RaveLiberSpending time on this book gave me the same feeling that reading Kafka gives me, the same feeling that I’ve been going through the world with after reading nothing but Dennis Cooper for a month or so. I grin to myself—really grin—when I come across both names in Pathetic Literature, feeling like I’ve discovered something incredible, like Myles knows me ... I would recommend Pathetic Literature. It’s pessimistic, kinky, and mean. There’s lots of scat and descriptions of genitals. It might depress you, but probably only if you were depressed beforehand. What I know is that I’ll keep the book with me, just like I keep a German copy of Kafka’s diaries on my bedside.
RaveLIBERBeaton has created not a precise, chronological chain of events but a carefully curated collage of her experiences over those two years, showing us more feelings than she does incidents. The sardonic humor of her earlier comics is still present, but the story relies more on nuances of dialogue and metaphor. Everything is there for a reason and everything means something ... Full of the insight of hindsight and the sorrowful anger of the young working class, Ducks triumphs in its honesty.
Mieko Kawakami, trans. by Sam Bett and David Boyd
PositiveLIBERKawakami’s prose is gentle and the pace is lovely ... It is a book about small, almost unnoticeable victories, like standing up for oneself, making a friend, or touching another person’s skin ... I was deeply moved by Fuyuko’s cathartic journey and Kawakami’s wise rendering of it, and I expected the novel to end on a peaceful, pleasant note. Instead, its conclusion was bewildering and frustrating enough to make me whisper \'What?!\' out loud, grimacing at my wall for a minute or two. All the Lovers in the Night ends in a way neither sentimental nor satisfying. It feels like a betrayal, a sensation I can’t believe wasn’t Kawakami’s intention. When one looks at the story’s arc from above, it shows a tentative upward crawl toward hope and then, almost out of nowhere, a brutal decline—the very way sexual assault can devastate a life in a matter of minutes ... This subtle, authoritative book offers important insights and could be a welcome companion for survivors, but it offers no answers (easy or otherwise).
RaveLiber ReviewThough it may not appear that way initially, The Swimmers is a puzzle and must be approached as such. My revealing its secrets would rob you of the sinking realization Otsuka sets up for her readers. It descended on me incrementally: first, a few bewildering parallels, then a shocking relation, and then finally, an epiphany that turns the entire story on its head—one that I’m still grasping ... Despite its short length, The Swimmers is the sort of book that unspools. The content throughout is surreal enough to ascribe personal meaning to. It’s easy to imagine oneself making laps in that pool, to see one’s lost relatives in Alice’s bewildered face. Still, though, there is objective truth we cannot ignore: Western culture’s cold casting-out of the old, the echoes of atrocities that occurred on our soil not long ago, and the fact that, if you look for it online, you can find the name of Julie Otsuka’s late mother (Alice).
Elisa Shua Dusapin, tr. Aneesa Abbas Higgins
RaveThe Women\'s Review of BooksDusapin calls into question the preconceived notions we have about foreignness and identity, and Aneesa Abbas Higgins’s translation from the French lends a layer of cold familiarity to a deeply personal story. I love this book. I love the new experiences it has given me—the mystery, the longing, the loving, and the ghostly solitude of a beach town in winter.
PositiveThe Womens Review of BooksThe Death of Vivek Oji’s interlacing of queerness and fantasy provides important commentary on the indescribable beauty of our differences ... Is there an inherent tragedy in queerness? An inherent joy? Emezi asks us these questions and never truly gives a reply. What Emezi has created in The Death of Vivek Oji is an opportunity for the reader to cast their own judgments ... I fell so deeply in love with his wit, mystery, and radical confidence; I couldn’t help but think that he deserved more, not only from society, but from the book professing itself to tell his story. Maybe I was meant to feel this frustration. Maybe Emezi wants
the reader to know the fury brought about by senseless prejudice. Maybe, then, I am the one looking past the meaning. Even Vivek himself seems uncertain.
Molly McCully Brown
RaveThe Women\'s Review of BooksThat is how I felt reading Brown’s words: like I had fainted because the pain was too much for me to handle, and I’d just woken up with her looking down at me, fanning my face, saying, “You’re okay. You’ll be okay.” Her prose held me, saw me for what I was. Though different from mine, her struggles reminded me that me and my aching body are not alone. And for that, I am deeply, relievingly grateful ... masterful, heartrending essays that neither shy away from pain nor bow down to it.
Sara Mesa, Trans. by Katie Whittemore
PositiveThe Women\'s Review of BooksLike Buñuel’s Exterminating Angel, or even Bong Joon-ho’s
Parasite, the rich are left rotting in a swamp of their own design. For this reason, the book is strikingly relevant ... [Whittemore\'s] translation eases Mesa’s style into an eloquent English. The result is succinct, alarming, lovely—a book written in the vein of classics, a story within a story within a story, in which readers of Spanish-language literature will find echoes of Cortázar’s seminal Hopscotch. Whittemore brings Four by Four closer to us, to our reality, making us uncomfortably aware of the truth it is based in...Whittemore’s translation crawls brusquely out of
the darkness ... Spanish or English, first-person or third-person, Four by Four is an uncomfortably real look into the absurd world of the bourgeoisie. It is so complex and layered that, to reach a full understanding, one may have to read it two or even three times. Not a single character, after all, is what they seem.
Carolina De Robertis
MixedThe Women’s Review of BooksNative Uruguayan Carolina De Robertis delves straight into her country’s tortured past with Cantoras ... In addition to the wildly complicated strings of events that pass with the decades, De Robertis takes care to address concepts of gender fluidity inherently present in queer individuals. The women already exist outside the bounds of what a woman should be; therefore, it is easier for them to wiggle back and forth between gender roles ... De Robertis’s careful description gender roles and queer women is one my favorite aspects of the book. She puts into words things I’d only felt, that tricky area of non-straight womanhood where the needle on the compass of society’s categories can never quite sit still ... Still, Cantoras only briefly dips its toes into the concept of bisexuality ... making it feel a bit less real and vital to queer history.
And, though masterful in its detail, some instances of De Robertis’s prose go a bit too far in depth ... Descriptions follow characters like near- epithets ... Cantoras remains a fascinating, emotional read— just as important for those who know Uruguay’s history as it is for those who know nothing about Uruguay at all.