PositiveThe Washington PostIsraeli author Etgar Keret doesn’t just produce memorable short stories but short short stories ... this collection features some of the darkest imagery Keret has brought to print to date ... Keret plays with reality in ways that are reminiscent of Salman Rushdie but also have a splash of Kurt Vonnegut ... In order to enjoy Keret’s stories you have to accept his approach: He cares less about Saki-like revelations, and more about crafting characters that feel like those you know, even if they’re dropped into absurd situations ... Keret teases out humor in the darkest corners of our world, and his stories can have you laughing on one before clamping your throat shut with melancholy by the next. It’s a gift he’s brought to every collection ... Keret has the admirable ability to find the poetry in gritty situations swirling with cannabis smoke and sour regrets. This marriage pulls in readers hungry to learn about the human condition and all its messiness.
PositiveThe Washington PostPrice is passionate about expanding how we view the book, expressing a love that ripples throughout What We Talk About When We Talk About Books ... The academic tone of Price’s writing can sometimes weigh down a chapter , but her forays into such topics as reading groups enliven the pages with color and energy. Anyone curious about how books communicate to us may be enthralled by Price’s intelligent look at what print has meant to the world. If you’re as fond of books as I am, you’ll be additionally comforted to learn that despite the many times pundits have proclaimed the book’s death, its heart has continued to beat strongly, transcendent as always.
Brian Jay Jones
RaveThe Washington PostCredit either Geisel’s amusing personality or Jones’s breezy writing, but Becoming Dr. Seuss never feels like a slog; rather, pages fly by, acquainting readers with Geisel’s work ethic, frequent pranks and core belief that children’s books should never be condescending or overly simplistic ... What will undoubtedly satisfy Seussian scholars and casual readers alike is a portrait of his work schedule ... It’s clear that Jones is experienced in extracting details from the most innocuous letter or interview, fleshing out the lives of cultural groundbreakers we’ve long admired. As all successful biographers should do, Jones doesn’t cheerlead his own writing style by adding unnecessary flourishes or similes; he lets the subject’s actions and quotes energize the book. Thankfully, Geisel is a hilarious and insightful character whose love of literature is almost as infectious as his timeless rhymes.
PositiveThe Washington PostMcKenzie sometimes veers into Tesla cheerleading by stressing the company’s hits over its misses. But the reader also benefits from his exhaustive research, which delivers a fairly nuanced view of how big automakers are trying to keep up with Tesla’s innovations ... McKenzie writes with breeziness and avoids talking down to readers or loading on too much insider detail. He apparently didn’t interview Musk; the quotes in the book come from company releases, news conferences and media reports. If McKenzie had been able to infuse his tale with original Musk comments, the book would have further stood apart from other works on Tesla’s impact. Still, McKenzie puts us there at a product launch or an interview with a Chinese CEO, even if his metaphors at times come across as head-scratching ... McKenzie has delivered a narrative that both fascinates and frustrates ... Insane Mode will leave you wondering how different our roads would look if we embraced a technology that almost seems inevitable, batteries included.
RaveThe Washington PostThe writer and comedian best known as a member of the British sketch troupe Monty Python has curated an intimate journey of what it was like to be a writer who suddenly found himself a massively famous actor ... Idle’s relationships with celebrities such as Robin Williams, Mike Nichols and Steve Martin also give readers a nuanced look into talented Americans whose love of what they do enriched Idle’s path to stardom ... Acting played second fiddle to the scripts they [Monty Python members] sweated over. This section could have benefited from deeper dives into how certain sketches came to be, although Idle does reveal the origin story behind the classic \'wink wink nudge nudge say no more\' bit ... The stories of how Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life came to be are just as enthralling, the former more so due to the decision by former Beatle George Harrison—a longtime friend of Idle’s—to bankroll the film ... If you’ve ever wondered how Idle created such a cheery tune for a chorus of crucified characters, the reveal will be as entertaining as the lyrics ... You don’t need to know every line to the \'Dead Parrot\' sketch...to appreciate Idle’s hilarious memoir. His lessons on the craft go beyond Python sketches and extend into dissecting what makes a joke memorable ... It’s also the kind of book you’ll want to read twice—once when the genius of Python sketches are fresh in your memory, and once when those scenes have faded so you can be reminded how these comedy rebels shook up an art form that was due for a dose of surreal silliness.
PositiveThe Washington PostIt isn’t easy to turn a biography into poetry. But Shawn Wen does exactly that with her portrait of mime artist Marcel Marceau ... Wen has written her first book with the kind of poetic zeal that suits an artist who practically created silent cinema on stage ... Translating Marceau’s backstory is one thing, but evoking his mime performances on the page is an incredibly difficult feat that the author accomplishes successfully ... By framing Marceau’s life as a lyrical ode, we aren’t bogged down by dates and key accomplishments...We are instead let into the life of an artist whose movements became the language of his art ... Where the book lags is in the listings of items found in Marceau’s home, from silverware to books. These details break the momentum of Wen’s prose and should have been scaled back instead of being peppered between Marceau’s feats ... an invigorating and memorable paean to Marceau’s talent and tragedies, wrapped in a melodic critique that is unafraid to show the pain of an artist who sometimes felt trapped in a box.