RaveFinancial TimesThe Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books is a wonderful book, not least in the literal sense of an epic unfolding in a nonstop procession of marvels, ordeals and apparitions ... The true measure of Wilson-Lee’s accomplishment, delivered in a simile-studded prose that is seldom less than elegant and often quite beautiful, is to make Hernando’s epic, measured in library shelves, not nautical miles, every bit as thrilling as his father’s story ... The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books is also a work that speaks to our own information-engorged time ... Hernando was a one-man receiving station for the plenitude of the world. The same could be said for Edward Wilson-Lee ... A list of Wilson-Lee’s lists would consume this review but many are revelatory ... But, the quality of writing aside (which in its strongest passages bears serious comparison with the sensuous descriptiveness of Marguerite Yourcenar), The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, is most compelling as a meditation on the response to an explosive expansion of knowledge.
MixedThe New York TimesBut this reduction of 'being Jewish' to a state of hair-tearing anxiety about the surge of anti-Semitism means Weisman never quite delivers on his subtitle’s promise. A richly researched and nuanced account of Jewish life in stressed-out, polarized America would be timely, but this isn’t it. Instead, Weisman takes a chapter to complain about what he considers the major distraction preventing American Jews from being fully alert to the perils of the time — but this, a little surprisingly, turns out to be 'Israel, Israel, Israel' ... The second malaise Weisman identifies as blunting Jewish alertness to the peril of the times is the hollowing out of a Jewish identity that is neither uncritically Zionist nor devoutly religious ... None of this is to make light of the sinister anti-Semitic strain in the ascendancy of alt-right ideology. There are plenty of signs that Jew-hatred is pushing through the soft walls of ultraright politics and poisoning its bloodstream. There is nothing wrong, as Weisman counsels, with Jews standing shoulder to shoulder with those most damaged and threatened by tribalist populism, as Jews like Abraham Joshua Heschel did in the heyday of the civil rights movement.
PositiveThe Financial TimesAs this last, beguiling collection of stories bears witness, condescending to Updike as the lyricist of small satisfactions misses the power of his great, deep, subject: the pathos of American boyishness; the gap between bright expectation and experience into which the Rabbit Angstroms and the rest fall with their air of desperately bewildered ruefulness … Updike was better at the elegiac than the catastrophic. But My Father’s Tears, despite the implication of the title story, isn’t all mood indigo. Updike’s genius was for the richly relished, precisely nailed, moment; his incomparable powers of translation between what is observed and what gets fixed in memory.
RaveThe Financial Times...[a] howl-a-page assault on the pieties of race debates in America ... [an] outrageous, hilarious and profound novel ... No writer since Tom Wolfe in his Bonfire of the Vanities years has such an eye for social farce ... Beatty plays for very high stakes — but he wins ... [a] beautiful and weirdly poignant book.