Private Novelist consists of two bonkers stories of differing length and quality hammered together into one book for no good reason at all ... The repeated reminders that these works were never really intended for publication excuse their flaws while making them feel uniquely intimate ... Hubristic statements force us to reckon with the precious, deliberately off-putting quality of Private Novelist ... a brain-dislodgingly imaginative book that, nevertheless, seems to conjure our hatred on purpose ... Private Novelist, like its predecessor, The Wallcreeper, is a commentary on history, not on people ... Zink holds fiction at arm’s length—affectionately, but with suspicion.
A foreword notes that a literary agent once deemed the novel 'unpublishable,' and if you attempt to read it, you'll see why ... Frequently inscrutable, it's a patchwork of bizarre scenes and absurd characters, jokey literary references likely to be lost on all but the most sophisticated readers and occasional bursts of personal history. Those bits where Zink writes of her early life all come near the end, and they nearly make the whole thing worth reading. Let's hope sooner or later she writes a proper memoir.
Both were evidently written in a matter of weeks, and both narratives vanish into random digressions and arch opinions on literature ... Should such a person as a Nell Zink completist exist, this overwrought inside joke might be of interest. Everyone else should save their money and sanity and read her other books instead.