There are beautiful descriptions of Berlin as she drifts through the city ... In synopsis this could appear slight, a difficult second album of a book. However, moment by moment, The Instant begins to accrue an extraordinary weight ... Liptrot’s is a brilliant examination of the dangerous power of smartphones ... Liptrot captures the flattening, insulating impact of handheld devices on the experience of travel ... It is a book distracted by everything: the migration of raccoons, stonemasonry, memory fragments, poetry and gnomic utterances. It is a literature produced by a writer with too many tabs open on their laptop, and because of that, it is the truest thing I’ve read in a long time. It feels revelatory to read serious, thoughtful writing on the sorts of experiences that so rarely receive it. The book is particularly sharp on the agony of a relationship’s aftermath in a digital age ... The Instant is the most elegant examination of the internet’s distance pain I have ever read.
A slim, impressionistic, often melancholy work that, along with following her adventures in a new place, grapples with ideas of solitude, romance and a life lived simultaneously online and off. This book is not as substantial as its predecessor, though that is not a criticism ... Liptrot brings the same sharp eye to the urban landscape that she did to the wild environs of Orkney, reporting both on what she sees and the ways it is filtered through her imagination ... Her writing is contemplative, but comes with pleasing flashes of grit and humour ... At the heart of The Instant is a yearning for new experiences, and for love and connection, with all the vulnerability that entails. On the face of it, these are unremarkable impulses but, in this intimate memoir, Liptrot’s achievement lies in making them feel remarkable.
A mark of a good writer is the ability to turn whatever interests them into interesting material for the reader. Scottish author Amy Liptrot’s new book is a case in point ... Liptrot is always engaging; her thoughts considered, the language lucid and judicious ... There is great depth of feeling in her writing, without ever being mawkish ... The tone of the book as a whole; refreshingly honest, written by someone concerned with truth as opposed to perception. Liptrot is a noticer of places, people and words ... The Instant is full of these kinds of strange, perfect descriptions by a writer who knows how to elide multiple worlds to illuminate the truths within each.
Liptrot avoids over-analysis: the reader is given a gap to get in, between the author and the scene, where they can form their own thoughts ... This gap could be read as a pose, a coolness, a circling over events as if from a great height. It could become frustrating, but in each book Liptrot eventually comes down to land on something, and it is the wait that gives the whole its brilliance.
She makes something distinctive of this chronically hip city ... She diligently searches for love, setting off on first date after first date. It’s a quest that can be surprisingly hard to write about – or at least write about well. It’s rarely heroic and inevitably entails flesh wounds to the pride if not spears to the heart, resulting in moping and tears. And because all a person ultimately has to offer is themselves, self-absorption is hard to dodge. (Liptrot doesn’t even try) ... Liptrot fills the longueurs with musings on the role of technology in our lives ... While it lacks the stark transcendence of The Outrun, The Instant does evocatively capture – and indeed honour – much that we try to shrug off when it comes to the often calamitous pursuit of lasting intimacy.
Amy Liptrot’s debut was...a melange of nature writing, grief, addiction memoir and close observation of both the world and herself. Her second book is similar and dissimilar in ways that are interesting. Again, there is meditation on addiction, again there is rumination on how the natural world might make us transcend ourselves. But there is more going on in this book. It might be seen as a pendant next to The Outrun but I feel The Instant is trying to be more experimental and daring, and it succeeds in this. There is a diaristic quality to the book, but it is structured and reinforced by more elegant manoeuvres ... She is almost excessively honest ... Though some of what she writes might seem ephemeral, it is structured through 13 moons. This grounds the book effectively ... The best part of the book, to my mind, was an account of Berlin roundabouts ... There is the dizzying fling. Although there are elements I recognise from, for example, Anais Nin I found the erotic moments awfully boring ... Yet this book has joys, and Liptrot has a graceful prose style.
Even as she ponders matters of the heart, Liptrot keeps the reader at arm’s length. She refers to most of her friends simply as “B”, which communicates her loneliness but also has the effect of feeling impersonal. There are loose ends ... The book reads a little like a diary entry, with only abstract impressions of people and places flitting by ... Liptrot’s prose is beautifully wrought, with plenty of observations that fellow members of the digital dating pool will empathise with, but the details remain vague and difficult to warm to, and her memoir falls prey to one of the pitfalls of the genre – of not wanting to give away everything, but in the end not giving enough.
The book blends memoir with nature writing, although Liptrot pushes the boundaries of the latter by surveying urban wildlife, traffic islands and the ecology of the internet ... The city remains at a remove ... Heartbreak is relatable enough, but the story lacks the self-discovery that one expects of a memoir ... The style of The Instant is more experimental than The Outrun ... There are glimpses of poetry in The Instant.