The New Zealand poet and essayist Ashleigh Young writes many sly ars poeticas in her collection Can You Tolerate This?, a lovely, strange and profound debut that spins metaphors of its own creation and the segmented identity of the essayist, that self-regarding self ... Despite this collection’s interest in symbolism, it is also a catalog of immediate memories, arranged like snapshots in a photo album ... When Young leans on this ability to render the uncanny facets of her life, Can You Tolerate This? is an essay collection unlike any I’ve read. Reflections on the love and resentment she felt for a childhood pet and the affections shared between patient and chiropractor read like the mysterious short fiction of Robert Walser and Lydia Davis, resonating ambiguously in the reader’s mind long after they are over: morality tales with no moral ... Young’s greatest skills are subtlety and silence, relating truths through allegory and meaningful detail, so her missteps often come when she reaches too far for insight. A moving essay on her sister-in-law’s suicide is hampered by mundane musings on death and grief ... Young is often brilliant on the subject of the female body, but she is better at impressions than explanations ... That may be Young’s accomplishment in Can You Tolerate This?: connecting what are so often sneered at as 'women’s issues' to the true, universal mysteries of human existence.
...a stunning essay collection ... Her lyrical perspectives on quotidian moments had a universal quality that made me feel like I’d be right at home in the Antipodes ... wry, confessional, understated and often hilarious. Each piece lifts you up and deposits you in a place you never expected to find yourself. They startle with their immediacy and candor; they offer comfort even as they ask you to see things anew ... Young is a sharp observer who revels in her sense of the absurd and uses precise language and striking images ... The story is quiet in ways that catch you off guard, communicating a series of simple, everyday moments that, as Young shows them to us, shimmer with unexpected light ... Young, like the best essayists, writes with humorous self-regard about her own lived small moments, which reveal as much about us as they do about her. The intimacy of her stories creates a connection, making even a foreign place feel like home.
When poets turn to prose, images spark off the page and incantatory rhythms thrum in the minds of readers ... The feel of the reins is different: A taut power surges through the lines. Enter New Zealander Ashleigh Young, whose new collection of essays, Can You Tolerate This? is an edgy, vibrant portrait of electricity in language and the body in crisis ... Young infuses a quirky energy into her surreal moments ... These essays are interior, keenly felt, occasionally shocking, sprinkled with enigmatic bits of history ... Can You Tolerate This? adds up to a memoir prismed into multiple perspectives, drifting restlessly from first-person confessions to second-person meditations to third-person dramas ... In exacting sentences she probes the body’s mysteries ... These essays were reading me. She sees to the marrow of our humanity with a kind of MRI vision ... Can You Tolerate This? is an assured debut from a prodigiously talented, empathic writer whose prose shines as brightly as her poetry.