PositivePloughsharesThis sensation, more than any overarching social structure or political configuration, is Taylor’s central subject—the way in which, in our intensely mediated era, other people’s expectations and preconceptions wind their way into our consciousness, disfiguring our encounter with our own subjectivity ... it reads like a landmark of millennial fiction, revealing an even clearer picture of the expansiveness of Taylor’s vision than his rigorously structured debut ... My favorite story, \'Anne of Cleves,\' centers on a couple, Sigrid and Marta, portraying the quicksilver alterations in their dynamic over a year’s time as Marta settles into the first lesbian relationship of her life. In its sparse sweep and discordant, transfixing moments of grace, it’s reminiscent of the best stories of Joy Williams ... Taylor’s plots are difficult to describe in concrete terms. They tend to be almost antidramatic in their structure—frequently, the climactic moment arrives when a character resolves not to take a significant action or respond to a triggering event in a preconditioned way ... Taylor is never deterministic, and his stories refuse to contrive epiphanies or moments of revelation that explain away the uncertainty ... Taylor shares the existentialist’s habitus of lapsed faith—he was raised in a strict, religious household—and radical skepticism toward received wisdom and groupthink. Ultimately, however, I think it’s futile to look to the past to interpret his work. To describe what exactly Taylor is up to, we’ll be needing new terms.
RavePloughshares... almost aggressively unvarnished prose ... excels at navigating the fantasyland that has usurped reality’s place. Yet one of its most interesting moments comes toward the end when Oyler’s protagonist briefly abandons the book’s present-tense mode of narration and gives readers a glimpse into her past, offering an interpretation of how we arrived at this point in the first place ... an audacious, mordant, and frequently hilarious sendup of internet culture at the turn of the decade, and a likely harbinger of how novels about the internet will read in years to come.
RavePloughshares... shrewd, enigmatic...What makes The Caretaker so immensely pleasurable to read is the artistic talent Arbus shares with her mother. They both possess an unusual species of attention, a manner of looking marked by a bemused, impartial curiosity. They insist on letting subjects—and objects—speak for themselves ... Everything is chronicled with such minute precision that they begin to feel alive ... The scrupulous, almost photographic exactitude of these lists, together with their meticulous attention to detail, sacralizes the objects in question, giving them their own kind of perilous agency ... In someone else’s hands, such an approach might come across as ponderous, but Arbus’s writing is uniformly tight and focused, rendered with a light, amusing touch. The Jamesian quality of her prose extends to the book’s pleasantly gothic atmosphere, reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw. Architecture is a character. Windows are often rain-splattered. The weather is perpetually gray ... The experience of reading The Caretaker feels like a visit to the Morgan Foundation might feel, or like flipping through a book of Edward Gorey drawings on a dreary afternoon. One basks pleasantly in the melancholy ... an enigmatic and necessary book, especially for those conflicted about the physical detritus accumulated over the course of a life.
PositivePloughsharesGerard has an unusual way of depicting Nina’s romantic travails. Her prose is invariably muted, laconic, written with an acerbic deadpan that runs counter to Nina’s baroquely self-destructive behavior. Although Nina is the narrator of True Love, she spends very little time actively reflecting on her own misdeeds; the novel has a churning, forward momentum and Nina functions more as an impartial observer ... One of the book’s innovative features is how it depicts Nina’s text-message exchanges in a bold font, differentiated from the quoted dialogue. In any given scene, Nina’s consciousness is always triangulated, shifting between herself, her dialogue partner in the room, and a third party with whom she’s communicating via text message. This stylistic innovation brilliantly captures the way contemporary technology bifurcates our brains into different conversational tracks, one running in the real world and the other running virtually. When she’s texting or sexting, Nina’s desires are given free rein, often in hilarious contrast to the mundane reality she’s inhabiting at the moment...Yet True Love is at its most original and interesting where it diverges from Resnick’s analysis and begins exploring the trials and tribulations of America’s \'precariat\' class ... Gerard captures the dynamic of a failing relationship with lacerating honesty—made all the worse by the challenges of working freelance in the dystopian era of late-stage capitalism ... a fascinating read for anyone looking to understand the world we’ll inhabit when the smoke of the Trump era clears—in particular, the world that’s being left to young people. It’s unclear, however, if True Love offers any hope. Maybe, the violent ending to Gerard’s novel suggests, it isn’t Nina who’s in the trance. Maybe it’s America.
RavePorter House Review...Rooney’s writing is a startling, lucid gift. Her prose to me is that self-evidently spellbinding and new. Yet it’s tough to pinpoint how exactly Rooney achieves this effect. She expends no apparent effort to be luminous or \'literary.\' She doesn’t go to great lengths to flaunt her erudition or intelligence ... the directness of Rooney’s prose is not crafted to serve some posture of hip disaffection or ironic distance. It rather attests to a species of steady, unblinking attention, a kind of uninflected exactitude ... Normal People is more structurally daring than its predecessor, yet it doesn’t feel quite as cohesive as Conversations. Nevertheless, Normal People represents an admirable expansion of Rooney’s vision and is a remarkable novel in its own right ... Part of me wonders, therefore, if Rooney’s mode of narration is intended as something of a computer-age reappropriation of the nineteenth-century novel of manners ... In the nineteenth-century omniscient novel, characters are primarily experienced from the outside in. Their personalities are additive rather than subjectivized; they result from the sum total of their observed social behaviors, rather than from an essential core or consciousness ... The charge one feels behind Sally Rooney’s writing, that is to say, might be that she’s speaking to an audience yet to arrive, or articulating a reality for which we haven’t yet developed rules and forms. In any case, it seems safe to say that Rooney is not much interested in following rules. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.