Reviewing the Review: January 10 2010

I got nothing. I usually locate a spark quickly when I scan a new issue of the New York Times Book Review: something to love, something to hate, something to correct, something to mock. I scanned every article in this weekend’s Book Review singing that same refrain from a now-forgotten hiphop tune from the last decade — what’s the hook gonna be? I give up. There’s just nothing to write about here.

This doesn’t mean the articles in this issue are badly written. If they were, you know I’d go to town and have a ball. Instead, Dalia Sofer competently summarizes what’s good about The Disappeared, a love story set amidst the horrors of the 1970s Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. I’m not attracted enough to search out the book. Curtis Sittenfeld is moderately satisfied by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, the follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love. Joseph Salvatore explains the plot to the latest Douglas Coupland whatever, Generation A, which involves a world without bumblebees, and I’m just bored.

The strangest news found in this bland issue is the fact that Gail Godwin’s new novel Unfinished Desires features a character named Maud Norton. As the Kenan and Kel guy from Saturday Night Live might say, “What’s up with that?” Reviewer Dominique Browning doesn’t even engage this question, though, and this is where my dull encounter with the latest New York Times Book Review ends. Next week better bring some more excitement or I’m finding another job.

6 Responses

  1. Wow. Your reference to that
    Wow. Your reference to that Murphy Lee song has totally made my sunday.

    In appreciation,
    John

  2. Not so fast.
    My interest was

    Not so fast.

    My interest was captured by Nicholas Thompson’s review of Michael D. Grodin’s book, Red Cloud at Dawn: Truman, Stalin, and the End of the Atomic Monopoly. Thompson introduces the book’s premise, doesn’t sound convinced by it, but leaves the question open enough for me to want to read the book and draw my own conclusions.

  3. I just read the Review and
    I just read the Review and couldn’t agree more. I’m wondering whether my subscription isn’t a waste of money.

  4. Dear Levi Asher
    Is there a

    Dear Levi Asher

    Is there a “Maud Norton” out there in real life that I need to know about? Thanks for a reply. GG

  5. Hi Gail — I’m thinking of
    Hi Gail — I’m thinking of the blogger Maud Newton (MaudNewton.com). Maybe I’m wrong but I think she’s pretty well known in literary/publishing circles, so I found the choice strange.

  6. There’s also a very minor
    There’s also a very minor character named Birnbaum in UNFINISHED DESIRES. But alas, my hopes of finding a Levi Flasher proved fruitless. Nevertheless, it’s a coincidence.

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