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Reviewing the Reviewers: Post-Oscars Edition

OMM 2-28
Shake off your post-Oscars disappointment (or ease yourself down from your post-Oscars euphoria) with some reviewer-vetted great reads:

New York Times:

Washington Post:

  • Anna Mundow on Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer by Wesley Stace: "There are strong echoes here of Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited,' but Leslie Shepherd is no Charles Ryder. An arch and often snide narrator who embodies the arrogance and xenophobia of his age (he hates Wagner and German culture in general), Shepherd repels sympathy...[midway through the novel,] Shepherd's tone becomes more intimate and the narrative more opaque. A love triangle takes shape, but who are the players? As hints of forbidden passions and shameful secrets multiply, Stace's novel -- which has until then been clever and a little pretentious -- becomes morbidly engaging. The final twist is both affectingly pathetic and suitably operatic."

  • Stephen Levingston on Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College by Andrew Ferguson: "Ferguson cuts through the muddle to elevate the discussion and deliver some powerful big-picture analysis. We learn the tortured history of the SAT and how it has become 'the most passionately controversial element in the world of college admissions.' We get a stark portrait of the one-way trend in college costs. Ferguson recalls that his annual tuition bill in 1978 at the small liberal-arts college he attended was $5,100. Adjusted for inflation, his price tag today would be $16,500 - far below the $40,000 his alma mater now charges. He combs over College Board handouts explaining how to pay for school and is repeatedly reminded that $143 billion in financial aid awaits students. He wonders for all of us: 'Maybe it's good news that $143 billion was available for aid. But isn't it bad news that we need the $143 billion in the first place?'"

Los Angeles Times:

  • Susan Salter Reynolds on The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok: "Mira Bartok's memoir of her schizophrenic, homeless mother, Norma, is relentlessly sad. Unlike memoirs like 'Angela's Ashes' or 'The Liar's Club,' there is very little triumph over tragedy in the author's life; no forgiveness, no 'closure.' There is only this beautifully constructed, richly detailed book...'Someday,' Bartok writes, 'I will live in a quiet green place, off a winding country road. My house will be small but warm, and the rooms awash with light. The floor will be terra-cotta red.' 'The Memory Palace' is proof that the author has been constructing that safe place, if only in her imagination, for her entire life."

The New Yorker:

  • James Wood on Open City by Teju Cole: "At these moments, and, indeed, throughout 'Open City,' one has the sense of a productive alienation, whereby Cole (or Julius) is able to see, with an outsider’s eyes, a slightly different, or somewhat transfigured, city. It is a place of constant deposit and erasure, like London in the work of Iain Sinclair (or in Sebald's 'Austerlitz'), and Julius is often drawn to the layers of sedimented historical suffering on which the city rests. There is, most obviously, the gaping void of Ground Zero: “The place had become a metonym of its disaster: I remembered a tourist who once asked me how to get to 9/11: not the site of the events of 9/11 but to 9/11 itself, the date petrified into broken stones.' But there were streets before the towers went up, cleared to make way for the new buildings, 'and all were forgotten now. Gone, too, was the old Washington Market, the active piers, the fishwives, the Christian Syrian enclave that was established here in the late 1800s...And, before that? What Lenape paths lay buried beneath the rubble?'"
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--Darryl Campbell


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