MixedLos Angeles Review of BooksMuch of what we learn about her in the biography involves a certain everydayness, not the flashing of a brilliant mind at work. She is getting surgery on her middle toes or dealing with bacterial illnesses. Other days, it’s leaky roofs and squirrels, packing and unpacking, acquiring furniture and handling suitcases. This is the stuff of life; I am not faulting Curtis for including it (especially if this is all we really can know about Hardwick). But the regrettable impression one gets from the biography is that Elizabeth Hardwick is not exactly worth knowing. The complexity and interestingness of her writing seems to exist at a mysterious remove from her life, which is lived by a person who, at least on record, spends a lot of time gossiping, griping, and scolding other people ... One starts to wonder: where is the person who the poet Derek Walcott once described as \'more fun than any American writer I have known\'? ... With Hardwick’s short stories and essays, Curtis tends to summarize them, and then give telegraphic appraisals ... But she does not engage with Hardwick’s much-admired style. The biography is much more interested in stances. There is a diligent accounting, for instance, of her troubled relationship to feminism, and her concern for the poor and working class.
RaveThe White Review (UK)[Greenwell\'s] mouths do not kiss or meet, but tend to greedily suck at each other, tasting themselves. Windpipes are taut, anuses are silky, flesh is relentlessly sniffed, and pages are heavy with sweat ... The instability of desire, the uncertainty of who we are — these are Greenwell’s major themes. ‘[W]e can never be sure of what we want,’ the narrator says, echoing R., ‘I mean of the authenticity of it, of its purity in relation to ourselves.’ This is not just a concept — the rattling and opaque machinery of desire — but a formal condition. Commas and semicolons conspire to form breathless strings of clauses that fold back on themselves, and a total absence of quotation marks in dialogue often leaves the reader groping: Who is speaking? What do they really want? Can we ever understand? ... In these stories, Greenwell does not really analyse or anatomise desire; he narrates its unfolding: the play-by-play shifts of power and lust; the coiling of memory, suffering, and pleasure. It amounts to one of the more stunning accounts of sex in literature ... We should be grateful for the narrator’s surfeit. There is already enough coolness and restraint in contemporary fiction. Many writers want to affect or feel on the page, stroking themselves; Cleanness does the alternative job of arguing for sweet excess. Greenwell doesn’t indulge in sap but makes a claim for it: the baroque prose, the long switchback Jamesian sentences, the indiscriminate tenderness toward all things — humans, dogs, ruins. It’s an instructive potency. One puts the book down, and the light feels a bit hotter and the heart stings more sharply.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalHe’s filled with just enough venom to want to understand our culture and to criticize it with bruising eloquence ... any attempt at drawing a summary line around its variousness, its frightening range of ideas, or its abundance of voices would be like rounding up a pack of clever raccoons with a shoelace ... This is a collection that’s destined, if not designed, to defeat book reviews. There are too many Joshua Cohens ... Mr. Cohen’s overglutted collection can be exasperating, but it’s still cause for celebration and close study. He is experimenting with the essay form much more, and more cleverly, than any major American writer today ... Mr. Cohen also has a novelist’s knack for slipping in out and of tongues, acrolects and argots—amphetamine-fueled, neuroscientific, Heideggerian, Hebraic, pleonastic, demotic. Overmastering imitation, more than parody, is a keystone of his criticism.