Today’s New York Times Book Review gives us a lively, rich mix of titles, even if most of them are eventually dismissed with the Book Review’s trademark yawn.
The selections include a novelization of the Patty Hearst story, Trance by Christopher Sorrentino, which is described as following a Don DeLillo template but does not sound as exciting as it should be, and a story collection, We’re All In This Together by Owen King. Owen King is the son of Stephen, and is also apparently his lookalike (as evidenced by the accompanying photo) and his writalike (as evidenced by the description of the book). Based on this notice, we may expect Owen King to end up a no-hit wonder like Mark Vonnegut, David Updike and countless other literary nepotees, but who knows? The King family does specialize in surprise.
The cover article is about Cormac McCarthy’s new postmodern tale of bad guys chased by other bad guys, No Country For Old Men. There’s a great illustration, and Walter Kirn reviews the novel respectfully. However, I have tried to read Cormac McCarthy, and I don’t go for his brand of sinewy, cowboy-flavored literary beef jerky. I think I’ll pass on this book, but I may seek out “Star Dust” by Frank Bidart, a poetry collection that receives an exceedingly gentle and encouraging review by critic Langdon Hammer.
I always look for good, catchy writing in the Book Review, and sometimes I even find it. The most well-written article this week is Chelsea Cain’s consideration of the new Terry McMillan novel, The Interruption of Everything, which is snappy and fun (“Critics have been blaming pop culture for the ubiquity of the American knucklehead since before Paris Hilton was born …”). Litblogger Maud Newton writes fairly well in reviewing Josh Emmons’ The Loss of Leon Meed, but the performance is nonetheless disappointing; this may be the first appearance by a true independent litblogger in the Book Review (“so-and-so is an Editor at Salon” does not count), and I wish she didn’t play it so safe. I also can’t quite figure out, after twice reading the review, what the hell is going on in the book she is reviewing, and I’m not sure if this is a problem with the review or a flaw deeply inherent in the book. Either way, though, props to Maud Newton, one of the very best of the litbloggers, for showing up in this space.
A biograpy of Ray Bradbury, The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Welter, and an essay comparing Hillary Clinton to Mary Wollstonecraft round out today’s rather full and fairly satisfying issue of the Book Review.