Old Media Monday: Reviewing the Reviewers

OMM_07-13-09

New York Times:

  • Sunday Book Review cover: Curtis Sittenfeld on Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy: "Though it might seem strange to praise a writer for the things she doesn’t do, what really sets Meloy apart is her restraint. She is impressively concise, disciplined in length and scope. And she’s balanced in her approach to character, neither blinded by love for her creations, nor abusive toward them.... [S]he’s such a talented and unpredictable writer that I’m officially joining her fan club; whatever she writes next, I’ll gladly read it."
  • Maslin on The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes: "That word ["scientist"] had not been coined during most of the era that will now be known, thanks to Richard Holmes’s amazingly ambitious, buoyant new fusion of history, art, science, philosophy and biography, as 'The Age of Wonder.' And Mr. Holmes’s excitement at fusing long-familiar events and personages into something startlingly new is not unlike the exuberance of the age that animates his groundbreaking book."
  • Maslin on How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely: "Steve Hely needed to know how to write very well in order to write as miserably as he does in 'How I Became a Famous Novelist.' In a satirical novel that is a gag-packed assault on fictitious best-selling fiction, Mr. Hely, who has been a writer for David Letterman and 'American Dad,' takes aim at genre after genre and manages to savage them all. You are invited to trawl the mass-market fiction in your local bookstore if you think Mr. Hely is making much up."
  • Peter Keepnews on How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll by Elijah Wald: "'How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll' contains some arguments that will have you slapping your forehead and exclaiming 'Of course!' and some that will have you scratching your head and saying 'Huh?' The one that gives the book its name may have you doing both."

Washington Post:

  • Yardley on Dangerous Games by Margaret MacMillan: "When political leaders are ignorant of history, as the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld triumvirate most certainly was, yet seek to employ it toward their own ends, the inevitable result is a distortion of history that is unwitting at best, deliberate at worst. It is easy to find in the past justifications or excuses for doing what one wants. It is rather more difficult to examine the past thoroughly and objectively and to learn whatever lessons it may teach us, however inconvenient they may seem."

Los Angeles Times:

  • Samantha Dunn on Meloy's Both Ways: "If that pebble rolling around in your shoe were in fact a diamond, it would still cause a blister. And so it is with the stories of Maile Meloy's collection, 'Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.' Superbly crafted, these hard little tales wind through the ways people fail to relate to each other and even to themselves -- their central insight being how complicit we are in creating our own misery."
  • Rich Cohen on A Bright and Guilty Place by Richard Rayner: "In his brilliant new book, 'A Bright and Guilty Place,' Richard Rayner has given us, finally and definitively, the nonfiction equivalent of the Raymond Chandler classics that fell like hammer blows in the middle of last century: 'Farewell, My Lovely,' 'The Long Goodbye,' 'The Big Sleep.' Chandler turned fact, the criminal underworld of Depression-era Los Angeles, into fiction, and now Rayner, by a strange Didion-like alchemy, has turned fiction back into fact. Not to say he has dug up the story behind the story, as a reporter might profile the real white whale, but that he has run the world of Chandler through the machine a second time, the result being utterly truthful, fantastic and new."
  • Tim Rutten on Golden Dreams by Kevin Starr: "With 'Golden Dreams,' Starr has completed a magnificent gift to the people of his native state. No other in the union possesses so intelligent, humane and comprehensive a synoptic account of its origins and development. That's all of a piece with the author's convincing notion of California's singularity. He has given his contemporaries and generations to come a story filled with heroic examples and tragic caution. Most of all, it is a series of histories that -- like any life worth dreaming of -- is worthwhile from beginning to end."

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Is that a real talk between two persons?

Posted by: Jeremy | Thursday January 28, 2010 at 5:12 AM

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