PositivePop MattersThose looking for an extensive examination of the motivations behind the development of Lumet\'s films should understand that Spiegel doesn\'t get into an examination of the movies until nearly halfway through this book. There are 30 years to cover before the movies come into play, and Spiegel draws from some dramatic lines to paint a picture of a rift between son and father that seemed to fuel Lumet\'s drive ... Spiegel has done her research here and built a powerful text-based on extensive interviews. Cinema-specific texts will go deeper into the production and legacy of his classic films from the 1970s. Read Spiegel\'s book for a sensitive portrayal of a man whose vision for a film community came to realization. Lumet\'s legacy of socially relevant, actor-based and narrative-run movies will resonate.
RavePopMatters... [a] beautiful, brilliant, bold debut collection of essays ... there is a rare sharpness that is dramatically effective in young writers, especially for a debut collection ... These essays are ballads, images from the self, isolated and marginalized in other countries and in his own land. These are songs of identity and sexuality and expectations the world has of African American males. The only complaint this reader has is that there were not more essays about music, and about life in Hong Kong. Here\'s hoping this book will mark the start of a long and varied journey for Perry. If the goal of a literary traveler is to show how connected we are to one another, his debut collection is an assured indication of deeper glories yet to come.
Carmen Maria Machado
RavePopMattersThe only way to effectively process Carmen Maria Machado\'s masterful, harrowing, beautifully controlled memoir, In the Dream House, is to understand that this is one of the more ambitious, audacious, and successful experimental accounts of a journey from a house of horrors ... Like most villains, the woman in the Dream House (as Machado names her girlfriend) offers her evil in equally measured, small doses. It is powerful how Machado writes her way out of that life ... [a] remarkably smooth account of trauma absorbed and processed ... Machado effectively chooses pop culture references to reflect on ideas of domestic abuse ... Much of what makes this a revelatory text comes through when Machado writes conclusively of domestic abuse in her community ... Machado mixes her seamless experimentation with form into political commentary and pop culture reflections to create a narrative that wouldn\'t have worked in less assured hands ... Machado captured our attention and earned our commitment from the first page and she never loses it. The beauty here is that she doesn\'t keep us at a stranglehold. She allows us to breathe through the lines. This is not a dense, impenetrable narrative. Even through the horror, there\'s the power of wisdom ... It\'s highly unlikely a stronger survivor\'s memoir will publish in 2019. The remarkable truths within these pages will transcend categories and make for a harrowing, unforgettable reading experience.
RavePopMattersOrdinary Girls will be treasured and studied not just for its testimony of survival, but also its stunning and refreshingly consistent strength of style. Every page shimmers with assuredness and the strength of somebody who has survived to tell this story but also knows that survival is a daily process ... Diaz is working on multiple levels, code-switching between a mixed-race culture (Puerto Rican and white), friends who dismiss any academic inclinations, and the very idea of who she can love and how she can love. A narrative about coming to where she is now from where she once was would be compelling enough. That Diaz tells her story with equal parts fear, regret, humor, and humility makes it one to treasure ... a fierce, beautiful, uncompromising memoir about survival, motherhood, love, forgiveness, and identity. It\'s harrowing with a purpose ... Diaz has managed to find that calm place between the personal and political, the attraction towards darkness and the unimaginably profound blessing of a survival instinct that her on solid ground. She might specifically declare at the end that this story is for the girls who believe in monsters, but there are miracles to be found on every page for every curious reader hungry for the lessons to be learned from a hard life. Here\'s hoping Diaz has many more stories to tell.
