PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksGaitskill’s responses are so deeply intelligent, so idiosyncratic yet insightful — can I be blamed for wishing she would turn her gaze to more timely subjects? This is not to say any of this work is without merit, but rather to admit, quickly and sheepishly (even peevishly) that I felt a bit the cherry-picker before a bowl of melon-heavy fruit salad ... That’s how the best of these essays work: as a clanging, double-bell-alarm-clock wake-up call for those of us who have ceased to notice or question or understand our own experiences, who have, indeed, failed to recognize what we are doing to ourselves by wandering through life in a self-imposed fog ... Compelling as Gaitskill’s cultural criticism may be, ['Lost Cat'] is the essay that made me wish for more like it ... here comes Somebody with a Little Hammer, Mary Gaitskill, to demolish not just anyone who would deny us our frailties, but the defenses we ourselves construct to keep our humanity hidden away in the dark.
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe tone of The Nest veers a bit wildly sometimes, full-on satirical here and rather more realist there. Certain characterizations look to be drawn with a cartoonist’s brush, and seem a bit judge-y themselves. But these are tiny splotches on the large, lushly populated canvas of the book, which concerns itself with the inherently universal theme of money and the ways having it, not having it, or expecting to have it and not getting it after all, ultimately shapes how we create — or destroy — our lives ... Like her literary ancestors (Austen, Dickens, James, and Wharton, to name a few — though in tone Thackeray seems perhaps closest), Sweeney nails the social and psychological import of money in a particular time and place.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksBerne has a gift for navigating the subterranean currents coursing under the skin, and she shares the inner lives of her characters more generously than they — than we — often do with one another.