...this collection is of the highest standard among younger British authors that I’ve come across ... let me urge you to read him since, on this evidence, he is one of those rare writers with skill in all the disciplines that first-rate fiction requires ... these nine stories about very different men are replete with richly observed humanity, caught on the page as if in the midst of lives that extend backwards and forwards beyond the time we spend with them.
The publisher calls All That Man Is a novel, but there’s very little explicitly interlinking its separate narratives. The stories cohere instead through their single project: an investigation of European manhood ... The risk of heaviness in the symbolism is nearly always avoided by Szalay’s prose, which is frequently brilliant, remarkable for its grace and economy. He has a minimalist’s gift for the quick sketch, whether of landscapes or human relationships.
The effect is something like emergency writing for our times: intense, direct, daring, and also somewhat limited and repetitive. The men’s slightly different crises are united in being crises ... Despite Szalay’s wariness about conventional fiction-making, he has an admirable fearlessness for swiftly entering invented fictional worlds ... His book is also bracingly unsentimental about male desire and male failure. Because he writes mostly from inside his characters’ heads, in jagged bursts of free indirect style, he can present his reduced and impaired men without judgment or commentary ... Put aside the absence of female leads; it would be a welcome gift if the male ones just achieved joined-up thoughts. Their limitations set limits on the complexity of the book.