Like her previous books, [Robertson's] latest is a work of buoyant loveliness and muscular erudition, a lush thicket of thoughts that here enrich the ease and breeziness of personal narrative with the chewier textures of history, criticism, and literary theory ... Robertson’s writing folds, continuously, crossing timelines so now and then stand face to face. Between them is a fertile playing space in which Robertson thinks roundly on subjects such as authorship and inheritance and the imposition of the oddball, unshakable conditions called feminine, called poet, called I ... part of the delight of this book is wrestling with how exactly to apprehend and define this Escher-like interiority that Robertson and Hazel Brown cohabit—kind of—with [Baudelaire] ... Robertson/Brown is not flatly enamored of Baudelaire (readers may get weary and need to drop a ball once in a while when juggling a three-in-one writer-mind) ... Robertson, with feminist wit, a dash of kink, and a generous brain, has written an urtext that tenders there can be, in fact, or in fiction, no such thing. Hers is a boon for readers and writers, now and in the future.
Throughout the book—part Künstlerroman, part biography, part artist’s statement, part political tract—we track Baudelaire’s bourgeois dispossession, his revolutionary and then reactionary politics, his love, his losses, his furniture, his friendships. All this interpenetrates with the loose and jumbled story of Hazel’s artistic awakening as she spins a set of concepts into a tapestry of memory and desire ... as Hazel reads philosophy and cleans apartments and seduces men and writes in her diary, she grows into herself, in glimmering, beautiful sentences that illuminate as much as they obscure ... An intense if abstract portrait of the poet as a young woman in search of a kind of language that might lead to liberation.
... a heady, meditative look at art, the self, and the complex relationship between the two ... The prose oscillates between Hazel’s scrutiny of her younger self—living in Paris, clumsily beginning to write, having sex—and contemplations of, for instance, the erasure of Baudelaire’s mistress Jeanne Duval from a painting by Gustave Courbet ... A difficult work of ideas, by turns enlightening and arcane, part autobiographical narrative, part literary theory, Robertson’s debut novel, for those interested in possibilities of fiction, is not to be missed.