Old Media Monday: Reviewing the Reviewers

New York Times:
  • Sunday Book Review cover: Jennifer Egan on C by Tom McCarthy: "McCarthy, author of the ingenious 2006 novel 'Remainder,' withstands the temptations of emotional plotting and holds out instead for something bigger, deeper, more universal and elemental. 'C' is a rigorous inquiry into the meaning of meaning: our need to find it in the world around us and communicate it to one another; our methods for doing so; the hubs and networks and skeins of interaction that result.... Still, the book’s lingering resonance owes less to its strenuous intellectual girding than to the mystery the story nonetheless retains. Like life, which we overinterpret at our peril, this strange, original book is — to its credit — a code too nuanced and alive to fully crack."
  • Katie Roiphe on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: "'Mockingjay' is not as impeccably plotted as “The Hunger Games,” but none­theless retains its fierce, chilly fascination. At its best the trilogy channels the political passion of '1984,' the memorable violence of 'A Clockwork Orange,' the imaginative ambience of 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and the detailed inventiveness of 'Harry Potter.' The specifics of the dystopian universe, and the fabulous pacing of the complicated plot, give the books their strange, dark charisma. Watching young people kill each other might seem a little sick or unhinged, and this is not an author to delicately avert her gaze. Our voyeurism is fully engaged in these books, but so intelligently, adeptly engaged that it does not feel trashy or gratuitous."
  • Dani Shapiro on Half a Life by Darin Strauss: "Rarely has the word we been so huge and so heartbreaking. It was their accident. A girl died, and the boy who killed her also died that day. In his place grew a man who heeded the words of that girl’s grieving mother, and in so doing, became a writer who returns to that moment again and again, attempting to reshape the irrevocable, searching for truth and meaning, if not solace, in the spot where the wound will never heal."
  • John Vernon on The Lady Matador's Hotel by Cristina Garcia: "The result is a kitchen sink of a novel (as in everything but) whose juggled stories, augmented by the obligatory soupçon of magic realism, take on a quality of festive, freakish excess. Yet García keeps the plates spinning. Not all the stories are equally engaging, and not all the characters rise above the level of types, but the cumulative effect is of an appealing yet barely controlled wildness.... At its best, the novel has the energy of an obsessive tango. Or, indeed, a bullfight."

Washington Post:

  • Samantha Hunt by McCarthy's C: "'C' moves in circuits, forever closing in on its topics: radio, World War I, drugs, Egyptology, seances, sisters, spas and silkworms, to name a few. McCarthy's genius comes in convincing his reader of the connections between these distant planets.... In creating a work that recycles itself and our culture, McCarthy has produced something truly original."
  • Art Taylor on Zero History by William Gibson: "'Zero History' boasts an occasionally far-fetched frivolity and a greater lightness than some of Gibson's other novels. But if the plot seems a tad weightless at times (and not just because of floating penguins), the book proves momentous in other ways.... Paranoia is 'too much information,' reflects Milgrim -- a definition that also explains Gibson's genius as a thinker and a stylist. His trenchant scrutiny of society and culture, and the relentless precision of his prose force us to see his world (and ours) with a troubling exactitude and an extra dose of unease."
  • Charles on Ape House by Sara Gruen: "The 800-pound gorilla in the room is why someone at Gruen's new publishing house didn't give her the benefit of a good edit. Even if the silly story and the trite characters couldn't be saved, why leave these pages pocked with such lines? The answer, I can only assume, has something to do with the more than $5 million that a division of Random House reportedly paid to lure Gruen away from Algonquin, her small North Carolina publisher. That cynical process has misserved a beloved writer and her elephantine fan base. If there were any justice in publishing, Spiegel & Grau would be heckled by People for the Ethical Treatment of Authors."

Los Angeles Times:

  • Meehan Crist on C: "With 'C,' Tom McCarthy has written an avant-garde masterpiece — a sprawling cryptogram — in the guise of an epic, coming-of-age period piece.... To offer plot summary, however, is like saying Pynchon's 'The Crying of Lot 49' is just a book about a woman interested in the postal system.... 'C' is coming-of-age as philosophy, philosophy as fiction, fiction as 'dummy-chamber' ('the real thing's beyond') — the novel as encrypted code for life."
  • Nick Owchar on Dante's Divine Comedy by Seymour Chwast: "I was all prepared to hate Seymour Chwast's graphic novel of Dante's 'Divine Comedy.' .... You're going to turn the great 14th century masterpiece of Catholic theology, Italian history and Dante's private life into a comic strip?... What Chwast's book reminds us is that Dante's epic is very visual, even cartoonish. This isn't an insult. Think only of the image of Lucifer flapping his giant wings and producing gusts of wind that turn sinners' tears into ice. It certainly is a medieval comic strip of sorts, isn't it? And in his adaptation, Chwast has given us a fascinating companion piece (not a replacement!) that successfully complements Dante's original."

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•Charles on Ape House by Sara Gruen: "The 800-pound gorilla in the room is why someone at Gruen's new publishing house didn't give her the benefit of a good edit. Even if the silly story and the trite characters couldn't be saved, why leave these pages pocked with such lines?
The New York Times Book review critic didn't seem to like Ape House much either, yet I'm hearing about it quite a bit on the Internet. Maybe because it's about a talking ape or something? People in America are big on Monkeys... I don't know why.

I don't know what to think anymore about Ape House. I have a feeling it will sell.

Silly stories and Trite Plot, well Patterson is the top... what does that tell you?

Posted by: KindleClay | Tuesday September 14, 2010 at 1:51 PM

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