PositiveThe Associated Press... invigorating ... Solnit describes that Orwell essay as a \'triumph of meandering\' — and the same might be said about this book ... At times her digressions and literary flourishes are maddening, but she always returns to the startling brilliance and clarity of Orwell’s work. She ends with a sensitive reconsideration of 1984 that, if you haven’t done so already, will make you want to reread it, too.
RaveThe Associated PressGroff brings to vivid life the appalling conditions of the period, such as burying the sick “crown to toe in warm manure” to cure them. Yet she also finds much to admire in the rituals and rhythms of a monastic life devoted to prayer — and not an insignificant amount of steamy sex ... [Groff] uses her abundant storytelling gifts to knock her readers to the ground.
RaveUSA TodayDespite the timeliness of Toews’ story – it resonates with #MeToo and calls to \'Smash the patriarchy\' – Fight Night is the farthest thing imaginable from a political diatribe. Toews, who began her writing career making radio documentaries, has created a vibrant, mostly female ensemble of eccentric, endearing voices, girls and women doing their best to stand up to the Willit Brauns of the world. Even the minor characters spring to life on the page ... With Swiv, Toews has perfectly captured the spongelike way kids absorb the language of adults while retaining their fundamental innocence ... Moving back and forth in time through her characters’ fragmentary memories, Toews has written a big-hearted, briskly paced family saga about the extraordinary love that binds three generations of free-spirited women together, and the tools and techniques that they’ve had to develop to survive.
MixedUSA Today... more academic, less personal (than Nelson\'s last book) ... The last section, \'Riding the Blinds,\' is the most vivid and accessible, taking up the topic of climate change and how to deal with the terrifying prospect ... If you approach this book expecting another Argonauts, you’re likely to be confounded or disappointed. But if you approach it in a Nelson-esque spirit, with an open, curious mind, you may stumble at times over the dense language and academic theory, but you’ll also find lots to keep you engaged—provocative ideas, thinkers you’ve never heard of and a vast encyclopedia of cultural references, from the teachings of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron to the Allman Brothers’ \'Ramblin’ Man.\'
Anthony Veasna So
RaveThe Associated Press... dazzling ... In each of the nine stories, So lays out for inspection all the problems of his beloved community — from gambling and gossip to alcoholism and suicide — then embraces it all with love and compassion. It is a virtuosic performance.
RaveThe Associated Press... a wildly entertaining romp. But as you might expect with this two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur genius, Whitehead also delivers a devastating, historically grounded indictment of the separate and unequal lives of Blacks and whites in mid-20th century New York ... the plot is twisty, with a large, at times bewildering cast of characters and a few storylines that border on the ridiculous. What ties it all is the utterly believable, complicated character of Carney ... Part of the suspense—and what sets this novel apart from so many others in the hard-boiled crime genre—comes from wondering whether Ray’s better angels will prevail ... countless beautifully written, erudite passages ... Whitehead takes us inside Ray’s head as he considers the relationship between fathers and sons, and the question of whether genetics is destiny.
PositiveThe Associated PressSestanovich is an elegant writer whose stories deftly capture the foods, clothes and customs of contemporary life ... Over the 11 stories, told in a variety of different voices, we meet a large, angsty, mostly privileged cast of characters who nonetheless seem to reflect a society that’s been knocked back on its heels.
PositiveThe Associated Press... a brilliant but flawed allegory filled with ravishing descriptions of nature set in an unidentified land after an unspecified global financial collapse that has rendered travel almost impossible ... Cusk’s decision to model her book after the earlier work came with risks. On the one hand, it gave her ready-made plot points because of Luhan and Lawrence’s tempestuous relationship. On the other hand, it also gave her the baggage of a white woman’s beliefs about Native American culture in the 1920s ... Thus, M. speaks to Jeffers in an archaic voice, which Cusk renders in the text by using lots of distracting exclamation points. Also, M.’s second husband, Tony — based on Luhan’s fourth husband, a Taos Pueblo Indian named Tony — is a caricature of a Native wise man, in tune with the rhythms of nature ... Oddly enough, while Cusk is extraordinarily adept at depicting the shifting alliances among the secondary characters, the relationship at the center of the book — between M. and L. — never makes much sense. The fact that it doesn’t matter is a testament to Cusk’s astonishing skills as a storyteller and a writer.
