RaveNew York Journal of BooksWhat John Garth adds to the ever-proliferating pile of Tolkien-related media is a careful eye and steady step ... the effort Garth demonstrates attests to Tolkien’s visionary projection, his uncanny talent at what this scholar compares to a paint-box, in which the author dipped, daubed, and mixed layers of color, depth, hue, form, and drama into his vast legacy of narratives ... astute caution defends the author’s works against detractors who, looking back and projecting contemporary critical theory upon Middle-Earth, distort its perspective. What opens up to the viewer dazzles ... Whether new to Middle-Earth or a veteran pilgrim, anyone will learn much in this book.
PositivePopMattersIt\'s difficult to convey the pleasures within Utopia Avenue to the uninitiated who enter Mitchell\'s universe. Suffice to say that unless spoilers get revealed, only the gist of the work can be related ... Car crashes, tragic passings (Mitchell excels at death scenes, premature or final), bleary touring and international hassles, sexist pop-show hosts, and smarmy manipulators all scheme against the three men and one woman ... Mitchell\'s done his homework. The immersion into not only London but a trucker\'s stop where ruffled and velvet-clad foppish musicians recharge after being on the concert trail, the wonder and danger of San Francisco\'s allure as seen through the eyes of members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, the dense terror and drive of Manhattan also appear vividly ... The author examines deftly the ideals which force and beckon the four musicians and their circle to confront choices for good and evil ... His composed, existential view may not please all, but his own Buddhist-inspired contemplation amidst the carnage and ecstasy of this romanticized era reminds us today of the caution needed when messages get blared.
Ed. by Jhumpa Lahiri
PositivePop MattersThe Penguin Book of Short Stories can be judged by its cover ... [the] spare, unsettling composition fits the print its dust jacket guards. It warns that this is no panorama of sun-dappled Tuscany, no Capri blue postcard, no Florentine tower, no Venetian gondola, no Roman dome. ...[Lahiri] compiles what she can from the texts she loves. She features women, authors less-known or neglected, and those \'who practiced the short form with particular vehemence and virtuosity\' ... Forty stories fill nearly 600 pages. Sixteen appear in English for the first time. Another nine merited fresh translations for this volume. Lahiri says she cut the total numer of stories down from 50, but never satisfactorily explains why, conspiring in this creative refusal to be pinned down ... these texts revel in their autonomy, emerging from the less rigid culture where Italy\'s editors, novelists, journalists, and professors exchange roles ... The ornamented, arabesque, and mandarin fussiness of certain of Lahiri\'s preferences may express the editorial perspective and the professorial parameters of a smitten admirer who wants her predecessors to step out of obscurity. Her criterion: no living authors make the cut .... Not all of Lahiri\'s Top 40 may stay long on a reader\'s hit parade. However, as with any exposure to new sounds, the experience incorporated as The Penguin Book of Short Stories may reward the patient listener to the voices of these tellers.
PositivePopMattersMy highlighted passages average about one on every four of his nearly 500pages. Fernández-Armesto combines a knack for aphorism with a hunch for speculation ... His prose sustains a reflective style. He rarely intersperses first-person intrusions, but his tone and gaze stay steady ... Necessarily brisk, Fernández-Armesto must pace himself as he crams so much into relatively so small a space. He pivots from taboos about food and sex, fundamentals of materialism and \'semblance\', into agriculture...then to labor massed under tyranny. He conflates massacre with radical utopianism, shows how rulers concocted \'elaborate justifications for making others toil\', and avers how \'imperialism suited monism\' ...This professor distrusts visionaries, who promise perfection ... It\'s a testament to the care with which Out of Our Minds has been composed that, as Fernández-Armesto edges into our tumultuous era of Brexit, Trump, Catalonian unrest and Venezuelan implosion, he remains collected and measured in his judgments.
Edoardo Albinati, Trans. by Antony Shugaar
MixedNew York Journal of BooksAlbinati employs the framework of a novel, but much of this dense narrative reads like an academic treatise. As with Roberto Bolaño\'s massive 2666 account of the fate of women abducted along the Mexican border, the backdrop for the investigation fills with forays into criticism, literary experiment, and extended reflections on sexuality, power, religion, and violence ... detours and digressions take him or her into so many labyrinthine directions that the result may overwhelm or weary many under Albinati\'s control ... The advantage Albinati may offer his perplexed or diligent critics may lie in his ability to explain and elaborate why and how his take on the sordid and sensationalized events of his teens transformed into a massive, garrulous analysis of Italian culture.
Julia Blackburn, Illus. Enrique Brinkmann
MixedNew York Journal of Books...Time Song adds up to an uneven, thick in places and sparse in others, arranged assemblage of sentences and fragments, and stoic, mannered art to match the broken efforts to recover lost lives and to commemorate present difficulties at giving voice or impression to fleeting emotions. Blackburn remains an attentive and skillful guide to unexpected places, here no less than her impressive oeuvre over many decades. The ruminations and peregrinations gathered up into this contemplative collection should motivate her readers to seek out her past forays into other forgotten corners of the earth, which rise and resist the sea and the shattering of time and space.
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksWhat may enchant today\'s audiences rests in the contemporary reactions to the cautionary tale ... could have revealed much more about 1984 since 1948, as so much of what Lynskey spends the bulk of this content upon is not news to those already in the know ... adds up, therefore, to a useful, if unsurprising, presentation of the popular contexts within which Winston Smith\'s tragic struggle against Oceania and Big Brother and whomever his regime happens that day to be fighting. It should invite those curious about the contexts to learn more, but specialists and scholars may not be as enticed.
PositivePopMattersA hazy memory of a few lines of the opening Prologue to the Tales of Canterbury suffices for most, from a dusty classroom early in a term assigned to English Literature Survey, high school or college. Marion Turner\'s tome may not change this much. Yet her enormous contribution to our comprehension of Chaucer\'s moves and maneuvers within his culture will alter scholarly contexts, at least for a few attentive professors and, it is to be hoped, patient readers outside of the seminar or AP course ... Instead of relegating Chaucer to a Ricardian dynastic set of conniving yes men, Turner moves him into an elevated cabal: that of his poetic inspirations across Europe, among his esteemed forebears of what everyday language could become when wielded by masters Dante and Boccaccio in Italy, and Guillaume de Machaut from France, and back to Ovid and Boëthius at Rome.
MixedPopMattersThe gospel of prosperity credits \'biblical promises of abundance and healing through Christ\' with a believer\'s \'economic and social success.\' Bowman diminishes its role in the Religious Right; he cites Jerry Falwall\'s dismissal of this Pentecostal perspective which exalts desire and pleasure. However, more here on the \'prosperity gospel\' would have been welcome. These issues continue to vex many Christians. Bowman provides a dutiful if rather too clinical examination of how Americans have clashed or convened as to what Christianity encompasses and how this concept alters as the nation debates itself.
PositiveSpectrum Culture\"By such meditative endeavors, the stories in Stream System, as the collection’s titular selection conveys, conjure up the passage of time and space through Murnane’s nameless characters, who stand in for himself, who represent himself, who are and are not himself. He faces the predicament of how brightly fiction can enlighten an interior landscape flowing within yet expressed outside the confines of the mind. Out of monkish solitude, Murnane arranges thoughts into storylines. Whether this expresses confidence or resignation, obsession or freedom, is left up to his reader.\