PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMendelsohn is either one of the great critics of our time or an unregistered cultural lobbyist sent from Mount Olympus ... His ambitious project is not to resuscitate the classics but to remind us, as he put it in an earlier collection, that no such \'mausoleum of culture\' exists ... The long and searching essay is a powerful tool for those who can make use of the space. Within it, Mendelsohn assumes different roles. Judgment is important but not the sole purpose. Some of the finest moments in this collection emerge when he examines our misinterpretations ... Mendelsohn takes pleasure in outlining new theories, demonstrating the vitality of ancient poetry as it makes its arduous journey through the centuries, surviving fires, floods, critics and \'disapproving church fathers\' ... his assessment is forensic and revelatory ... Pans are necessary, and the burden is noticeable in each negative Mendelsohn review — not in the prose itself but in the evident lengths to which he has gone to familiarize himself with the author’s previous works ... It’s a rare fairness.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"In The Patch, [McPhee] again shamelessly employs his go-to strategy: crafting sentences so energetic and structurally sound that he can introduce apparently unappealing subjects, even ones that look to be encased in a cruddy veneer of boringness, and persuade us to care about them. He’s been working this angle since the 1950s; it’s a good thing we’re finally onto him now ... McPhee finds surprising poetry in the material at hand, as in his list of found golf balls emblazoned with the names of mutual funds ... The Patch is just another chapter in an ongoing memoir of generous curiosity ... About the only essay in this collection that McPhee can’t elevate is an account of an N.C.A.A. lacrosse game pitting the University of Denver against Syracuse.\
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIf the title conjures polite restraint, the novel itself is reliably free-flowing. And why not? Carey is once again in his happy place, Australia’s past, this time the 1950s, where he’s free to fill the text with all the evocations he savors as an expat ... As usual with Carey, the voices lead. His narrators are voluble and digressive ... Carey sets an impressive and enjoyable goal of reaching the finish line. Characters, like dead spark plugs, like a twisted fender, get kicked aside, killed off, even when the early chapters hint at depth and promise ... With all its inventive momentum, all its pleasurable beats, the fast pace of the race, the scenery unfurling, the novel ends up far from where it started, in a place of historical reckoning and colonial guilt.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThis is what you get with Shepard’s short stories — weight and validity, lingo and precision, so that men haven’t just worked on a train, they’ve 'humped as gangers.' His stories come bearing enough unimpeachable detail to ensure they never sink into the mush of a half-baked world ... This approach gives the individual stories heft and the collections a dizzying range. In the latest book, we’re plunged into the cold waters of the Atlantic, lifted into an ocean of air via balloon and even left to winter on a sea of groaning arctic ice. Shepard doesn’t want to scrutinize the social facets of a village à la Alice Munro, nor is he interested in Mavis Gallant’s tactic of using stories to explore variations on a single life. He wants the entirety of the world, with no era out of bounds ...Shepard’s quick character sketches have been honed over four previous collections, but what impresses is his ability to convey compressed, cinematic action. He knows when to pop rivets and bend structures, add histrionics as well as saltwater stoicism ... if some of the stories exhibit a weakness, it’s when this shoptalk overwhelms. I was reminded at times of crowd scenes in epic historical films in which each extra is frantically engaged in some verifiably accurate activity — even though the details are true, the great cumulation gets to be too much ... Although Shepard’s beautifully researched creations inhabit different eras, his basic point is made and remade. Before you ship out, before you submerge your submarine or unleash your balloon, cherish every bit of warmth and respite, every gesture of love.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewSolzhenitsyn this is not. The frost gathers outside, but the book proceeds with intentional lightness. The tone is generally not far removed from the Fitzgeraldian tributes of Towles’s first novel, Rules of Civility ... Although its style is never overbearing, the Metropol is imbued with a sense of idiosyncratic wonder. Listen closely and you might hear a Wes Anderson soundtrack playing down the hall ... Towles is a craftsman. What saves the book is the gorgeous sleight of hand that draws it to a satisfying end, and the way he chooses themes that run deeper than mere sociopolitical commentary: parental duty, friendship, romance, the call of home.
MixedThe New York Times Sunday Book Review“The Blue Guitar advances Banville’s lifelong project, pushes the world through his 'mesh of language.' It reveals new, opulent sentences. But if his story is set upon a sabotaged narrative scaffolding, the chiming beauty of all these sentences competes with another sound, an underscore of persistent wooden thunk.”