RaveAssociated PressA lot of criticism doesn’t age well because it’s tied to ephemeral moments in our cultural life. Jenny Diski’s is likely to stand the test of time because it offers readers a bracing mix of razor-sharp analysis and wrenchingly honest autobiography ... The most gripping have to do with her own extraordinary life ... It’s as good an account as any for what she’s up to in these mordantly funny and brilliant essays.
RaveAssociated Press[A] vibrant, sympathetic portrait ... It\'s good he finally undertook the project because Frankenthaler, one of the five women artists profiled in Mary Gabriel\'s highly regarded 2018 Ninth Street Women is a fascinating subject ... Nemerov is a thoughtful and judicious writer. He does a good job of sorting through various criticisms leveled at Frankenthaler over the years ... But brevity can be a virtue. In just over 200 pages, Nemerov takes us on a fast, exhilarating ride through the formative decade of her career, providing a lucid introduction to an artist we\'re likely to hear more about in the near future.
Janice P. Nimura
PositiveUSA Today3/4 stars ... [A] fascinating dual biography that restores the two sisters to their rightful place in U.S. history and illuminates a period riven like our own with bitter disagreements over race, public health and medicine, and the role of women in society ... Nimura shoehorns a lot of history into this carefully researched, briskly paced narrative.
PositiveThe Associated PressDidion’s critique seems more prescient than ever ... Others haven’t aged as well. Another piece from 1968, about Gamblers Anonymous, quotes the people at a meeting in ungrammatical English, speaking \'as if from some subverbal swamp.\' In A Trip to Xanadu, she sneers at tourists at the Hearst Castle in their \'slacks and straw hats and hair rollers\' ... But when she punches up instead of down, the results can be devastating ... The best of the bunch have to do with the subject Didion, 86, knows and cares about most — being a writer. In essays like Why I Write, whose title she borrowed from George Orwell, Telling Stories and Last Words, she makes it clear why she has been an essential voice in American arts and letters for more than half a century.
PositiveAssociated Press... billed as a master class in how to read and write, is effectively two books in one: seven classic Russian short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol paired with funny, lively, profound essays by Saunders explaining their art, craft and enduring appeal ... the best possible guide to have on this invigorating tour through FictionLand because although he thinks like the MacArthur \'genius\' that he is, he talks like the guy sitting next to you at the bar.
PositiveAssociated Press,.. a deeply moving memoir about their extraordinary friendship, as well as a look back at an earlier era of sports journalism and fandom, when evening newspapers thrived and ordinary folk -- not just the 1 percenters -- could afford courtside seats.
RaveUSA Today... a new collection that is so smart and self-assured it’s certain to thrust her into the top tier of American short story writers. Evans’ stories feel particularly urgent at this moment of national reckoning over race. While they aren’t specifically about being Black any more than Alice Munro’s are about being white, many of the characters are shaped by the social, economic and cultural conditions unique to African American life ... she brings an anthropologist’s eye to the material conditions of her characters’ lives ... The hands-down masterpiece of the collection is the title novella ... Reading these stories is like [an] amusement park ride—afterward, you feel a sense of lightness and exhilaration.
RaveAssociated Press...brilliant ... At various points of the book, you may be tempted to go online to see if they’re really true. But as you get swept up in the sprawling story, you begin to realize that the Akhtar of the book is a blend of many voices and characters ... a searingly honest, brutally funny, sometimes painful-to-read account of being a Muslim in America before and after 9/11.
