RaveChicago Review of BooksTóibín uses a novelist’s tools to present a picture of Mann as a full human figure with darkness and depth ... Tóibín sharpens his picture of Mann by placing him in relation to other major thinkers and artists ... Because Tóibín wants to address readers unfamiliar with Mann, he does not present long reflections on Mann’s novels. Instead, he highlights the events, ideas, and relationships Mann would draw into and transform through his work ... A highlight of the book is Tóibín’s depiction of Mann’s wife, Katia. The daughter of a highly-cultured secular Jewish family, Katia was instrumental in the development of Mann’s art. Furthermore, as Tóibín shows, Katia’s sexuality did not fit neatly into the categories of her time and she supported her husband and children in their diverse sexualities. Writing about Katia, Tóibín puts aside tropes of the poor wife oblivious to her husband’s homoerotic desires ... Part of the pleasure of reading The Magician is seeing how one great writer, Colm Tóibín, imagines the life and work of another great writer, Thomas Mann, in prose as beautiful and vibrant as the older writer deserves ... In The Magician, Colm Tóibín presents a rare view into the making of serious art and, in the process, shows he is a powerful magician himself.
RaveChicago Review of Books... [an] excellent new collection ... Iossel’s stories of Soviet life...are filled with men and women living second lives, drunks who avoided death (to their distress), and whole families of Soviet citizens who are not killed, not officially, but \'disappeared.\' Death, in these stories, punctuates life like a question mark ... Religion offers hope in the face of oblivion, but, in the officially atheist USSR, its resources are hard to find and hard to know how to use. In \'Necessary Evil,\' one of the funniest stories in this very funny book, the parents of nine-year-old Iossel break the news that he is a Jew. To console the boy, they try to explain Judaism’s rich traditions, but, given their thin education in Jewish history, all they can come up with is a science fiction story ... Iossel’s point is nothing so simple as stories will save us ... Here, stories’ salvific powers are highly contingent ... salvation must involve telling and hearing the stories that make us who we are. Stories like the ones in Love Like Water, Love Like Fire.
PositiveChicago Review of BooksAlthough Christofi sets off quoted material in italics and quotation marks, he blends diverse voices into a unified narrative. Following this method, Christofi produces some vivid writing ... Christofi underplays the importance of Christian love in Dostoevsky’s life and work ... Had Christofi focused more on Dostoevsky’s understanding of Christian love, he could have explored how Dostoevsky trapped his characters in situations where the love of God is all but out of reach ... Dostoevsky’s interest in the clash of voices raises a question about Christofi’s method. Why blend distinct voices into one unified story ... Instead of blending voices into one coherent story, Christofi might have let different voices fight it out ... Despite missing some opportunities, Christofi tells Dostoevsky’s story with wit and verve. Readers new to Dostoevsky will enjoy learning about the author’s life in this short, lively book. Readers already acquainted with Dostoevsky will like hearing familiar voices narrate the author’s life in a new way. It is a tale worth hearing.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of Books... excellent .... more than an exciting story of worker Davids knocking down manager Goliaths ... Instead of presenting a step-by-step plan for activism, McClelland tells stories of real men and women facing dire circumstances ... Crucially, McClelland emphasizes the key role women played in the strike, which is often misremembered as a macho standoff between union men on one side and company men on the other ... One dynamic of the Flint story McClelland might have emphasized more is the dynamic of race...McClelland could have added more nuance to his excellent book if he had further explored how dynamics of race enabled or constrained the union in pursuing different goals, strategies, and tactics.