PositiveChicago Review of BooksChristopher Sorrentino begins Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son’s Memoir, the meticulous account of his complicated and often fraught relationship with his late mother, with a graphic description of her decaying body as he found it in her Brooklyn apartment. Sorrentino details the recurring scene almost systematically, as if to stave off any immediate expression of emotion or intimacy. It becomes a numbing catalogue both mundane and horrific ... readers searching these pages for insights into his father’s biography and body of work will find themselves firmly rerouted towards the story of his mother’s private existence spent mostly behind closed doors ... Now Beacon, Now Sea is an ambitious balancing act of summary and scene that painstakingly reveals an unsettled mind doing the work of reconfiguring its understanding of the past ... Just as Sorrentino finally accepts the remote and distant woman his mother has decided to be in the years before her death...he relinquishes control of his family’s story by accepting his implication in its collapse, allowing readers to make what they will of all its messy and beautiful parts.
PositiveSlantKoresky’s complicated relationship with age and mortality inflects much of Films of Endearment, as the absence of his father—who passed away years ago—leads him to reflect on ideas of home and permanence. He enters the decade of his 40s while working on the book, and he discusses his and his husband’s decision not to have children—a newly relevant question in the queer community that he lingers on in illuminating ways ... something of a time capsule, a loving archive of experiences aesthetic and otherwise ... there’s certainly no shortage of heart in these pages, the linkage between cinematic engagement and the development of the self both believably and affectionately rendered ... The push and pull of Films of Endearment’s two modes—personal and analytical—sometimes feels unbalanced, but the captivating insights into queer spectatorship, specifically the gay male gaze as it relates to female cinematic performance, help to elevate the book’s more expository stretches into something beyond mere journalism.
PositiveThe Colorado Review... spare and precise ... The device of Jamal’s cinema is a clever place for Addonia to begin this beguiling novel based on his experience spending his own early life at a refugee camp, as we are subsequently forced to consider what might be happening beyond the edges of the frame. By telling the parts of Saba and Hagos’s story that can’t be gleaned from watching Jamal’s cinema, Addonia reveals life at camp to be endlessly complex and riddled with struggles, both subtle and overt, and the device of the screen serves to highlight the shared sense of claustrophobia that permeates daily life—a claustrophobia not just of physical closeness, but also of cultural tradition ... There’s a purposeful distance to Addonia’s writing in how he often eschews interiority for a stark specificity of physical detail and action—especially during moments of violence, which is often rendered matter-of-factly, highlighting both its frequency and these characters’ numbness to its aftermath. And yet the act of violence that sparks the novel’s heartbreaking conclusion actually takes place both off the page and outside the jurisdiction of Jamal’s cinema screen, leaving readers only with the afterimage of a bloody cloth and the sounds of a young woman’s cries for help ... is ultimately an exercise on learning where to look—and how to truly see what we find when we do.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... [a] masterpiece ... while [Cameron\'s] previous books have most often explored relationships between gay men, both with each other and with their own selves, this new novel—suspenseful and almost hallucinatory—is at least at first glance a departure in terms of subject and setting, but thankfully not in style ... The magical quality of Cameron’s prose comes is tethered to a precise language of interior reality rather than specificity of place, and the cold, bleak city where his characters arrive in the masterful opening chapter is as vaguely described as its characters’ emotional states are exhaustively chronicled ... Cameron renders his images delicately and purposefully, allowing odd and memorable details to accrue into a kind of mosaic—but this is a mosaic that has been left deliberately incomplete, the missing pieces all the more glaring and unsettling for their absence. No truth can be taken for granted as such, and events often take place off the page in order to instill a sense of disorientation in the reader to match that of the novel’s characters. And many important moments in the narrative happen in the dark, as if to crowd the emotional depth of the story with too many physical details would be unseemly—or perhaps to heighten the sense of unreality, to highlight the perpetual presence of danger ... if Cameron paints a picture that’s sometimes as bleak as the landscape against which the events of What Happens at Night are cast, there’s also the promise of an eventual arrival at a place of hope—or maybe what could be better described as acceptance, a way to live with the wisdom that has now been so agonizingly hard-earned. The train eventually leaves the forest in the end, the view from the window suddenly bright and clear. And the final line of this brilliant gift of a novel is a punch to the gut, as well as an almost Rilkean call to action.
PositiveSlant Magazine...a deeply meditative and deceptively meandering series of vignettes, asides, observations, and questions both rhetorical and otherwise that cohere to reveal a writer grappling with the costs of desire ... In Later, Lisicky gives individual faces to the victims we often speak about collectively, and what might seem at times on the verge of becoming a catalogue of relationships, some dizzyingly fleeting and others more enduring, becomes instead an intimate glimpse into daily life during an epidemic ... timeless.
Carmen Maria Machado
RaveSlant... deeply intelligent and fiercely innovative ... Machado’s richly layered narrative takes the form of a personal story embedded within an extensive cultural history ... Machado’s story is punctuated by harrowing moments of conflict that feel, because of their specificity, almost uncannily familiar. We come to inhabit her mind so wholly that the claustrophobia of her relationship with this other woman is made present first in the mind and then in the body like some foreign infiltrator, a cancer spreading quietly beneath the skin. The book’s hybrid nature is essential to its project, a marriage of form and content that elevates its subject by allowing it to accrue meaning in unconventional, surprising ways.
PositiveSlant... essentially a novel of echoes. Each of its disparate sections, narrated first by Samuel, then by Elio, and then by Oliver before Elio eventually gets the final word, interrogate the ways in which the past—whether in the form of lived experiences or in imagined detours—is where we are our truest, most yearning selves. The echoes are sometimes more beautiful than the sounds that they reflect ... Aciman dispenses with the notion of love as fuel for narrative and instead uses its power of transfiguration as the measure by which to evaluate a life ... For all its straightforward narration, Find Me has layers of complexity that come through as echoes between its sections, dialogue repeated in slightly different cadences by characters as they circle around issues of time and fate, life and death. The novel’s beating heart is the fact of mortality and the tragedy of aging, which is staged in stark relief by the age discrepancy between the members of the novel’s first two romantic pairings ... a series of ghost stories interrupted by fleeting flashes of light, just like the lives of the characters described in its pages who find and lose and find again their great loves. But it’s the possibility of light that we all live for, as these characters remind us. The chance for someone to dim everything that has come before into shadow.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of booksJones writes about the traumatic formation of his identity with a sharpness that cuts through stereotype and convention ... Jones displays a poet’s knack for the searing detail, and the pages of his memoir are full of beautiful and surprising images that buoy us through the pain and heartache and often seething rage that fuel its propulsive, precise narration ... The syntax of human connection that Jones narrates so precisely is always heavy with the threat of obliteration, an entire language of possible expressions of love and desire erased in a flash. Perhaps that’s ultimately the impulse of memoir — to leave behind a language to explain our lives, or a map of the places from which we’ve escaped ... while Jones as poet goes to the page to regain a sense of control in the chaos, he shows us in these final pages that Jones as memoirist goes to the page for release ... a memoir that rushes headlong through a collage of intensely rendered vignettes and arrives finally at a state of grace, a wisdom earned by fire ... There’s a fierce heart beating wildly and urgently through these pages, filling them with blood — in anticipation of the beautiful scar that they ultimately come to form — and whatever else we might need in order to fight for our lives.