The composition of this book requires the reader to participate in constructing links, noticing patterns, and making meaning; it is what Barthes would call a ‘writerly text,’ welcoming the reader into its many entrances and possibilities. Zambreno’s work is an exercise in semiotics, a study of meaning-making, for things that seem intimate, foundational, and basic to being human: history, memory, mother, mourning.—Publishers Weekly, (starred review)—
Above all, Book of Mutter is a work of tone; it expresses a failure to transcend grief, written from a place of guilt and shame, in halting and inarticulate gestures…Writing may not change anything, may not heal or even console—but, like Bourgeois’s Cells, it creates a space in which formlessness, pain and chaos are enclosed and held like holy relics in a church.
, Times Literary Supplement
The book is relentless in its search for meaning and its simultaneous refusal of simplistic acts of closure. Even its structure seems designed to reflect pain intermittently avoided and confronted. Zambreno places her memories into a kind of assemblage piece, where the form shifts with its underlying emotions.
—Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Book of Mutter is ultimately a self-consciously unsentimental yet deeply moving book. The distance of its aesthetic styling belies an intense vulnerability and love that emerges through a number of affecting details: her father’s handwriting continuing her mother’s gardening journal, memories of ‘fraught yet tangy’ meatloaf, a cream-colored dress with flowers that almost pains the narrator to mention. In a craft lecture reproduced in Semiotext(e)’s magazine Animal Shelter, Zambreno writes, ‘All I want is a literature both tender and grotesque.’ With Book of Mutter, she finds it.
, Bomb Magazine
Among its many concerns—the death of her mother, grief, autobiography, photography, memory—are the conventions of book-making itself: It seems as invested in unforming itself as it is in forming itself, and the result exists outside of any of the familiar expectations of genre.
—T. Clutch Fleischmann
, The Brooklyn Rail
The slim book of bristling fragments is heavy but moves swiftly, as if laid down in one long fever dream.
, Queen Mob’s Tea House
As with all her books, Zambreno’s sharp and stylish intellectual masonry, her careful gathering of evidence, is a kind of (intentionally) incomplete catharsis. She collects anecdotes like novelist David Markson, but unlike him—he of the impersonal (and emotionally devastating) story—she builds an altar to her own past, these anecdotes both personal and yes, sometimes political.
, The Fanzine
Barthes, Handke, Louise Bourgeois join the chorus of citations scattered like waymarks through this mournful, fragmentary text, which dwells around, without answering – as though the attempt were the only answer possible—the question, which in the text is posed without a question mark: ‘What does it mean to write what is not there. To write an absence.’
—Adrian Nathan West
, Review 31
Mutter is unapologetically intellectual, and unapologetically bodily. But while this reader enjoys an intertextual puzzle as much as the next, I found the most compelling threads within Mutter were those bearing witness to the ordinary; sites of lament and also startling beauty.
—The Lifted Brow
Kate Zambreno’s Book of Mutter is an elegy, an archive, a palimpsest of fragmented memory…It’s as if the book’s language has broken with the weight of sorrow.
, The Millions
The distance of its aesthetic styling belies an intense vulnerability and love that emerges through a number of affecting details: her father’s handwriting continuing her mother’s gardening journal, memories of ‘fraught yet tangy’ meatloaf, a cream-colored dress with flowers that almost pains the narrator to mention.
—Claire Marie Healy
, Another Magazine