PositiveThe Arts FuseNeumann has written a compelling tale that focuses on the tumultuous concatenation of a number of imaginative and dynamic thinkers ... What might limit the appeal of this book is that it does not focus on a grand unifying theme. The worship of freedom is implied through the many short anecdotes and sidebars Neumann dedicates to his subjects. The suggestion is that the force of genius is multiplied when enough gifted highbrows are bundled together in energetic proximity. Sometimes quantity and quality go hand in hand.
PositiveThe Arts Fuse... entertaining ... not a deep dive; it is an effective, quick walk through the players and their times. The narrative is generally amusing and it has the instructional benefit of helping readers keep the Williams, Henrys, Edwards, and Georges who have occupied the ancient throne straight.
Hervé Le Tellier, Tr. Adriana Hunter
RaveThe Arts FuseThe Anomaly takes the narrative form of a script for a post-modern sci-fi made-for-television series. There are also elements of literary thriller and social satire. Unifying all these strands is Le Tellier’s admirable skill at keeping readers in suspense: for a long time it is not clear what this story is \'about,\' yet he continues to draw us into an increasingly complex plot, which is laid out in a succession of clues and strange coincidences ... Le Tellier offers plenty of clever insights into the worlds of flawed people whose lives have now become matters of scientific curiosity ... The most absorbing aspects of The Anomaly are not generated by its complicated plot, but the world Le Tellier immerses us in. Each chapter is filled with exacting detail ... an entertaining philosophical critique, suggesting that nothing is as it seems, knowledge is imperfect, and the human predicament will perhaps always be more inexplicable than we can admit to ourselves.
MixedThe ArtsfuseThe opening of medievalist Marc Morris’s latest book recounts the discovery of a treasure trove of coin, gold, and artifacts found by accident in Suffolk by someone with a metal detector who was looking for a lost hammer ... Revelatory things are all about us if we take the time to look. The early history of England was replete with invasions whose enthusiastic actors were constantly looking to pillage and loot ... Morris takes us through various epochs of English history, much of it determined by whether kings were strong or weak, wise or foolish ... Morris has written an engaging account of turbulent times in a suitable and interesting style. If the book has a shortcoming, it is that the author tends to focus on warfare, siege craft, kingly coups, and the precariousness of daily life ... This is not to say that the book is scanty or superficial; the nearly one hundred pages of notes, bibliography, and index attest to the scholarly diligence involved in the book’s creation.
PositiveThe Arts FuseDavid Edmonds has written an absorbing book on the group of (mostly but not entirely) men who took it upon themselves to try to determine what is knowable, including exploring how we can say there is such a thing as knowledge ... Edmonds’s professionally researched study documents not only the philosophical problems the group addresses, but also the fates of these towering intellects, driven far from Vienna by traumatic events. Ideas have consequences, despite the modest limits academic discourse seems to place on them. And it is the resonance of this point that makes The Murder of Professor Schlick so fascinating and relevant now.
Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, Trans. by Frank Wynne
RaveThe Arts FuseJean-Baptiste Del Amo has written a marvelous novel in the naturalistic mode that explores how the lives of humans and animals are both interdependent and in conflict—it is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach ... Little by little, his tale reminds us of how animalistic we are despite our pretensions to be on a \'noble\' plane of existence we dub humanity ... Del Amo deftly compares the horrors of peasant existence with that of authorized combat ... Del Amo gives us people who are drained of everything but the will to endure. His prose is stunning from the first page on; no smell or sound or texture is omitted. Despite the often coarse occurrences, he presents a blunt, unfiltered truth, evoking the tedious existence of people with little hope ... As disturbing as this book is, as writing, it is in a class by itself. Anyone thinking about the art of description would do well to read Animalia to see how a master creates an indelible world.
Mark Haskell Smith
PositiveArts FuseThere’s plenty of entertaining relish for detail in this fast-paced crime novel about theft and skullduggery. But along the way you begin to realize that this is more than a whodunnit. Blown is also a narrative about moral values and their repudiation. Absconding with a large sum of money is just the book’s hook. It goes onto pose some elemental questions. For example, would an ordinary individual commit a murder if it meant he or she could enrich themselves — and never be caught? ... Blown is engrossing; this is a page turner in the best sense of the term. Mark Haskell Smith, who has written novels, non-fiction books, and screenplays and teaches at University of California, Riverside, has done an admirable job of creating a short mystery novel that is not only populated by a half-dozen memorable figures, but stands as a morality play. This funny ethical fable suggests that our own selves may be the greatest mystery of all.