Jeff Waxman at The Quarterly Conversation:
There’s nothing terribly new about the confessional as a literary form. It can just as easily appear as swagger as it can an act of contrition, and this book has the flavor of both. And as a form, often in the guise of a personal essay, the confessional is having quite a moment. In the wake of the successful autoerotic exposures of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s multivolumeStruggles and the critically gorgeous self-scrutiny of Maggie Nelson’s more slenderArgonauts, there’s a contemporary appetite for the personal essay that has hardly been sated. And in the act of confession, there’s as much to be proud of in a debauched or dissolute life as there is to regret or repent. Lest the reader of this review fall into the trap most common for first-time encounterers of Frisch, this isn’t some kind of Swiss-intellectual misogynist rant, an I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell for the pretentious. It is very honestly self-interested and self-critical. It’s messy in the way that psychotherapy is messy, or that our unvarnished motives would be if the world could see them. It’s loving, in its way, and sadly aware of how much time has passed and how badly.
And I like the tendency in this kind of narrative to self-correct, to DAMN! oneself as Frisch does. To understand that the mistakes that we make are not just interpersonal, but a matter of style and substance. Frisch writes:
The morning sea beneath the deep clouds is the color of mother-of-pearl, the waves lifeless, the sun obscured. He finds it better to take off his shoes and walk barefoot, shoes in hand. Gulls over the empty beach, louder than any feeling, louder than the waves.