Rave4Columns\"The book’s main setting—a drab, inconvenient hotel in an ugly minor city in southern Europe—functions as a wide empty stage on which Cusk’s astringency and intelligence can stand forth in all their bleak beauty and rigor ... Kudos has a confessional, ruminative quality reminiscent of W.G. Sebald, along with a Sebaldian weltschmerz. A recurrent theme is that of losing one’s illusions, seeing life—especially life as a woman—as it truly is, and having the strength and honesty to tell one’s truth ... Flowing forth with little to no prompting, the characters’ polished, literary monologues continually threaten to disrupt the larger realism of the novel, but somehow their artifice fails to undercut their power to engross ... Refracted through fictive others, her vision is more powerful and polyvocal, and at the same time the loneliness that haunts her work is made more bearable and resonant by being shared and affirmed by this community of fellow sufferers.\
Positive4ColumnsAlthough the themes that emerge in his earlier work—blindness, the provinces versus the capital, the pervasive, double-edged power of actors and acting—are everywhere in The King Is Always Above the People, there is stronger fabulist tendency on display in this ten-story collection ... While Alarcon’s new short fiction has the same preoccupations as his previous work, the realism that lent the first stories their verisimilitude and texture seems to be on the wane ...has its compensatory gains in the broader resonance of fable. It’s tempting to say, especially of so precocious a writer, that it’s an instance of a late style arriving early.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewEvoking a seductive mood of longing mixed with regret, The Destroyers is an impressive literary thriller. It honors the genre’s implicit guarantee of murder while balancing any shortcomings in action with stylistic panache and psychological insight ... Chief among this book’s pleasures are the crisp, cleareyed registrations of Greece that seem to trip off Bollen’s fingertips at will ... Bollen is just as good at sketching the essence of a character with a phrase or two ... Despite its sleek, Patricia Highsmith surface, The Destroyers does occasionally overreach its grasp. The title refers to a game invented by Ian and Charlie (involving imaginary killers in black balaclavas), but Bollen’s attempts to turn it into a master metaphor feel clumsy ... Still, Bollen demonstrates a generally sure hand with the thriller’s death-propelled events, which frees him to explore afresh certain timely (and timeless) themes: the constraints on friendship in adulthood, the double-edged sword of money in its scabbard of family, and — especially — the weightless coming to terms with no longer being young.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...once it emerges from the adolescent-rebellion stage of its development, surfing presents itself as a problematic passion, and it is one of this book’s many great strengths that it unflinchingly addresses the various forms this problem takes as Finnegan grows up, commits to a career as a journalist and has a family ... There are too many breathtaking, original things in Barbarian Days to do more than mention here — observations about surfing that have simply never been made before, or certainly never so well.