RaveThe Associated Press... enthralling ... Her allusive blend of autobiography and criticism may remind some of The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, a friend whose name pops up in the text alongside those of other artists and intellectuals who have influenced her work. And yet, line for line, her epigrammatic style perhaps most recalls that of Emily Dickinson in its radical compression of images and ideas into a few chiseled lines ... Biss wears her erudition lightly ... she’s really funny, with a barbed but understated wit ... Keenly aware of her privilege as a white, well-educated woman who has benefited from a wide network of family and friends, Biss has written a book that is, in effect, the opposite of capitalism in its willingness to acknowledge that everything she’s accomplished rests on the labor of others.
RaveUSA Today... an exquisitely written, elegiac memoir ... she combines the jewel-like concision of [poetry] with the propulsive drive of narrative nonfiction ... Memorial Drive is Trethewey’s gorgeous exploration of all the wounds that never heal: her mother’s, her own, and the wounds of slavery and racism on the soul of a troubled nation.
PositiveABC NewsLynn is, above all, a great storyteller, and this book is filled with warm and funny stories, as heartfelt and true as any of her songs. But underneath the folksy veneer is an unvarnished view of what it took for her and Cline to make it to the top. “I love seeing women be good friends to each other,” she says.
RaveThe Associated PressIn eight lyrical chapters Taylor moves back and forth in time, presenting a series of vignettes and remembered conversations that offer an unvarnished view of a brilliant, driven man who was controversial almost from the start of his career, largely for his portrayal of his fellow Jews and women ... while he recognizes Roth\'s flaws—chiefly, an unending sense of grievance and sometimes unseemly desire for revenge—he loves him anyway ... In the end, Roth emerges as a funny, philosophical, even tragic figure, raging toward the end against \'the stupendous decimation that is death sweeping us all away\'— a quote from The Human Stain that Taylor uses at the front of the book.
RaveThe Associated PressHochschild is among the most readable of historians ... Given their wildly different backgrounds, perhaps it\'s remarkable the marriage lasted as long as it did. Hochschild has done a brilliant job of bringing it to life and in doing so, illuminating the complex social and economic history of a generation whose rabble-rousers and dreamers bequeathed us such reforms as Social Security, Medicare, child labor laws and the eight-hour day.
RaveAssociated PressDark doesn’t even begin to describe Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest novel, Death in Her Hands. Try horrifying, macabre, fashionably self-referential, and exceptionally well-written ... As Vesta forces herself to imagine what might have happened, the writing has a tendency to become forced as well. Yet other passages are lovely, filled with lyrical descriptions of the natural world and dead-on observations of rural, small-town life ... If you’re a fan of gothic fiction, Death in Her Hands might just be your cup of tea. If not, come for the dread — and stay for the dog.
PositiveThe Associated PressJames Shapiro makes the case that arguments about the Bard’s plays have long reflected our conflicted beliefs as a nation about hot-button issues like immigration, adultery, homosexuality and interracial love ... Shapiro, who serves as a consultant for the Public Theater, which stages the free Shakespeare in the Park festival every summer, is uniquely qualified to give readers a behind-the-scenes look at what happened [when Trump supporters disrupted the 2017 production of Julius Caesar in New York City\'s Central Park]. It’s a fascinating story—one of many in this entertaining and accessible book—that underscores Shapiro’s key point: Shakespeare never goes out of style.
PositiveThe Associated Press... a harrowing story of overcoming perfectionism, leavened by [Tallent] dry wit and precise, poetic use of language.
RaveThe Associated Press... a short, highly readable telling ... Ackmann aims to convey a sense of the poet’s rich interior life and her evolution as an artist by dramatizing 10 formative moments of her life on the day each occurred. Remarkably, she pulls it off. Readers may quibble with some of her choices—beginning each day’s account with a detailed weather report, for instance, or her premise that on each of the days selected, the poet was different at 10 p.m. that night than she was at 10 a.m. in the morning. But by the end, you’ll be a believer, in part because of Ackmann’s grasp of her subject—both the mountains of scholarship on Dickinson as well as the poet’s historical and cultural milieu—and Ackmann’s own formidable gifts as a storyteller.
