... inventive, wise, and revelatory ... [Low's] willingness to hope comes through on every page, and the book never descends into easy despair or stylish nihilism, even when her doubts are at their deepest and her wit at its most barbed ... The kaleidoscopically interpretive text uses art to pause in its agitated meandering, and it’s a pleasure to hear her elucidations on particular creators, as well as the function of art in general ... Low turns an unsparing yet unexpectedly affectionate eye toward the comforting narrative fantasies we weave around ourselves in order to stay alive amidst circumstances hostile to the human spirit. In doing so, she provides a searching interrogation of identity, art, and a desire for a life beyond what we are told is possible ... brainy, humane, and indispensable.
... a consistently incisive and surprising new work of nonfiction ... The frequent meditations on global politics and contemporary works of art never feel like gratuitous digressions but constitute the most reliable pleasures of the text, and they serve to deepen what is ultimately an intimate and complex portrait of a life ... These various pasts are rendered in a present-tense prose that is direct and precise, consistently fresh, and admirably free from excesses of vanity or self-loathing. Recollections are handled like so many pieces of evidence that might throw fresh light on such old questions ... The conflict is familiar, but Low avoids the familiar responses, neither conforming to au courant progressive talking points, nor sinking into lazy, reactionary positions against them ... One’s ability to enjoy the wealth of insight and nuance to be found in Low’s book probably hinges on one’s patience for these sometimes melodramatic declarations — as well as the depth of one’s investment in staring down the ways we are complicit in the suffering of our fellow humans, one’s interest in altering the conditions that permit such suffering. The writing is consistently earnest, short on irony ... Whether or not one finds Low’s masochism to be a compelling political position, her inquiry will not fail to stimulate anyone who shares her belief that limiting our vision to that which appears 'pragmatic' and 'politically feasible' is a woefully inadequate response to the extremity of our moment.
... a mostly earnest, always engrossing long essay that charts a personal quest for utopia in the form of some kind of home. If this second book is not, frankly, as fun as her first, its pleasures are of an altogether different sort. Low has traded in the no-futurism of her suicidal phantasies in favor of dreams of revolution. A quixotic, improbably sentimental work, Socialist Realism longs for a better world while celebrating the minor joys of this one ... That self—Low’s narrative persona—is somewhat removed, obscured by the frothy buildup of texts she thinks through. More commentator than character, Low is most present as a seeking, questioning I-entity ... may itself be a kind of posturing: autotheory as a new experiment in self-on-self drag ... a searching book; indeed, as the questions keep coming Low achieves a vertiginous effect. Written in an engagingly casual, millennial punk style, it is eminently quotable, yet has moments of glibness ... Staging an evenly matched tug of war between the utopian and the quotidian, Socialist Realism yanks us ruthlessly from one position to the other until the two collapse finally on top of each other.