PositivePopMattersThe reader familiar with the cultural history of India as an independent country and the continued divisiveness of its class divisions through the caste system will find a great deal to embrace in this book. There\'s a great deal of strength here for those interested in compelling political commentary. Roy takes things very personally, and while that might be a detriment in some essayists, she makes it a strength here ... within the comfortable yet sometimes shaky intersections between the literary, academic, and politically ideological ... Roy\'s tendency to condemn might veer into hectoring and (as a result) prove tiresome, but it works for those with patience. Still, there is a tendency on Roy\'s part to romanticize primitive eras ... Failure on Roy\'s part to update or revise some of these essays, or simply omit them in favor of stronger pieces, weighs down the ultimate effectiveness of this book ... In spite of these issues, it\'s the more decisive and timeless reflections that make My Seditious Heart a compelling and important collection of socio-political essays ... The strengths of the tone and approach in these essays are many, but the reader encountering them here for the first time see more clearly the problems in her nonfiction. Roy tends to be didactic, and quick to condemn. The more personal approaches, the essays in which we see her in the world of her subjects, are compelling. The ones that feel like policy papers and preaching to the choir weigh this book down more than Roy may have wanted ... While My Seditious Heart is a mixed bag, its strengths shine brightly. This book conclusively serves notice that Arundhati Roy is an heir apparent to the greatest social essayists.
RavePopMattersHerb Childress\'s The Adjunct Underclass: How America\'s Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students, and Their Mission, is a masterfully compressed call to action ... the way he maps out his argument...is chilling ... The Adjunct Underclass is a devastating shot from deep within the woods, an emergency S.O.S. flare to those who can see the forest for the trees. Its thesis is similar to Barbara Ehrenreich\'s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, providing a clear picture of how low we\'ve fallen and how we may never rise again without some serious reform ... Childress has exposed some uncomfortable truths with this book that are both painfully difficult for adjuncts to admit and essential reading for those concerned with the cultural and intellectual future of America.
Joyce Carol Oates
RavePopMattersThere are moments when even the most jaded and experienced reader of serious epic dramatic literary fiction might feel the pages of a new book glowing and expanding their notions of what they might expect to receive from a contemporary novel ... Oates has always been a master when it comes to connecting her characters with the seductive lure of their surroundings ... Hope stays hidden from the beginning of this novel and throughout the story, with a barely discernible pulse, and we keep reading for the possibility that it might rise from the dead ... Indeed, the strongest guarantee by the end of this book is the consistency of melancholy, the persistence of an existence where fate is determined by class, race, gender, economy, and geography ... My Life as a Rat shimmers with possibilities by the end of its story ... Most remarkable is that Oates has added another unforgettably strong woman character to her canon.
PositivePopMattersWhat does it mean to be good? McEwan pontificates about those considerations and the reader unable to warm to this voice might find it ponderous. On the other hand, in McEwan\'s hands, the intellectual journey is strong and relatable ... McEwan\'s determination nicely balances the conflict between a character with a tendency to try and impress us and our ability and willingness to see a few steps ahead ... Science fiction purists who see McEwan\'s comments as a slight against their beloved literary genre are missing the point ... McEwan\'s plot complications are less convoluted than they are complex ... Justice is served, romantic ideals realized, while the question of what defines humanity is left up in the air ... It probably takes longer than it should for McEwan to make his points. Machines Like Me is a deep study in ethical considerations about what it means to be truly human ... It\'s within the imagined history McEwan creates here, from Turing and the revived Beatles and a world of alternate classic novels that Machines Like Me becomes a slightly bloated but important addition to McEwan\'s canon.
