PanSpectrum Culture...a book of real promise: an established and acclaimed writer—and resident of Edinburgh, no less—writing a haunted house book set in the middle of the city’s famed Old Town...Unfortunately, the book does not come through on all this promise ... The book traces one character per decade and each character gets three chapters for their story, with very little connection between characters throughout the course of the book. With such a narrative structure, the book is bound to be uneven, with certain tales—the ‘70s character, for example—being especially good and others—the ‘60s character—being particularly bad. The overall issue for Luckenbooth is that none of the stories have enough depth and the lows are much lower than the highs are high ... comes across as a vehicle for a career writer to play around with characters she has created that do not fit into her other writings. The Luckenbooth residents the reader meets are all only partially realized and the scenes that Fagan places them in come across more as literary sketch acts than novelistic events ... While some readers would likely derive greater satisfaction from the omnibus-like structure than others, all readers would be offended by the completely superficial nature...There is nothing here, beyond the dazzling character descriptors...The book also seems to have a real contempt for its readers, as it regularly gets even basic historical details distractingly wrong...a rather hollow book, a book designed as a playground for loosely-conceived characters a writer has been unable to fit into other projects.
PositiveSpectrum CultureThere is no possible evaluation of Beautiful World except that it more than meets the inflated expectations of an eager reading public. While some reviewers have found the polarizing ending to be ruinous, they seem to be shrill, minority voices; Rooney’s newest effort continues her career as the voice of a generation ... The book is not heavily plotted and continues Rooney’s signature style—which many find alienating—of describing the characters in a rather passive, limited third-person voice that denies the reader access to the character’s inner thoughts. At the beginning of chapters/scenes, this third-person narrator often sounds like a film voiceover, relaying information similar to what Kurt Russell’s Narrator does in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, for instance. This makes the book seem incredibly procedural as it describes exactly what the characters are doing without giving the motivations for it. Rooney does, however, change things up a bit and give the reader some sense of what Alice and Eileen are thinking; every other chapter is an email from one of the women to the other, relaying recent events and digressing into discursive discussions of politics or history (hello there, Bronze Age Collapse) written in the first person. The email chapters are excellent as much for their digressive, tangential structure and what that reveals about the worldly preoccupations of Alice and Eileen as for their window into each protagonist’s personal psyche ... a superb ending to a superb book.
PositiveSpectrum Culture\"Richard Sennett entertainingly translates his lifetime of experience as an academic, traveler and city planner into a winding narrative about how cities are and how they should be. While the book meanders and occasionally loses rhetorical focus, it remains an enjoyable and enriching read ... Building and Dwelling can be a frustrating read. Its dozens of tangential jaunts are interesting, but ultimately do not build up to anything more substantial. In spite of this, the book is worthwhile, given Sennett’s lifetime of knowledge about cities, his expert eye for design and his knack for storytelling.\
RaveSpectrum Culture\"Acid West executes the delicate balancing act between staying rooted in a single specific space and time while making statements that are more general and universal ... Acid West is uneven. Some of its essays, such as \'Children of the Gadget,\' are brilliant, perspicacious and speak to the core of what it means to be a person living in the contemporary United States, while others, like \'Things Most Surely Believed,\' are aspiring—you can see the work on the page as well as the statement that Wheeler wishes to make—to such lofty heights but are only ever vapid and vacuous. The highs in the book, which are mostly concentrated in the first half of the collection, are so grand and successful that a reader will tolerate those essays that cannot quite make the standard ... His narrative voice is funny and approachable throughout, which keeps the book lively and light even while demonstrating Wheeler’s intelligence. Wheeler loves neologism and coins several throughout the collection. His prose is superb; unlike most essay collections, where the flow lags at time because the writer is trying too hard to be artful, Acid West stays engaging and Wheeler’s confidence in his wordsmithing never wanes. Wheeler is artful with such nonchalance that he can focus his writing on crafting imagery and constructing metaphors like those in the previous paragraph ... Acid West is entertaining, diverse in subject and approach and just plain fun to read, even though the essays are uneven in quality. It could also credibly populate a university-level American Studies syllabus, but the erudition it so obviously exudes is nicely balanced by Wheeler’s prose so that the book is never unapproachable or intimidating, either.\