MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewHaving interviewed more than 260 people and consulted some 100,000 documents, Gopnik succeeds in establishing the chronology and tracing the fine lines of Warhol’s many succeeding interests, decisions, departures, whims and relationships of all sorts. Few artists’ biographies can have recorded so many changes — in style, stance and social milieu — occurring often on a week-to-week basis for some 35 years, amounting to a density of information more akin to, say, military history. We will all find our favorite Warhol avatar, of the hundreds on offer, somewhere within these pages ... Gopnik excels at disentangling the strands of the narrative and correcting common lore ... Gopnik’s patient chronology brings a sense of proportion to the outline of the life ... few direct quotes, sadly ... There are several odd features to the book. Gopnik seems to think that too many proper names will confuse the reader ... throws off such mixed signals that it is difficult to determine what kind of reader it was intended for. It is a 900-page brick that evinces much studious research, and yet it is pitched as if it were a feature in a newsmagazine, or as if its readers were primarily serial consumers of celebrity bios. Not expecting the reader to identify Marcel Duchamp or Robert Rauschenberg on first appearance may be standard practice, but Gopnik doesn’t trust you’ll remember them from one time to the next. As a consequence, only a handful of people ever appear without epithets ... Gopnik has no confidence in the reader’s attention span, so recapitulations are constant; every point is made, made again, recast slightly, made yet again ... The writing is often lazy and reductive in ways that suggest the book is meant for immediate consumption rather than durability ... when Gopnik takes off on a literary flight, the vessel is likely to crash ... All those things make the book much more difficult to read than it ought to be ... Gopnik gives the reader all the pertinent facts of Warhol’s life, yet his ever-present lecturer’s whiteboard obscures all but the occasional fugitive glimpse of Warhol’s soul.
PositiveBookforumIn The Golden Flea, Rips presents the story of his gradual immersion in the life of the market, along the way supplying us with a taxonomy of its habitués ... Rips is no mere browser haunting the garage, but a holistic consumer for whom the objects, the personalities, the rituals, and the backstories are inseparable ... In Rips’s hands the flea emerges as a microcosm, a model of a trading society descended in a direct line from antiquity ... The Golden Flea is a tender, passionate, melancholy elegy to an ancient project of reclamation, a form of commerce that has historically stood outside the capitalist spiderweb, and a way of life as necessary and as fragile as any venerable ecological practice.
PositiveLondon Review of Books (UK)The book is at once a biography of Pozzi in the context of his time and a picture of the time as refracted by Pozzi. Barnes constructs it as a kind of mosaic. There are no chapter divisions. Instead, on every third or fourth page a paragraph ends with a double space and the narrative changes tack. Pozzi takes centre stage every fifteen or twenty pages, alternating with seven or eight major supporting characters and several recurring themes: duels, the rise of the dandy, sex. The form admirably mirrors its subject, producing a swirl of incidents and performances and personalities kept in check by the steady pulse of Pozzi’s gradual ascent to eminence. Pozzi makes an attractive subject not only because of his looks, his social entrée and his accomplishments ... People come and go in The Man in the Red Coat much as they would have if you’d actually known them.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewDavid Shields’s clarion call...urgently and succinctly addresses matters that have been in the air, have relentlessly gathered momentum and have just been waiting for someone to link them together. His is a complex and multifaceted argument, not easily reducible to a bullet-point list—but then, so was the Surrealist Manifesto. Reality Hunger does contain quite a few slogan-ready phrases, but they weren’t all written by Shields, and some are more than a century old ... his book...argues forcefully and passionately, but not like a debate-team captain, more like a clever if overmatched boxer, endlessly bobbing and weaving. And for all that so much of its verbiage is the work of others, it positively throbs with personality. This is so not simply because Shields includes a chapter of autobiographical vignettes; he puts his crotchets on display. He is serious perhaps to a fault ... On the whole, though, he is a benevolent and broad-minded revolutionary, urging a hundred flowers to bloom, toppling only the outmoded and corrupt institutions. His book may not presage sweeping changes in the immediate future, but it probably heralds what will be the dominant modes in years and decades to come.
RaveThe New York TimesThe book is a tour de force of voice, restlessly hopscotching from first to second to third person, from observation to speculation to reminiscence to indirect citation, in a staccato rhythm that effectively mimes the noise of the city. The identity of the narrator shifts almost sentence to sentence. Sometimes the author is speaking, and sometimes it is someone overheard in a crowd or the sound of someone else\'s interior monologue or some anonymous emanation from the domain of received ideas. The texture is like the flick of a radio dial across the band, if all the stations had achieved a mysterious unity of subject ... The Colossus of New York is a short book, but its density doesn\'t make for a quick read. Navigating a chapter is a bit like walking through six blocks of Midtown at lunchtime: everything conspires to slow you down, but you will have taken in more sensations than you could reasonably expect from such a distance anywhere else. Channeling the crowd, Whitehead avoids the taint of Fine Writing; there is a lot of wit on hand, but it sounds like the wit of the people.
Svetlana Alexievich, Trans. by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
RaveBookforumOral history is an important research tool, but it has not often been treated as literature ... Alexievich transforms the genre, turning it into literature through her editing and orchestration. That word is not idly chosen; there is a distinctly musical flow to the way she groups speakers and subjects ... Her speakers echo one another’s experiences at points, although they sharply split off at others, and their personalities can emerge with startling clarity ... recollections are so deeply etched that they appear uncorrupted by passing time; in them their protagonists are forever children ... the horror and misery seldom let up. The memories, often recounted in fastidious detail, are wildly sad one by one and emotionally overwhelming in aggregate. The book is guaranteed to leave any reader a sodden mess. If the most nightmarish recollections do not summon tears, those will be brought forth by the instances of kindness.
PositiveThe San Francisco Chronicle... an absorbing and horrifying account of the traffic in human misery that went on in Leopold\'s so-called Congo Free State, and of the efforts of a handful of heroic crusaders to bring the atrocities to light. Among other things, it stands as a reminder of how quickly enormities can be forgotten ...
Hochschild\'s book is not simply a recital of horrors, though. It also tells the story of a few people who waged what can be seen in retrospect as the world\'s first human-rights campaign ...
Hochschild\'s gripping narrative, as dense as a novel and laden with subplots, shows among many other things the roots of the chaos and bloodshed ravaging the Congo today.
PositiveBookforum[Maier] has attained that rarefied position by virtue of her talent, to be sure, but also because of the romance of serendipity as well as the singular opportunities afforded by the internet to certain kinds of beaverish promoters. Thus her story, as patiently and lucidly detailed by Pamela Bannos in her nearly forensic biography—which unties many knots and brings order to what was previously a chaotic welter of information and misinformation—moves along two timelines at once, before and after death, both of them labyrinthine and marked by passages of seemingly permanent obscurity.