With the synthesis of memoir, criticism, and journalism for which she has become known, Leslie Jamison offers us fourteen new essays. In its kaleidoscopic sweep, Make It Scream, Make It Burn creates an exploration of the oceanic depths of longing and the reverberations of obsession.
... fabulously quirky and unconventional ... While the topics are adventurous, the nonfiction collection tackles the all-too-human topic of yearning and its oft-corollary, obsession. Both gurgle beneath the writer’s sonorous and captivating prose ... Her last section, the Dwelling, chimes best.
... surprisingly tentative, full of maybes and perhapses ... Jamison’s chronic uncertainty is a sort of thematic glue ... Are her discomfort and scepticism ethical necessities or evidence of an empathy deficit? Her obsession with, and continual vacillation on, this question are the section’s most salient through line ... Whether Jamison is writing about her own work or that of other artists, she tends to frame her ethical queries in terms of their implications for her and others like her ... Such struggles can be fruitful, and they are not uninteresting, but after several essays in a row they begin to feel obtrusive. Jamison’s intense focus on her own attempts at empathy and understanding often obscures their intended targets. The final section, full of explicitly personal essays, therefore comes as a relief: her best ones move in a widening direction.
Jamison’s essays are united by her insistence that we mustn’t read her as the last word on anything. Should the people she interviews trust her? Should she trust them? Will her attempts to describe subjects be their undoing? These central questions make Jamison’s 14 provocative essays scream and burn ... [Jamison] is compassionate, curious and humble ... Jamison’s self-criticism welcomes us into her book. I can see how it could be irritating, in the way that the half of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius that was about whether Dave Eggers should even be writing the book was irritating. But, in Jamison’s hands, the second-guessing never feels dithery or masturbatory. When she questions her judgment or expresses skepticism about a source, it’s not because she’s unsure if she should be telling these stories. It’s because she’s hellbent on getting them right.