PositiveBookPage... [a] thoroughly engrossing examination of these two disparate, talented and troubled poetic geniuses ... Crowther synthesizes Plath’s and Sexton’s individual stories into a seamless narrative. Many details will be familiar to die-hard acolytes of either or both poets, but Crowther’s clever integration of these two lives reveals the strong connections between them in new and surprising ways ... with little evidence to draw on beyond a few passing comments in diaries and letters, and one poem Sexton wrote after Plath’s death, Crowther perhaps speculates a bit too much about what each of these women may or may not have thought of the other. Despite this leap, she makes a convincing case that the ripple effects of Plath’s and Sexton’s not-so-quiet rebellions are still being felt.
Jenny Minton Quigley
RaveBookPage[An] engrossing collection of smart and thoughtful essays by an array of contemporary writers reckoning with this indelible and shocking novel ... A number of books about Nabokov and Lolita have been published in the last few years, but Lolita in the Afterlife seems to be the first to wholly reassess the work’s legacy as our society grapples with the harm caused by white male privilege and the age-old propensity to look the other way. All tallied, the book’s 30 essays (as well as Quigley’s own incisive introduction) are, by necessity, contradictory, bracing, uncomfortable, thought provoking, informative, entertaining and, in the end, inconclusive—not unlike Lolita itself.
RaveBookPage... an authoritative biography of this celebrated writer may seem premature. But the highly accomplished biographer Hermione Lee, at Stoppard’s behest, has produced just that. Tom Stoppard: A Life is a capacious and exhaustive book that attempts to infiltrate his art while chronicling his life’s journey—and what a journey it has been ... The most absorbing parts of Stoppard’s story involve his rediscovery of his Jewish roots and the ways he has indirectly mined his own family’s experiences in his work ... While Stoppard has often been accused of being an overly clever or cerebral playwright who avoids the personal and the emotional in his work, Lee makes a solid case for the true depth, as well as the surface brilliance, of his enduring plays. Mike Nichols, another émigré genius of the theatre, called Stoppard \'the most expressive playwright of our time . . . the only writer I know who is completely happy.\' Tom Stoppard: A Life affirms that appraisal.
PositiveBookPageAs a group, these essays are wide-ranging in subject, yet each displays the distinctive voice Didion has honed with precision. Whether she is profiling the studied perfection of then-first lady of California Nancy Reagan or the cultural significance of Martha Stewart on the cusp of her historic initial public offering, Didion allows her subjects to speak for themselves, inviting us to read between the lines and draw our own conclusions ... Fans of Didion’s incisive fiction will delight in her candid reflection on why she abandoned the short story as a viable form early in her career ... Not unexpectedly, Let Me Tell You What I Mean is secondary Didion at best, but even minor offerings from this prose master are hard to dismiss—and equally hard to resist.
RaveBookPage... a true gift to writers and serious readers ... infectious enthusiasm and generosity of spirit ... On the surface, this may seem a dry endeavor. However, in Saunders’ hands it is anything but. His love of literature is palpable, and his obvious qualities as an artful teacher are on full display. Saunders takes a different tack with each story, sometimes providing pulse-by-pulse dissections, other times analyzing the building of character or even how the excesses of a story somehow manage to contribute to rather than detract from its greatness ... While the genesis of A Swim in a Pond in the Rain can be found in the creative writing classroom—and writers at any level of their careers will glean priceless pearls from nearly every page—the genius of Saunders’ book, and his clear intention in offering it up, is to elucidate literature for the engaged reader, deepening the reading experience. It is also a blueprint for a greater engagement with humanity.
RaveBookpageGenerations of children, and more than few adults, have embraced the antics of Harriet the Spy and its singular heroine since it was published in 1964. As Leslie Brody reports in Sometimes You Have to Lie , her absorbing biography of the elusive author Louise Fitzhugh, the classic middle grade novel sold around 2.5 million copies in its first five years, a number that is now approaching 5 million worldwide. Fitzhugh, who died at age 46 in 1974, was publicity-shy even by the more genteel standards of her day, and her literary executors have remained guarded about releasing her private papers. Faced with this estimable hurdle, Brody has succeeded admirably in reconstructing Fitzhugh’s complicated, often troubled life.