MixedPopMatters\"... exhaustive ... It\'s these moments, in which we meet Brooks the intellectual, where this book shines. Had McGilligan trimmed much of the discussion of taxes and wages and accumulation of material things while friends came and went, the reader might have gotten a better sense of Brooks the artist. Indeed, it takes a while for this story to get started ... Again, this biography would have been helped had McGilligan narrowed his focus. Did he want to chronicle every particular element of Brooks\'s life and times in excruciating detail, or did he want to focus on the specific highlights of his impressive artistic career? ... McGilligan knows exactly where he wants to go in Funny Man, but like the best of Mel Brooks films in the \'70s, it\'s a book that wears out its welcome in the second half and drifts home through the final pages, floating on a fumes of goodwill for a time long gone.\
PanPop MattersSex here is awkward, clinical, and difficult to embrace. This first section, in fact, the entire book, proves that Choi is more interested in prioritizing a structural experiment in trust than writing a narrative in which her reader will want to invest time and energy. Readers can overcome the most confusing and convoluted plot elements and structures. Whether or not they will want to invest the time and energy, however, is another issue altogether ... it takes longer than it should to fully understand where [Choi] is going with Trust Exercise and what she wants to do ... Choi builds up the restraint and cool mood, but the release doesn\'t feel authentic ... The problem with this experiment in form (Part One) is that Choi constructed a maze of cold, convoluted sentences and distant narrative directives in part one that doesn\'t pay off with part two ... We don\'t know what happened, and we lose interest in caring halfway through this confusing novel. The reader willing to go on this ride will not be rewarded with much, save for a headache.
PanPopMatters... might be too smart for its own good ... [Beattie] knows we can meander through some of her short stories and trust that she\'ll bring us to a crescendo, but novels are a wholly different landscape, and she doesn\'t earn our trust as early on in the story as she should ... even a great short story writer like Ann Beattie cannot effectively balance maintaining and sustaining our interest in what\'s happening with a character who isn\'t going anywhere ... There\'s a reason Beattie set this story in the 9/11 era, but she fails the reader by not following through on such observations ... Beattie assuredly and intelligently drops an endless supply of cultural references throughout this novel, but she doesn\'t back them up with anything within the story itself ... the ending disappoints ... This is an intellectually rich book, but Beattie\'s clinical distance seems as much a reflection of her inability to fully capture this generation as it is a literary style. It reads like the result of scholarly research rather than primary experience. Emotional connections within or between characters are nowhere to be seen. Alas, if the writer seems uninterested in attempting a connection with the reader, then the effort expended to build an absorbing fictional world proves fruitless.
RavePopMatters\"... a stunning, beautiful meditation on life in rural America ... All 18 of the essays in this volume, including \"Hide-And-Seek\", weave themselves into a world where the sadness of repressed family anger is forgiven through the grace of a beautiful essay. But they\'re not all easy -- none of them are bland and comfortable and non-threatening ... Each entry in this book delivers on the promise of its title. This one will hurt, the next one will support, and yet another will challenge. No matter which drink you choose from this case, you\'ll be surprised by its staying power.\
PanPopMatters\"The problem might be that from its title through to most characters and story lines covered in David Thomson\'s Sleeping With Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire, the author just isn\'t honest with himself, the audience, or most of the real people (stars, directors, writers, and more) drawn into his rambling narrative. The biggest problem is this book\'s distinct lack of a singular vision and Thomson\'s apparent unwillingness to accept changing times and perspectives ... The strange tone Thomson adopts early in this book never quite feels comfortable or legitimate ... It\'s not that Thomson\'s style isn\'t compelling and captivating ... Thomson is on track early on, but it doesn\'t seem he\'ll stay there for long ... Unfortunately, this staccato delivery of questionable observations never really amounts to anything, and Thomson\'s apparent eagerness to open threads without following through with them is frustrating ... As we leave Sleeping with Strangers, we\'re not more enlightened about or close to any answers as to gay subtexts in Hollywood films, the separation of desire into various areas (carnal, intellectual, spiritual), and we have no clear understanding that what was tolerated as recently as 20 years ago is no longer up for consideration.\
