My Year in Books, 2018

Looking back, I see that I did a lot of rereading in 2018. Some of it was out of necessity (teaching), and some for pleasure. Some of it showed up in the reviews I post here, while some of it was devoted to books I've already written about in the last five years. I was … Continue reading My Year in Books, 2018

William Giraldi, American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring

American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring by William Giraldi My rating: 4 of 5 stars Though better known as the novelist who wrote the now-Netflixed Hold the Dark, William Giraldi has over the last decade been amassing a mighty corpus of literary criticism. Two tendencies set Giraldi's essays apart from those of his peers. … Continue reading William Giraldi, American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring

My Year in Books, 2017

But let's start with movies. Ten years ago, the Scottish musician and critic Momus observed that one of the most acclaimed films of 2007, Guillermo del Toro's Spanish-Civil-War fantasy Pan's Labyrinth, was morally and politically simplistic and (or because) artistically complacent. He gave ten objections to the film; I will quote the first two: 1. The … Continue reading My Year in Books, 2017

Elizabeth Hardwick, Herman Melville

Herman Melville by Elizabeth Hardwick My rating: 4 of 5 stars A review with, or in, digressions: Elizabeth Hardwick, who died a decade ago at 91, is having a literary revival. Her collected essays are due later this year; articles abound, and will abound. Sentences are offered for our delectation. Sarah Nicole Prickett gives us … Continue reading Elizabeth Hardwick, Herman Melville

David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet My rating: 4 of 5 stars Look. Look. Are you LISTENing to me? I'm not some Brooklyn beggar, okay? I'm not some fucking Oberlin grad with a hunnerd fucking grand in fucking debt and rent a coupla grand a month. I'm not some fucking slave in the clickbait content … Continue reading David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson My rating: 3 of 5 stars I found Marilynne Robinson's second novel, Gilead (2004), to be literally stunning. That is, every time I picked it up to read a few pages I would become dazed with boredom or would even fall asleep, knocked out by the novel's descriptive vagueness and tonal … Continue reading Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Vladimir Nabokov, The Enchanter

The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 3 of 5 stars VN's first pass at the Lolita subject matter, The Enchanter was written in 1939—making it one of the author's last works composed in Russian—but not published until 1986, in this translation by Dmitri Nabokov, who details the novella's origin and complex textual history in … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, The Enchanter

Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine

Love Medicine: Deluxe Modern Classic by Louise Erdrich My rating: 4 of 5 stars Browsing in a library the other day, I came upon a reference—in I don't recall which book by I don't recall which author—to the idea of a real novelist, as opposed to a novelist whose primary interests are moral or ideological … Continue reading Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine

Paul Pope, 100%

100% by Paul Pope My rating: 4 of 5 stars Synthesizing romance comics with the sexy global dystopias popular since the early 1980s, this 2005 graphic novel was aptly described by one Goodreads reviewer as "a cyberpunk Love, Actually." 100% charts three love stories through a future New York City. It began as a set … Continue reading Paul Pope, 100%

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler My rating: 3 of 5 stars "They pay brisk money for this crap?" Raymond Chandler asked of the science fiction genre. His rhetorical question followed his lively parody of the genre's trappings ("I checked out with K19 on Aldabaran III, and stepped out through the crummalite hatch on my … Continue reading Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep