Though “Barn 8” is a political novel punctuated with excellent, terrifying reporting from inside the belly of the American agricultural beast, it is not a diatribe; rather, it’s a call into the universe, a probing that asks: What if we the disconnected, we the too connected, we the individual data sets decided to do something, even if it felt like an impossible activist fantasy?
The Power Notebooks is a series of brief-but-potent meditations on women, autonomy, independence, and power, and more specifically on "women strong in public, weak in private" — including herself. In these reflective, journal-like entries, Roiphe opens up, revealing the gentler person behind the polemical writer — and the accomplished literary scholar behind both. She seeks insights into her unstable affairs, breakups, and challenges as a single mother in the lives and work of such outwardly successful writers as Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir, Mary McCarthy, and Rebecca West, who nevertheless abdicated power in their personal lives.
This book asks us to read the world carefully, knowing that not everything will be translated for us, knowing that it is made up of pluralities. “Let’s say it’s all text,” Diaz writes, “the animal, the dune, / the wind in the cottonwood, and the body.” Diaz’s collection is no doubt one of the most important poetry releases in years, one to applaud for its considerable demonstration of skill, its resistance to dominant perspectives and its light wrought of desire.
This is not a younger man’s book, not a book of striving. It is a novel of late middle age, a novel of preserving what one has seized — of fighting off young, hungry men who remind you of yourself, who will use your own methods against you. Above all, it is a novel of living with the dead. Mantel names the deceased in her dramatis personae at the beginning of her books; how that list has grown.