RavePopMatters\"Kristen Roupenian\'s You Know You Want This: \'Cat Person\' and Other Stories is a brutal, brilliant, biting, masterful debut short story collection that readers might think exists only as a forum for \'Cat Person\' ... There are minor stories here, but none are weak ... Roupenian is completely in control of her vision from beginning to end. That\'s the bottom line with the dozen stories in You Know You Want This. Roupenian\'s confidence and willingness to follow through with the dark visions and sentimental longing in these 12 stories is enough to convince the reader that what follows will be equally surprising, dark, tender, and real.\
PositivePopMatters\"Leader carefully and precisely accounts for the women who come in and out of Bellow\'s life ... Leader diplomatically and carefully illustrates the problems in the writing of (and reaction to) James Atlas\'s single-volume biography Bellow ... If a criticism can be made of the style Leader employs throughout this book, it could be that he doesn\'t look at influences and ideas as ingredients that make for great novels. Leader knows the work better than perhaps anybody save for Bellow himself, but the knowledge of the work is mainly for data and structure, not necessarily for literary style. The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife 1965-2005 works best in smaller scenes of humility and tradition ... Those deeply familiar with Bellow\'s novels and stories will appreciate Leader\'s astute criticism and understand why the decidedly minor nonfiction and theater work is not as deeply examined. Leader provides more than enough material to give his reader a head start into a deep study of some important, challenging, controversial, brilliant, distinctly American literature.\
PositivePopMattersJames Mustich\'s 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List is as nourishing and addictive as it is slightly problematic ... The reader should be aware that this is an ambitious collection even if it\'s approached with the intention to chew each section separately, carefully, enjoying the flavors as they make themselves known and eventually dissolve into your mind ... Mustich and his advisors and co-writers Margot Greenbaum Mustich, Thomas Meager, and Karen Templer, however, have compiled a work here that is relatively free of pomposity and authoritarianism ... Mustich could definitely improve this text in future volumes by removing...titles and replac[ing] them ... No matter how we feel about 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List, it deserves a prominent place on the shelf of any serious reader.
PositivePopMatters\"With Maeve In America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else, the clear and precise writing and infectious warmth so evident from Higgins\' literal (and figurative) voice finds a suitable home on the written page ... Identity politics, gender perspectives, and basic, clumsy, fish out of water confusion is liberally sprinkled through all the essays in Maeve In America, the strong and minor efforts both, but it\'s really within \'Aliens of Extraordinary Ability\' that Higgins finds her strongest platform ... Maeve in America is a sweetly rendered collection of essays with hard edges of reality that seem to come from a distinctly Irish literary sensibility. It\'s about rebellion, humor, adaptation, hunger for food and a place in the world, and the offerings of humanity that all immigrants bring to the land when they come for a place at the American table.\
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen
PanPopMatters\"More often than not, the reader will read the end of one chapter only to have lines repeated at the start of the next chapter, like a TV procedural closing one scene with as line of dialogue, fading to commercial, and starting with the same scene once the new \'chapter\' begins. Additionally, some of the narrative is first year creative writing clumsy ... The reader might find it difficult to forgive the clumsy and thick narrative style. Better (as always with Murakami) are the reflections on painting, on process ... The problem with Killing Commendatore is that Murakami starts not only with the assumption that we\'ll have unlimited patience, but also that time is never of the essence. This is a typically thick Murakami novel, but the Bad Sex element is problematic and the unwillingness to tame the trademark Murakami fantasy in favor of more poetic realism is frustrating. The stale repetitive transitions can only suggest that a series of carefully rendered graphic novel adaptations will be a better way to adapt this story and trim some of the more unfortunate plot elements.\
RavePopMatters...a heartbreaking, profound, deep examination of the process of mourning ... There\'s a sweet mood that permeates the opening stages of this memoir, and Santlofer wisely distributes it evenly from beginning to end ... It challenges the very notion that men do not (or should not) write books about grief ... what separates this book from so many others in the genre is that Santlofer isn\'t asking for more than just for us to follow his journey ... Santlofer\'s The Widower\'s Notebook is a graceful and profound whisper of a memoir that works through its sheer force of will and survival instincts.
