Stephen Koch reviewed the book for The New York Times in 1981, and described it as an "unwritten novel", a type of fragmentary book he compared to works by Rainer Maria Rilke, Colette, Cyril Connolly, and Roland Barthes: "These books insist - on everypage - that they are not novels. They refuse to be novels. Yet through their fragmented alternatives, we still can glimpse the novels they refuse to be - tales otherwise untellable, masked and revealed - for reasons ranging from discretion to despair to a certain visionary breathlessness. ... The unwritten novel among the fantasies and aphorisms of Fires is a classic tale."