PanThe New YorkerThe effect is like watching TV with an opinionated but impatient connoisseur of everything that’s on—hopscotching, riffing, channel-flipping. This may be part of the point. The prime mover of the nineties, to Klosterman’s mind, was a machine ... If Klosterman’s aim is to reproduce, in today’s reader, the feel of a bygone era in which people experienced feeling at a great remove, then he has succeeded. By his own logic, a demographic marked by an antipathy to straight emotion and an addiction to recursive thinking...should produce, through him, a knowingly reductive, picture-in-picture self-portrait in which the writer’s impervious affect re-states the unity of medium (TV) and message (its supremacy) ... the affect that pervades The Nineties is corpse-chilled, rigorous in its lack of sensation. Still, it is nostalgia nonetheless, a past prepared for the use of a select community ... If nothing else, one must concur that there are many ways to be annoying. More rerun than revisionism, Klosterman’s history takes its stand against the millennial urge to reassess the nineties (or the generation claiming ownership of them) in the harsh light of later events ... If The Nineties arouses nostalgia, it’s for the enthusiasm, humor, and humility of Klosterman’s early books ... By stiffly performing a set list of ambient anomie, though, Klosterman tunes out the vibrancy and the variable tones of an era.
RaveBookforum\"Giving up, for now, in Crossroads, on representing present youth, Franzen has doubled down on representing the white ones’ parents and grandparents as the impressionable, inquisitive, and dynamically flawed young men and women that they once had been. In dreams, as a once-famed tale from the Depression had it, begin responsibilities ... To set a novel half a century in the past, as he now does, is something like dealing oneself a full house. In playing to his strengths so inordinately he has unlocked a new, late style, distinct from the well-hewn blocks of prose poetry typical of his first three novels or the mashed-potatoes-and-gravy consistency of his last two. The Corrections was a masterpiece, but Crossroads is his finest novel yet. Unpolished and unsloppy, difficult to quote or fault, his free indirect style sticks to the contours of consciousness and attempts not one thing else. In a quiet and uncanny fashion it is entirely adequate: a prosaic causeway coursing through the swamp at night ... Though no serious fiction writer would impose their own belief upon their readers, what Crossroads does make clear is that Franzen, through his characters, has rendered it impossible for readers not to be engaged by the most momentous questions of faith ... His ambition in this novel is not only to mirror society, but to return the individual reader to themselves, to grind a lens in which the major questions structuring our single lives on Earth retain their focus and integrity. All of this sounds Dostoyevskian because (with the requisite adaptation for American environs) it is ... Crossroads is Franzen’s greatest and most perfect novel to date, but more importantly, it is his most promising: an inexhaustible resource for future novels, and not only his own. What impresses most is the sense that its successors, hopefully present soon, will all but certainly exceed it.\
PositiveBookforumBland Fanatics has its pleasures ... Every sentence is assembled with meticulous thought. The words stand at attention, fixed in place by an unsparing moral gravity ... [Mishra\'s] careful discipline shows him to stand clear of the crisis of the Anglo intellectual that he narrates.
MixedBookforum...the core audience for the Manifesto is swing voters who prefer their critiques of capitalism unsullied by identitarian cant about racial divisions ... who can fault Sunkara as he deigns to appeal to the people as they are? ... A stickler for concision, Sunkara packs into its 288-page frame, alongside the inaugural speculative fiction, a condensed history of prior socialist movements across the world ... No sentence is difficult to diagram; the imposing analytic thickets typical of Western Marxist writing have been leveled down to the simplicity of grass ... Sunkara presents an encyclopedic knowledge of various American anti-capitalist parties ... By the end of the recital a lamenting tone creeps into his measured prose ... The Socialist Manifesto is restrained, almost apologetic; it is haunted by the specters of pessimism and belatedness, the knowledge that socialism has already been tried, already been found wanting ... a sustained and penetrating analysis of present-day America—its economy, society, culture, and politics—is as absent from The Socialist Manifesto as the hard accounting of how much risk one runs in seeking to improve America for its most oppressed citizens. Not only does this book begin with make-believe, its unrealness never ends.
PanBookforum\" \'The Face of Seung-Hui Cho,\' Yang’s 2008 essay on the mass shooter of Virginia Tech, is a remarkable attempt to trace the author’s kinship with a young man who, one year earlier, had killed thirty-two people and then killed himself...Like his subject, Yang makes himself known by an act of radical, desperate self-exposure. What he possesses that Cho doesn’t is elegance and distinction of expression. He channels the extremity of his subject matter into a marvelous style, a fluency and clarity that refuse to renounce their ruinous origins ... The Souls of Yellow Folk’s comprehensive title suggests a will to rectify these omissions. But besides a fig leaf introduction and a first section comprising \'The Face of Seung-Hui Cho,\' \'Paper Tigers,\' and a profile of the chef and author Eddie Huang, the articles collected here, all previously published elsewhere, address the nature of East Asians in America only in passing, and frequently not at all. One of the drawbacks of assembling a book from a haphazard pile of articles is the difficulty of establishing a central theme from the assortment of scattered elements: Yang’s book, a crisply sorted stack of application essays and homework assignments fobbed off as a master’s thesis, is no exception in this regard ... An impressionable reader could easily exit it assuming East Asians will develop souls only through unconditional adherence to white American mores ... behind the balanced sentences and mots justes Yang’s sensibility cuts itself down to a tiny set of facile precepts.\
MixedBookforum\"Identity is Fukuyama’s attempt to grant noneconomic politics a history and a future. Yet, in doing so, he falls prey to the same error that he charges identity politics with committing. His origin tale, based in thymos, for what he views as noneconomic politics leads him to continually misconstrue the element of economics, which is as crucial to thymotic \'struggles for recognition\' as thymos itself is crucial to human nature ... In fact there is no example cited by Identity as a potent manifestation of identity politics that is not strongly linked to economics—even the activists mobilizing around injured dignity at elite universities can be properly seen as trying to get their money’s worth ... It is a testament to Fukuyama’s intelligence and the depth of his commitment to democracy that, despite beginning from the incoherent, crumbling premises of centrist punditry, the political program that emerges from his recent publications can only be described as a concerted push for socioeconomic justice.\
MixedBookforumBelew is particularly adept at tracing the myriad personal, spatial, temporal, and operational links that constitute an essentially decentralized movement. As she shows, local hate groups, safe havens like Elohim City, and sites of proselytizing and recruitment such as gun shows are all subtly connected, forming a worldwide web that encompasses, of course, the web itself ... The book’s seventh and best chapter is a lucid exposition of the devotion paid to women as wives, mothers, and martyrs of the movement ... Yet Belew’s social analysis and historical frame are ultimately too narrow to explain the movement’s reach and persistence. Though she places the Vietnam War at the center of her story, she fails to spell out the ties between domestic white supremacy and US imperialism ... Then and now, the white power movement has had significant success in recruiting active-duty soldiers to its cause. Belew notes this paradox, but her inability to fully recognize its source speaks to the limitations of her history.
PanVICEUnfortunately, though hardly unexpectedly, DeLillo's latest novel continues this streak of stark, monastically joyless novels...DeLillo, in his late period, has preserved much of his mastery of individual words, but his gift for shaping compelling individual characters (as opposed to loquacious system functionaries) out of those words has diminished greatly since the days of Libra and Underworld: In spite of the maudlin ending tacked to the end of the novel, its language, plot, and lack of character make it clear that the coldness has won out. Lord save us from demanding more from our idols than they can give—still, I can't help but confess that I miss the old DeLillo.