PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books[A] sympathetic biography ... an unstated thesis in RG’s biography is that Greene’s books and reading were as decisive an influence on his literary creations as were his travels ... Apart from tracing his reading habits, biographers of Greene must account for his travels — \'There is no understanding Graham Greene except in the political and cultural contexts of dozens of countries,\' RG declares — but also his agony as the bullied son of a headmaster and his resulting psychoanalysis ... Despite their widely differing approaches, RG and the late Sherry have one thing in common, beyond their choice of subject. Each portrays Greene as a representative no less than a chronicler of his age ... the chief merit of The Unquiet Englishman is how the reader does not feel rushed: short chapters distill key episodes from the life, each examining the relationships, locales, and literary work that occupied Greene at the time. The chapter headings are pithy and evocative ... In a word, RG’s prose is economical. This was a virtue dear to Greene ... RG would have enriched his narrative (though perhaps also lengthened it) by attending even more closely to the evolution of Greene’s craft.
A. M. Juster
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books\'No\' is Juster at his most dogmatic. His \'message\' is more often oblique, with any tendency to \'wrath\' dissolving in oracular language and vague presentiments. Or not so vague ... A more characteristic mood is set by \'Cassandra,\' a well-turned sonnet in which the prophetess says, in the final line, \'a blade is always being honed for me\' ... As the pages go by, the conjoining of wrath and wonder in Juster’s book title starts to feel earned ... The poems of...Juster, though plenty introspective, avoid self-indulgence at all costs. One cost or sacrifice, it has to be said, is a more daring vocabulary, which might have relieved a general flatness of diction.
MixedLos Angeles Review of BooksMost storytellers, when confronted with an imperative to be fact-based, earn their keep from selection. They make us applaud the art of choosing which people, events, and scraps of dialogue to retain or pass over. Not Amis ... From the opening pages, Amis dons the mask of a voluble host [...] a ploy that might have curdled quickly if he did not flatter us with the sense of being feted at an all-night literary cocktail party, one at which an outrageous secret or two will turn up before dawn. The trick is more likely to succeed if the reader is an Amis fan in the first place.
MixedThe Washington PostUnlike countless guides already in circulation, [Burt\'s] omits perennial subjects such as the poetic line, a brief history of verse, or the resources of rhythm and imagery ... Burt lacks the appetite or, it may be, the aptitude for characterizing poems she actively dislikes. Instead, Don’t Read Poetry is an unremitting geyser of praise for the many different ways a poem can engage readers ... Burt manages...transitions with ease and rapidity. Still, because she tends to cite only one or two stanzas at a time, her comparisons of poets or poems are often superficial ... Burt can sound ingratiating, as when she hastens to assure readers that \'poetry\' as a concept doesn’t appeal to everyone ... She also can sound too apologetic, frequently interrupting herself with qualifiers ... If Don’t Read Poetry had hazarded more judgments about specific types of poems—appraising and not merely praising their structural, technical and thematic content—then Burt would have produced a much finer book.