RaveThe Philadelphia Inquirer...a short, highly readable telling of [Dickinson\'s] life and the extraordinary, pathbreaking body of work she left behind ... Ackmann aims to convey a sense of the poet’s rich interior life and her evolution as an artist by dramatizing 10 formative moments of her life on the day each occurred. Remarkably, she pulls it off ... Readers may quibble with some of her choices ... But by the end, you’ll be a believer, in part because of Ackmann’s grasp of her subject — both the mountains of scholarship on Dickinson as well as the poet’s historical and cultural milieu — and Ackmann’s own formidable gifts as a storyteller.
PositiveThe Associated PressFoner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor emeritus at Columbia University, has written many books about the Civil War, Reconstruction and slavery, but this one seems particularly attuned to the current political moment ... with this book, we have a compact, cogently argued and only occasionally dense history lesson. The last chapter summarizing key Supreme Court decisions that significantly undermined the amendments can be tough sledding, but well worth the effort.
RaveThe Associated PressCathleen Schine\'s captivating new novel, The Grammarians, centers on a pair of identical twins named Daphne and Laurel, after the Greek myth of transformation, and their obsessive love of language. It\'s also about their family, and what happens to them as they grow older and some die. In short, it\'s about everything and nothing, written with the tender precision and clarity of a painting by Vermeer, had that 17th-century Dutchman portrayed scenes of middle-class Jewish life in mid- to late 20th-century New York ... Schine...knows a thing or two about words herself. She moves the plot forward from decade to decade, evoking entire neighborhoods, social and economic strata, and fads and fashions, with just a few strokes. The point of view shifts seamlessly...And even though Schine herself is not a twin, she writes convincingly about twinship ...[a] wry and elegant novel.
RaveThe Associated Press... dazzling ... Woodson\'s inimitable style — jazzy, melodious, allusive, at times bordering on poetry or music ... Miraculously, Woodson manages to use this one particular Brooklyn family as a prism through which she explores profound generational differences in attitudes toward race, class, gender and sexuality.
PositiveAssociated Press...it would be a mistake to dismiss this book as romantic fluff. Bushnell’s style may be arch and breezy, but many of the characters deal with disappointment, heartbreak, and perhaps just as lethally, resignation ... From Cosmos to rosé, her current beverage of choice, Bushnell may drink pink. But she knows how to write dark.
Gabriel García Márquez
PositiveAssociated PressWhat’s particularly striking is how timely and relevant many of the dispatches are today, even though the most recent was written 35 years ago ... As in any anthology, some of the pieces are better than others. His style can be baroque. He repeats himself ... But taken together, the writing here offers readers a splendid opportunity to sit for a few hours in the presence of a storyteller of spellbinding genius and humanity.
RaveThe Associated Press\"It would be frightening to be interviewed by Janet Malcolm. But the same qualities that make her such a fearsome interlocutor also lend her essays an uncommon clarity ... Malcolm brings [the] same moral seriousness to every topic she addresses ... Yes, Malcolm can be unforgiving. But her calm, brilliant essays are the perfect tonic for our troubled times.\
PositiveAssociated Press\"... a marvelous comic fable ... Englander’s expansive imagination is such that he can convincingly write the part of a secular Jewish hipster and a born-again Jew - and do it with the Yiddish inflections of a Borscht Belt comedian ... [a] delight of a novel.\
PositiveAssociated Press\"[Franzen\'s] graceful, trenchant essays are a joy to read even when the subject is terrifying.\
PositiveAssociated Press\"Dozens of passages offer up similarly vivid images of sky, weather, birds and flowers. [Berlin] does humans well, too, with a sharp eye for social, economic and regional differences ... Some of the 22 stories here are wonderful; others nothing more than a collage of shimmering images. All feature her distinctive voice, which operates in the space between free verse and prose.\
RaveThe Associated Press\"Lake Success is a big-hearted book about many things. It\'s a brilliant satire of hedge fund managers, their trophy wives and gaudy apartments; a heart-rending but ultimately hopeful account of raising a child on the spectrum; and a raucous celebration of racial, ethnic and gender identity in America today. It also explores the ways large and small that Trump has changed the country, rupturing relationships and forcing people to take sides.\
RaveThe Associated PressA few years ago, Donald Hall wrote a book called Essays After Eighty ... His follow-up collection...comes just weeks after his death at 89 and roughly three months shy of his 90th birthday. And it\'s a beauty, brimming with stories, confessions and faded snapshots in time in which he muses about life, settles a few scores and brags a little about his accomplishments ... Fellow writers will enjoy his observations about writing, including more than a dozen short profiles of poets he’s known and admired—or not ... It’s odd that a book whose subject is loss could be so uplifting. And yet it is. Hall may be telling us what it’s like to fall apart, but he does it so calmly, and with such wit and exactitude, that you can’t help but shake your head in wonder.
