... an unforgettable story of resistance, trust, faith and love. Starting with the novel's opening pages, Guggenheim fellow Ellen Feldman immediately grabs readers' hearts and never lets go ... The best works of historical fiction have a way of illuminating the present, allowing readers to better understand themselves through well-defined characters reflected in the prism of time. In Paris Never Leaves You, Ellen Feldman does this beautifully in a multi-layered, tender story that explores the emotionally charged, often parallel terrains of truth, deception, love and heartbreak ... That said, Lansky is a piercing observer of gay men and the often fraught relationships we have with our own bodies ... To anyone who thought Obergefell v. Hodges (the 2015 Supreme Court decision that affirmed same-sex marriage as a constitutional right) put an end to gay shame in America, Broken People provides a contradictory vision. We need more books like Lansky’s, ones that investigate why political progress doesn’t always translate to self-acceptance for queer people. But I can’t help thinking this particular argument would have been stronger if the protagonist had declined to take his agent’s advice.
There’s the strength of Lansky’s writing, which has an easy humor combined with some of the rough edges of early Bret Easton Ellis. And he writes with depth and candor about male body image, a subject that tends to get short shrift in fiction. A late section of the novel smartly explores how insecurity and anxiety turn into paranoia and sickness ... Lansky has plenty of keen observations, but deserves a stronger novel to support them.
...the most compelling is Sam’s thoughts and beliefs around HIV, which are surprising, nuanced, and compelling ... The novel captures a very now portrait of contemporary privileged gay male life, narrated in an authentic voice and painted in a full, ugly-to-beautiful spectrum.
Broken People, full of gorgeous meditations of quiet desperation like this, is a fever-dream account of whether any of us can change, whether our disappointments and discontents might forever disappear ... Sam’s cynicism of the process echoes in some way that of the reader. Lansky’s use of a trip to effect some deeper personal revelation is, while a bit flimsy, a strategy not to forget the body ... Lansky merges the florid, roving language of an unsettled mind with the churning, roaring, 'twisting and gawping' sensations within Sam’s organs. This vivid interplay, disconnect, and tension offers readers a beautiful portrait of Sam the inconsolable initiate ... Lansky’s choice to turn the seemingly true events of his life into a work of fiction, through the rather harrowing aide-memoire of an out-of-body trip, creates the distance a work of self-examination requires.
Set within the vividly realized framework of addiction recovery and gay life in America, this remains the story of one man’s deep personal struggles while at the same time speaking to and for all the broken people in this world. Some readers may twitch at the long drug trip, but it’s a deeply felt journey that many will want to take.
Lansky follows his addiction memoir...with a riveting novel about an L.A. writer named Sam who recently published a memoir about his drug and alcohol addiction ... Lansky’s mesmerizing descriptions are unflinchingly raw as Sam examines his life choices, his self-obsession, and his mistreatment of men in his life ... Lansky also offers a canny snapshot of modern gay life, with the specter of HIV hovering over intimate relationships. While Sam’s whining about his body occasionally grates, the author keeps the reader on his side with an endless supply of wit. Lansky’s tale of self-acceptance offers surprising depth.
The novel is strongest in its humorous moments. Sam’s experience on ayahuasca turns out to involve reliving in detail a series of messy relationships with men he loved in the past, which is not all that interesting, but it culminates in an intense spiritual experience which would be more compelling if Lansky had not chosen to call this a novel. Instead, we have an imaginary person healing imaginary damage with an imaginary drug experience, which seems to be a failure of nerve. To make this type of narrative interesting and meaningful, the psychedelic healing experience should be asserted as fact, as Ayelet Waldman did in A Really Good Day. If it’s all made up, who cares? This fervent testimony to the healing powers of ayahuasca would have been more powerful if published as nonfiction.