David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
"Purpura (On Looking, 2006) ambushes us again in her second distinctive, piquant, and vibrantly original essay collection. Her opening piece, a wise, wry, and provocative tribute to a much-maligned creature, the buzzard, covertly contains an enlivening statement of artistic intent that illuminates all that follows. With a poet’s sensibility and a storyteller’s stride, Purpura creates essays that heat up like beakers over Bunsen burners as she boils down the concatenation of experience into whorled and gleaming words. She is partial to 'the partial''Scraps and spots, moments and lusters passing and glimpsed sidelong.' She looks back to her Long Island childhood, paying homage to the gleaming, rocking sea; remembering how each new word felt radiant, commodious, and enchanting; and describing her grandmother’s house and passing trains in a rhapsodic inventory of objects and auras. Her arresting impressions are fleshed out with avid research, as Purpura scrutinizes whatever snares her imagination, from the word gunmetal to the bodily substance we call shit. Fragmentation and abundance, sadness and splendor, Purpura discerns their meaning and celebrates their complex beauty."
Donna Seaman, Booklist
"In each of the book's 18 brief pieces, she strives to capture subjects that seem to defy close study: an adjective, a buzzard, bits of beach glass, a warning sign. Yet she finds something insightful to say about each of them, in large part because she's so careful with words, moving them as close as possible to those elusive truths."
Mark Athitakis, Star Tribune
“Lia Purpura is at the forefront of the New Essay, and this latest book (her best) takes us much closer into the rough terrain of her quirky mind than she has ever gone before. The surprises and insights keep coming. Rough Likeness is an astonishmenta book to savor, read slowly, smile at, sigh at, and cherish.”
"Lia Purpura is fierce. She creates a kind of word origami, folding phonemes and inquiries into intricate paper delights. Then she holds a magnifying glass over them, focusing her rapturous attentions through the lens, until twists of smoke appear, and geometries of flame and sparks rain. If language is, as she suggests in one essay, 'a game we all [agree] to play,' then Purpura is at once a master of the game and a soulful, wild playmate."
Leah Hager Cohen