Old Media Monday: Reviewing the Reviewers


New York Times

  • Sunday Book Review cover: Paul Berman on Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Gerald Martin: "García Márquez’s readers sometimes imagine that supernatural events and folk beliefs in his novels express an all-­purpose spirit of primitivist rebellion, suitable for adaptation by progressive-minded writers in every region of the formerly colonized world.... But I think that, on the contrary, magical events and folk beliefs in the writings of García Márquez show how powerfully the [Spanish] Golden Age has lingered in memory. Instead of a post­colonial literary rebellion against Western imperialism, here is a late-blooming flower of the Spanish high baroque. Gongorism disguised as primitivism. And, being a proper son of Darío, García Márquez has gone on to embrace in his mad spirit the glories of Spanish rhetoric at its most extreme."
  • T.C. Boyle on My Father's Tears by John Updike: "Here lies both the triumph and the limitation of these stories: the obsessive recollection of detail for its own sake..... Among all the writers of our time, he was the most gifted in illuminating the phenomenological world. But in these stories, like David Kern at his reunion, he presents details in a testimonial way, as a feat of recollection, and sometimes — as in 'Kinderszenen' and 'The Guardians,' which both present a young child’s perspective on Updike’s familiar world — the details tend to overwhelm the artistry of the stories themselves."
  • Garner on Arthur Miller by Christopher Bigsby: "The book moves inexorably toward Monroe’s appearance; her magnetism sucks everything rapidly toward it. Miller’s long life (1915-2005) can be cleaved neatly into B.M. and A.M. — before Marilyn and after.... Suddenly, there is the U.S.S. Monroe on the horizon, and it’s all narrative hands on deck. She capsizes this book the way she capsized, for a while, Miller’s life. We are, like him, happily pulled under. It’s good theater."
  • Francis Fukuyama on Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew Crawford: "'Shop Class as Soulcraft' is a beautiful little book about human excellence and the way it is undervalued in contemporary America.... The fact of the matter is that most forms of real knowledge, including self-knowledge, come from the effort to struggle with and master the brute reality of material objects — loosening a bolt without stripping its threads, or backing a semi rig into a loading dock. All these activities, if done well, require knowledge both about the world as it is and about yourself, and your own limitations. They can’t be learned simply by following rules, as a computer does; they require intuitive knowledge that comes from long experience and repeated encounters with difficulty and failure. In this world, self-­esteem cannot be faked: if you can’t get the valve cover off the engine, the customer won’t pay you."
  • Douglas Wolk on You'll Never Know: Book 1 by C. Tyler: "‘You’ll Never Know’ unfolds like a rambling reminiscence, except without the boring parts. It skitters around in time, every observation setting off another memory or meditation or visual flourish. Tyler’s artwork flutters between representation, fantasy and symbolism, sometimes even in the same panel, but her stylistic virtuosity is a steadfast guide through her chronology’s loops and pivots."

Washington Post:

  • Charles on The Signal by Ron Carlson: "The latest addition to this burgeoning category of high-quality macho novellas comes from Ron Carlson, who writes like Hemingway without the misogyny and self-parody. If there's a smart man in your life who might still be tempted into the pleasures of contemporary literary fiction, 'The Signal' could be just the gateway drug you're after. (Father's Day is June 21, and let's face it: Dad's not going to get through Bolano's '2666' no matter what you tell him.) ... Carlson never drops an extra word or a false phrase, even as 'The Signal' accelerates like an avalanche, suspicion rolling into fear and then roaring down with a conclusion that shakes the ground. If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault."
  • Wendy Smith on The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman: "It's a rare year that doesn't bring a novel from Alice Hoffman, and those who follow this maddeningly uneven writer have learned to cast a wary eye on each new offering. Will it be Good Alice, poser of uncomfortable moral dilemmas and marvelously rich portraitist of family life ('Blue Diary,' 'Skylight Confessions')? Or will it be Bad Alice, blatantly careless plotter and outrageous overdoer of the magic-beneath-the-surface-of-our-lives shtick ('The Probable Future,' 'The Third Angel')? 'The Story Sisters,' actually, is In-Between Alice: excessive and over-determined but ultimately so moving that it overwhelms these faults."

Los Angeles Times:

  • Deborah Vankin on The American Painter Emma Dial by Samantha Peale: "'The American Painter Emma Dial' is a more than impressive debut, with a complicated, vulnerable central character who's courageously living out the universal creative struggle. These are rich, ambitious ideas that Peale takes on -- questions of art and identity, commitment versus personal sacrifice, the precarious and charged student-mentor relationship, sexism in the art world, boundary issues of all stripes; she deep-dives into all this, yet her novel never feels heady or forced. Instead, it's a graceful personal journey, an intimate snapshot of a young woman at a seminal point in her life, on the brink of either discovering her true self or becoming unhinged."

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Comments (1)

some of those books were on my radar for a while, now i'm all about them

Posted by: sir jorge | Tuesday June 9, 2009 at 10:27 AM

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