PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesFierce Poise focuses on the artist in an unconventional way: It covers the years 1950-60 in 11 chapters, each jumping off a specific date during one of those years. The resulting book is lively but short, skimming the surface of Frankenthaler’s work ... The conceit is that the early days capture the essence of her work, but the constraint only shortchanges her contested legacy by eliding the rest of her long career ... The book ends with a Coda the reader a ghostly witness to Frankenthaler’s coming into her celebrity in 1969 with a retrospective at the Whitney Museum. Nemerov describes the artist’s \'radiance\' in this moment, but without context the conclusion rings a bit hollow. We are missing what it was truly like for Frankenthaler to be \'the artist alone before her picture,\' standing in front of those epic canvases, fatigued but thrilled, looking in. Perhaps a sequel is in order.
Karl Ove Knausgaard, tr. Martin Aitken
PositiveLos Angeles TimesBetween the slings and arrows born and the writer’s already well established tendency toward fruitful self-absorption, it is not surprising that Knausgaard spends too much time playing defense in In the Land of the Cyclops ... But when the veil of self-preservation lifts, the fine criticism is impossible to overlook ... His review of Michel Houellebecq’s controversial novel Submission is exquisitely done ... When he gets out of his own way, Knausgaard’s passion for interiority and the detail of the individual experience, the most brilliant elements of his fiction, come through.
RaveThe Los Angeles Times... a beautifully written bildungsroman, a \'portrait of the artist\' as a young woman. It is also, more uniquely, a powerful resource for artists who face the dueling responsibilities of creation and caregiving. You don’t have to be a woman or a mother to feel this friction.
RaveLos Angeles TimesWith Heather Clark’s new biography, Red Comet,, clocking in at more than 1,100 pages, the Plath cup runneth over ... Clark is the first biographer able to scan pages from the archive rather than take \'hastily scribbled\' notes on site, and it shows ... Where Clark treads familiar ground, she amplifies what we already know in compelling and painful ways ... Clark masterfully analyzes the poetry with intelligent incorporation of the biography ... Red Comet shows that the achievement of Sylvia Plath was miraculous — but it wasn’t spasmodic, or rare. It was hard-won, every single day.
RaveLos Angeles TimesMaggie Doherty’s brilliant new book, The Equivalents, tells the story of the institute by focusing on the five fellows who called themselves \'The Equivalents\' ... Doherty’s rigorous history is an empowering reminder that to change ourselves, we must have systemic support outside ourselves — institutional structures that reinforce the belief that all people are created equal, not just equivalent.
RaveLos Angeles TimesWhat Is the Grass may be the definitive book on Whitman’s life, afterlife and poetry. But it’s the moments in Doty’s own life—his first marriage to a woman, who had a son his age; his joy in his first love affairs with men—that the book truly glistens ... Doty’s vision of Whitman’s face might seem kookily metaphysical, but it crystallizes the aims of [the book]: searching, seeing and recognizing ... Doty is comfortable looking back to Whitman for solace and recognition. But there are surprises in this kind of book.
MixedLos Angeles TimesThough her book is composed of vignettes that read like entries in an archive...Shapland is led more by feeling and response ... Shapland’s intimate admissions are, like her subject...elusive ... I so wished for more [confessional] moments ... the aim of [the book]: searching, seeing and recognizing ... Shapland yearns to recognize Carson and Mary’s relationship for what it is, and then to extend the validation to herself and then all women who love women.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewJulian Barnes’s Levels of Life is a strange book about loving someone and losing them. Barnes’s wife, Pat, to whom the book is dedicated, died in 2008. A photo of her, embracing Barnes, appears as the author photo on the back flap. But the first two sections of this short book have little to do with Barnes — they are a whimsical history of ballooning, and a related story about the romance between Sarah Bernhardt and Fred Burnaby, a soldier who crossed the English Channel in a hot-air balloon in 1882 … Though there can be no greater meaning for his loss (as he puts it, ‘What is ‘success’ in mourning?’), Barnes succeeds in transmitting to those lucky readers who have never lost someone, this experience of grief as one among many ‘levels of life,’ utterly subject to change, without reason, at any moment.
PositiveNPRTea Obreht shows how shared mythology (where history meets speculation) is essential, particularly in times of war and loss … Man or myth, all of the characters in The Tiger\'s Wife are lovingly rendered. They could be the subject of their own novels — from the Deathless Man to the apothecary down the street … Natalia\'s conclusion at the end of the novel explains that the truth of these stories is less important than the symbolism they provide.