Old Media Monday: Reviewing the Reviewers

New York Times:

  • Kakutani on The Climate War by Eric Pooley and The Weather of the Future by Heidi Cullen: "Even as Democrats abandoned efforts late last month to advance a major climate change bill through the Senate, books about global warming continue to pour forth. Two of the more interesting ones do not waste time rearguing debates over the science (in 2007 a United Nations panel, synthesizing the work of hundreds of climatologists from around the world, called evidence for global warming “unequivocal”), but instead take as a starting point the clear and present dangers posed by the greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels."
  • Janet Maslin on Rules of Betrayal by Christopher Reich: "In a serious book these clichés would be bothersome. Here they just heighten the air of Hardy Boys derring-do. But Mr. Reich does have a real problem with pacing, since his book features only one kind of forward motion. It’s all fast and frantic, to the point where the final wild confrontation takes only a page or two and is no more heated than the evening in Gstaad."
  • Kakutani on The Subtle Body by Stefanie Syman: "Certainly the subject has the makings of a compelling cultural history--one that might explore the collision of East and West, American attitudes toward religion and the mind-body split, and the mainstreaming of countercultural attitudes and trends. But while Ms. Syman has amassed a lot of entertaining anecdotes about the history of yoga in this country, her overall narrative suffers from odd gaps and elisions. She fails to give the lay reader a real appreciation of yoga’s ancient history and the evolution of various practices and schools. And the final chapters feel truncated and rushed; they do not even seem to draw usefully on a plethora of recent newspaper, magazine and radio reports about the latest permutations of the yoga boom in America."

Washington Post

Los Angeles Times:

  • David L. Ulin on A Thousand Peaceful Cities by Jerzy Pilch: "This is not to say that 'A Thousand Peaceful Cities' is autobiographical, although Pilch grew up during the period he describes. More to the point, the book is a testament to the primacy of art, not violence, in the preservation of a culture. Certainly, that idea was essential under the communists, who sought to vilify visionaries as dangerous to the status quo. But if 'A Thousand Peaceful Cities' has any larger message, it's that such vigilance is no less essential now."
  • Diana Wagman on The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman: "It is a pleasure to read a novel by Allegra Goodman. Her writing is confident and accomplished, her characters are complex and her stories immerse the reader in a world that is often humorous and always thought-provoking... Now comes 'The Cookbook Collector,' in many ways a further exploration of her previous work. Religion and faith vs. science, family and loss vs. belonging, obsession, friendship and love, loyalty vs. betrayal — many of the themes explored in her previous stories and novels are visited here."
  • Michael Harris on Star Island by Carl Hiaasen: "Hiaasen's secret--the reason most of this is funny--is his gift for precise and voluminous specifics. In the opening chapter, for instance, Bang, responding to a rumor that Cherry has overdosed, stakes out an ambulance parked behind a South Beach hotel. Overdosed on what? Cocaine or heroin won't do. Instead, Cherry has 'swallowed an unwise mix of vodka, Red Bull, hydrocodone, birdseed and stool softener.' Scene after scene, Hiaasen keeps up this kind of antic embroidery, proving not only that God may be in the details but also that comedy most certainly is."

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