PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewA professor of sociology at Lehigh whose previous books have studied commuter marriages and the professional dominatrix — excellent preparation for parsing the adventures of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — Lindemann contends that, by holding up a mirror to society, reality TV has much to impart once we get past the histrionics ... The point is that for Lindemann, reality TV viewing isn’t passive ingestion but a subtle preening process, a phantom codependency ... No matter how swingy-dingy the shows appear, there is a conservative underlay that keeps familiar norms in place. Lindemann is instructive on the power differential between men and women in reality TV, how differently they’re regarded and rewarded for their antics and facial calisthenics ... Although Lindemann succumbs to jargony platitudes (bisexuality \'messes with our idea of a stark heterosexual/homosexual binary\') and leans heavily on lead-footed heavyweights of discourse (Weber, Foucault), she has a wry eye and ear for the key role that status plays in these confabulations ... True Story might have benefited from a chapter devoted to loyalty ... In the book’s conclusion Lindemann nimbly attempts to play both sides of the net, arguing that reality TV is \'both a guilty goody and a nutritional bite,\' an \'occasional educational nugget\' smuggled inside the chewy nougat ... You could dislocate a shoulder with such overreach, but hyperbole is a byproduct of Lindemann’s crusading zeal ... Her enthusiasm tends to inflate her extrapolations but a drier accounting would have been dull sledding.
PositiveAir MailEllroy writes like a red-eyed marauder, spurning the rich metaphors and blue moods of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald to spit hot rivets in staccato bursts. Noun-verb-sock-to-the-jaw, that’s his dominant rhythm, as the action drives like a prowl car up and down every garish street ... Much of the enjoyment of Widespread Panic hinges on how much of this Seymour-sells-seashells-by-the-seashore the reader can take ... the novel’s syncopated barrage of tics and brutal antics will likely become numbing, fatiguing, its peppery hyperactivity and cynical bravado in service of the sludgy attitudes of apes in boxy suits. Yet the audacity of Ellroy’s imagination remains undimmed, his energy torrential, and I laughed ... Widespread Panic could have used a few more such goofy riffs, if only to vary the otherwise relentless tempo.
PositiveLondon Review of Books (UK)Roth appeared to have made the right choice. If anything, he appeared to have made too right a choice, a certain conceited quality stardusting their collaboration, The Biography at times taking on a buddy tone with a fireplace glow ... At nine hundred pages, Philip Roth: The Biography delivers the surplus goods, as if subscribing to the notion that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Each paragraph is as firmly packed as a steamer trunk ... Not all of this information serves any vital purpose...but it concretises the sense of comprehensiveness to an impressive, even irritating degree ... It’s a real-life mini-series in teeming Panavision. The anecdotes alone could wallpaper a mansion ... Buoyancy carries the reader along even in the thick of misgivings ... Some reviewers have objected that Bailey focuses on the menagerie of Roth’s life at the expense of the writing, his discussion of the fiction being somewhat cursory and pat. It’s an impression one might draw on first reading the book, distracted and beguiled by the cameo appearances and one-liners flung out like tennis serves, but a second look shows Bailey did as well as might be expected given the enormity of the corpus.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... gleaming, teeming ... Without indulging in judginess, Mike Nichols: A Life shows how Nichols’s project choices and social jockeying became winged together, presenting a portrait of the artist as a sybaritic grandee.
PositiveLondon Review of Books (UK)For much of its long, eventful haul, Moser’s Life resembles a movie goddess biography as much as a literary pilgrim’s progress, giving it a narrative tailwind that carries the reader through the public furores—the outcry over her 1966 pronouncement that ‘the white race is the cancer of human history,’ for example, used as a cudgel against her by conservative foes until their arms went numb—and developments in her personal life familiar from previous biographies, memoirs and profiles. While not stinting on explications and contextualizations of the books and the blow-ups, Sontag: Her Life provides everything we look for in our melodramatic accounts of sacred monsters ... If this handsome hunk of a biography is at times exhausting and exasperating, it’s partly because she—She—is exhausting and exasperating ... When it comes to humor, Moser, earnest and conscientious, often seems as pinched dry as Sontag was reputed to be (something her close friends deny), and a bit of priss (which she assuredly wasn’t). His subject’s sword-flashes of vainglory bother him far more than they ought ... Embedded in Moser’s biography is a deep, jagged tooth of ambivalence that’s more provocative, and revealing about the subject, than the usual range of mixed emotions that linger on ... reading this book I found myself missing her despite all of her infuriations and wishing she had allowed herself to know more fun, to take it easy from time to time.
