MixedThe New Yorker... less a selected essays than a rejected essays, a director’s un-cut of her older work. Traditionally, this is the sort of collection squeezed out by itchy heirs after an author’s death ... It’s happy news, then, that the book still offers some familiar pleasures. The earliest columns, from the late sixties, remain crisp and engaging on the page (not a given for late-sixties writing) ... Didion stopped publishing new material in 2011, a silence that’s well earned but bittersweet in light of recent events, and Let Me Tell You What I Mean is meant to summon the old feelings. Yet the book ends up a study in the limits of Didion’s prose, because its parts, for all their elegance, don’t make a whole. Devoted readers will find the book unrecognizable as a Didion collection in any real sense.
MixedThe New YorkerLowrey is a policy person. She is interested in working from the concept down ... Her conscientiously reported book assesses the widespread effects that money and a bit of hope could buy ... By Lowrey’s assessment, the existing system \'would falter and fail if confronted with vast inequality and tidal waves of joblessness.\' But is a U.B.I. fiscally sustainable? It’s unclear. Lowrey runs many numbers but declines to pin most of them down.
PositiveThe New YorkerBrown’s reports on editing offer an illuminating thrill. Brown calls herself 'a magazine romantic,' and, reading her diary, you see why: she collects old magazines the way some people collect baseball cards, and her entries flutter with the joy of conquest at a time when glossies were reaching a glamorous peak. Her narrative is juicy in the mold less of a chophouse steak than of a summer peach: a little tart, a little sweet, mostly refreshing. It’s pretty irresistible. Brown is an entertaining writer of what could be called High Magazinese, a prose of front-loaded descriptors and punch-line squibs, and, winsomely, she seems to write this way even when writing for herself. She has a novelist’s sense of pacing and a perverse genius for description ... That look at life from the outside gives the diaries good humor, and it offers Brown a kind of armor from herself.
William P. Young
MixedSlateThe Shack, the story of a sad-sack Oregonian who meets God, was self-published by William P. Young in the spring of 2007 ... The Shack's success is puzzling in part because it is a book of puzzling intent. The novel's subject is faith in God, but it is written as if to a reader who has little interest in religion ... The 253 pages that follow are an effort to break past that skepticism—gently—and to show you, spiritually lost reader, that the Lord Almighty God is real, and in your life, and the best friend you will ever have ...a Christmas Carol-esque tale of redemption—and a serial-assassin thriller...Young's aesthetics are winsomely quirky and raw; reading the book is less like entering a church and more like entering somebody's sock drawer ... an eloquent reminder that, for those who give some faith and effort to the writing craft, there is, even today, the chance to touch and heal enough strangers to work a little miracle.