I’m on the record as having said this elsewhere, but it bears repeating: the most fundamental problem of criticism today is the belief that, by definition, an act of criticism is an act of argumentation.
Where the Dead Sit Talking is narrated by a weird kid—kind of innocent, kind of ignorant—named Sequoyah. The story unfolds during Sequoyah’s stint as a foster child during his mom’s period in lockup.
What you’re probably going to hear about this delicate, intelligent, and conscientiously slight debut memoir—if you haven’t already—is that ultimately it’s a foodie book: the story of a young woman in a bad marriage preparing elaborate dinners for a mother who has fallen ill and who will fail because no meal is medicine enough. That’s all here, but there’s much more to this memoir that will likely be treated only scantly in what is sure to amount to a smorgasbord of praise.
Its quite rare, these days, for a poem to become front page news in the New York Times.
Its rare, I would say, to read a book that is a pitch perfect projection of the personality of its author. There is usually a little mediation, a smoothing out of the edges, a tendency to perfect the self-portrait. Not so with Erica Buists This Partys Dead, which can perhaps be described as a rollicking, globe-trotting death adventure, albeit not of the victim tourism sort.
I dont think most people know the story. Or if they do, only in a very basic way: that someone at some time stole the Mona Lisa. Any story can be retold if it is reimagined, and thats what I did. I wanted to take the facts and mix them with fiction to create a fast-paced thriller that combined real history and art, an international chase, corruption, and even murder.
Jay Kirks second book is a novelistically novel form of literary investigation that is by turns bizarre and brilliant, hilarious and heartbreaking. There is no attempt to be objective or comprehensive, and as much as anything else the goal is to project Kirks own achingly honest story first onto a mystery, and then onto an adventure, both of which he more or less stumbles into.