Old Media Monday: Reviewing the Reviewers

  OMM
New York Times:

  • Janet Maslin on Still Missing by Chevy Stevens: "Ms. Stevens treats Annie’s captivity as a long and emotionally fraught battle of wills. She resists the pyrotechnics of sadomasochistic love that show up in Chelsea Cain’s grisly cat-and-mouse thrillers like “Heartsick,” which pairs a beautiful serial killer with the detective who was once her prisoner and still finds something erotically thrilling in her cruelty. Ms. Stevens’s version of this prisoner-captive dynamic is quieter, less gory and extremely creepy in its more subdued way."
  • Kakutani on Walks With Men by Ann Beattie: "Things happen abruptly like this in Beattieland. Although she’s made a concerted effort in her later fiction to connect the dots — sometimes resorting to ridiculously contrived plots, as in the unfortunate 1997 novel, “My Life, Starring Dara Falcon” — Ms. Beattie’s most famous work tends to renounce causality and consequence. Accidents and random events plague her characters, and many of them, like Jane here, are oddly passive, drifting or going with the flow, trying to live willfully in the present, as if past choices and mistakes never piled up."
  • Maslin on So Cold the River by Michael Koryta: "Even though much about “So Cold the River” seems to have been tacked on rather than coaxed forth organically, the surreal nature of the water has a unifying effect. Mr. Koryta is able to suggest that something fearsome has been uncorked by Eric’s investigation and that it won’t be going back into its bottle any time soon. This novel moves past its churned-up yet exciting finale toward a suggestion that the curse of the Pluto Water has by no means been resolved. Someone asks at the end of the story: Is the worst over? Mr. Koryta leaves his readers with the hint of a sequel and the feeling that his premise hasn’t run dry."
  • Richard Eder on The Spot by David Means: "It does indeed require light to shape and configure an image of darkness; thus, chiaroscuro. Yet in “The Spot,” Mr. Means’s new collection, the dark is so impenetrable that the reader is apt to feel lost in it."

Los Angeles Times:

  • Eric Banks on The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell: "The narrative is pockmarked with too many meanwhile-back-at-the-temple leaps, and the thread shows too often when Mitchell tries to stitch together the book's set pieces and character studies. In his earlier books, the disconnect of stories across time and space were fascinatingly and proddingly jarring. Here, they're frequently just jarring. Which isn't to say that "Thousand Autumns" is a flop — far from it. When not tripping over the intricacies of its plot line, the novel features some of Mitchell's most luscious writing yet."
  • Our own Jeff VanderMeer on The Most Powerful Idea in the World by William Rosen: "A young Steampunk's dream, William Rosen's "The Most Powerful Idea in the World" manages to make sense of the many threads that together tell the story of the origins and applications of steam power. The book has a crackling energy to it, often as riveting as it is educational. Rosen, in pursuit of evidence, makes interesting, even exciting, such subjects as patent law from the Roman Tiberius on, technological innovation in ancient China and the role of practice in separating out accomplished performers from the "merely good." If Rosen at times seems too hell-bent on single-minded pursuit of his enthusiasms, at least that's better than a dull book."
  • David L. Ulin on You Never Give Me Your Money:The Beatles After the Breakup by Peter Doggett: "'You Never Give Me Your Money' posits a nuanced afterlife for the Beatles, if "afterlife" is the right word. For Doggett, their breakup was a process, beginning in late 1967, after the death of longtime manager Brian Epstein, and dragging on in some form or another to the present day. His book is remarkable for many reasons, not least that 48 years after the release of "Love Me Do," he has found a new lens (and much new information) through which to consider the band. Yet even more striking is his sense of the textures, the delicate interplay of individual and collective history, that continued to define the members of the Beatles long after they had ceased to function as a cohesive entity."

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