Ellmann’s polemic is a medley: a wickedly funny, rousing, depressing, caps-driven work of linguistic gymnastics hellbent on upbraiding the deleterious forces of the prevailing misogyny, focused especially on the US ... Blistering statements cover a clutch of cultural reference points from Aristophanes to Audre Lorde ... entertaining without being haranguing. Attentively negotiating a bleak world, the sentences remain joyous constructions ... At their brightest, Ellmann’s own pyrotechnics are ones to savour.
... caustic, clever, occasionally exhausting and frequently funny ... While Ellmann’s arguments rarely deviate from left-wing feminist orthodoxy, what the collection lacks in surprise it makes up for in wit—she is the schoolyard ally you want on your side, always ready with the killer comment. These can occasionally seem cheap, particularly when a well-positioned zinger comes at the expense of fact...or when tenuous arguments are proffered for the sole purpose of wordplay ... As much of the world leaves the pandemic behind...our nostalgia for the past may well be tempered by the recognition of what our world was actually like before. Perhaps, with Lucy Ellmann’s book in hand, this jolt will be enough to make us reconsider how we go about our lives.
... 14 witty, provocative, but often passé essays ... Is Ellmann serious? I think so, but her cunning is to keep her reader guessing at whether she genuinely believes what she writes ... As a polemic against the patriarchy, Ellmann’s collection has coherence, but individually, the essays veer from the incisive to outdated ... Many of the ideas in this collection are also present in Ellmann’s fiction, and in several cases fiction is an infinitely better vehicle for them. What feels extreme in the cold, hard prose of non-fiction feels meaningful in the context of a story ... It’s in the titular—previously unpublished—essay that Ellmann reminds the reader what she’s capable of doing with language ... But as the refrain builds into something bigger and more powerful, the essay gives credence to the suggestion that Ellmann is one of the few writers producing modernist work for the contemporary moment.
... witty and refreshingly acid-tongued ... Ellmann’s unselfconsciously candid, even aggressive, left-leaning, feminist—slightly dated?—politics, although centred on American exceptionalism, would, hopefully, rap the fleshy knuckles of smug, entitled male readers around the world. Ellmann’s grouse is old but it still holds true for this virus-ridden new world order ... The pleasure of these prescriptions is that Ellmann leaves us guessing whether she is serious about her lines of treatment. This element of playful elusiveness makes it difficult for both admirer and adversary to peg her to the tyranny of odious preachiness. But there is no mistaking her ability to join the proverbial dots between the personal and the political ... Things Are Against Us often reads like a free-wheeling, eccentric, exhausting, searching, illuminating, not-entirely-unpredictable monologue that, wondrously, blurs the line between the individual and the collective. This kind of rage is especially cathartic at a time when a misplaced moral ethic has succeeded—almost—in vilifying righteous anger.
In this offbeat essay collection, novelist Ellmann...addresses complex systemic ills alongside petty grievances in an acerbic and hilarious litany of complaints ... Readers of Ducks, Newburyport will be familiar with her expansive writing style, which here manifests as a plethora of footnotes...and can occasionally be disorienting. Nevertheless, fans of feminist satire will delight in these rants and ruminations.