In a collection of speculative essays on a few such stranger faces―the disabled face, the racially ambiguous face, the digital face, the face of the dead―Namwali Serpell probes our contemporary mythology of the face.
... sharp ... Perhaps despite itself, [Serpell] collection performs an ethical gesture in treating such faces as objects of attention and pleasure. The essays that follow are wise, warm, witty and dizzyingly wide-ranging...Her clear prose unknots a dense tangle of academic concepts along the way ... But Serpell may be at her most thrilling when she interrogates the very humanity of the Ideal Face ... Stranger faces refuse to signify or symbolize, which may be exactly why we try so hard to read them — and why it is so fun to read about them, at least when Serpell is doing the writing.
... wander[s] and wonder[s] and suppose[s] more than it state[s] outright ... If Serpell sometimes becomes what she calls a Too Close Reader—fixating, for example, on a pair of mops in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho—she just as often arrives at surprising insights that see the familiar with new eyes.
... a brilliant essay collection that, informed by semiotics, proposes a way of thinking about the human face that views each person’s countenance as possessed of culturally and individually constructed meaning that can change radically according to the beholder ... Serpell’s vital treatise is one readers will find themselves returning to again and again.