PanLos Angeles TimesWoodward’s writing has the mouthfeel of gravel. In Rage, he serves up heaps of that inimitable Woodward prose ... He doesn’t do depth. People shuffle in and out of the Oval Office and other rooms of great importance bearing little more than fourth-rate Homeric epithets ... A lack of anything remotely resembling literary ability has long been excused on the grounds that Woodward is a first-rate reporter, and first-rate reporters cannot afford the luxury of craftsmanship. The reliance on cliché is a necessity. But nobody wins when we go easy on the Bob Woodwards of this world. Lazy writing is lazy thinking, and lazy thinking is what got us into this whole mess. The greatest achievement of Rage is that its deadening incoherence is a pretty close approximation of what it has felt like to be in Washington in 2020. To be perfectly clear, he has no feel for the city itself, or for anyone who doesn’t have a West Wing pass ... The senseless drumbeat of news—that Woodward does gets right, page after page ... If anything, the chaos should have pushed Woodward to condense, clarify, forge a cohesive story ... Need it even be said that the challenge in interviewing Trump is not getting him to talk, but gleaning anything meaningful from the conversation? Credit goes to whoever on Woodward’s “team” figured out how to season a series of nothing-burgers into what looks and smells like filet mignon ... Woodward is an access journalist ... Such a lack of moral curiosity is especially troubling in our debased times, when the cover of neutrality is daily abused by partisans and charlatans. Only it should not be surprising, for it has marked Woodward’s approach for ages ... Rage...is a testament to what Woodward thinks of himself.
PanThe New RepublicIts infuriating lack of temporal or geographical signposts suggests a fable—but without any of that genre’s sly moral gravity. Yet nor is this a druid-punk cousin to Crace’s more inventive works, for despite the villagers’ fear of ‘witchery,’ the supernatural is a rather tame beast in Harvest. The story is not so much simple as it is ploddingly plain. It is actually a little hard to describe, so absent is any kind of propulsive force … Far more compelling are the lamentably rare first-person plural sections dealing with human dread, which—if I try to discern some intention from the novel—I am fairly certain Crace had aimed to explore … As Thirsk says toward the end of this unsatisfying novel, ‘I have survived to tell the tale, although there’s not much of a tale to tell.’ That, I fear, is precisely the problem.
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesThe Once and Future Liberal is an expansion on an op-ed piece that Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, wrote for the New York Times 10 days after Trump’s unlikely victory in the November election ...is only 160 pages long, buttressing the original argument with historical context. Lilla divides modern American politics into two 'dispensations,' as he calls them: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s big government and Ronald Reagan’s little government ... Some of Lilla’s detractors have made him out to be a more articulate Rush Limbaugh. Anyone making this charge has either failed to read his work or to engage it with the intellectual dignity it demands ... In the America that Lilla envisions, economic security is the balm for all people, from all backgrounds.
Jonathan Safran Foer
PanThe Los Angeles Times...joyless prose about joyless people...I fear that it never occurred to Foer that his precious creations are, in fact, insufferable ... For Foer, [Judasim] is a carapace into which he retreats whenever the fundamental business of writing fiction true to life surpasses his abilities of observation ... Foer’s greatest failing in Here I Am, far more grave than its cynical reliance on ethnic kinship, is writing that is as incoherent as a curbside preacher.