PositiveThe Star TribuneMultifaceted ... It\'s a lovely book but also, in chapters on perfume, silk, cosmetics, porcelain and so on, a book that reveals how rarely — if ever — loveliness may be uncomplicated ... Despite the title, this is not exactly a history of things, though Kelleher has included a great deal of historical research. She carries the weight of that research with elegance and ease, drawing on interviews as well as texts that range from antiquity to contemporary years. And while Kelleher engages with issues such as climate change, wealth disparity and racial inequity, this is not a polemical book ... Kelleher writes patiently, painstakingly, with a sense of unfurling not unlike the meticulous act of plucking petals, one by one, to discover what lies underneath. There are lines as rhythmic and lyrical as poetry ... Kelleher is at her best when she is unabashedly taking pleasure in the things she finds beautiful, whatever they might be, and even — especially — when they are also imbued with some form of ugliness or pain.
Anne Garréta, Tr. Emma Ramadan
PositiveOn the Seawall... a riot of wordplay and puns and grammatical tricks ... The narrative is located not so much in the father’s shenanigans or Poulette’s plunge in concrete as in the language used to describe them all—the language that is turned inside out and upside down on page after page as we are shown, again and again, just how inconcrete it can be ... Each word, re-routed, points to another possible sphere of definition.
J.W, Mohnhaupt trans. By Shelley Frisch
MixedThe Minneapolis Star Tribune... unusual ... The book purports to be an account of [a] feud, in which Mohnhaupt claims to trace a microcosm of the Cold War itself...But the book Mohnhaupt actually wrote is even stranger, and wider ranging, than he apparently intended. He does describe the lives and work of those two feuding zookeepers — Heinz-Georg Klös in the West, Heinrich Dathe in the East — but he also describes the lives and work of many, many other, more minor characters. Often, as with Gerd Morgen’s moosecapades, the result is delicious, but the book also begins to feel diffuse. It can’t quite contain everything ... Mohnhaupt spends considerable time on not entirely consequential details, like where each young animal keeper acquired his university degrees, while skimping on larger ethical questions ... it would have been nice to see Mohnhaupt engage with the ethics of animal trapping, trading and zookeeping in general ... His book is a crucial account of the way that human institutions — political, cultural, educational — are bound up with each other, but his unwillingness to acknowledge the cruelty and ugliness these institutions conceal is a regrettable flaw. Still, the liveliness of his storytelling and the wonderful eccentricity of his subject matter make this book well worth a read.
Fleur Jaeggy Trans. by Tim Parks
PositiveOn The SeawallHow to describe Fleur Jaeggy? She defies categorization, expectation. Her prose style is unlike anyone’s; so is her subject matter and the structure of her strange stories. Her sentences have a blunt, stunted quality, like stone gargoyles perched above an ancient city, blank-eyed, squat and grey, bits of their noses and ears chipped off ... The best description of Jaeggy’s prose that I’ve encountered comes, surprisingly, from the jacket copy for I Am the Brother of XX, which applauds Jaeggy’s \'champagne gothic worlds.\' Yes: precisely ... In this book, characters glom on to each other like leeches, sticky and wet ... In Sweet Days of Discipline, violence is not embodied; it is sublimated, and made eerier for it.
Donatella Di Pietrantonio, Trans. by Ann Goldstein
RaveThe Star TribuneIt is an achingly beautiful book, and an utterly devastating one ... Di Pietrantonio writes with deceptive simplicity. Every scene—every detail—is as meticulously rendered as a grain of sand. There is no sentimentality here, no excess at all, but delicacy of feeling, and depth ... But for all its anguish, the novel is never despairing or bleak. The characters are so precisely drawn, they seem to actually breathe. There is humor here, and sympathy to go around. Now, especially, we would do well to consider the plight of children who are roughly separated from the lives they have known.
RaveThe Star Tribune\"Belle Boggs is a witty, incisive writer, and The Gulf, her first novel, deftly satirizes everything from for-profit schools to the MFA industrial complex, American liberals and conservatives, and the hypocrisies of both sides ... These are fully realized characters, each with their own weaknesses and worries ... Scores of recent books, of every genre, have attempted to bridge the looming gulf in American culture and politics. It’s to Boggs’ credit that she doesn’t ... For all the satire, Boggs’ novel is also deeply felt, and moving. Perhaps its greatest strength is Boggs’ delicate, hard-won sympathy for her characters, and the sympathy they develop for one another.\