MixedThe RumpusCohen writes compellingly about the Jewish experience. The first sections of Moving Kings focus on David and Yoav—the book’s best-drawn characters—and occasionally arrive at gripping moments of emotional sincerity ... Cohen, however, is not simply after shock value. His novel is more interested in horrors suppressed than luridly described, particularly in the case of war-hardened Yoav and Uri. The gruesome details from their military service go unmentioned, and thus become more haunting ... He gets into trouble, though, when he strays from the terrain he knows best. Written in close third-person narration, Cohen’s novel is masterful at capturing the voices of the people who work for Moving Kings; when the focus shifts to the victims of eviction, the writing loses credibility ... Moving Kings is a bold novel that succeeds in many ways. It has brilliant things to say about America and Israel, war and peace, diaspora and home. But it can’t convince us that the person at the center of its eviction narrative is real. Making a character live and breathe on the page tests a writer’s imaginative capabilities, but it’s also about investing in the humanity of the subject. Moving Kings could have engaged more deeply with its evictee, rather than dragging him away.
MixedThe RumpusFor his part, Lerner acknowledges the shortcomings of The Hatred of Poetry, a slim volume. 'It doesn’t have much to say about good poems in all their variety' ... But perhaps a more head-scratching omission is that Lerner, so keen on advancing his own argument, never stops to examine the more usual explanations given for poetry’s unpopularity ... Perhaps The Hatred of Poetry is most compelling when reflecting on how poetry shapes our childhoods. Adults are eager, Lerner asserts, to return to that time of nursery rhymes, when language was rich in possibility, when meaning was still something to be discovered.