PositiveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewAtkinson’s book covers almost a century, tracks four generations, and is almost inexhaustibly rich in scenes and characters and incidents. It deploys the whole realist bag of tricks, and none of it feels fake or embarrassing. In fact, it’s a masterly and frequently exhilarating performance by a novelist who seems utterly undaunted by the imposing challenges she’s set for herself … Taken together, Life After Life and A God in Ruins present the starkest possible contrast. In the first book, there’s youth and a multitude of possible futures. In the second, there’s only age and decay, and a single immutable past. This applies not only to the characters, but to England itself, which is portrayed over and over as a drab and diminished place. The culprit is obvious — it’s the war itself, ‘the great fall from grace.’
David Ortiz and Michael Holley
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal Mr. Holley writes crisp, straightforward and organized prose, moving swiftly from the player’s childhood in the Dominican Republic to his early failure with the Minnesota Twins and then, at Boston, his eventual dominance. Yet the book sounds a lot like Mr. Ortiz’s voice, especially when it comes to the people the player adores—the pitcher Pedro Martínez, for example—and the ones he dislikes ... Mr. Ortiz also talks about his 2003 positive drug test, revealed in 2009. Like most writers who have covered sports for years, I’m skeptical when athletes make claims of innocence. With Mr. Ortiz, my heart’s too big.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewWhat makes 4?3?2?1 original and dauntingly complex is that Auster sets all four of his stories on parallel tracks and tells them more or less simultaneously ... The virtues of this unwieldy strategy take a while to announce themselves...Auster opts for a more leisurely and earthbound form of storytelling, taking a hundred pages to sketch the outlines of Ferguson’s alternate boyhoods ... The multiple love stories of Ferguson and Amy — sometimes consummated, sometimes thwarted — form the heart of the novel and bring the strengths of Auster’s peculiar narrative structure into sharp focus ... 4?3?2?1 is a very long novel — it’s actually four books in one, or at least three and a third — and like many gargantuan tomes, it loses steam and focus in the final stretch. In addition to the parade of forgettable post-Amy lovers, there’s too much textbook-style rehashing of the political turmoil of the ’60s...But despite these flaws, it’s impossible not to be impressed — and even a little awed — by what Auster has accomplished. 4?3?2?1 is a work of outsize ambition and remarkable craft, a monumental assemblage of competing and complementary fictions, a novel that contains multitudes.
David Foster Wallace
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalRereading them all together, rather than years apart, I appreciated anew just how well Wallace could write about the sport that he loved ... I could fill this entire review with descriptions as lively—and that would just be the highlights, glitter Wallace sprinkles atop insightful observations about tennis and what it says about the human spirit. But the venom Wallace has for his tennis enemies—Mr. Agassi and pretty much anyone, like Rafael Nadal, who tangles with his heroes—is unsettling.