PositiveBookPageThough this book is categorized as a novel, there is little that, on the surface, appears fictional in British writer Martin Amis’ capacious \'novelized memoir,\' Inside Story ... Amis’ account sprawls back and forth across decades and continents, shifting not only in time but also in tense and voice, interrupted by a sometimes overwhelming quantity of explicating footnotes. This intentional disregard for conventional storytelling further blurs the line between truth and imagination. The reader presumes that much of the content is true at heart, with specifics morphed by the passage of time and the untrustworthiness of memory ... Most readers will likely deem Inside Story more memoir than novel. It is certainly a sui generis work either way. Early on I christened it a \'kitchen sink\' book (as in, \'everything but the\') and had to laugh, about halfway in, when the fictional Amis actually \'poured the [drink] down the kitchen sink.\' Yet whatever its hybrid status suggests, it regally caps Amis’ estimable literary career with cheeky candor and more than a touch of razzle-dazzle.
PositiveBookPageAs Parini chronicles their misadventures with the hilarity of hindsight, he palpably re-creates his youthful anxiety and Borges’ own sometimes infuriating sanguinity ... for all its charming anecdotes of the week spent with the iconic writer, is at its core Parini’s own coming-of-age memoir, as well as an acute reminiscence of a confusing time in America ... provides a loving portrait of this singular writer, adding nuance to the legacy of the legendary fabulist’s life and work.
A. N. Wilson
PositiveBookPage... [a] rich narrative ... Wilson brings dazzling, far-reaching erudition to this study, drawing on unexpected, sometimes arcane sources to paint a portrait with impressive depth and nuance.
RaveBookPageCohen’s incisive new book explores her immersion into Austen’s work during a fraught period in her personal life. Ultimately a narrative about grief, loss and resurfacing, it also provides a deep dive into some of Austen’s most penetrating writing ... As a memoir, Austen Years is uncompromising and engaging, and as literary criticism, it is assured and perceptive ... an absorbing pleasure that will stimulate and augment the reading of Austen for fans old and new.
RaveBookPage... offer[s] sharp slices of the midcentury American zeitgeist, when certain possibilities for women were just beginning to open up. L’Engle here enters the territory of such masters of the form as Alice Munro, John O’Hara and John Cheever ... Some of the stories are so affecting that it is surprising they did not find publication in L’Engle’s lifetime ... many people may think of L’Engle as a children’s author or a science fiction writer, or both. The engaging stories in The Moment of Tenderness collectively offer a different, fuller view of this talented master.
PositiveBookPage... captivating and incisive ... Gill persuades us that, for Woolf—who grew up in a male-dominated household and, later, navigated a male-centric world—it was the women in her life who played a consummate role in shaping her revolutionary perceptions and art. This embracing and often sharp-witted study of the peripheries of a great writer’s life makes for compulsive reading.
PositiveBookPage...an arresting new book ... [an] engaging account ... As we navigate our own often Orwellian reality of autocracy, political discontent and crafted truths, Taylor ponders what the great writer might have made of \'alternative facts\' and those who embrace them. The answer, he suggests, is not a simple one.
C. E. Morgan
RaveBook PageChronicling a young woman’s self-discovery through the promise of love and the inevitable disappointments that ensue, Morgan’s spare but intense narrative is a poetic meditation that burrows to our most basic human emotions ... While Morgan’s publisher rightly compares her to Marilynne Robinson and Annie Proulx, a more apt equation might be Annie Dillard, for this talented young writer can take a reader’s breath away with her clear, precise depiction of the natural world. In this elegant, impressive debut, Morgan deftly traverses the jagged fissures of love and seeks to locate the primal bonds between the human soul and the world it inhabits.
