PositiveAV ClubVeronica flits nimbly through several different periods in her life, darting around in an almost free-associative tumble, which takes some getting used to ... Writing in brisk, clipped sentences that snap like a whip, Gaitskill establishes a point-of-view that\'s distinctly unsentimental, bordering on cruel ... Veronica reads like the kind of novel only an austere, awards-giving body could love, with a prose-poetic style that\'s as undeniably sophisticated as it is hard to crack. With such a half-formed, superficial woman as narrator, there\'s no clear path into the multi-tiered story, yet Gaitskill supplies plenty of extraordinary passages, including a particularly vivid description of the onset of the AIDS pandemic in the \'80s New York.
RaveThe AV/AUX ClubThe stories of ineptitude are so staggering that readers will have to laugh to keep from crying ... isn\'t packed with revelations, but its page-turning litany of abuses and blunders has a cohesive, cumulative force that make it essential reading ... Weiner asks, \'How do you run a secret intelligence service in an open democracy?\' The CIA, in its hubris, has tried haplessly to answer that rhetorical question.
John Le Carré
PositiveThe AV ClubAround the novel's halfway point, Le Carré exhausts the plot's major twists and turns, having already established the heroes and villains in clear, unambiguous terms. Yet The Constant Gardener unfolds with the righteous energy of muckraking journalism, as the author comes to grips with the ruthless plundering of a vulnerable Third World nation. As Justin quietly and persistently investigates his wife's murder, his touching journey brings him closer to understanding her than when she was alive and wakes him from an indifferent slumber. It's heartening to find that Le Carré, now in his 70s, shares Justin's dogged sense of purpose.
RaveThe AV ClubThe disparity between moral hysteria and private, unknowable truths lies at the crux of Zoë Heller's witty, incisive second novel What Was She Thinking?, which covers a similar case from a closer distance, although not quite an omniscient one ... Delicately weaving two narrative lines, the scandal and its aftermath, the book is conceived as a work-in-progress, written by Barbara in the tense limbo between Sheba's indictment and her upcoming trial ... At first, What Was She Thinking? reads like a fair and well-judged attempt to set the record straight... But soon enough, her own secrets and longings come to the fore, leading to a devastating act of betrayal and the fresh realization that the events have been filtered through Barbara's complex feelings of lust, envy, resentment, and possessiveness toward her friend.
RaveThe A.V. ClubIn Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin, a thoughtful and deeply disquieting novel about a mother coming to terms with her son's Clinton-era rampage, the question ‘Why?’ becomes a black hole, slowly drawing its narrator into an unaccountable vortex … By rescuing the incident from armchair analysis, Shriver allows herself to enter a deeper and more chilling inquiry into parenthood in general, examining the nature/nurture push-and-pull in figuring how much (or how little) parents can be held responsible for how their children turn out … We Need To Talk About Kevin uses this extreme case to breach a dirty little secret about family life: Much as parents are expected to love their children unconditionally, sometimes the kids don't turn out well–or, more shamefully, their parents don't really like them.
PositiveThe A.V. ClubSometimes clunky and overreaching, sometimes piercing and compassionate, Philip Roth's vital new novel The Human Stain completes a postwar trilogy ...Roth bends his story around the major issues of the day, taking on racial and ethnic identity, political correctness, and moral hypocrisy ...the central character of Coleman Silk, a septuagenarian classics professor who is less a full-bodied character than a vessel for Roth's loaded philosophies... The Human Stain is both a mark on the skin and the mark of experience, too messy and convoluted to be sorted out by moral high-mindedness ...Roth's anger is parlayed into a sort of damaged humanism, as he fills in the complicated and ultimately sympathetic histories of each character ...frequent alter-ego, Nathan Zuckerman, seems extraneous at first as Silk's hired biographer, his presence underlines what Roth sees as the author's role: to free the truth from ideologues like Roux and reveal it in all its cluttered, bountiful detail.
RaveThe A.V. Club...George Saunders takes his place in a long queue of American pessimists, but few can claim a vision as corrosive and bleakly funny as the one on display in Pastoralia, a story cycle set in a hellish wasteland of late capitalism. Boasting a spare, economical prose style, Saunders takes snapshots with a cracked lens, only slightly distorting the worst images he can find ...stories are equally grim but more internalized... Saunders' characters are unhealthy, uneducated, and hopeless, yet he reserves sympathy and affection for them, his satiric venom generally saved for larger targets.
Chris Smith & Jon Stewart
PositiveThe Washington PostAlthough the day-to-day grind of producing the show often blinded Stewart and his team from the effect they were having outside the studio, the book gives a fuller picture of how their targeted outrage affected the culture ... The book revels in the wonky details of creating a segment: the morning discussion of the day’s issues; the endless drafts and revisions, even the frenzied period after rehearsal ... Along with all these minor detonations, The Daily Show (The Book) offers a satisfying highlight reel of the show’s achievements...Readers of this compelling history will appreciate the sweat behind every joke.