PositivePopMattersJ.E. Smyth\'s Nobody\'s Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood is a rich history ... Her points are clear and effectively laid out. While we may easily cite Dalton Trumbo as a resistance hero against the House on Un-American Activities, there were just as many women ... Smyth is determined to prove that male film historians seemed focused on erasing the role of women in the development of cinema as an art, business, and representation of American culture ... As an astute film history text, Smyth manages to fill in the missing pieces in the standard view of the roles women played in Hollywood ... a meticulously researched history of how women entered, developed, sustained, and grew within the Hollywood dream factory in that mid-century period before World War II and through to the end of the system in the early \'60s.
PositivePopMattersStrange Stars ... manages to look at how the idea of science fiction as a means of escape through pop music captivated the vital forces of the time: Pink Floyd, Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane and Starship, David Crosby, Black Sabbath, Pete Townshend, and Michael Jackson. If there are problems with this text it\'s this impatience to rush through the decade and touch upon all these characters and more. Heller clearly loves and is informed by every element of the sci-fi literary form, but this is one of those surveys that could have been helped by slowing down and focusing on perhaps a half dozen of these key players. Bowie is clearly the anchor and Heller\'s connection with the man\'s canon is infectious. His style and narrative drive will compel even the most skeptical reader to investigate the music ... Though Strange Stars is filled to the brim with scores of recording artists who dabbled in sci-fi in what was for the most part nothing but a fervent passion and commitment, women are conspicuously absent ... Minor quibbles aside, Strange Stars is a wonderfully excitable look at an era when everything seemed possible.
RavePop Matters\"Brock Clarke ... knows how to build a perfect mixture of dark desperation and humor ... Clarke\'s The Price of the Haircut is an impressive collection of stories, some more stylistic than substantial, but they should all entertain and challenge and linger. Clarke has created an impressive world here that\'s well worth visiting.\
RavePopMattersBrinkley\'s stories are precious without being fragile. They\'re quiet, masterpieces in mood, tone, characterization, and family dynamics ... the stories in this collection are consistently good and will speak to the hunger in any reader wanting tender and nuanced stories about manhood ... Brinkley\'s willingness to pace himself with these stories and set scenes strong enough to be expanded in deeper formats is generous and remarkable at the same time ... At their best they are fully realized distillations of multi-leveled scenarios that will only grow deeper with repeated readings ... Jamel Brinkley\'s A Lucky Man is a story collection that shadowboxes with your heart.
RavePopMattersPatricia Hampl\'s The Art of the Wasted Day is a remarkable memoir of loss and renewal ... In the first section, \'Timelessness,\' Hampl offers the first of many beautiful moments, the kind that should make any conscientious reader furiously annotate with multi-colored pens. She sees words mostly as music ... The Art of the Wasted Day shimmers and glows as it takes the reader through countries, time zones, centuries, almost like the title heroine of Virginia Woolf\'s Orlando ... Hampl has given birth here to a beautiful, stunning, intense look at the graceful and sublime responsibilities of a writer who understands the difference between romanticizing loneliness and elevating the literary obligation to craft.
MixedPopMatters\" Sloane Crosley\'s Look Alive Out There is a collection stuffed with skimpy, sketchy occasionals that fail to create any relatable voice. Rather than being humorous, one-paragraph pieces like \'Right Aid\' are just annoying ... Look Alive Out There is a mixed collection. The short sketches are barely even ideas. They\'re proof that even writing in small doses can feel like it takes a lifetime to read. The fully realized pieces... would have been better served had they been expanded or at least published in a different format. Clever observations and pithy comments stuffed between these more substantial pieces corrupt the text as a whole and make it a tedious reading experience.\
PositivePopMatters\"Those of us who prefer to hide in the corner of a lecture hall as a speaker elucidates ideas that might prove uncomfortable can get uncomfortable when we\'re called out. Oluo wants to address single parts of the system and send her readers off to the job of dismantling it ... What works best in So You Want to Talk About Race are the personal experiences Oluo recounts ... If there\'s a deficiency to this book (and there aren\'t many) the poorly prepared or inexperienced reader might feel overwhelmed by all these ideas floating in Oluo\'s atmosphere, though she manages them very well.\