RaveFull StopInstitution and person are exchangeable terms here; life and self literally disappear into office-gray carpet and concrete. You might be tempted to utter beneath your breath, like a sacred passcode, the name Kafka, but I caution you against it. The Beautiful Bureaucrat revels in its playful and dark take on contemporary life, where everything — reality, love, relationships, the mundane — is out of proportion, and yet never loses sight of its commitment to the brazen, and perhaps stupid, curiosity of the human ... Phillips’s dazzling handle of narrative form...weaves the urgency of a thriller into an otherwise tried-and-tired marriage plot in the key of literary modernism ... Phillips’s vital prose struggles against its animations of the terrifying drabness of AZ/ZA, a tension that elevates The Beautiful Bureaucrat into a form unto itself. We get the sense that the language itself is hungry to know what it is discovering, while also afraid of what it will find, just like our heroine. At times, The Beautiful Bureaucrat behaves more like a fable dressed up in the length of the short novel, or a long novella, further hidden behind the veneer of the psychological novel, but rooted in an allegory that questions its own veracity. This is The Beautiful Bureaucrat‘s ultimate strength: a work that is honest about the fear and risk of being alive in a world increasingly dominated by algebraic functions and Excel spreadsheets that go beyond data. But The Beautiful Bureaucrat doesn’t succumb to an easy cynical apathy or patronizing, avuncular consolation. To be alive in one’s body brings with it the anxiety of knowing one will die, but the beauty and terror of life is in not knowing when. To be caught between states, between forms, and between languages opens up our selves to the world, and all the risks that come with it, and what a terrifying, but exhilarating, world it is.
RaveVol. 1 Brooklyn... an unflinching and visceral high-minded thriller that confronts the vectors of motherhood and ultimately personhood ... Phillips’s use of anxiety and fear’s logics are masterful and incisive; at no place does the reader feel unduly manipulated. In fact, she welcomes it. Doubt and self-doubt move the story forward ... Though it is impressive how the book ably uncovers, without a whiff of sentimentality, the intimacy that mundane activities like rinsing berries contain, it’s important to point out that its subversions have limits, but are not necessarily weaknesses ... Though its questions about difference, of self and other, are integral to the narrative, it builds them through a specific mythology of a conventional (read: normative) motherhood, and we can’t ignore how the book starts: Religious zealots are sending death threats to Molly and her team because a Bible has appeared where God is a woman (God forbid!). It is hard not to think of our current moment. It’s an uncomfortable, world-turning circumstance for them that Molly keeps at arm’s length at first, but this layer of the novel’s parable will have readers almost ripping the pages in anticipation and excitement ... shattering and marvelous.