PanThe NationThe book is bad. Its prose runs purple, with baroque clichés about love, regret, and time’s passage failing to compensate for a dearth of revelation about any of these themes. About midway through reading it, I realized that my most exasperated notes for this review simply rediscovered basic tenets of realist fiction, like \'Show, don’t tell\' ... The prose might be forgiven if it were a vehicle for more compelling characters. Unfortunately, the book’s leading men are logorrheic narcissists. They discuss themselves interminably but without personality or verve. Most of the details we learn about their lives are delivered in long and unnatural autobiographical monologues ... my main impression reading Find Me was of haste, a perfunctory book by someone who might never have bothered to write it if not for a new fandom brought by the movie. But we can’t blame speed alone ... Rather than reflect on the changing social function of Elio’s cultural patrimony, Aciman skirts it; the presumed integrity of this matrix is, of course, the point...The AIDS crisis and institutionalized homophobia never impinge on Elio’s experience of the 1980s and ’90s, but these displacements don’t just put the book’s politics in question. They drain Find Me of social texture, as though Aciman had insulated his characters from contemporary reality by wrapping them in plastic ... Queer history will survive this effacement, just as Aciman’s classicism does no real harm to anyone outside its gilded circle. It’s the novels that suffer for their exclusions.
MixedBookforumOut of the Shadows balances its bleak portraits with a faith in therapeutic self-reflection. Odets’s clinical method is to help patients make unconscious feelings available for conscious assessment, so that deeply ingrained behaviors can be recognized and altered ... But what does the book promise for gay communities, collectively? Odets is committed to the idea of diversity but only sporadically attentive to its practices. He criticizes marriage politics for marginalizing \'nonconformers\' and fracturing gay social worlds, but his proposed solution to those failures is perhaps even more atomizing ... his scale of analysis—and the tautological imperative that \'we act out of who we are\'—risks further narrowing our imagination. Which may be inevitable, given Odets’s therapeutic aims. He writes perceptively about the more local task of constructing an identity with others, risking the vulnerabilities of love and sex without the safety net of social sanction. That challenge still defines gay lives. I should probably confess my deep aversion to the language of \'authenticity\' that Odets so values ... Having read Out of the Shadows, I still don’t know if my gay identity is \'whole\' or \'expressive of internal agency,\' or if I’m acting out of the me that’s most me ... I trust that Odets has saved many...and his book might save many more.
Edouard Louis, Trans. by Lorin Stein
MixedBookforumWho Killed My Father puts on a comparably dogged performance, its sights trained desperately on the parent who is its subject ... Who Killed My Father is written in an intimate but self-consciously artificial second person, as the son dredges up memories for his unresponsive dad ... Who Killed My Father presents the deadening stasis from which Louis fled as a symptom of the structural forces of patriarchy and capitalism. Though that stasis itself is rendered vividly, Louis’s analysis remains abstract until the book’s final ten pages, which rehearse a series of humiliations ... The clarity [of certain passages] is rousing but rings a bit false, not because it’s wrong but because the reconciliation between writer and father is so suddenly, improbably frictionless ... Louis is right that he has more to say.\
PositiveN+1Boyer’s negativity is capacious, incorporating explicit political action as well as more opaque forms of noncompliance ... Those who tire of poetry’s defensive gestures are right to be wary of this position, too—of the appeal of refusing to appeal. As it has at every juncture, disavowal threatens to congeal into its own brand, to be leveraged by the savvy oppositional poet into academic appointments and fellowship funding. Boyer recognizes this bind, but she’s not content to bemoan it ... Much of Handbook’s energy derives from Boyer’s recurrent efforts to exhume that yes; much of my investment as a reader was sustained by the desire to understand it better ... Boyer is avowedly idiosyncratic in her reading and listening, foraging across cultural history for teachers and comrades ... The resulting book only occasionally devolves into vagueness; it’s more often thrilling to follow Boyer as she modulates her governing ethic of refusal across referents and scales. Despite its breadth of inquiry, questions about poetry itself reemerge across Handbook, often surprisingly and usually affixed to an essay’s apparent subject—as metonyms, instances of cross-pollination, or sources of potential resolution ... Boyer struggles...to write a literature of both counteraspirational survival and its flagrantly unreal future, linking the impossibility of poetry to the impossibility of the present.
PositiveThe New InquiryIngalls captures the surreal monotony of this circumscribed terrain — at once noisy and stultifying, sprawling and claustrophobic — in a brilliant dovetailing of minimalist prose and maximalist premise ... Mrs. Caliban, like the suburbs on which Ingalls trains her gaze, is self-conscious about its porous edges, nodding frequently to the data of its contemporary moment but declining to incorporate it ... Ingalls is subtle but shrewd in her portrayal of suburbia as a species of paranoia. Dorothy’s social environment is structured by the border between the apparent safety of the visible world and the anticipated dangers that constantly threaten it ... Ingalls’s reference to Shakespeare is not developed beyond her novel’s title, perhaps because the parallels can’t be parsed neatly... Dorothy is not Shakespeare’s Miranda, but neither can she promise fidelity to Caliban till death do them part. It is to Ingalls’s great credit that her novel understands this and provides a conclusion to match.