MixedThe TimesEllroy disdains the apparatus of realistic fiction—plot work, character development, scene build-up, fine writing. He is disinclined to read other novelists lest they put un-Ellrovian ideas into his head. The narrative sprawl is held together by structural plot elements ... Ellroy is undeniably one of the most influential crime writers of our time. But can the raw energy of his fiction outweigh the disgustingness and balderdash? Yes; if you see his novels as antidotes to the fake sunshine that Los Angeles, via the big screen, has blown in the world’s face for a century. But if you like your LA crime well-crafted stick to the ever rereadable Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley. Your choice.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"Late-Life Love is an easier read than [Gubar\'s previous book] Memoir of a Debulked Woman, although there are moments when pain sears through ... Retired. Nonetheless, Gubar continues to defiantly flex her critical muscles ... Running alongside the late-life love story and the Indiana house hunt is a curriculum — discussions of a dozen and more literary texts. It’s not a nostalgic riffle through old lecture notes. Gubar rethinks ... One perceives in her rereadings what an outstanding teacher Gubar was. And, we may rejoice, still is.\
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewJane Austen: The Secret Radical sets out to raise hackles. As she asserts, almost everything we think we know about Jane Austen is wrong. There has been, according to Kelly, only one person who has ever read Jane Austen right. That would be Helena Kelly ... Kelly sweeps the board clear of all previous critical commentary — just so much clutter, we must understand. Claire Tomalin’s acclaimed 1997 biography is dismissed in a footnote as having hopelessly missed the point of Mansfield Park. R. W. Chapman, the scholar who founded modern Austen studies, is a purveyor of 'nonsense' ... But, taking a deep breath, I concede that it is, stripped of its flights of fancy, an important revisionary work for 2017 ... Kelly’s book is reckless, but she knows the novels inside out. Her views, when not designed to annoy the reader, are informative ... Helena Kelly provokes. But in Jane Austen: The Secret Radical she has given us a book for 2017, perhaps the most turmoil-filled year in Britain since 1945. So, with a patient sigh, let’s do what she tells us to and read the novels again.
MixedThe GuardianIf this was a first novel by a literary unknown it would have been lucky to make it into print. What makes In America an object of interest is less its page-turning readability than its significance as the latest move in Susan Sontag's brilliant career … In America is lush, multi-voiced, woman-centred and densely historical. It is also, if one looks for glimpses and hints, one of the more personal of Sontag's many books … There are huge difficulties in coming to terms with In America. Few readers outside the Polish émigré community will know where it is coming from...for those readers who are serious about In America (and I suspect the author would want no others), some preliminary study of Modjeska's 1910 autobiography, Memories and Impressions, is mandatory.
PositiveThe Financial TimesFord has given us a moving, and strangely disturbing, book. One is glad he lived long enough to write it.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThere have been many excellent biographies of De Quincey. Wilson’s is original by virtue of being primarily an investigation into the extraordinary 'palimpsest' of his mind ... One great question hovers over this exemplary book: Would De Quincey have been the greater had he abstained from toxins and conscientiously cultivated his talents? Frances Wilson’s answer seems a defiant no. The great experiment Thomas De Quincey undertook with his life and art is one of the dark glories of English literature.
Iris Murdoch (Edited by Avril Horner & Anne Rowe)
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAlthough Murdoch destroyed many of her letters and journals and may well have instructed her correspondents to do the same, a mountain survives. The selection Horner and Rowe have made offers insight into many corners of her life and work as well as her abiding, always discreet, kindness to friends. But the central focus is on Murdoch’s sexual career.