In Good on Paper, translation serves as a continual metaphor for relationships: Translation is a kind of betrayal because pure fidelity to a text is impossible ... Cantor creates a compelling vision of what love is. It's not a feeling but — like translation — an act: a willful opening of one self to another.
Ms. Cantor is unafraid of asking big questions explicitly, like whether fidelity — to texts or to people — is possible. The complicated details of Romei’s schemes and Shira’s past start to pile up and will satisfy lovers of plot, but the novel is at its strongest when Shira’s voice is loosely playful and ruminative.
Cantor is excellent on the challenge of translation, the intertwining roles of traduttore/traditore – translator and traitor. Good on Paper is littered with illuminating and often amusing insights ... Good on Paper is a multilayered, cleverly structured novel. The balance between an emotionally engaging tale of family on the one hand and an intellectual exploration of translation on the other is not always perfect, but, despite this, Cantor creates a playful and rewarding read.
Ms. Cantor ingeniously matches the dilemmas of poetics to personal matters ... So it’s a letdown when, in the novel’s final third, this deft juggling act collapses ... Pat biographical summary takes the place of textual interpretation, and the book flattens into a soap opera. Good on Paper tantalizingly tinkers with storytelling novelties, but it ends up in old and familiar territory.
... [an] elaborately spun novel, which thrives on wordplay and intertextual echoes. There are no fewer than four stories running and merging through the novel, each nudging and pulling at the others, a feat that makes Good on Paper an engrossing read and an invigorating subject of study.
Cantor's writing is slick but the highly specific quirks and personalized neuroses of the characters can be a distraction from the more concrete pieces of the narrative ... Readers expecting a madcap detective story might be surprised to learn that the novel only borrows from the genre, never completely embracing it. Ultimately, Cantor's prose uses language as a living extension of her characters, but sometimes overlooks the fact that language is only one working cog in their overall construction.
...the novel’s intellectual vigor is also its Achilles heel. Good on Paper is, at its core, about the struggle for intimacy, between authors and readers, between writers and translators, and, especially, between lovers. Cantor is particularly focused on the limits of language and communication, and Shira is plagued by what gets lost in translation, in her work, and in her life. Unfortunately, the novel itself suffers from a lack of intimacy.
Good on Paper is well-suited to our global world: set in New York, with plot threads in Rome. Though at times a bit too tied to textual analysis of Dante's work, and a little too taken with wordplay, there is an absorbing story here, and affectionate character development.
Cantor’s passages on the practice and theories of translation are a geeky pleasure to read, but it’s the odd overlaps she creates between Shira’s work and life that lend the book its rich, neurotic character ... Occasionally, Cantor lays the overarching translation metaphor on too thick. But she does use a fine web of plotlines to illustrate, humorously and compassionately, how many human acts are translational ones, carrying with them the possibility of a slight or betrayal or in some cases, a simple misinterpretation.