The front cover promises William Vollman on Nietzsche and Francine Prose on Eudora Welty, and that’s a good start. Vollmann and Nietzsche ought to go together like peanut butter and jelly, and in fact they have a lot to talk about (Vollmann also occasionally mentions the book he is reviewing, Friedrich Nietzsche by Curtis Cate). I have a feeling Vollmann could write several volumes about Nietzsche, but the short primer he presents here is useful and interesting.
I also learned a few things from Prose’s prose on Welty — like the fact that Eudora Welty was a copy editor for the New York Times Book Review itself in 1944. I’d love to see the archives from that year; in fact, I hope the NYTBR will follow the lead of the New Yorker and start publishing their archives in trade book form. Let’s get that book out already.
I enjoyed A. O. Scott’s witty review of Bret Easton Ellis’s Lunar Park (“Ellis does not seem especially interested in changing anyone’s low opinion of him, preferring to perform a pre-emptive character assassination on himself”). It’s a respectful review and mainly a positive one. I’m reading Lunar Park myself now and I will certainly have more to say about it soon.
There’s a decent amount of fiction coverage, and I’m going to be looking out for books by Edie Meidav, Xinran and Mary Anne Mohanraj for bookstore skimmage and possible purchase.
This Book Review’s one false note — but a loud false note — is Dan Chaisson’s overly worshipful review of Migration, the career collection of poet W. S. Merwin. We hear stuff like this: “What replaced them … were distilled lyrics, unpunctuated, employing a new sit of stripped integers: bees, larks, dust, streams”. What happened to Mopsy and Cottontail? And what the hell does that even mean? We also hear a poem described as “the sort of Yeats poem Berryman would have written to impress R. P. Blackmur”. Check, I was thinking the same thing. The Book Review lost me on this article, but the rest of it holds up just fine.