Lucy and Todd

Reviews of TODD McEWEN

In Reviews of Our Books on February 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm


El demento supremo! Todd McEwen not only has a black belt in comedy, he can turn a phrase on two wheels and blow diamond dust out of the exhaust pipe.
Tom Robbins

Todd McEwen has a voice like no other. Something like Thoreau on laughing gas.
Dan Cryer  Newsday

The impossible has happened! Someone has made Yankees funny.
Rita Mae Brown

McEwen leaves you breathless …pitilessly funny … McEwen is a social satirist, with a constitutional dislike for trendiness and a deadly ear for cant.
Adam Gussow  Saturday Review

It kept me laughing—actually writhing—more consistently than anything I’ve ever read, seen, or heard.
Grey City Journal


…a helter-skelter, scattershot novel, wisecracking and menacing from the first word to the last; a cosmic comic strip of desperation, anguish and desolation. … It’s hilarious. It’s like Saul Bellow, Groucho Marx, Harry Lauder and Bill Shankley brawling it out in a room full of funhouse mirrors. It’s the first great novel of the Nineties.
Jon Wilde  Blitz

A fondly splenetic lament over Scotland …the language is passionate, moving, even lyrical…wildly funny at times. But it’s also bitterly sad—lament as much as satire. “McX” is a … masterpiece.
James Idema  The Chicago Tribune

… a wickedly funny book … that nimbly threads its way through the cold granite of Scotland, which is as much a state of mind as it is a country. … There are echoes of Joyce, of Flann O’Brien, and above all, the giggling Beckett. … McEwen easily fits right in with these writers who found humor in the banal, in the grime of existence, and who elevated it to greatness. … It is a wild, tumbling freefall of black humor, of emotions untethered and of ultimate redemption.
Tiernan Henry  Duluth News-Tribune

A brilliantly inventive and savagely funny satirical novel about low life in contemporary Scotland … The language is playfully funny, the satire cruel and wounding. It’s a novel … James Joyce or Dylan Thomas would have adored: verbally brilliant, witty, brutally accurate.
Robert Carver  The New Statesman

…the most inventive and funny novel I have read this year. The effect is almost as if Joyce had rewritten a Road Runner cartoon.
Richard Rayner  The Sunday Telegraph

…one of the few real writers around.
Lucy Ellmann  The Guardian

…a first-rate satire of the Scottish scene; simultaneously hilarious, savage, accurate and…affectionate. … I couldn’t stop laughing. The man has a brilliant sense of comedy… “McX” is in a class with and spiritually akin to Hugh MacDiarmid’s great poem, “A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle”. “McX” is probably the best depiction of the modern Scottish character yet written.
Edward S. Margerum  The Los Angeles Times

Todd McEwen’s first novel revealed how horrible Boston is. His second, McX, tells us how depressing it is to be Scottish. McEwen…has also travelled in the Soviet Union and Holland, so it may be that we can expect future bulletins on the forlorn condition of the Russian soul and the tedium of being Dutch. If so, I shall be among his readers, for the theme of Caledonian gloom can rarely have been treated with such wit and casual brilliance as here. …a brilliant fantasia on Scottish themes, part-diatribe, part-farce, part-romantic elegy. All these different registers are handled with the same poetic and unself-conscious acuity. …a minor miracle of compressed observation… It is…ironic…that it should have taken an outsider to provide such a graphic and pawky portrait of  the Scots mentality.
John Kemp  Literary Review


Nature may have lain about Wordsworth in his infancy but Joe Lake’s surroundings are about as natural as processed cheese… McEwen’s portrayal of the avuncular Walt [Disney] as merely a front for a faceless and grasping conglomerate throws the American dream into sharp relief …a handful of belly-laughs lurking in his skillfully-paced prose. Arithmetic…is a fascinating addition to the canon [of novels about childhood].                          The Scotsman

Arithmetic is a quirky cry from smalltown America. Joe’s eclectic child’s mind is constantly skipping from topic to topic, from the transcendent beauties of Favourite Teacher to the evils of arithmetic, to the vast oppressiveness of the solar system. Dryly whimsical … and engaging read.                                          Joanna Griffiths  Observer

…underneath the energetic one-liners and light-hearted treatment, there is the sense of a more mature psychology at work; one that invents brightly lit, cartoonish scenarios in order to show how scary real life really is. Arithmetic = Joe’s “crappy feelings”, but it also adds up to McEwen’s mastery of the comic novel about childhood.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Independent on Sunday

Todd McEwen portrays a young boy growing up in a bullish America, where technology is believed to be the philosopher’s stone. He adopts the child’s-eye view superbly, shifting the scenes quickly and fluidly in imitation of Joe’s roving mind. Arithmetic is itself like the cartoons it celebrates: bright, colourful, always charming, and often very funny.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Times Literary Supplement

…this short but charming novel…create[s] a fluent impression of childhood consciousness. Writing from a child’s perspective is notoriously difficult…but the effect is convincing. More than this, the novel is extremely funny … exquisite.                                                                                                                                       Sunday Times


Thank the many gods of Manhattan for Todd McEwen, whose magnificent fourth novel, Who Sleeps with Katz, is a belligerently witty, dazzling and oddly touching homage to New York … He plays with language with evident joy and the result is a book as refreshing as a dry martini on a hot New York night.
Anna Carey   The Irish Times

Who Sleeps with Katz is just about the best thing I’ve read all year.
Ed Park  The Village Voice

Only page three and already you’re blown away… If fiction lives or dies on ‘the voice’, then this one’s immortal… A heart-breaking, funny, sadness-tinged journey into a life lived, a life expiring, the meaning of life. Phenomenal.

Some passages of this book I read ten times, and then called people and read again, aloud. Who Sleeps with Katz cries out for a world in which a man might live his life with nobility and self-respect. Its complaints are against the powers that would degrade us: Seattle, television, girls named Debbie. It is a celebration of that by which we are elevated: martinis, the city, waiters. And it is a meditation on that which would do both: tobacco.
Max Watman   The New York Sun

… one of the funniest things I’ve read. He offers ferocious wit, a stream of magnificent sentences, something to savour on every page, and a blissful knowledge of what really matters in life … Who could ask for more?
Josh Lacey   The Guardian

What we are dealing with here is a classic. … Who Sleeps with Katz is not only one of the great New York novels, it’s also one of the few novels that can be reasonably called ‘Joycean’. … McEwen has every faith that words can catch things as evanescent as smoke. And maybe that evanescence is why Who Sleeps with Katz has more of a sense of mortality than nearly any novel I’ve read in recent years. … It’s as great and sad a love song as the city has ever inspired.
Charles Taylor   Salon


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