... deconstructs intricate human preoccupations much to the same degree as recent voguer New York City fiction ... Mendelsund’s triumph this time around — one much more common in visual arts — is the active collaboration between his new novel’s subject and its physical form. This relationship between the way words are arranged on the page and their connotative meanings gives The Delivery’s economy an Odyssean intensity ... a narrative and typographic crescendo ... t’s the design of Mendelsund’s writing, rather than the content he writes about, that makes The Delivery a more felt experience of language acquisition than Wittgenstein’s rigorous dissection. The medium — which Mendelsund artfully transfigures like a cut key fashioned from a heavy blade and bow, or a microchip X-Actoed from a motherboard — is more vital than the message.
... often exquisite ... Mendelsund’s contained language takes flight ... Unfortunately, the novel picks up an annoying passenger: the narrator, who goes from unobtrusive chronicler to unruly guest at his own dinner party, sidetracking the reader with tales of his own unsettled adolescence and popping his head through the fourth wall to undercut his increasingly parenthesis-saddled account of the delivery boy’s adventures. The book — each section of which opens with an epigram from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations — eventually bogs down in philological digression ... Despite the overreach, Mendelsund shines a piercing light on a bottom-rung existence. As delivery takes on a meaning closer to grace, you root hard for the deliverer.
Although this structure is confusing at first, you come to feel as though consciousness here is layered like cellophane: one reality on top of the other ... An exhilarating freedom emerges as the delivery boy bikes further and further afield, thoughts flitting across his mind. He is in sync with the music of the city and almost becomes that music itself. Ultimately, you find yourself in a kind of dreamscape ... Does it sound a little gimmicky? It’s not. It’s more like a symphony played by various instruments. Despite its surprisingly boring cover, The Delivery more than delivers. I was enthralled — perhaps transported is a better word — from the first page right through to the magical conclusion.
This all works quite well, but does also give the work the feel of a concept-novel -- and one that is, in its execution, very enamored of its concept. It's clever, a neat riff on Wittgenstein, in a sense, and a neat example of what can be done with story-telling and where it and language can lead. Still, it ultimately also feels a bit too coldly neat, too -- not necessarily helped by Mendelsund's choice of a naturally emotionally wrenching refugee-story to build it on. Yes, it 'works', but it also suggests even more strongly the constructed feel of the whole, the workings all too obvious ... One can certainly appreciate what Mendelsund has done here, but the novel impresses mainly for its formal accomplishments and doesn't achieve the emotional response it also seems to be looking for.
... frustrating, but...thought-provoking ... The unconventional use of syntax slows the pace of the book, and imitates the rote, hurry-up-and-wait work of the protagonist ... the story of the narrator is in many ways more descriptive than the story of the book’s ostensible protagonist. The book never fills in key details about the Delivery Boy (his name, most notably), instead opting for a conscious erasure of the character. Just as the Delivery Boy is invisible to the customers he serves, he is invisible to us, the readers. In the end, Mendelsund is more interested in exploring the complexities of narrative and less so about fleshing out the life of his protagonist ... A reader’s enjoyment of The Delivery will mostly depend on if they share Mendelsund’s interest in these meta-fictional techniques. For my part, I found the most damning failure of the book was that its method of erasure-as-portrayal extended to its discussion of migration within the Delivery Boy’s life ... Rendering the book ahistorical necessarily leaves it apolitical as well. There isn’t any specific story the book wants to tell about the political violence in the protagonist’s past, nor is there any apparent relationship between his home country and the metropole. It’s disappointing that this book has nothing of substance to say about, for instance, the over ten million undocumented immigrants working in the US today in similar conditions to the book’s protagonist. The Delivery is a unique novel that devises clever ways to tell its story, but fails to ground itself in basic techniques of character development and plot. This experimental novel creates a compelling new world, but it’s hard to parse what exactly it wants to say about ours.
Peter Mendelsund’s new novel, The Delivery, is for most of its length a lean, sweaty, hungry thing ... Mendelsund adopts a telegraphic style, with page after page filled with one-sentence paragraphs separated by dashes. At roughly the book’s half-way mark, actual prose starts to infiltrate the narrative and slow it down, but before that it races breathlessly along with the delivery boy on his rounds. ... When the delivery boy finally, inevitably opens his mysterious payload, readers come almost literally to the novel’s last five pages ... It’s possible that Mendelsund saw the revelations of those five pages as some kind of neato-keeno clever twist, perhaps some meta-smart reflection on The Refugee Experience. But they are in fact a total betrayal of all the attention the reader has paid out in order to reach them. Those final five pages profane the spare eloquence of the book’s first half, completely explode any sympathy engendered by the book’s second half, and gut the whole point of telling this story in the first place. That’s no mean feat for only a handful of pages, and it turns any verdict on the book into some kind of mulish enigma. What’s a reviewer to say? The Delivery is an almost addictively engaging book, and that’s why you shouldn’t read it?
The graceful economy of language and a setting that feels almost like the real world are reminiscent of Kafka, while the halting prose echoes David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress. But as well as being a fable set in a semi-recognizable place, this is also a vivid depiction of what it means to be a delivery driver in a world of casualized labor. Like Johanna Stoberock’s Pigs (2019), Mendelsund’s novel is not only a parable of contemporary capitalism but also a wonderful story, one that just as it begins to sag instead launches into a magnificent final act. This is an assured, hugely enjoyable novel full of grace and wit from a writer with a unique vision of what fiction can be.
... stunning ... Mendelsund conveys the delivery boy’s experiences and memories in brief crisp cuts separated by ample white space, where what’s not said takes on great importance. The author’s playful sense of form and command of language make for an original and provocative novel.