MixedThe RumpusThis is, after all, a manifesto. Crispin asks the reader to get on board without providing historical or narrative evidence. A manifesto doesn’t tend to involve nuanced cultural criticism or social history. The writing is casual, decidedly nonacademic, and involves generalizations about the subject as it is and as it ought to be. But most manifestos have two things in common that this book lacks: they speak on behalf of a group of people with a specific collective interest, and they articulate a set of values and beliefs that sketches a blueprint for specific, determined actions. Whether artistic, political, or otherwise influenced, manifestos put forth a vision of how a group of people believes something should be. Why I Am Not a Feminist is a manifesto of one ... the echoes of the far-right in tone and style are troubling. Punditry is a shaky base for and unreliable route towards the kind of humanist politics Crispin would have feminists construct.
PositiveThe RumpusFrom her sharp and honest descriptions of first-hand experience she teases out a wider context without missing a beat ... Witt writes about sex but titillation is not her goal. The writing is not licentious—when she describes orgasmic meditation or porn shoots, she uses concise and forthright language ... In Future Sex, she tells pieces of the new story and in doing so offers up the potential for her reader reimagine her own. Witt implies through the collection that the narratives—the stories we tell ourselves—have to change before the institutions and social structures that govern bodies might follow.
PanThe RumpusEach of the stories deals, generally, with thirty-something Americans in bad relationships. Reading about them is like being a friend’s date to a dinner party among her close friends: Everyone sees the stranger in the room but continues the gossip about their lovers, mothers, and prescriptions as if the new arrival understood by default. No effort is made to show the stranger this unfamiliar social world. Ultimately this collection is about how a small slice of people—wealthy, creative types, some writers, some actors, some musicians—deal with one another. The customs and particularities are referenced, rather than described, in a tone that reads like a VICE column (where Barrodale is Fiction Editor and has written extensively) or an episode of Girls ... Much of Barrodale’s prose reads like this: Narrators recount actions, while the senses get left behind ... Barrodale intends You Are Having A Good Time to be ironic and comic. But the comedy is opaque, like the inside jokes at the hypothetical dinner party. The audience can only laugh if they identify.
PositiveThe Rumpus\"Although it’s a work of fiction, Beijing Comrades reads like a memoir. The tone is frank and honest, the sentences short and clear, like a story recounted over cold beers late into the night ... As much as the narrator might want to divorce sex from identity and identity from sex, he cannot. His desire takes him to a place where he does not want to be. Beijing Comrades forces the reader to reimagine neat categories as something complex and slippery.\