PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... timely and resonant ... Shapiro’s message, which reverberates through some sparkling chapters on class, immigration and manifest destiny, is that...Shakespeare lines offered a collective catharsis ... Shapiro’s chapter on same-sex marriage is cleverly framed around a fascinating description of the making of Shakespeare in Love ... The professor’s final words on the contemporary American disruption offers some bleak cultural pessimism.
John Le Carre
RaveThe Observer (UK)... Carré [is] doubling down on his renowned and suspenseful opacity with an urgent first-person narrative that ranges from a Battersea health club to a hunting lodge in Karlovy Vary ... neither a hissy fit nor a high-noon shootout, but an autumnal threnody that reconciles rage to storytelling ... this new book demands the tribute of a rereading as much as a reading ... Publishing such a thriller at the age of 88, a feat of imaginative stamina that surpasses the tenacity of his idol Graham Greene, le Carré confirms his place at the head of his profession. Not many writers half his age could so successfully put Goethe and Sting into the same sentence. This may not be the finest novel he has ever written – Tinker, Tailor and the other great novels of the 1970s remain in a league of their own – but it’s still touched with his magic. His readers will know from his first line that they are in the presence of a great enchanter ... Le Carré delivers a tale for our times, replete with the classic seasoning of betrayal, secret state shenanigans and sad-eyed human frailty, all baked into an oven-hot contemporary thriller that’s partly inspired by the machinations of 21st-century Ukraine, today more than ever the fatal crossroads of great power politics ... right on the money, in psychology as much as politics, a demonstration of the British spy thriller at its unputdownable best ... Le Carré has not lost his master storyteller’s command of momentum.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)...a murder story of archetypal simplicity whose slow unravelling becomes a vehicle for all the big questions about life, love and death. There are passages on almost every page that cry out for quotation. This may be a literary and metaphysical fiction, but it\'s never boring. Marías plays with perception, memory and guilt like a toreador. With every flourish of his literary cape, the enthralled reader is never allowed to forget that, in the end, the author will make a killing. Just as Macbeth is a thriller that\'s also a great tragedy, The Infatuations is a murder story that\'s also a profound study of fatal obsession ... The full text of Don Quixote was first published as long ago as 1620. I wouldn\'t be surprised if The Infatuations soon acquired an equally devoted following.
MixedThe GuardianNicolson, whose method is \'to lower myself into the pool of their minds,\' paints a memorable triptych of the two poets and their Dolly [Dorothy Wordsworth] ... Despite its avowed revisionism, and its references to the rural poor and the Tory repression, The Making of Poetry buys into an idea inspired by the greenwood of merrie England, in which the free-born Englishman, liberated from court and cloister, finds deepest self-expression in the forest under the canopy of the heavens ... the contentious question that nags at the heart of the poets’ bromance...What, precisely, was Dorothy’s contribution ... Nicolson has hardly more interest in the fashionable \'Matilda effect\' than Wordsworth or Coleridge ... The deepest mysteries of this \'marvellous year\' remain happily unplumbed, if much more famous.
RaveThe Guardian... both a highly intelligent expression of this genre and also supremely well executed and entertaining ... Kolbert’s perspective is both awe-inspiring and fearsome, but utterly engrossing, as you’d expect from a book whose premise is \'we’re all doomed\' ... Addressing the imminent next catastrophe with a certain grim relish, Kolbert spells out the results of her investigations ... Kolbert’s indictment of humanity is remorseless, and compelling ... Readers will be unable to evade the conclusion that we do indeed find ourselves on the brink of a great catastrophe, one in which the agent involved is not an inanimate object or a geophysical force but a sentient creature: ourselves. Homo sapiens may have enjoyed brilliant success on Earth but we have done so at the expense of virtually every other species.
RaveThe GuardianHer tale will probably upend what we thought we knew about America and offers history’s traditional consolation of nothing new under the sun. The past, indeed, turns out to be not only similar in many ways, but sometimes much worse and more disquieting ... It’s a ripping yarn (\'a genealogy of national conversations,\' says Churchwell), which puts Trump and Trumpism in a category that is perhaps less sinister than we might have feared and more intelligible than we might have imagined ... Behold, America is an enthralling book, almost a primer for the ferocious dialectic of U.S. politics, inspired by the events of 2015/16. It will no doubt take an influential place on a teeming shelf of Trump-lit. Much of its force derives from the echoes of the present it finds in the thunderous caverns of the past, blurred by the distortions of history. Passionate, well-researched and comprehensive, it is both a document of our times and a thrilling survey of a half-forgotten and neglected dimension of the American story—a tale full of sound and fury currently being narrated by an idiot.
PositiveThe Guardian\"Hilary Spurling’s authorised biography arrives in the nick of time to remind us of her subject’s quiet genius.Hilary Spurling’s authorised biography arrives in the nick of time to remind us of her subject’s quiet genius ... Spurling has triumphed. She has achieved an affectionate portrait of a man who, in the words of one contemporary, was just \'a colourless young man with some humour\' ... The experiences of a man chained to a desk, writing 300 words a day, are hard to animate... The thing that rescues this long biography is Spurling’s wit, intelligence and deep, ironic affection for her subject, whom she knew as a friend.\
PositiveThe Guardian\"On the evidence of Figures in a Landscape, Theroux’s powerful persona is, oddly, not matched by an equal vox. Open a Burgess, or a Greene or a Naipaul collection of such picked-up pieces and you know at once, from the voice, who’s writing. There are several highly entertaining essays here, and some quotably arresting lines, but the voice is elusive, unfixed and dissonant – an echo of the divisions within.\
RaveThe GuardianJenny Uglow’s moving biography of Edward Lear reveals a tortured, unfulfilled soul for whom nonsense was a necessity ... Uglow shows that the life of the Victorian gay man, even in progressive circles, was excruciating ... Only abroad could Lear and Lushington enjoy a semblance of marriage – as Uglow puts it – \'without the sex\' ... Uglow has written a great life about an artist with half a life, a biography that might break your heart.
David Foster Wallace
RaveThe GuardianConsider the Lobster offers an exhilarating short-cut to the mind of a writer for whom autocastration is a good reason to investigate 'adult entertainment', who swears once a year not to get angry and self-righteous about the misuse of the possessive apostrophe, or the serial comma, and who is happy to devote 3,000 words to Kafka's 'sense of humour' … This new collection demonstrates a contemporary American master working at the extreme edge of the radar, asking question after question about the mad, mad world in which he finds himself … Wallace's ferocious snootiness makes him a fearsome literary critic. There are not many American novelists at work today who would relish taking a swing at John Updike. But in his review of Toward the End of Time, Wallace not only bounds into the ring, but also cheerfully lands a vicious left hook on the writer he calls a GMN (Great Male Narcissist).
PanThe GuardianQuine's literary evisceration of his agent, his editor, and his publisher forms the basis for a detective story that does not merely suspend disbelief but hoists it like an escape artist over an abyss of improbabilities … The Silkworm labours hard to be silky, but English prose has never been JK Rowling's friend and she herself betrays a tell-tale anxiety about her project. There's a revealing moment on page 166 at which, in the guise of a fictional blog, she instructs the reader in the difference between plot and narrative. ‘Plot is what happens,’ she writes. ‘Narrative is how much you show your readers and how you show it to them.’ In Rowling's imaginative landscape, then, there is no serious consideration either of character or situation. To these two novelistic essentials she is a stranger.
PositiveThe Guardian“A fascinating truce between candour and guile.”