The author of Ducks, Newburyport rails against a host of social ills large and small—from patriarchy to annoying household objects seemingly destined to cause us harm—in this collection of darkly humorous screeds.
Ellmann’s polemic is a medley: a wickedly funny, rousing, depressing, caps-driven work of linguistic gymnastics hellbent on upbraiding the deleterious forces of the prevailing misogyny, focused especially on the US ... Blistering statements cover a clutch of cultural reference points from Aristophanes to Audre Lorde ... entertaining without being haranguing. Attentively negotiating a bleak world, the sentences remain joyous constructions ... At their brightest, Ellmann’s own pyrotechnics are ones to savour.
... caustic, clever, occasionally exhausting and frequently funny ... While Ellmann’s arguments rarely deviate from left-wing feminist orthodoxy, what the collection lacks in surprise it makes up for in wit—she is the schoolyard ally you want on your side, always ready with the killer comment. These can occasionally seem cheap, particularly when a well-positioned zinger comes at the expense of fact...or when tenuous arguments are proffered for the sole purpose of wordplay ... As much of the world leaves the pandemic behind...our nostalgia for the past may well be tempered by the recognition of what our world was actually like before. Perhaps, with Lucy Ellmann’s book in hand, this jolt will be enough to make us reconsider how we go about our lives.
... 14 witty, provocative, but often passé essays ... Is Ellmann serious? I think so, but her cunning is to keep her reader guessing at whether she genuinely believes what she writes ... As a polemic against the patriarchy, Ellmann’s collection has coherence, but individually, the essays veer from the incisive to outdated ... Many of the ideas in this collection are also present in Ellmann’s fiction, and in several cases fiction is an infinitely better vehicle for them. What feels extreme in the cold, hard prose of non-fiction feels meaningful in the context of a story ... It’s in the titular—previously unpublished—essay that Ellmann reminds the reader what she’s capable of doing with language ... But as the refrain builds into something bigger and more powerful, the essay gives credence to the suggestion that Ellmann is one of the few writers producing modernist work for the contemporary moment.