MixedSlant... a deliberately scattershot affair ... Many of these stories were written in response to specific prompts, or for a particular venue or event (a live reading at a writing conference), and only occasionally transcend those origins ... Lennon has proved himself a master of brevity with his clever, melancholic Pieces for the Left Hand. But the one-sentence \'Death (After)\' feels like it was rescued from his Twitter drafts folder, and in the four paragraphs of \'Unnamed,\' Lennon serves up little more than a glib metaphor (life as a truck rolling downhill). Elsewhere, among the absurdist marital dialogues, one-page ditties on death and desire, aphorisms, and syntactical and formal games, we find amusing slices of life ... In general, the longer pieces in the book find Lennon as his very best.
J. Robert Lennon
PositiveSlant... a novel with a key. But rather than shocking us with a twist ending, Lennon gradually clues us (and the narrator herself) into what’s really going on beneath the surface. This process is heavy-handed at times ... The narrator’s metaphorical sublimations of traumatic events and relationships tend toward the obvious, and one of the recurring images, of a jigsaw puzzle filling itself in on a table in the guesthouse, reads like a cliché. But Subdivision is never less than riveting, thanks to Lennon’s lean and evocative prose, our thrilling inability to predict what will happen next, and the certainty that it will be something surprising and disturbing.
RaveSlant MagazineNors’s stories progress in associations rather than drawing straight lines between narrative points ... Nors weaves such striking imagery throughout her stories, leaving us to intuitively make sense of how everything fits together ... Occasionally [Nors] pulls back a bit, challenging herself to write a more naturalistic story a la Raymond Carver, where events unfold in linear order and the prose calls less attention to itself ... Nors’s deft touch gives rise to her unusual way of structuring her stories; in the hands of a less refined prose writer, it would all seem a mishmash ... [Nors\'s] work is engaging on multiple levels. One hopes, then, that the author’s influence can spread far and wide. Some younger North American and European writers, such as Nicolette Polek and Katharina Volckmer, have lately joined the small-book tradition, and if the 2020s bring a rise in the popularity of small books, it will be a trend worth celebrating.
RaveSlant... represents a struggle to break free from one’s haunted national roots ... The nature of the titular appointment is revealed only gradually, turning the reader into a sharp-eyed detective looking for clues ... Things are clarified soon enough, but the novel’s chief pleasures lie not in its initial mysteries, or in its eventual, often unsurprising revelations, but in its bitter, Bernhardian comic tone ... Writing in such a diegetically rigorous mode presents a particular challenge when it comes to parceling out basic exposition. A conventional first-person narrator might offer an unprompted description of the exam room, its furnishings, and of Dr. Seligman himself. Here, such details—Seligman’s male-pattern baldness, the picture frames on his desk, the room’s red velvet walls—must be salient enough for the narrator to comment upon them aloud ... Volckmer’s elegant construction never draws attention to such writerly maneuvers; physical descriptions, hints about Dr. Seligman’s practice, and information about other characters mentioned throughout accumulate naturally and never feel shoehorned in. Likewise, Volckmer’s unfussy sentences rarely impress but never distract or interrupt the book’s flow. At a time when so few novels are published of which even that much can be said, Volckmer’s \'mere\' competence—her avoidance of clunky similes and unwieldy syntax—is refreshing ... So, too, is her gleeful provocation, which, like that of Ottessa Moshfegh, is never in service to glib nihilism or amorality. In fact, this is a deeply moral book, one that, beneath the graphic sex talk and raucous vitriol, is concerned with contemporary Europe’s historical trauma, the oppressiveness of traditional gender roles, and one’s personal responsibility to the past. It remains to be seen what kind of career Volckmer will have, but consider The Appointment a warning shot fired across the bow of the modern novel.
MixedSlant... nothing short of frustrating. Gould’s writing comes to life when revealing the intricacies of a mother-daughter relationship, as it does extensively in the latter two of the book’s three parts. But her approach to writing about music leaves much to be desired. Music drives the lives of her characters, but you almost wouldn’t know that from the lack of musicality to Gould’s prose ... Gould skillfully tracks Marie’s struggle with depression and Laura’s guilt about feeling unfulfilled by a life devoted to parenthood ... Laura’s musical aspirations and how they conflict with her responsibilities and identity as a parent—never feels as alive as the mother-daughter relationship. Early chapters, when Laura is young and childless, fail to show what it is, specifically, that songwriting does for her. For one, Gould isn’t quite up to the task of transmogrifying music—a fundamentally non-verbal art form—into vivid sentences. Throughout, Perfect Tunes is full of vague descriptions and clunky dialogue, and when it comes time for Gould to express the feelings brought on by a great song—or even capture the reasons that music is so important to her characters—she either avoids the matter or simply flounders ... Especially in the novel’s second section, Gould very much misses the opportunity to dazzle readers with descriptions of Laura performing with Callie for the first time in years, and to an enthusiastic crowd...By the end, the reader never gets to feel the moment, to experience it firsthand ... Gould completely avoids telling the reader anything substantive about the fruits of her protagonist’s creative labor. This is a disappointing deficiency of ambition in an otherwise engaging and moving look at a woman’s interpersonal relationships.
PositiveSlant... [Sayles\'s] rare ability to inhabit the intersecting perspectives, motivations, and desires of a diverse dramatis personae is in full evidence in his new novel ... Recalling Upton Sinclair’s Oil! in its canny political observations and vivid descriptions of drilling and extraction techniques, Yellow Earth is about the economic stratification, moral corruption, and opportunistic exploitation fomented by capitalism ... While most of Sayles’s characters are morally compromised, rather than purely good or evil, he’s guilty here of crafting a cartoon villain: Brent Skiles, a steroidal, Ayn Rand-quoting drug runner ... More compelling are less prominent characters ... When taken together, the sequence of chapters creates not a sense of omniscience, but of kaleidoscopic subjectivity. Without falling prey to false \'both sides\' equivocation, Sayles masterfully balances and gives fair hearings to competing agendas and doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of human nature; by the same token, he doesn’t give in to cynicism or despair. What animates his fiction is curiosity about different kinds of people and their experiences, and an imagination expansive enough to portray their inner lives. He doesn’t fetishize diversity, but his stories are naturally diverse as a result of his engaged interest in the world around him. Now entering the fifth decade of his career, Sayles remains a standard-bearer for the American novel.