... inventive, wise, and revelatory ... [Low's] willingness to hope comes through on every page, and the book never descends into easy despair or stylish nihilism, even when her doubts are at their deepest and her wit at its most barbed ... The kaleidoscopically interpretive text uses art to pause in its agitated meandering, and it’s a pleasure to hear her elucidations on particular creators, as well as the function of art in general ... Low turns an unsparing yet unexpectedly affectionate eye toward the comforting narrative fantasies we weave around ourselves in order to stay alive amidst circumstances hostile to the human spirit. In doing so, she provides a searching interrogation of identity, art, and a desire for a life beyond what we are told is possible ... brainy, humane, and indispensable.
... a consistently incisive and surprising new work of nonfiction ... The frequent meditations on global politics and contemporary works of art never feel like gratuitous digressions but constitute the most reliable pleasures of the text, and they serve to deepen what is ultimately an intimate and complex portrait of a life ... These various pasts are rendered in a present-tense prose that is direct and precise, consistently fresh, and admirably free from excesses of vanity or self-loathing. Recollections are handled like so many pieces of evidence that might throw fresh light on such old questions ... The conflict is familiar, but Low avoids the familiar responses, neither conforming to au courant progressive talking points, nor sinking into lazy, reactionary positions against them ... One’s ability to enjoy the wealth of insight and nuance to be found in Low’s book probably hinges on one’s patience for these sometimes melodramatic declarations — as well as the depth of one’s investment in staring down the ways we are complicit in the suffering of our fellow humans, one’s interest in altering the conditions that permit such suffering. The writing is consistently earnest, short on irony ... Whether or not one finds Low’s masochism to be a compelling political position, her inquiry will not fail to stimulate anyone who shares her belief that limiting our vision to that which appears 'pragmatic' and 'politically feasible' is a woefully inadequate response to the extremity of our moment.
... a mostly earnest, always engrossing long essay that charts a personal quest for utopia in the form of some kind of home. If this second book is not, frankly, as fun as her first, its pleasures are of an altogether different sort. Low has traded in the no-futurism of her suicidal phantasies in favor of dreams of revolution. A quixotic, improbably sentimental work, Socialist Realism longs for a better world while celebrating the minor joys of this one ... That self—Low’s narrative persona—is somewhat removed, obscured by the frothy buildup of texts she thinks through. More commentator than character, Low is most present as a seeking, questioning I-entity ... may itself be a kind of posturing: autotheory as a new experiment in self-on-self drag ... a searching book; indeed, as the questions keep coming Low achieves a vertiginous effect. Written in an engagingly casual, millennial punk style, it is eminently quotable, yet has moments of glibness ... Staging an evenly matched tug of war between the utopian and the quotidian, Socialist Realism yanks us ruthlessly from one position to the other until the two collapse finally on top of each other.
The book’s attitude towards place is that of a woman scorned ... Low takes...uneasy stock of her own memories, remaining skeptical of the generic expectations of self-discovery. The book’s primary concerns, though, are critical, not memoirist: Low asks whether art has a purpose beyond representation, and if there’s any point in political struggle. Both questions find resolution in an openness to pain ... Low’s orderliness is not that of generic self-help, but of an at-hand drawer of Hello Kitty Band-Aids, set aside for self-inflicted cuts ... The narrative of Socialist Realism operates paratactically, listing memories of grandparents alongside art-critical accounts of Sophie Calle’s exhibits or Svetlana Boym’s writing on nostalgia. Shifts are noted by section breaks (there are no chapter markings) and she writes mostly in the first-person present tense. Time markers offer progressive change, a promise undercut by recursion ... Socialist Realism might itself be a parable, in that it dares the reader to interpret it too literally—mistaking the showing of a wound for vulnerability, or uncertainty about political or artistic effects for a lack of commitment—but I count myself among the believers. It ends in an apocalyptic dream, followed by a homily. In Low’s telling, struggle, futility, hunger and love have something in common: they are not unrealistic.
It’s a stimulating pleasure to follow in fits and starts Trisha Low’s ideas and arguments of what it means to be hungry or what it means to be a housewife, and to adumbrate connections that emerge as she dissects the layers of the world as if it were an onion that naturally produces tears. I appreciated Low’s willingness to go far, but not further, laying things out bare without spreading any legs, showing me the guts without paying attention to the empty belly. There is something fascinating in her ability to analyze so clearly, something elegant in her preventing a mess from being one ... Confessional, intelligent. Sometimes the moments are funny. But in the end, in their totality, after 158 pages, those moments pushed me to not care. I was really glad to be done with this book ... It might have to do with form. It might have to do with length ... Maybe it’s not important to like the book as a totality. Being intrigued and inspired by little parts may have been all that was appropriate at this point, all that was possible right now. Maybe this is, more than anything else, about a series of starting points.
Low frequently moves around in time and space in the narrative, and it’s a testament to her skill as a writer that this feels organic rather than jarring. She invokes a disparate array of artists, family members and relationships past and present, and the cumulative effect is powerful. In her personal experience and in the art she describes, Low embraces the specifics of her own experiences and aesthetics but renders them into something thought-provoking for numerous readers. The result is one of the most evocative books you’re likely to encounter this year.
The essay’s structure is singular yet mosaic, chapter-less and broken into seemingly disconnected blocks of thought that are ultimately designed to be contemplated as a fractured whole ... To all of these topics, Low applies the full force of her compelling intellect.
This meditative work moves quickly, if not quite seamlessly, between memoir and cultural criticism, as poet Low...describes how she has pursued both a passion for radical politics and a sense of belonging ... Slipping smoothly between stylistic registers and across time in a relaxed stream-of-consciousness style, this highly readable, lyrical autobiographical essay promises much for Low’s further excursions into prose.