... an engaging work that blends history with travel and food writing ... Jacobsen delves into the sometimes twisting history of this food, as well as into the science that makes truffle farming possible. Even as he examines the fungi’s complex history and analyzes questions about who gets access to truffles, Jacobsen’s writing remains accessible, unlike the costly object of his desire ... a compelling story, but Jacobsen doesn’t leave readers empty-handed when the tale ends. The book also includes a glossary of truffle types, resources for acquiring your own truffles and recipes for after the decadent fungi arrives. It’s an appropriate finish to a delicious book.
In Lucy Corin’s The Swank Hotel, there are moments of pure clarity. In its explorations of corporate America, of familial loss and grief, and of 2008 recession-era life, the novel shines. But in its interstitial space, darting from one narrator to another in the tangled web of love, relationships, and confusion, the novel puzzles. This is not a book to read in an afternoon, but one to chew and digest over time. And when given this space, we still may not understand ... On corporate life, Corin nails the crafted persona such an environment craves, showing us that there is an inherent madness in our day to day lives ... It is in these moments that the novel comes together, but in its inclusion of the surreal, things fly off the rails. Strange dreams permeate the minds of Em, Frank, and other characters. A sewn-up mouth jars the reader, but what it adds up to remains to be seen. Sexuality and horror, in the form of extended pornography scenes and pages of dead baby jokes achieve a tone of aversion, but read as accessories to the main throughlines ... While some digressions, such as the My Strange Addiction episode summary on urine drinking, contribute to the characters’ struggles with madness, others feel like dangling threads without resolution. The structure of the work veers from novel to collection of isolated vignettes, reminiscent of Corin’s earlier work One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses. But in this work the vignettes are abandoned and return to the main story and its central players, leaving the reader wondering what their ultimate significance really was ... The novel is far from comfortable, its ideas and prose are densely packed. Corin’s skill as a prose stylist cannot be discounted, she demonstrates over and over a deep understanding of her characters and literary ideas. But how these ideas come through on the page is wholly uneven. The novel begs for rumination in between periods of confusion. Such is the nature of madness.
... brilliant and surreal ... The voices of other characters add different perspectives to Em’s story ... Set against the 2008 economic crisis and the search for Osama Bin Laden, Corin’s novel unveils the madness that permeates society by scrutinizing trauma, cultural expectations, and the political and economic climate of the twenty-first century.
... moving and discursive ... We all have our preoccupations and distractions, Corin indicates, and sometimes they’re benign. Unfortunately for Em hers will take a darker turn and may finally alert her to the effect her role as caretaker of a mentally ill sister has had on her own psyche. But given the book’s several narrative voices, not to mention the pieces inserted in a sort of pastiche (including an episode of a TV show titled My Strange Addiction), some of Corin’s own preoccupations and distractions can make her plot difficult to follow.
The author depicts a culture of truffle finding, trading, and eating that is as complex as the aromatic stew of ingredients that goes into one, and he commits to paper lovely images that combine both intrigue and a certain level of surrealism ... Fans of pungent flavors—and pungent prose—will enjoy this mouthwatering grand tour of a culinary treasure.
... insightful ... Though the story’s narrative course proves occasionally circuitous and tricky to follow, the peripheral stories generally serve to unearth the characters’ innermost feelings, shining a light on anxieties that are not so easily articulated. Marked by Corin’s limber voice, this brims with genuine depth and humor, particularly when unacquainted characters discover previously-unseen commonalities, as is the case with Em and her gruff coworker, Frank, a former manager whose own relationship with his lover Jack is marked by instability. Delightfully askew, Corin’s work offers a memorable exploration of how a loved one’s mental illness can impact an individual’s outlook.