RaveThe New York Times Book Review... fascinating, immensely readable ... Eakin, though not a professional art historian (he is a senior editor at Foreign Affairs), has mastered this material, read a mountain of sources and synthesized them skillfully, and he manages to braid aesthetics with history with personal details about the leading individuals’ love lives, adulteries and divorces ... Some of his prose tics are irksome, such as providing thumbnail portraits of each character, which all start to sound the same; his novelistic, presumptuous inhabiting of historical people’s interiority in scenes, and his habit of holding off the name of each new person or painting title until he has given a lengthy description of same ... But once Eakin has introduced all the key figures and set them in motion, the book soars. His achievement is keeping the complex plotline moving, while offering sharp insights and astute judgments. He ends the book in dramatic fashion, tracing Rosenberg’s desperate attempt to escape the Third Reich’s tightening grip and relocate to the United States via Portugal — fortunately succeeding, with the aid of a warm letter of support from Alfred Barr.
MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)As every essayist must, Davis devises a persona through which to transmit her thoughts, and its voice is quite different from that of her stories: warmly companionable, fair-minded, civic, reasonable and (sorry to say) rather humourless. She downplays her intellectual or academic side, addressing the reader in a simple, accessible manner as a sort of everywoman with a passion for languages ... The Proust essays, along with a pungent discussion of Flaubert, are the highlight of the collection ... Sometimes, she gets carried away with examples of individual words intriguing: her sixty-eight-page essay on translating a novel by Dag Solstad from Norwegian becomes something of a slog ... Between the success of her problem-solving and the \'exhilarating\' experience of tackling a rock face single-handed, a quiet air of self-satisfaction and self-appreciation spreads over the volume, leaving readers with no option but to applaud her tenacity. This can, however, deprive the essays of a certain tension. From my own perspective as a lover of the essay, these pieces do not, for the most part, deepen or darken, nor are they composed in shapely, surprising ways ... We come away from Essays Two with renewed respect for a writer whose grasp of languages is profound, and whose capacity to shape-shift from one to another is quite exceptional.
André Gregory and Todd London
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewA candid personal memoir detailing the long career and life experience of the brilliantly accomplished Gregory would certainly be welcome, and this book marvelously fills the bill — or would, if its author had not so perversely insisted by its title that it was not his memoir, without offering much of an explanation why not. I suppose we ought to take him at his word. Still, as the saying goes, if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck. … Regardless, Gregory is a masterly storyteller and chronicler. Eschewing the usual stale showbiz anecdotes, his perfectly timed narratives are spiced with wit, self-deprecating humor and shrewd analytical insight. He spares no sentimentality for childhood ... As befits having been in therapy most of his adult life, he is nothing if not self-aware about his failures and failings. Indeed, humiliation forms an almost zestfully comic through-line in these recollections ... The last 40-odd pages are a letdown, as he takes us from his 60s to his mid-80s, during which time he finds happiness with his second wife, Cindy, picks up painting and learns the secrets of contentment ... Theater is a collaborative medium, and Gregory is fulsome in his appreciation of his colleagues, especially Wallace Shawn and the set designer Eugene Lee; but he says not a word about his co-author, Todd London, not even in the acknowledgments. I would like to have known what their process was like. Perhaps the book’s title references his merely partial responsibility for the text, or reflects the aristocratic backlash against the memoir as a faddish form. Or, given his tendency to rehearse plays for decades, maybe the octogenarian Gregory is optimistically seeing the current volume as the dry run for a future, perfected memoir. In any case, this engaging, vivacious whatsit will have to do until the real thing comes along.
MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)The title essay of her last book, Forty-One False Starts (2014), was a brilliant circling of the painter David Salle. There is nothing quite that substantial or penetrating in the present volume, which is made up of profiles, book reviews, reportage, appreciations and take-downs, but Malcolm is always worth reading; it can be instructive to see how much satisfying craft she brings to even the most trivial article ... In her own profiles, Malcolm—herself aware of how journalists can traduce their subjects—minds her manners, occasionally trying to probe some possible tension and immediately retreating when the subject stonewalls. The result is a series of stand-offs between blandly self-approving, mildly self-critical semi-celebrities and stymied interrogator. If the subject’s self-presentation is not challenged, a magazine profile can degenerate into a press release or a fan’s notes. Consequently, the form does not elicit the best from Malcolm, since her strongest suit is psychological probing ... In the book reviews and polemics that constitute the last two-thirds of Nobody’s Looking at You, Malcolm is able to let loose. At times she can sound brutal, as when she does a hatchet job on the pair of translators who have attempted to supplant Constance Garnet ... a collection that veers between tenderness and asperity.
RaveThe New York Times\"Tommasini cheerfully acknowledges the problematic nature of canon formation, especially in a field like classical music where the standard repertory can become ossified. Nevertheless, he defends the value of distinguishing the great from the merely good ... In newspaper reviews he has continually shown open-mindedness toward all kinds of music, and The Indispensable Composers is sprinkled with admiration for Grieg, Berg, Britten and others who did not make the cut ... One cannot help coming away from it with a more rounded understanding of classical music at its peak. Maybe he can follow it up with a book dedicated to \'Not Quite Indispensable Composers but Pretty Terrific Nevertheless\' (Mahler, please?).
RaveThe New York Review of BooksMcBride, one of our foremost film historians, the author of solid, well-informed books on Welles, Ford, Frank Capra, and Steven Spielberg, has taken up the cudgels for his favorite master of sophisticated comedy ... [An] excellent, authoritative book—which offers all the necessary points to be made about Lubitsch, is chockful of cultivated insights and astute quotes, and is even forthright about his subject’s clinkers—with a lament.
RaveThe New York Review of Books[Schine's] tenth and newest novel cuts deeper, feels fuller and more ambitious, and seems to me her best ... The novel’s triumph lies in Schine’s empathetic ability to inhabit this courageous, intelligent, wounded old woman ... Schine nails one of the terrors of old age, this need to camouflage one’s frailty, lest one be shipped to a nursing home ... Appropriately, given that the plot does not pretend to be original, the prose is straightforward and direct, without showing off or striving for linguistic effect. By now, Schine appears so confident in her novelistic powers and wisdom that she can simply cut to the point with epigrammatic insight.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewSome of this book’s chapters were published as separate essays in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and either because of inattentive editing or unavoidable transitional needs, the same information is reintroduced several times — a nuisance in so small a volume but not a great crime. The book is attractively designed and just the right size — 4? by 6? — to slip into one’s pocket or purse. In short, it’s been packaged as a nifty impulse purchase. One could do worse than give in to the impulse. If it’s possible for a book about illness and death to be delightful, this one fills the bill.