At the outset of the 2008 financial crisis, Em has a dependable, dull marketing job generating reports of vague utility while she anxiously waits to hear news of her sister Ad, who has gone missing--again. Em's days pass drifting back and forth between her respectably cute starter house (bought with a 'responsible, salary-backed, fixed-rate mortgage') and her dreary office. Then something unthinkable, something impossible, happens and she begins to see how madness permeates everything around her while the mundane spaces she inhabits are transformed.
... an engaging work that blends history with travel and food writing ... Jacobsen delves into the sometimes twisting history of this food, as well as into the science that makes truffle farming possible. Even as he examines the fungi’s complex history and analyzes questions about who gets access to truffles, Jacobsen’s writing remains accessible, unlike the costly object of his desire ... a compelling story, but Jacobsen doesn’t leave readers empty-handed when the tale ends. The book also includes a glossary of truffle types, resources for acquiring your own truffles and recipes for after the decadent fungi arrives. It’s an appropriate finish to a delicious book.
In Lucy Corin’s The Swank Hotel, there are moments of pure clarity. In its explorations of corporate America, of familial loss and grief, and of 2008 recession-era life, the novel shines. But in its interstitial space, darting from one narrator to another in the tangled web of love, relationships, and confusion, the novel puzzles. This is not a book to read in an afternoon, but one to chew and digest over time. And when given this space, we still may not understand ... On corporate life, Corin nails the crafted persona such an environment craves, showing us that there is an inherent madness in our day to day lives ... It is in these moments that the novel comes together, but in its inclusion of the surreal, things fly off the rails. Strange dreams permeate the minds of Em, Frank, and other characters. A sewn-up mouth jars the reader, but what it adds up to remains to be seen. Sexuality and horror, in the form of extended pornography scenes and pages of dead baby jokes achieve a tone of aversion, but read as accessories to the main throughlines ... While some digressions, such as the My Strange Addiction episode summary on urine drinking, contribute to the characters’ struggles with madness, others feel like dangling threads without resolution. The structure of the work veers from novel to collection of isolated vignettes, reminiscent of Corin’s earlier work One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses. But in this work the vignettes are abandoned and return to the main story and its central players, leaving the reader wondering what their ultimate significance really was ... The novel is far from comfortable, its ideas and prose are densely packed. Corin’s skill as a prose stylist cannot be discounted, she demonstrates over and over a deep understanding of her characters and literary ideas. But how these ideas come through on the page is wholly uneven. The novel begs for rumination in between periods of confusion. Such is the nature of madness.
... brilliant and surreal ... The voices of other characters add different perspectives to Em’s story ... Set against the 2008 economic crisis and the search for Osama Bin Laden, Corin’s novel unveils the madness that permeates society by scrutinizing trauma, cultural expectations, and the political and economic climate of the twenty-first century.