MixedPortland MercuryKlein’s gift for using a few relatable persons to carry readers through dense writing, which we saw in Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything, never finds a hold in On Fire. This is doubtlessly due to the book being a collection and not something Klein was able to seamlessly weave together ... Being broken up into essays does make the book easier to digest in segments, but the fact that these essays were likely constrained by word count may explain why Klein rarely spreads out from dense reporting into the non-fiction characterization we’ve come to love from her work. Another thing we expect from Klein, is her strength for drawing together related instances whose connectedness is not immediately obvious. And we do see this popping up reliably in On Fire ... On Fire is decidedly less optimistic than This Changes Everything, probably because the situation is a whole lot worse than it was in 2014.
PositivePortland MercuryThe core of Soft Science is the imagined experience of machines in relation to the experiences of queer, Asian American women. Through references to Turing tests ... Choi sketches a bold, relatable argument. The idea of having your humanity and personhood questioned, even as someone tries to fuck you, can be hard to look at—but for many, it’s all too identifiable ... Choi’s poems say things that couldn’t be uttered as successfully in any other art form. They simultaneously push language and society forward, a directive many contemporary poems neglect. When I look to poems, I’m interested in their ideas as well as their wordplay, and Choi’s pieces have plenty of both.
RaveThe Portland MercuryI love it ... a delightful, digestible nosh of useful tips from Mastromonaco\'s long career in politics ... full listicle book classification. Attempting this format is not for the faint of heart, but Mastromonaco\'s writing style—a hybrid of conversational yet organized—thrives in it. The book is like a personable note became a book (and the note was written by Alyssa Mastromonaco).
Julie Delporte Trans. by Helge Dascher and Aleshia Jensen
PositivePortland MercuryDelporte’s drawings are colorful, imperfect pencil sketches. The page compositions range from sparse single-images to lush, perfectly crowded pages of cities, drawing supplies, and nature scenes. It would be easy to dismiss Delporte’s work as childlike, but she actually knows the true secret of visual art: what to leave out ... exciting because it speaks aloud Delporte’s taboo personal conflicts: She’s terrified that motherhood would destroy her artistic practice, she wonders if she might be able to outgrow heterosexuality, and she often wishes she weren’t a woman. Her boldness in putting these ideas down gives hope that, though she may wander without living role models right now, Delporte may have some useful advice to the comics generation that comes after.
MixedThe StrangerKing of Joy is all the boring part of porn—the bad acting before the fucking ... Chiem excellently chronicles the sort of flirty conversation people have when they\'re too hungover to say anything worthwhile, but feeling just well enough to fuck ... Yet there isn\'t any fucking in the book. It\'s all blonde ladies named Amber saying things like \'I like your collarbone,\' and then the story artfully cuts away ... There are some memorable moments ... Chiem\'s prose flows forth like a broken faucet. I imagine some editor in the background frantically searching for the emergency water shutoff. Chiem ignores most punctuation, but he\'s allowed to skirt the rules because it works. It\'s too bad about the plot ... Ultimately, King of Joy is aimed at the heart of a very specific 1990s-era sensibility ... There are romantic descriptions of raves, and causal asides about Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes. I\'m probably a little too young for King of Joy, and a little too sober. I\'ve been to drug parties where people on the floor pawed at the person setting up lines, but I like to be realistic about it. Inside a drug haze, everything feels warm, genius, and epic, but we\'ve all looked at our notes the next day and realized the genius thoughts we had while high are usually nothing special.
MixedThe StrangerFeminasty is an easy book to inhale. Gibson blazes across the page like a firework shooting over a landscape of ALL CAPS and italics for emphasis. It can be hard to keep up at times, but it works for her. It isn\'t hard to backtrack as necessary. Feminasty reads like the Erin Gibson rants we’re frequently treated to on Throwing Shade, but the writing itself is much tighter. The asides and footnotes are all pertinent and charmingly snide. And there are sources. Gibson brought the realest weapon to the feminist fight: citations in the back. Feminasty is a Best-Friend Book. Reading it feels like having a feminist hype-woman in your corner. She’s taking patriarchal bullies apart with the catty, flippant venom they deserve. She’s pouring you a glass of something bubbly. She’s making you laugh \'til it runs out your nose.
