s clear on what it wants to do and does it very well. I suspect it bears the same relation to the sum total of Coel’s intellect that The Communist Manifesto does to Marx’s. I am very glad both books exist, and hope some day we’ll see Coel’s Das Kapital.
MixedIrish Independent (IRE)\"Once you’ve caught your bearings, you can count on one hand the options for how a chapter will end: a car about to crash, a secret soon to drop, snowfall. I was never as interested in the present-tense Hildebrandts as in their pasts ... Russ and Marion’s histories are fascinating but their spousal confrontation doesn’t arrive with enough of a prior emotional crescendo to feel climactic ... no man in Crossroads desires a woman in terms unrelated to her teeny-tiny not-big self. If there are five-ish chapter endings, there are also five-ish ways of exciting the male libido: by being small, fine-boned, little, delicate, narrow ... My objection is not that it’s immoral but that it’s boring, and it can’t tell us much about any given character when they all do it ... The novel treats anyone who’s not white as one of its motifs, its character development moods ... When Franzen directly describes a feeling or a dynamic and lets you infer broader suggestions about humanity, he nails it ... If only he stuck to that. The characters talk to themselves as if reading from an undergraduate philosophy textbook ... Franzen’s modulating presence also flattens differences between the voices ... The suspenseful nuts and bolts draw you in, and the characters keep you going. The dialogue is often brilliant ... I was bereft to leave the Hildebrandts, and will follow them through the rest of the trilogy.
MixedThe Irish Times (IRE)Joan’s own voice...lectures the reader on managing men and on appearance and taste. She’s a hybrid of Ottessa Moshfegh’s narrators in Eileen, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, with the former’s retrospective tetchiness and the latter’s snobbish vulnerability. There’s also a touch of Cusk in Joan’s knack for running into quotable strangers. They never fail to set up Joan’s epigrams, and they’re especially obliging in dredging up dark memories. At times the novel reads as if Joan were in a theme park engineered to issue her with psychodynamic therapy. If Disneyland has a mouse costume everywhere you turn, Animal has a pat developmental claim ... I hope Taddeo doesn’t write with anything so ghastly as a \'target audience\' in mind, but I am certain her publisher’s marketing department has one and that I am in it. Give me a million books about washed-up glamour queens stewing in their own juices, and I will beg you for a review copy of book number million-and-one. Could it be that the genre makes me feel heard? ... Animal is a certain type of novel. If my description appeals to you, then chances are you’ll enjoy it.
MixedThe New York TimesArnett’s humor jets throughout and is funniest when it’s curt ... Arnett’s account of self-imposed L.G.B.T. respectability politics is poignant: How can we be human without reflecting badly on others in the community, when our failures already seem, \'for lots of folks … like a foregone conclusion?\' ... This structure is well intended: We’re meant to assemble our own understanding of Samson. But it’s a pity With Teeth gives us only abled people’s materials to work with, as it ends up framing disabled people as the unknowable objects of others’ scrutiny. The novel wants us to critique Sammie’s prejudices; it might even understand those prejudices as ableist. But ultimately its treatment of disabled people is indistinguishable from that of broader society ... Any narrative necessarily reflects a given consciousness. This particular one depicts disabled people through an abled character’s lens in order to facilitate the latter’s arc. Some readers take inherent issue with such books existing. I don’t; all storytelling foregrounds someone, and the protagonist needn’t always be me. But there are many novels about the experience of abled parents of disabled children, few that care what it’s like to be that kid, and fewer still that imagine disabled adults as having our own complex inner lives ... sublimely weird, fluently paced, brazenly funny and gayer still, and it richly deserves to find readers. I just hope someone will finally ask Samson what’s wrong.
RaveThe Stinging Fly (IRE)You should read this collection at least twice. The first time, horse it into you—then study the technique ... You’ll notice a rhythm forming: a main character wants a story, then the next doesn’t, though over the collection they get better at realising that the tale will come or not of its own volition ... Often Barry gives away the plot up front so we can focus on characters, sunsets, what’s said and what’s not. As in earlier collections, he curtails lyricism with barbs, but it feels closer to the characters’ voices now, rather than an author absolving themselves of schmaltz ... Much of the comedy is gentle, familial, and the characters have a dignifying privacy that lets them surprise us and even themselves ... That’s the lesson of the collection: give in to the place, give in to the process.