Bret Easton Ellis
MixedThe London Review of BooksAlthough the book has been promoted as an ‘incendiary polemic’, it’s more of a lazy Susan of memoir, cultural reflections, pharmacological reports, name-dropping, reputation fluctuations and intermittent sighs ... Too many of his examples have gone stale, and he is blithely oblivious of the pathologies being exploited by slime merchants and alt-right hustlers such as Candace Owens and Milo Yiannopoulos ... So much of his counter-argument consists of shrugging ‘Hey, what’s the big deal?’ until shrugging becomes his default mode, the lazy way out ... As a novelist, Ellis has a cadaver dog’s nose for where the putrefaction is buried in polite and impolite society, but that doesn’t come into play here. Too much of White feels half-hearted, half-minded and phoned-in. (I almost typed ‘droned-in’ and that’s apt too) ... Yet I don’t see Ellis gunning for bigger game in the future, raising his sights, expanding his field of fire. That would require exertion, actual research and stuff. No, I think he has found his groove and that groove is mellifluously crooning into the podcast mic about the latest online spaz-out or personal pet peeves, like some well-worn balladeer, the Leonard Cohen of kvetching. If he paces himself, he’ll be able to go on indefinitely, methodically chewing the same old cud. Fine with me, you know, whatever.
PositiveThe New York TimesA miscellaneous collection of reviews and essays that takes up where his previous collection, Lives and Letters, left off. The title chapter is a thematic roundup of personal memoirs by near-death experiencers, who report floating out of their stricken bodies into radiant heaven or some mistier quadrant of the afterlife before returning to their earthly shells to share their special sneak preview of life eternal ... Gottlieb never lacks context when it comes to his own pet subjects; it’s at fingertip command.
RaveThe New York Review of Books\"It’s understandable that Hagan is a bit winded when he gets to the final furlong of his biographical journey. I was feeling pretty beat myself. All those interviews, all those anecdotes, all those famous gargoyle faces bobbing in and out of view, all those reams of office lore (sex on the desk, nervous breakdowns in the bathroom stall)—what does it all signify in the clammy eye of posterity? What is Rolling Stone’s legacy? What’s it all about, Alfie? ... The falcon isn’t the only thing flapping in that passage, which sounds like Bill Moyers going extra sonorous on us, but Hagan can be forgiven for failing to find a suitable epiphany to wrap everything up in a fancy bow. He even attempts to draw a parallel between Wenner and Donald Trump, an almost poignant sign of desperation. Character analysis is wasted on such motion machines. Trying to sum up Wenner, Hagan might have been better off just adopting Marlene Dietrich’s world-weary shrug at the end of Touch of Evil when she eulogizes Orson Welles’s police captain, floating belly up in the dark water below: \'He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?\'\
PanThe Wall Street JournalHeaving with self-importance, the novel is one of those monuments to itself where each insight and emotion seems the result of maximum resolve. It's as if Mr. Lethem is using his brow as a steam shovel, pushing this load forward until the inevitable luminous life-affirming last-paragraph epiphany … I wasn't held spellbound by the first half of the novel, tracking Dylan's early years, but its atmospheric texture has its own integrity. The second half is more ‘meta’ and a mess … By the time Dylan accidentally shoots a crack dealer in Oakland and fashions himself a Bernhard Goetz-Travis Bickle white vigilante superhero named Aeroman with a magic invisibility ring, it's hard to know where to look.