The Seas: An Experience in Madness
The continual undercurrent of her inability to see properly, the sense that she believes it is love that is clouding her vision, brings me to understand more clearly the dissonance of the narration, that I only see what she can see, and what she sees is distorted by her own mental unstableness and by the reality which I know: that love and grief cloud my vision, that when I am swimming and open my eyes, my sight is blurry. What I think I see may be altogether different than what actually exists.
“Navigating an Inward World”: On Laura Villareal’s “The Cartography of Sleep”
The Cartography of Sleep is a visionary, cerebral chapbook. . . . Villareal is a master of making the strange seem beautiful with rich language and a hypnotic style.
“Elation and Hollowed-Out Sorrow”: On K.L. Cook’s Marrying Kind
The collection’s novelistic complexity stems primarily from its constant depictions of events, characters, themes, and obsessions from multiple angles. We savor repeated glimpses of characters like Laura, a small-town girl from the Texas Panhandle, or Hartley, a history professor turned dean. We witness these characters’ promising beginnings and violent, unfinished ends: wedding days and honeymoons, heart attacks and domestic violence.
Speaking With Severed Tongues: On “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado
Machado is so profoundly in control of silence that she has taught it its own language.
Boys Will Be Boys: On Ben Lerner’s “The Topeka School”
The Topeka School is both a culmination and departure for Lerner. While the novel expands on many familiar themes seen throughout his oeuvre—the limitations of language, the blurred line between fact and fiction—The Topeka School moves beyond Lerner’s singular consciousness and into other voices.
The Scamming of the Self: On Jia Tolentino’s “Trick Mirror”
Tolentino turns each topic around like a Rubik’s Cube, looking at it from every side, rearranging possibilities but never quite solving the puzzle. That there is no ultimate solution isn’t a defect of these essays. The inherent ouroboros of logic at work here enhances rather than detracts from the structure and power of Tolentino’s ideas; there may be no satisfactory solutions, but that shouldn’t stop us from contemplating the problems.
Is There Life After Meth? On Tracy Daugherty’s “Leaving the Gay Place”
Brammer . . . was not always an unknown legend. Indeed, as Daugherty points out, the year Brammer’s debut novel was published, 1961, also saw the debuts of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer—and yet, for many critics, The Gay Place was the most promising of the bunch.
Review: “You Know You Want This: Cat Person and Other Stories”
Roupenian can make the reader incredibly uncomfortable and disgusted and riveted all at once, her prose settling like the memory of a bad dream. While “Cat Person” is, and might always be, Roupenian’s most well known piece, she’s definitely proven with this collection that she is no one-hit wonder.