Sarah M. Broom
PositiveBookPage... evocative, addictive ... This capacious work captures more than the particulars of a place or a state of mind. It infiltrates the very state of the soul, revealing a way of life tourists never see or, as the destruction of the hurricane and the post-storm neglect would underscore, pay any mind ... one of the most fascinating features of the narrative is Broom’s subtle exploration of class distinctions within the African American communities of New Orleans ... a lyrical attempt to reconstruct home, to redraw a map that nature and a heartless world have erased. The melodies of Broom’s prose are insinuating, its rhythms as syncopated and edgy as the story she has dared to write. With a voice all her own, she tells truths rarely told and impossible to ignore.
PositiveBookPage\"Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know offers richly drawn portraits of these fathers and sons, illuminating the influence rippling between generations ... As charming as it is illuminating, Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know provides a singular look at an extraordinary confluence of genius.\
PositiveBookPageWhite vacillates between the curmudgeonly and the wistful as he assesses a changing world tempered by the permanence of literature ... The Unpunished Vice is an unusual hybrid composed of White’s astute literary criticism interlaced with often highly personal stories about friendships, relationships and sex ... While the writing is always engaging, White’s thoughts sometimes seem to meander, and the book might have been tightened with judicious editing. But even in his sometimes irascible, sex-preoccupied dotage, White is a charming and sharp-witted raconteur worth spending time with on the page. The Unpunished Vice is a welcome capstone to the venerable literary career of a writer who has never been afraid to expose his own and others’ fallibility.
RaveBookPage\"In the trilogy of intriguing novels that she completes with Kudos, Rachel Cusk has routinely subverted essential ideas of narrative and storytelling ... On first encounter, the novels seem to have very little plot (arguably, the second book, Transit, has the most), but far from random, their episodic forward momentum makes them curiously hard to put down ... On one level, Cusk lampoons the insular literary world, with its intellectual puffery and self-congratulatory prize giving (i.e. kudos), as she deviously exiles Faye to far-flung backwaters. But Cusk, like Faye, refuses to undermine the seriousness that lurks beneath the sometimes inappropriate, sometimes self-important, often uncomfortable observations of those she meets. \'The human situation is so complex that it always evades our attempts to encompass it,\' one characters says, and ultimately this truth is what Cusk tirelessly seeks to circumvent. In the end, one can’t help but hear echoes of E.M. Forster’s elusive advice: Only connect.\
RaveBookPage\"...a generous volume that shares the breadth and depth of this thoughtful writer’s curiosity ... Smith is not only a penetrating and candid writer, she is also embracing. Reading these pieces can feel like a pleasant dinner conversation with a smart, open-minded friend ... Identity is Smith’s watchword, in both her fiction and in essays. Taken as a whole, Feel Free is about identity, played out through the complicated mess we call culture, art and life.\
PositiveBookPageJonathan Blunk’s absorbing new critical biography should go a long way in correcting that state of near neglect. Offering an unabashed appreciation of Wright’s poetry but also an evenhanded assessment of the poet’s tortured life, Blunk’s impressive study is as compelling as Wright’s own story ... Wright’s work, as Blunk shows with admiring scholarship, is itself often hauntingly elegiac in tone and content, rooted in a past that cannot be shed but only pushed away, ever to return.
RaveBookPageAtlas’ own intelligence and wit is as pervasive and persuasive as his infectious enthusiasm. The book is rife with footnotes (they average out to almost one per page), and while these often provide fascinating additional information, many of them feel unnecessary and slow down the reading of the main narrative. That is a minor quibble, though. The Shadow in the Garden is an arresting book, at once personal and broad in its purview. And by exploring the art of biography—why he writes it and why we read it—Atlas bares his own soul a bit, too. 'The specialty you choose is your own disease,' he writes, borrowing an adage from psychiatry. 'If so, I had chosen my subject wisely.'”