Old Media Monday: Reviewing the Reviewers


New York Times

  • Sunday Book Review cover: David Gates on Indignation by Philip Roth: "'Everyman' and 'Exit Ghost' both have a mood of sorrowful resignation; this book goes about its grieving savagely. And of all Roth’s recent novels, it ventures farthest into the unknowable. In his unshowy way, with all his quotidian specificity and merciless skepticism, Roth is attempting to storm heaven — an endeavor all the more desperately daring because he seems dead certain it’s not there." On Tuesday, Kakutani was grouchier: "It’s a joke that Mr. Roth delivers with consummate poise and a couple of bravura touches, but a joke, in the end, that doesn’t amount to a full-fledged novel."
  • Maslin on The Given Day by Dennis Lehane: "No more thinking of Mr. Lehane as an author of detective novels that make good movies ('Gone, Baby, Gone') and tell devastatingly bleak Boston stories ('Mystic River'). He has written a majestic, fiery epic that moves him far beyond the confines of the crime genre. Shades of Doctorow and Dreiser surround Mr. Lehane’s choice of 1919 as the time for this expansive story. It is not simply the relatively unexplored eventfulness of that year that makes 'The Given Day' so far reaching; it’s the relentless fierce-terrible nature of the turmoil on parade."
  • A.O. Scott on Home by Marilynne Robinson: "She is somehow able to infuse what can sound like dowdy, common words — words like courtesy and kindness, shame and forgiveness, transgression and grace — with a startling measure of their old luster and gravity. Phrases many of us have heard and known since childhood come in her hands to have the depth of dark sayings, and her parable of a family’s partial restoration is also a story to trouble your sleep and afflict your conscience."
  • James J. Sheehan on Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe by Mark Mazower: "'Hitler’s Empire' is a useful antidote to the argument — most recently advanced in Nicholson Baker's 'Human Smoke' — that World War II was neither necessary nor just. While we should never underestimate or forget the appalling cost, Mazower’s eloquent and instructive book reminds us what the world would have been like if Hitler’s enemies had been unwilling or unable to pay the price of defeating him."

Washington Post:

  • Jonathan Yardley on Lehane's Given Day: "Lehane has done something brave and ambitious: He has written a historical novel that unquestionably is his grab for the brass ring, an effort to establish his credentials in literary as well as commercial terms.... Meticulously researched and rich in period detail, it pulls the reader so rapidly through its complex and interesting story that it's easy to lose sight of its shortcomings. But they are there, and they arise from the uneasy balance Lehane strikes (whether consciously or not) between the conventions of suspense fiction and his larger literary ambitions, as well as from his awkward attempt to connect a famous historical figure of the period to his fictional characters."
  • James Mann on Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency by Barton Gellman: "Until now, I assumed it would take decades, the eventual declassification of documents and considerably more historical perspective for an author (say, some future Robert Caro ) to uncover and describe Cheney's secretive role. But Barton Gellman's outstanding new book, Angler, could well turn out to be the most revealing account of Cheney's activities as vice president that ever gets written.... There will almost certainly be no vice president as powerful as Cheney for decades, and no account of what he has wrought that is as compelling as this book."

Los Angeles Times:

  • Sarah Weinman on Lehane's Given Day: "Despite its length and gargantuan scope of emotion and sociological ramifications, 'The Given Day' is a smooth read. In that respect, Lehane is as much like contemporaries George Pelecanos and Richard Price as he is like the bygone Boston-based John P. Marquand, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who understood the masses could absorb complex thought by turning the pages. 'The Given Day' may not pack the devastating wallop of Marquand's masterwork 'Point of No Return,' but it should draw unintended strength from the latter's title. From here on in, Lehane should proceed as a novelist, without genre boundaries imposed on him."
  • Susan Salter Reynolds on Miss Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum: "'Ms. Hempel Chronicles' is a deeply affecting book because it reveals that human beings, because we are human, often feel many different emotions at once. We take on roles we are not always, strictly or bureaucratically speaking, qualified to perform. And yet, our vulnerability, our confusion often makes us infinitely more capable of empathizing with and relating to others."

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