New York Times:
- Sunday Book Review cover: Leon Wieseltier on Why Are Jews Liberals? by Norman Podhoretz: "Norman Podhoretz loves his people and loves his country, and I salute him for it, since I love the same people and the same country. But this is a dreary book. Its author has a completely axiomatic mind that is quite content to maintain itself in a permanent condition of apocalyptic excitation. His perspective is so settled, so confirmed, that it is a wonder he is not too bored to write. The veracity of everything he believes is so overwhelmingly obvious to him that he no longer troubles to argue for it. Instead there is only bewilderment that others do not see it, too."
- Kakutani on The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood: "A kind of companion piece to her lumpy 2003 novel, 'Oryx and Crake,' this book takes us back to that post-apocalyptic future and it does so with a lot more energy, inventiveness and narrative panache.... [W]hile those earlier books were hobbled by didactic asides and a preachy, moralistic tone, Ms. Atwood has loosened up in this volume and given her imagination free rein."
- Jonathan Lethem on The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard: "Each of Ballard’s 98 short stories is like a dream more perfectly realized than any of your own. His personal vocabulary of scenarios imprints itself from the very first, each image with the quality of a newly minted archetype.... Ballard is simply a master story writer — the maker of unforgettable artifacts in words, each as absolute and perplexing as sculptures unviewable from a single perspective. In this book of 98 stories, there are at least 30 you can spend a lifetime returning to, to wander and wonder around. Even the lesser pieces are invaluable, because they support rather than diminish the masterworks and because Ballard’s hand is always unmistakable."
- Cathleen Schine on Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz: "The tone of the book is sometimes baffling — an almost polemical insistence on the value of dogs, as if they’d long been neglected by world opinion. But then Horowitz will drop in some lovely observation, some unlikely study, some odd detail that causes one’s dog-loving heart to flutter with astonishment and gratitude. When researchers, she notes in one of these fine moments, studied the temporal patterns of dogs interacting with people, they found the patterns to be 'similar to the timing patterns among mixed-sex strangers flirting.'"
- William Giraldi on In the Valley of the Kings by Terrence Holt: "Holt works as a physician at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and he understands the nexus between disease and dejection, between corporeal damage and spiritual ruin. He understands that storytelling rises from that ruin.... 'In the Valley of the Kings,' faithful in myriad ways to Maugham’s 'life in the raw,' will take its rightful place beside those works of genius — fiction, philosophy, theology — unafraid of axing into our iced hearts. These stories will endure for as long as our hurt kind remains to require their truth."
- Louis Bayard, with yet another pre-publication review of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown: "Writers envious of Brown's sales (who wouldn't be?) have devoted much ink to his deficiencies as a stylist. These are still in place. ('He could feel his entire world teetering precariously on the brink of disaster. . . . It hit him like a bolt from above. . . . In a flash he understood.') So is Brown's habit of turning characters into docents. But so, too, is his knack for packing huge amounts of information (spurious or no) into an ever-accelerating narrative. Call it Brownian motion: a comet-tail ride of short paragraphs, short chapters, beautifully spaced reveals and, in the case of 'The Lost Symbol,' a socko unveiling of the killer's true identity."
- Dirda on The Pure Lover by David Plante: "Grief memoirs have become all too common, largely because of the widespread devastation caused by cancer and complications of AIDS, and further encouraged by our relentlessly confessional culture. But ... "The Pure Lover" leaves one exalted rather than depressed.... It would be going too far to call this evocation of a beloved companion now lost a pure pleasure to read. But out of the fragments, Proustian moments and sharply felt memories of a happy and painful past, David Plante has made a lovely book, joyful, plangent and true."
Los Angeles Times:
- Richard Schickel on Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Depression by Morris Dickstein: "Maybe one-third of the nation was wandering around looking like Dorothea Lange extras, but . . . wow, look at the Chrysler Building, shouldering the sky. Wow, look at the streamlined cladding of the Pennsylvania Limited whizzing past. Wow, listen to Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell trading zingers in 'His Girl Friday.' The thought occurs to me, reading Dickstein's marvelous and nonmoralizing book, that maybe this country has not been, for something close to a century, a serious country. Even in extremis we're always looking for a laugh, a song, an inspirational ending. We try -- we really do -- but, damn, that Jean Harlow sure was a cutie."
- Richard Eder on The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble: "Ostensibly set out as a history of jigsaws and her experience with them, Drabble's mini-project wavers between the meticulously detailed and the desultory, broken up by all manner of feverish digressions. Like birds that flutter-dance away from their nests, at once concealing and revealing them, Drabble lets us glimpse shards of acutely depressive pain through the feverish scrim of her jigsaw puzzle elaborations and far-afield detours.... Drabble seems too deep in to be able to analyze them; instead she writes her jigsaws and digressions as if she were a Samaritan volunteer on the phone to herself and able to forestall disaster only as long as she keeps talking."