Reverberant ... [The Presence of Absence] sets in motion a gentle carousel of richly dimensional, comfortingly specific lives — while hinting at a vaster, deeper project ... Delicately yet viscerally, Van Booy has woven elements of his own experience into a more universal composite, a narrating Everyman ... Tantalizing ... Events arrive matter-of-factly, as a kind of Human Predicament roll call. Readers at once feel part of Max’s struggle to figure out what to do, much of it recounted with sly wit and an almost unspeakable tenderness ... Yet Presence also flows with so much depth and power it’s difficult to describe ... In some of the most beautiful prose of Van Booy’s oeuvre, Max ponders existence, memory, time — a voice with everything at stake and not one nanosecond to waste ... Presence softly sweeps aside such notions, replacing them with wide-open wonder.
In Simon Van Booy’s extraordinary novel, The Presence of Absence, each well-wrought sentence builds upon the next, taking us deeper into Max Little’s life with staggering lucidity ... Part Two is theatrically introduced as a quick, black scene change ... A mind-bending, affecting story that breaks the heart open with startling clarity, this book makes the reader want to take pen in hand to underline The Presence of Absences’ passages. That author Simon Van Booy has taken a universal subject most prefer to shy away from and creatively crafted an accessible work of high art is an unparalleled literary feat. The deft use of language in this tour de force fulfills its own mission.
Brief, formally playful, and fable-esque, the subsequent highly self-aware text is divided into two sections ... Pushes the ludic possibilities of words and syntax even further, experimenting with white space and the field of the page, as well as point of view ... This unusual and relentlessly self-reflexive approach allows Van Booy to tell not only the story of the doomed Little, but also to tell the bigger story of how stories are told — their inherently incomplete yet collaborative nature ... If you don't just like reading, but reading about reading — how 'words are communal yet bring material order through spiritual separation' — then this is the book for you.
Sentimental ... The concept of listening to a famous author reflect on life and writing is an appealing one, but the novel's aphoristic musings are often too pat to yield new insight or too abstract to reconfigure the reader's views ... The novel is most affecting when it commits to a narrative of its own ... A free-floating reflection on human connection that never quite touches ground.