PositiveAstra MagWith surprising swiftness, Paloma’s murder fades to the background ... The first-person narration of Witches is digressive and intimate. We feel as though Zoe is speaking directly to us, and Feliciana directly to Zoe. And it’s a testament to both Lozano’s mastery of voice and Cleary’s translation that our two narrators’ voices feel immediately distinct and immersive. Feliciana’s voice is especially idiosyncratic, at first hard to follow, then, with time, poetic in its fluidity ... A wonderfully illuminating translator\'s note ... At the start of Witches, Zoe promises us a reckoning, a revelation. It never quite materializes. Early on, she says her conversation with Feliciana has transformed her perspective, though by novel’s end it remains unclear exactly how — the connective tissue between their two stories is tenuous, their symmetries never fully teased out ... Witches is a novel, not a piece of reportage, and on the whole Lozano doesn’t so much make critiques as gesture toward them ... Despite all this, Witches sets the ideal stage for Lozano to prove herself as a master of character study. Zoe’s chapters are particularly compelling ... While the precise nature of Zoe’s epiphany, and the role of Feliciana as facilitator, is still nebulous by novel’s end, the overarching theme feels crystal clear. It is, to put it crudely, that women should do — or at least try to do — precisely what they want, no matter the external pressures, expectations, or barriers they face. It’s not exactly a groundbreaking idea, sure, but it is, throughout Witches, quite elegantly illustrated.
Brenda Lozano, trans. by Annie McDermott
PositiveFull Stop... the novel is filled with many...weird and wonderful curiosities. The narrator’s journaling is confessional and freely associative, almost a stream-of-consciousness ... The cascading, scattered quality of the novel imitates the patterns of actual thought. Ideas emerge and overlap and blend together; the same anxieties and obsessions intrude again and again; a resurfaced memory or random encounter sets off a chain reaction of emotions. But Loop’s meandering structure also reflects its narrator’s concerns about living in a culture fixated on productivity and efficiency ... our narrator proves the profound importance of such useless endeavors, as it is our hobbies and personal interests and passion projects that make and keep us whole. Ultimately, Loop is a manifesto for inefficiency, even in the way it’s written—digressive, circuitous, goalless ... very much a writer’s novel: our narrator is a writer who writes about writing ... Lozano honors the patterns of life outside of literature. In life, there is no clear climax, no neat resolution.
RaveHyperallergicPop Song reads like the lovechild of Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City and Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not in the Mood, essay collections that consider art and love from the perspective of literarily inclined women. Pham’s essays are most successful when she enters a more critical mode and flexes her knowledge of visual art ... Most of Pop Song’s essays have a wonderful wandering quality; Pham excels at leading the reader down sinuous paths and arriving at unexpected insights. Still, some essays are admittedly bloated. Nevertheless, breakthroughs and epiphanies abound ... The art that moves me most is that which enables an experience of recognition, of reflection, of likeness. Reading Pop Song I had that same experience, with Pham giving language to the ineffable and assembling an arsenal of artists to help.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe Crying Book is a stunning work, a constellation of prose poems that plumb the depths of crying: how it feels, why it matters, and, perhaps most importantly, what it means ... Christle sets out to understand the significance of crying in every possible human context, adopting social, historical, and biological lenses to conduct her inquiry. Christle deftly balances her roles as researcher and research subject ... It is Christle, our own weeping subject, that makes The Crying Book so affecting. She studies tears tenderly, even intimately, motivated by a heartfelt desire to understand. What could have easily been a dry but informative volume on crying and its many meanings becomes a more holistic portrait of crying ... she proves to be a graceful navigator across that sea of tears, charting a path full of discoveries and arresting observations.
Carmen Maria Machado
RaveZYZZYVA[Machado]...both summons the past and reanimates her former self; she bends genre to her will, excavates meaning from chaos. She reconstructs the limits of form and narrative and structure, delivering a spectacular literary performance ... Machado wields language like a weapon then applies it like a salve. Her craftsmanship is especially evident in the structure of the book, which is styled as a series of vignettes, each playing with form and centered around a specific genre or trope ... But this isn’t about showing off Machado’s ability to deftly vault between genres (though she certainly can). Every new incarnation of the Dream House gives us a new line of sight, another perspective through which we can construct reality. Machado dissects the complexities of abuse, love, sex, and violence, all through a distinctly queer lens ... In the Dream House is no mere confessional: Machado also widens her aperture to analyze our larger culture ... Spending time with Machado inside the Dream House can feel uncomfortable, even claustrophobic—this is by design. It’s on us to linger in that discomfort, to feel—even just temporarily—as trapped and forsaken as Machado has ... Reading her memoir could in a sense destroy you, but it will reconstruct you, too, leaving you better than before you found it.
RaveZYZZYVAHowe is introspective, curious, and content when she is by herself. Many of the poems in Love and I celebrate the comforts of being alone ... autobiographical asides—brief flashes when Howe transforms herself from spectator to subject, and reveals herself to us—make for some of the collection’s most compelling moments ... In her poems, Howe paints vivid scenes and ho[m]es in on unexpected details, the kind that only catch the eye of the lonely. A keen observer and frequent traveler (she does most of her writing in transit), Howe’s gaze is wandering but sharp ... We spend time both inside the poet’s head and within her well-crafted scenes, leisurely bouncing between introspection and dialogue, opinion and observation ... When Howe does turn her focus to the notion of love and its many permutations, the results are enthralling. She speaks bluntly about the pains of attachment, abandoning lush imagery to get right to the heart of things ... Love and I is a meander through a singular mind, a mind that observes more sharply than many of us could ever hope to ... Her approach may not always be accessible, but Howe’s inquisitiveness, generosity, and care are easy to appreciate and impossible to resist.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksThroughout I Like to Watch, Nussbaum dedicates a rectifying amount of space to shows by, for, and about women. She takes much deserved deep dives into series that may not otherwise be taken seriously ... Above all, Nussbaum has elevated the work of women like few other television critics have. Her feminist lens does not limit her brilliance as a critic—it is instead a significant source of that brilliance ... I Like to Watch creates a new canon and celebrates a more inclusive notion of quality, beyond the confines of \'prestige\' ... as essential a critical companion as any of [Pauline] Kael’s books, and it establishes its author as Kael’s peer and heir—whether Nussbaum agrees or not.