In Tea’s hands, sobriety, love and something like happiness are stranger and more unsettling than bohemian decadence could ever hope to be ... Black Wave retains the off-kilter realism of the best apocalyptic writing: The nightmare is like our world, only a little more so.
...a startling, engaging, and incisive novel ... The experience of reading Black Wave is immersive and eerie, a version of our own world that feels abruptly and dangerously close to home in its coast toward oblivion. It’s a fantastic mélange of tropes and techniques ... Plus, again: the prose is fucking gorgeous, the characters are hilarious and upsetting and miserable, the world is heart-stopping in its strangeness and bleak crawl to the edge of the cliff, then its tumble over the edge.
Tea's book plants a flag by vigorously continuing the legacies of feminist writers like Eileen Myles, Maggie Nelson, and Audre Lorde ... both a sprawling ode to the people who have filled Tea's life as a poet and LGBT activist, and an earnest introspection on writing, addiction, love, and political violence ... Tea harnesses the tension born of the book's hybrid form to offer candid, even analytical, meditations on what life as a queer artist can be like ... the shift toward the apocalypse can feel abrupt, distracting from the myriad and rich lives Tea has already painted so well ... Black Wave is a testament to the power that opens up when a writer dismantles the rigid borders of social hierarchies, and of genre.
At first, Black Wave seems pleasantly familiar, a messy, lightly fictionalised beat memoir of hangovers survived and conquests made ... Somewhere along the freeway, Tea smashes this narrative into little mutant fragments that diverge and intertwine. A meta-Michelle commandeers a few chapters: an older writer at her computer, attempting to reshape her past into something universally resonant. This is a space for Tea to reflect on who gets to tell stories and how ... It’s this rawness that makes Black Wave so disarming, a rollicking hallucinatory fantasy that’s as sobering as cold air. It’s about power – who possesses it and who doesn’t, and how easy it is to abdicate the little you have. It’s sentimental and reckless and not quite like anything I’ve read before. An apocalypse novel that makes you feel hopeful about the world: could anything be more timely?
...delightful on both a narrative and a metatextual level ... its lyrical yet lucid prose is both beautiful and easily digestible ... Tea evocatively captures the malaise of her particular 1990s queer subculture. Indeed, for those who lived through that period, Black Wave is laced with tiny, perfect details ... By writing in third person, she primes her audience to understand from the very beginning that her narrator is both she and not she. Throughout the book, she calls out her own inherent biases and flaws of perception.
Tea perfectly captures both the debauchery of that era’s queer culture and the first dot-com boom’s losses ... Part of Black Wave’s power is in its honest remembrance of ’90s San Francisco life, and thriving queer culture, a portrait of an important chapter in the city’s history. It’s also a love letter to literature’s lasting power and the ability of writing to save one’s future.
Michelle Tea is often classified as a contemporary Beat, and one of my favorite things about Black Wave is that it eschews the Beat’s glamorization of poverty ... beyond the effects of its warped reality on time, the science fiction aspects of the novel don’t seem necessary. It may be their relative superfluity that make the post-apocalyptic setting mildly confusing...As far as distractions go, though, Tea’s brave experimentation with genre is of little detriment to the novel ... Black Wave is a grotesque, hilarious, gorgeous exploration of what it means to write honestly about one’s life, and to be honest with oneself.
The language with which she describes the space between cities is that of her world, sexual and brazen, with a dark wit, because what is landscape without its human framing? ... Tea knows how to turn the conundrums of life-writing inside out, and commentary on the ethics of including close others runs alongside the fantastical possibilities of various possible ends ... Michelle’s fantasies are as much about escaping herself as they are exemplary of the death drive of the western imagination, which continues to project dystopian dreams while other communities live through them.
...[a] gritty and shrewdly constructed meta-fiction ... Tea writes Michelle mouthfuls of agitated prose reminiscent of Salinger. As Michelle descends into a spiral of poor decisions, making always the worst possible choice, she interrogates herself on the page as she writes the story, allowing us to see her erasure of painful memories and people. Tea forces us to consider what we’d rather not remember from our own lives ... Tea shifts gears sharply mid-novel and lives out the apocalypse in a used bookstore, half-drunk on jugs of wine. Though its second half isn’t written with the same intensity as the first, Black Wave remains ambitious, raw and wholly readable.