PositiveThe Portland Mercury...the latest, impressive short story collection from A Strange Object ... It’s a dense and masterful book. It feels like a jungle in there, with bursts of flash fiction flitting between longer, winding, fleshed-out short stories ... I can appreciate stories that know their length and own it.
RaveThe Portland Mercury\"Unlike The Shape of Water, Broder’s novel has sexual situations and interactions that feel alarmingly realistic. There’s no romanticism. Instead there’s only delusion and inevitable embarrassment ... The only place Broder slides into magic realism is by giving Theo a tail. The rest of The Pisces is about the all-too-human crawl from immaturity into responsibility. In The Pisces, romanticism dies in a ditch—but perhaps Lucy had to fuck a fish to become human.\
PositiveThe Portland MercuryPeople with Down syndrome are not really understood,' Ball explains [in the novel's introduction]. 'It is not like what you would expect, and it is not like it is ordinarily portrayed and explained. It is something different.' That’s where you get the first taste of Ball’s elusive manner of writing. It’s both compelling and so ambiguous it makes almost no statement at all ... The book’s paragraphs flow easily and are wonderful to slowly sip on. There are so many breaks between thoughts that the novel’s physical structure comes to resemble a collection of prose poems ... I question whether this book says anything weighty about Down syndrome. But I enjoyed all the small metaphors within it, and how enchantingly they string themselves together into the journey of an unnamed man and his unnamed son jotting down names for their made-up census.
RaveThe Portland MercuryWinnette has a real gift for immersive voice, and in this regard, The Job of the Wasp resembles his previous book, Haints Stay. It might seem counterintuitive that a surreal gender-bending Western would have much in common with a Gothic mystery about murderous schoolboys, but Haints Stay, when boiled down, was about young people trying to figure out and survive their situation in the world.
Carmen Maria Machado
PositiveThe Portland Mercury\"I casually opened her collection Her Body and Other Parties, and it lit me on fire. I’ve experienced this with only a handful of writers—Diane Cook and Leanne Shapton among them—whose creativity and language are fearless and whose images are so specific and unusual that they carry heavier metaphorical resonance than something more homogenized ... Themes of lovers succumbing to mysterious ailments and the conflicts between those lovers—husbands and wives, or wives and wives—repeat throughout the collection. There’s a motif of people having sex in every room of a home, or on the floor of an empty house.\
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel & Ted Goossen
PositiveThe Portland MercuryMen Without Women contains a terrific waltz between the surreal and the ordinary ... At the end of Men Without Women, I was drawn to an uncomfortable idea: All this talk of dicks and insecurities had me really missing men, almost nostalgic for them. Murakami has once again gotten at something that is shared: He chose to name his collection Men Without Women, but from my perspective the feeling is mutual.
PanThe Portland MercuryI am sorry to report that Yuknavitch misses the mark, and we all go flying into the void ... Perhaps film will prove a better vehicle for the loose, concrete description-light Book of Joan. As a novel, though, it feels rushed and not fleshed out to the measure it deserves. Believe me, I want a Joan of Arc-inspired female messiah as much as the next person. But not like this.
PositiveThe Portland MercuryIt succeeds because it exists in two parts. The first 185 pages are an easily digested, idyllic Bernie Sanders history ... The second half of Our Revolution is an updated version of Sanders’ famous 2010 eight-and-a-half-hour filibuster speech. These core ideas made up Sanders’ platform during his nomination bid, and many of them made it into the Democratic platform that Hillary Clinton later ran on against Donald Trump. Sanders’ voice is very present throughout Our Revolution, and that affords the book a sort of feel-good quality as well. If you’ve forgotten how it felt when Bernie Sanders spoke and you wondered 'Could we really have such a nice world?' as your heart fluttered, this book will take you back there—and rev you up for the journey ahead.