MixedThe New YorkerHis memories are like scraps fished out of the shredder and reassembled into the shape of a monster; just to figure out the order of the events relayed in the book is a task ... What ensues is part Bonnie and Clyde, part Waiting for Godot, and part The Pilgrim’s Progress ... My own intermittent trouble swallowing the story made me feel like a race traitor more than once ... It’s possible to regard Wilderson’s manner of spinning toward and away from the particulars of a story without ever fully telling the thing as a critique of the Black autobiographical tradition ... Wilderson skids from one glint of perception to the next without much regard for grounding details or fluid transitions; in the middle of an anecdote, he tosses you down a chute and you find yourself stumbling through a thick tangle of theoretical jargon. He thinks vertically, in terms of hierarchies and structures; the horizontal time line is beside the point. He writes from history’s humid basement, or from its even less accessible underground bunker, and the plants that bloom in his writing are less floral than fungal ... It falls into a category sometimes called \'auto-theory,\' an attempt to arrive at a philosophy by way of the self ... One of the bleakest aspects of Afropessimist thought is its denial that there is any meaningful analogy between Blacks and other nonwhites ... Any system of thought that has refined itself beyond the ability to imagine kinship with the stranded Guatemalan kid detained at the U.S. border, or with the functionally enslaved Uyghur in China, or, again—I can’t get over it—with the Native American on whose stolen ancestral ground you live and do your business, is lost in its own fog.
Scott G Bruce
MixedThe New Yorker\"... quite terrifying ... The Book of Hell is determinedly Western and Christian in emphasis: Bruce regards Hades, together with Gehenna—where kings of Judah were said to sacrifice children by fire—and Sheol, the place of darkness awaiting all of us according to the Hebrew Bible, as the forerunners of Christianity’s fire and brimstone. He briefly acknowledges the older and vaguer pagan visions found in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia; Jahannam, Islam’s place of punishment, doesn’t appear in the book at all ... This first canto [from Inferno is] regrettably absent [from the anthology] ... One of my nightmares is to end up like Milton’s Satan—whose absence from the Book of Hell is Bruce’s one egregious mistake.\
RaveThe New Yorker\"In his position at the Times, Douthat is an essentially, if covertly, evangelistic writer, and he is most convincing when his tone is irenic, funny, and self-deprecating, and when he is willing to trade small, stubborn differences for broader agreements—when, in other words, he most closely resembles Francis. Both hope to win a soul or two, and both come across as willing, given their surroundings, to make a few compromises in the winning.\
RaveThe New Yorker...just as these pastel-hued structures ['Katrina cottages']—eventually found to contain harmful levels of formaldehyde—serve as semipermanent monuments to the storm, Sing, Unburied, Sing has the haunted quality of an afterlife; its characters seem stranded in an epilogue ... While the magical element is new in Ward’s fiction, her allusiveness, anchored in her interest in the politics of race, has been pointing in this direction all along. It takes a touch of the spiritual to speak across chasms of age, class, and color ... Sing, Unburied, Sing has a fairly straightforward plot. It is a novel of the road. Jojo, Leonie, Kayla, and Misty shuttle crookedly toward the prison from which Michael will be released, and where Pop, long before, lived out a nightmare. But its echoes of Pop and Mam’s values—synthesis, veiled things uncovered for good—make it rich, sometimes unbearably so ... Because of their mutual musicality, the three narrators often sound quite alike. Still, Ward’s tone is darkly appropriate to its purposes, and its origins. Lyricism slips in and out of favor in American writing; the 'plain style' of our Puritan past—with its insistence that quick comprehensibility is a pathway to democracy, and to the divine—is always with us. But there is a counter-tradition whose banner has often been carried by black women, including Morrison, Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, and, now, Ward.