Reviewing the Review: August 27 2006

Drifting home from a fun and relaxing vacation with my kids, I was glad to find an agreeable and not overly thick New York Times Book Review waiting for me.

Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, a Salinger-esque saga of confused young intellectuals, is certainly being put forth as one of the hot books of the fall. I am looking forward to reading it, and for once I actually like the artwork that accompanies Meghan O’Rourke’s cover review of this book — the vivid illustration features numerous hidden jokes.

Dave Eggers enthusiastically expounds upon the works of Edward P. Jones, whose new book of short stories, All Aunt Hagar’s Children, is bound to be widely read. Eggers’ article is purposeful and poetic, though the satirist never shifts into high gear. I’m going to check this book out too.

But when am I going to find time to read The Banquet Bug by Geling Yan, which sounds fascinating in Ligaya Mishan’s colorful review? And what about Alaa Al Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building, which Lorraine Adams compels me to put at the top of my list? This is a real problem.

I’m not going to read Francine Prose’s Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, though, and I’m not sure if this is reviewer Emily Barton’s fault or not. Actually, I think it’s the title’s fault.

I was glad to read Rachel Donadio’s informative endpaper on the controversy over Norton’s cancellation of J. Robert Lennon’s new doll-culture satire Happyland under threat of legal action from the founder of American Girl, Pleasant Rowland.

And, my unbroken record of finding significant usage and style errors in each week’s Book Review continues. Look at this sentence, from Lorraine Adams’ review of Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building:

At her widowed mother’s urging, she tolerates the sexual harassment of her boss at a clothing store because her wages support three younger sisters.

This sentence clearly indicates that the boss is the victim of the harassment, which I doubt Adams believes to be the case. Is there a copy editor in the house? Strunk and White would not be impressed by this.

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