PositiveBookforumMalcolm is not the nicest writer, but she is far from the least nice ... Readers thrill or recoil not at what she says, but at the certain feeling that she could say much worse. Restraint is her drama. Perversity is her mood. Beauty and justice have in common a symmetry which the perverse among us seek to upset. Malcolm’s most beautiful writing is about childhood ... In Malcolm’s latest essays, Malcolm emerges unexpectedly as someone to call (in the millennial idiom, facetious but sweet) \'Mom.\' More tender, her observations a little off ... A 2016 essay on translations of Anna Karenina is the greatest source of pleasure in this collection; being both a typically gloves-off examination of an ill-fated subject—the husband-and-wife team responsible for making a number of Russian masterpieces too easy to read—and a playful denuding of the point.
RaveBookForumPassenger flight explains these incredible novels. At first, for several pages, it’s hard to relax. Why must we be in this stifled, banal environment, with no room to think? How long do we have to sit here? The air cools, dims. Suddenly we are on a higher plane. Transcendence is the only explanation ... in Kudos she is superb, undefeated. Cusk allows her narrator’s preternatural reserve to take on the air of fine, mystic judgment ... Subtlety. Variations. A form that almost resembles formlessness allows her to do the hardest thing in writing, irrespective of genius: to say what is there.
Elizabeth Hardwick, selected by Darryl Pinckney
RaveBookforumHardwick could do more in six words than any Hemingway type, including Hemingway. Her feats of compression were exactly that, special, not habitual, because she was not really laconic and liked words better than she liked choosing between them ... It was because she could traipse and trip up and take a second to recover, then seem only to have feinted and come arcing unusually back, that her performances on the page are so captivating. She wrote more best sentences than can possibly be good for the ego ... her writing still elicits the jitter and awe of watching a favorite figure skater take to the ice, too quickly, with a new routine ... Forty-one of the fifty-five essays in The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick were written for one of three magazines (the Partisan Review, the New York Review of Books, Harper’s Magazine) and yet, whether they are about hating Boston or trusting in Massachusetts transcendentalists, they are heterodox and differently mannered, with a feeling of occasional verse.
MixedBookforum\"Nutting can be obvious and jokey about skewing tropes but often it’s hard to gauge her taste level relative to her material, and to measure accordingly her ironic distance. Even whether she borrows from Fifty Shades on purpose or not is unclear ... The way Made for Love is structured, with two acts zigzagging between the misadventures of Hazel and those of Jasper, both nearly ending in suicide, and a whirlwind third act, allows for no spoilers. Of course they’re the two ending up together...Settling instead for more humanity, they end the novel like lovers in any classic rom-com, with a belated first kiss...A moment like this in a more gorgeous novel could be agony, and even here, downplayed to a note of regressive, sensible hope, it sounds so romantic. Here we find what our devices, so responsive and evolved, have yet to provide or reproduce. Not saying, but trying. Not touching, but almost touching. The unbelievable dumb ache of that almost, of being so close.\
PositiveBookforum\"It’s a law of \'addiction lit\' that what gets high must come crashing down, and stories like this that begin at a low point find a lower one. The turns are all here: rehab, relapse, recovery. The first two are handled with verve. The third is done in the second person, future tense—a voice I only want to hear on the hypnotist’s couch, and even there I find it ineffective. These final few passages are meant perhaps to subvert the inspirational mode, the message that when it can’t get worse it gets better, but Sharma sounds bored by her own discovery, which is that wellness is as repetitive as addiction ... A better idea, in Problems, is the late embrace of pain as a side effect of living.\
PositiveBookforumPrivate Citizens takes its title as a paradox, or as a challenge. To adapt a Jenny Holzer–ism, can people who aren’t political live exemplary personal lives? Is it possible to have politics without identity, or identity without branding? ... Tulathimutte’s realism tends to be hysterical as in ha ha, and his bouts of overplotting feel more like spitballing.