PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewI wholeheartedly agree with his central point, and it’s good to see it laid out so bravely in print. Jacobs, who has taught college-level literature courses for many years, has clearly honed his thoughts in the classroom ... He can be eloquent, at times, in his attempt to convince us that...books will not in fact hurt us ... rhetorical flaws occur ... the book is riddled with them ... Yet there are moments of great insight here ... he wants his readers, and his students, to be open to works of the past—despite and even because of any disagreements we may have with them. And that is certainly a point worth making.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThis is a fascinating subject, and Ms. Burke does it complete justice, following each member of the foursome from the initial encounter with the others to their separate (and in some cases separated) deaths. That all four had unusual ideas about sexuality and honesty, as well as about creativity and art, makes for a compelling story ... Ms. Burke lets her characters do most of the talking, through their letters, diaries and reported speech; and if Strand comes across in her book as the least tangible of the foursome, it may be because many of his letters have been lost ... that prime pitfall of the biographer [is] the attempt to take a guess at what was going on behind the evidence...I was a bit surprised at the extent to which [Burke] yielded to this kind of temptation—but then, as a biographer myself, I know exactly how tempting it can be.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewBut it strikes me that Cristina García’s Here in Berlin is one of the most interesting new works of fiction I’ve read ... It’s billed as a novel, but there are few (if any) novels that take a similar form. In 35 separate monologues, plus five italicized sections describing the unnamed Visitor who elicits these interview statements, García presents a portrait of the city that is at once true and imaginary ... The voices are remarkably distinct, and even their linguistic mannerisms — with interpolations of bits of German, multiple ways of rendering or evading the facts and direct addresses to someone...yet this more ambitious novel, in which she transcends her own life story to tread delicately on the turf staked out by Christa Wolf and W. G. Sebald... This novel, in any case, bears none of the obvious trappings of commercial success. It is not suspense-filled. It is not heartwarming. It is simply very, very good.