Book Reviews

Reviews of books and other forms of literature

Meaning’s Music: A Review of William H. Gass’s Middle C

Middle C by William H. Gass

Gass’s new novel, Middle C, is likely to strike most readers as less dependent on language games, but such an impression would ultimately be only superficial.

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Aaron Burr: Good Father, Good Shot

Heartbreak of Aaron Burr cover

H.W. Brands’s The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr lays out the details of Burr’s lifetime in short, swiftly moving chapters.

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Why George Saunders Needs to Stop Repeating Himself

Tenth of December by George Saunders

A major risk for any author—especially one whose main theme involves human consciousness—is overusing certain techniques and letting the voices of characters overlap and repeat.

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Review: How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by Christopher Boucher

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive

Of all the preposterous faux vehicle manuals out there, Christopher Boucher’s How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive has to be the most ridiculous.

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A Dreamy Look: A Review of Diane Williams’s Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty

Vicky Swanky cover

If flash fiction appeals to a new, attenuated attention span among some readers, Diane Williams’s stories reward expanded attention and encourage rereading.

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What Becomes by A.L. Kennedy

cover of what becomes by a.l. kennedy

The stories in A.L. Kennedy’s What Becomes seem driven by two entities: the author’s brain and her prose appendage. The latter is so alive it appears to possess a separate language pulse. In heightened moments Kennedy uses language to bind thought to physical sensation, which in turn stimulates a replicated response in the brain of the reader. This simulated experience is what makes her stories so striking and also intense.

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The Inclusive Embrace: Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman

In an occasionally polemical and highly impassioned voice, Edith Grossman advances the most brilliant and persuasive arguments for the absolute importance of literary translation I have ever encountered.

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Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

Zadie Smith, the prodigiously gifted English novelist, seems to have been caught in the tangle of literary debate from the beginning.

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Declan Kiberd’s Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce’s Masterpiece

Declan Kiberd, a professor of Irish literature, has set out to rescue Ulysses from its reputation.

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George Scialabba’s What Are Intellectuals Good For?

Scialabba writes as if he’s trying by sheer example value to will a smarter, more honest, more aesthetically and morally sensitive Left into being.

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Donald Hall’s Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry

For more than fifty years, Donald Hall has had a two-sided career, his fifteen books of poetry matched by fifteen books of nonfiction.

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The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Whether their subjugation is political, familial, romantic, or cultural, Adichie’s headstrong and heartstrong heroines reach a point where they take action to loosen whatever is choking them.

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Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler, Reviewed by Tim Horvath

Right off the bat, Scorch Atlas asserts itself as, if not the coolest-looking book you’ve ever fanned between your fingers, on the short-list, interior and exterior alike. Trot it out to the right café or park bench, and people will crane to try to discern what you’re reading. Visually, its obvious allusion (though a Google […]

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The Humbling by Philip Roth

It would be an understatement to say that Roth has never excelled at writing women characters.

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Chronic City: Review of Jonathan Lethem’s Eighth Novel

First, I am not the strong reader I might like to be. Second, I found Chronic City tedious, boring, and uninspiring. Third, the second might find cause in the first.

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