RaveNew York TimesIf the missing-person element provides the current that sweeps Riverman forward, the book amounts to much more: a portrait of forgotten American byways and the eccentric characters who populate them, a cursory history of river travel in America and, not least, an effort to solve the riddle of Conant himself — not only his whereabouts but also his elusive and irresistible nature. As a chronicle of perseverance and inchoate questing, this quietly profound book belongs on the shelf next to Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild ... A second book runs beneath the surface of Riverman like an undercurrent, and hints at the reasons McGrath is so drawn to Conant’s story. In an age when everything is relentlessly online and the real world is increasingly mediated through screens, Conant and his canoe represent something slower and quieter, closer to nature ... McGrath sets all of this down in prose that is poised and elegant, almost circumspect. When his personality does poke irrepressibly through, the effect is unexpected and delightful ... Mostly, though, and to his credit, McGrath has the good sense to stay in the shadows, to ensure that the main personality on the page belongs to Conant. And what a personality it is. In his quoted journal passages, Conant has a strong and distinctive voice ... In one sense McGrath never solves the mystery that opens his book: He doesn’t recover the body. But he does something at least as impressive from a journalistic perspective: He recovers the person, and he restores him to life on the page.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewToibin presents an evocative, engaging portrait not only of \'three prodigal fathers,\' as he calls them, but of Dublin in the 19th and early 20th centuries ... Toibin...is an impressive, graceful writer ... he moves nimbly in this book from biography to literary criticism to personal narrative, with glimpses of himself ... This is a thrilling reading that aptly unites Toibin’s novelistic gifts for psychology and emotional nuance with his talents as a reader and critic, in incomparably elegant prose ... The book unavoidably invites questions about the nature of the father-son bond—and then mostly avoids them. That’s to Toibin’s credit ... Always an understated writer, who prefers innuendo to inflection, in this book he evinces a talent for the deadpan ... as Toibin’s wise and resonant book makes clear ... sometimes even an imperfect father gives his son wings and teaches him to fly.
PositiveThe New York TimesAshbery’s images demonstrate the same sense of gleeful mischief that’s everywhere in his poetry, mixing fine art with advertising and comic strips and picture postcards, all of it married with the artist’s sure eye for color and mood and perspective. The result is an entire oeuvre of fantasy landscapes ... [John] Yau said to Ashbery, \'In a number of your recent collages, it’s like you are about to undertake a journey or begin a dream.\' Ashbery’s reply: \'That’s how I feel much of the time.\'
PositiveThe New York Times Review of BooksHalf of the delight in Emily Culliton’s wholly delightful debut novel, The Misfortune of Marion Palm, lies in the way the book, like its title character, defies expectations at every turn ...Marion’s ordinary appearance and her extraordinary talent for appropriating other people’s money, are fundamental to her character and therefore to the book’s designs ... The plot, taken together with the novel’s short, immersive chapters and the escalating risks that confront Marion and her family, locates The Misfortune of Marion Palm somewhere on the thriller continuum ...the book is also sunnier than that suggests, part satire and part Odyssey into the humbler precincts of Brooklyn...skip from past to present and from character to character as if Culliton had carefully plotted the novel on a stack of index cards and then flung the whole thing into the air ... All of this makes for a witty, sneakily feminist kind of crime story.
PositiveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewIn Tenth of December, his fourth and best collection, readers will encounter an abduction, a rape, a chemically induced suicide, the suppressed rage of a milquetoast or two, a veteran’s post-traumatic impulse to burn down his mother’s house — all of it buffeted by gusts of such merriment and tender regard and daffy good cheer that you realize only in retrospect how dark these morality tales really are … Yet despite the dirty surrealism and cleareyed despair, Tenth of December never succumbs to depression. That’s partly because of Saunders’s relentless humor; detractors may wonder if they made a wrong turn and ended up in the land of the joke after all. But more substantially it’s because of his exhilarating attention to language and his beatific generosity of spirit.
PositiveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewTo defenders of baseball and literary fiction, the charges against each are familiar, and overlapping: too slow, too precious, not enough action...Chad Harbach makes the case for baseball, thrillingly, in his slow, precious and altogether excellent first novel … If it seems a stretch for a baseball novel to hold truth and beauty and the entire human condition in its mitt, well, The Art of Fielding isn’t really a baseball novel at all, or not only. It’s also a campus novel and a bromance (and for that matter a full-fledged gay romance), a comedy of manners and a tragicomedy of errors … Henry’s crisis is precipitated by overanalysis — he’s paralyzed by thought, by an inability to simply act (or react). This is credible from a sports point of view, and fraught with significance from a literary one...Harbach’s achievement is to transfer the thinking man’s paralysis to the field of play, where every hesitation is amplified and every error judged by an exacting, bloodthirsty audience.
PanThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewIt is not, alas, a very good book. Repetitive, unorganized, unsure of its audience or tone, it can’t decide whether it wants to be a how-to guide or a work of critical analysis.