On the eve of the Occupy Wall Street protests, C is flat broke. Once a renowned textile artist, she's now the sole proprietor of an arts supply store in Lower Manhattan. Divorced, alone, at loose ends, C is stuck with a struggling business, a stack of bills, a new erotic interest in her oldest girlfriend, and a persistent hallucination in the form of a rogue garden gnome with a pointed interest in systems collapse . . . C needs to put her medical debt and her sex life in order, but how to make concrete plans with this little visitor haunting her apartment, sporting a three-piece suit and delivering impromptu lectures on the vulnerability of the national grid? Moreover, what's all this computer code doing in the story of her life? And do the answers to all of C's questions lie with an eco-hacktivist cabal threatening to end modern life as we know it?
... a slim book with a lot going on ... I was reminded of Ben Lerner. Stevens loves technicality; her sentences are cleverly playful, finding use for words such as 'horripilation' and 'glabrous', and she frequently draws attention to grammatical terms and forms ... droll and also poignant – symptomatic of Stevens’s voice. I admire her warmth, which doesn’t always flow through these kinds of self-referential sentences, and I enjoyed how The Visitors does its own maximal thing ... There’s a verve and craziness to all this, but the book is also pained, and sympathetic to those who experience pain, which is everybody ... I’m not sure I was with them through every turned, information-loaded sentence. I’m not sure whether Stevens intended me to be, or whether these 'long-winded lectures' are just part of the ride. The book accepts, and even delights in, the strenuous absurdity of its characters’ efforts to index the relationship between the virtual and the material, or to locate the source of reality in imagination.
Disaster has a...abstract, consciously literary shape in Jessi Jezewska Stevens’s novel The Visitors ... Collapse is Ms. Stevens’s murmured theme ... The Visitors addresses it subjects through a blurry, somewhat hypnotic dance of symbols and signifiers. Ms. Stevens operates mostly by way of vague implications. Recurrent motifs such as looms and rainbows and Rubik’s Cubes are offered up—I suppose to suggest analogous codes and networks—but never developed. The gnome is mysterious largely because it’s given so little to do—something invented, it seems, in order to be ignored ... Obstinately sketchy and draft-like, a degree removed from whatever vivid thing the author must have imagined for it.
Be prepared to shrug it off, along with subsequent similar interventions, and get on with the story, assuming that it will all eventually make sense ... It sort of does ... 'Is it possible to imagine something so fully that it takes on a life of its own? So many systems run only on belief.' It's possible that a novel, like this one, does, too.