RaveThe Associated Press\"[This] hilarious, heartbreaking second novel, A Terrible Country, may be one of the best books you’ll read this year ... One of the pleasures of the novel is listening to Andrei’s hyper-intelligent, wry and ironic voice. At times he can be petty and arrogant, self-righteous and ingratiating, not to mention slightly clueless about women ... The other unforgettable character is Andrei’s grandmother, an indomitable force of nature. Gessen’s portrait of her is tender, and readers will be hard-pressed to find a more nuanced and poignant depiction of what it means to lose your memory ... Gessen’s genius is in showing us how and why Russia is and isn’t a terrible country. And how, in its ruthless devotion to market capitalism, the former socialist state bears a striking resemblance to our own.\
Julia Van Haaften
PositiveThe Associated PressJulia Van Haaften...attempts to grapple with Abbott’s life and legacy in a comprehensive new biography that is absorbing and exhausting ... Van Haaften marshaled a tremendous amount of research to produce this 487-page volume, and you sometimes feel she didn’t want to leave a single moment of Abbott’s long life — she died in 1991 — unaccounted for. Even so, Abbott’s integrity and sense of honor, her restless and fearless nature, and her absolute devotion to telling the truth of her experience, come through loud and clear.
MixedThe Associated Press\"Shriver is a brilliant satirist and virtuosic writer. But too many of these stories read like fables designed to illustrate a point. Too many characters are empty vessels, engineered to deliver sneering diatribes on modern life. Still, even if Property isn’t your dream house, it’s a diverting enough place to spend an afternoon or two.\
MixedUSA Today\"The plot unfolds briskly, alternating between the girls’ points of view. But the story is told in an operatic key that sacrifices plausibility. The bad characters are monstrous. The girls are angelic. The misogyny is unrelenting ... Once Rao learns to dial down the melodrama, she’ll be a formidable writer.\
PositiveThe Associated PressBuruma, who went on to have a brilliant career as a journalist, succeeding Robert Silvers last year as editor of The New York Review of Books, where he was a longtime contributor, is an unusually lucid writer ... While the book occasionally gets bogged down in excruciating detail about movies only the most ardent cinephile would care about, Buruma paints a vivid portrait of his often mind-boggling encounters with the motley collection of artists, expats and eccentrics he befriended over his six years in Tokyo. And his honesty is disarming.
PositiveThe Associated PressAt 134 pages, Matthew Weiner's Heather, The Totality is best consumed in one bite like those exquisite pastries that line the cases of the French bakery/cafes on Manhattan's Upper East Side ... Weiner writes with maximum economy. The book practically reads like a screenplay, down to its eccentric capitalization. Characters are sketched in quickly, with just the right amount of detail to delineate a type ... Beyond its chilling portrait of America's social and economic divide, the novel raises a number of thorny questions: whether a 'good' man could be a killer. Whether a 'bad' man might be transfigured. How everyone, rich and poor alike, is complicit in their fate and trapped in their delusions. And how no one ever gets off scot-free.
PositiveThe Associated PressAlthough the plot of Zero K doesn't always hang together, DeLillo has written a profound and deeply moral book. His outrage at the mess we've made of the planet comes through loud and clear.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesIn this collection of astute and sparkling essays, Athill tries to identify 'the things that matter' after living to almost 100...One of the most powerful essays recounts a pregnancy in her 40s, a brush with death that left her profoundly grateful to be alive.