RaveThe Washington PostAbsorbing ... The last hundred or so pages of Endless Flight are difficult to get through. By the end of the 1930s, Roth was a bloated, portly wreck, shuffling along on feet swollen by drink ... Pim, though an unlikely contender for a Roth biographer (his first published book was about dinosaurs), proves a sensitive, judicious and perceptive guide. What elevates Endless Flight, beyond the pathos of its narrative, is Pim’s discussion of Roth’s writing. Whereas most biographies settle for the breezily abstract, Pim devotes page after page of close reading to almost all of Roth’s novels ... Pim also carefully navigates Roth’s complex politics and Habsburg nostalgia.
MixedGawker... engrossing ... In a narrative that is part biography and part music history lesson, Charnas offers a straightforward and simple answer to the question of J Dilla’s musical reputation: he is revered because he \'transformed the sound of popular music in a way that his more famous peers have not.\' Charnas means this literally ... At 458 pages, Charnas’s book suffers from more than a few longeurs, like a ten-page account of Roger Linn’s development of the LM-1 drum machine, or a seven-page history of the city planning of Detroit...Still, Charnas’s fastidious attention to detail is that of the enthusiast, not the pedant; Dilla Time trembles with love for its subject — not just J Dilla, but the whole history of hip-hop, especially the development of the genre’s production techniques, explained and sometimes illustrated in generous detail ... But while admiring, Charnas’s portrait is not particularly flattering ... Yet for all the virtues of Dilla Time, a book can only ever be an auxiliary conduit to J Dilla, or any other musician, for that matter. The best and only way of getting to know him is through his music ... What’s more, Charnas’s answer to the question of J Dilla’s posthumous reputation, while persuasive, feels incomplete. Surely the reason such a cult of fandom has been built up around Dilla is not only because of his technical innovation. Why is he celebrated every February? Why do so many people profess such love for him? Why do I?
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books\"All the Lives We Ever Lived is both a reflection on To the Lighthouse and a lingeringly beautiful elegy in its own right ... Smyth’s probing narrative is effortlessly entwined with reflections and digressions on Virginia Woolf and To the Lighthouse. She dances skillfully between the two, often moved by an urge to conflate Mrs. Ramsay and her father, or by the need to shape her grief using her favorite novel as a template ... What [Smyth\'s] book does is add to our perception of To the Lighthouse, not through analysis or commentary, but by writing through the novel, assuming and exploring its worldview, and in the process redescribing it to us with an infectious passion and hard-earned wisdom ... In the end, the most revelatory thing about All the Lives We Ever Lived is its absence of revelation. Nothing stands still, nothing is permanent. There are just the little odds and ends to lay hold of, some sight, some sound. It is enough.\
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books\"... masterful ... What sets Prideaux’s biography apart from previous accounts of Nietzsche’s life is its vibrant intimacy. Eschewing philosophical rigorousness for human proximity, Prideaux quite simply gets closer to Nietzsche than anyone before her. The Zarathustrian mask falls away and the vulnerable human is bared.\
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books\"... engaging ... Kaag’s account of his return to Sils-Maria and of his reunion with the philosophical idol of his youth is an engrossing one ... Hiking with Nietzsche serves as a straightforward and even practical introduction to the German philosopher’s writings, and makes a convincing case for why they continue to matter. Even readers not necessarily tempted to descend into the Nietzschean abyss will surely find Kaag’s exploration of selfhood, decadence, companionship, and physical duress both invigorating and thought-provoking ... Above all, Kaag’s portrait of Nietzsche... is a deeply moving one. Walking in his footsteps, he shows us the heights to which Nietzsche rose and the depths to which he sank, the sacrifices he made and the suffering he endured.\
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Trans. by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksOne of the pleasures of reading Machado is to encounter this comedy of detail, of human particulars ... There is a worldly hunger in Machado’s writing, an openness to both life and art. He was a voracious reader and an avid theatergoer fond of sprinkling his stories with the garnish of allusion. Rarely do we turn a page without stumbling into La Rochefoucauld or George Sand, Goethe or Shakespeare, Dante or Homer. For Machado, literature begets more literature. He delights in playing with form and narrative; in this volume there are stories written as lectures, stories written entirely in dialogue, and stories in which literary theory itself is mocked ... It is, finally, Machado’s melancholy that lingers ... His best stories are precise attempts to notice life, to save it from the oblivion we sleepwalk toward ... Regret, disappointment, the passing of time—these grow to become Machado’s most poignant subjects ... And yet it is pessimism aimed not at individual human beings so much as at the fate of humanity itself.
PanThe Los Angeles Review of BooksVictorian Mythmaker is a thorough dressing-down, a prolonged hatchet job. Unfortunately, it is also a work of intellectual calumny: a muddle of false claims, willful deceit, and unbridled hostility. Darwin, in Wilson’s telling, was a fraud, a liar, a racist, and a closet eugenicist. Victorian Mythmaker wears a cloak of righteousness but is about as trustworthy as a priest in a Stendhal novel … Wilson’s zeal, like that of most conspiracy theorists, only serves to undermine his case. From a psychological perspective, his portrait of Darwin just doesn’t add up … Wilson wants to persuade us that Darwin’s worldview was a cruel one, blackened with the soot of Victorian iniquity, yet he does so by painting a picture of that worldview that is plainly a caricature.
Elizabeth Hardwick, selected by Darryl Pinckney
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksOn every page of this book you will be reminded that Elizabeth Hardwick was not simply a great critic but a great writer. This distinction matters. Hardwick’s essays are always sticking their neck out; their aphoristic grace and easy impressionism are a way of speaking to their subjects in their own language, without deafening them with comprehension and analysis ... In sheer size alone, The Collected Essays, which spans six decades and 600 pages, is a testament to the happy union between author and form. Hardwick could quite simply squeeze more into a sentence than most writers could an entire paragraph ... Everything in these essays, be it real or fictional, comes alive to Hardwick’s touch.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books...is neither neat nor quickly read; at over 500 pages, it is both overabundant and overwhelming — a storehouse of information about horse breeding and genetics, the history and geography of Kentucky, and the pernicious legacy of American slavery ...it is, rather, the wild centrifugal force that drives this teeming novel across the entire span of modern American history, from the Revolutionary War to the mid-2000s. If the white whale of American literature is really on the verge of extinction, then The Sport of Kings is the last of a dying breed ... There appears to be nothing her prose cannot do, nothing she cannot describe, and no one whose voice she cannot inhabit ... It is a veritable thicket of language, an intricate woodland mosaic of idiom, voice, and narrative style ... The ground covered by Morgan’s language alone makes other writers sound like stammering provincials.