Another weekend, another New York Times Book Review
. I'm already interested in Geraldine Brooks' novel People of the Book
and the real-life "Sarajevo Hagaddah" it revolves around, and Lisa Fugard's consideration increases my appetite, even though she is "left wishing Brooks had found a less obtrusive way to gather up the many strands of her narrative." If wishes were horses ...
I'm also interested in The Delivery Man
, the debut novel by Joe McGinniss (in fact I'm about to read this story of Las Vegas depravity and prostitution) and I really like Ed Park's vibrant write-up, which references R. Kelly, Joan Didion and (perhaps too often) Bret Easton Ellis. And I don't know if I will ever dive into Roddy Doyle's The Deportees and Other Stories
, one story of which continues the tale of his Commitments
, but Erica Wagner's review is fine enough, and so is Ann Hodgman's introduction to Max Apple's The Jew of Home Depot
. Four worthwhile fiction reviews, not bad at all.
I've got to dislike something, though, and the attention-hungry poetry critic William Logan provides a big target with his pretentious review of Geoffrey Hill's Treatise of Civil Power
, a poetry collection that appears to be incomprehensible without a specialist's knowledge of obscure British history. I know British history better than most, I think, but this book appears to be about as appealing as a hair shirt, and William Logan is way too impressed with himself for being capable of appreciating it. But it's Logan's bombastic phraseology -- "gouts of praise", "hang the cost in moral uplift", "hedge his love with the thorns of attitude" -- that makes me feel like I'm stuck in a dreary poetry hut inside a bad renaissance fair. Enough of both Geoffrey Hill and William Logan; let them enjoy each other, but I enjoy neither.
This Book Review contains enough books with Jewish or Holocaust themes to make me wonder if the editors briefly considered matching the recent Islam Issue
with a Judaism issue. Rachel Donadio's closing piece on the early reception of Elie Wiesel's Night
is surprising and very worthwhile; I had no idea that this book met with so much rejection and apathy before it became a classic.
On the political front, Jacob Heilbrunn's review of Condoleeza Rice: An American Life
by Elisabeth Bumiller is perceptive, though I find myself wanting to echo his restrained commentary more pointedly, as when he says:
Despite their close relationship, Bush had only a hazy notion of what role a national security advisor should play.
and I want to mention that Bush seems to have only a hazy notion of a whole, whole lot of things. And those who have been following political critic Jim Sleeper's recent charges of conservative bias in the NYTBR will find a significant update in the Yale Daily News
, which reveals that Tanenhaus discussed the question of the Book Review's alleged lack of political balance at a "tea" with Yale students. Sleeper, interviewed for this article as well, states that Tanenhaus has been on a "charm offensive" lately. Just what we need: another surge.