RaveThe San Fransisco ChronicleEnjoyable ... Fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author will seize on this book to better understand the texts and experiences that shaped Chabon as an artist. More broadly, Bookends is a wander along the lost avenues and borderlands of the 20th century popular imagination ... Chabon has a critic’s awareness of poststructuralist and postmodern approaches to art and representation, with nods here and there to such writers as Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin. But, ultimately, the success of Bookends lies in the way it demonstrates a lifelong emotional engagement with the possibilities of art, and the texts that speak to us at important moments in our lives ... Entertaining, funny and eminently readable, Bookends restores the intrinsic and illuminating role that art can play in our lives.
Cynthia L. Haven
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe book presumes no prior knowledge, and includes several useful primers of the texts that established his reputation ... One of the abiding questions that drives the book is how a man who appeared to lead such a quiet and ordered life was animated by some of the most troubling themes in human history. Adopting the lively and accessible style of an investigative reporter, Haven looks to Girard’s formative experiences for an answer. The reader is along for the ride as she drives a rented Citroën through southern France, or pores over archival images and family photographs. Her research is rich in important and surprising details, and there are entertaining tidbits of juicy academic gossip along the way ... In an academic world that favored detached skepticism, Girard’s private convictions and idiosyncratic approach contributed to his outsider image. Haven catalogs Girard’s unique intellectual engagement with a host of writers and philosophers, from Dostoevsky, Stendhal and Proust to Sartre, Camus and Derrida. Yet there are also mystical and ambiguous influences at play ... At a time when religious fundamentalism, violent extremism and societal division dominates the headlines, Haven’s book is a call to revisit and reclaim one of the 20th century’s most important thinkers.