New York Times:
- Susann Cokal on Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger: "Lovers of Niffenegger's past work should rejoice. This outing may not
be as blindly romantic as 'The Time Traveler's Wife,' but it is mature,
complex and convincing "” a dreamy yet visceral tale of loves both
familial and erotic, a search for Self in the midst of obsession with
an Other. 'Her Fearful Symmetry' is as atmospheric and beguiling as a
walk through Highgate [cemetery] itself."
- Joe Klein onThe Clinton Tapes by Taylor Branch: "The rowdy, discursive intellectual brilliance of the man is evident on
almost every page, and so is the self-Âindulgence, self-pity and
self-Âdestructiveness "” the magisterial excessiveness of every sort.
Compared with the buttoned-up cool of the Oval Office's current
occupant, Bill Clinton is a one-man carnival "” a magician, tightrope
walker, juggler, mesmerist, hot-dog-eating contestant and burlesque
show. You kind of miss the guy."
- Garner on The Dead Hand by David E. Hoffman: "In 'The Dead Hand' he delivers a readable, many-tentacled account of
the decades-long military standoff between the United States and the
Soviet Union.... What's particularly valuable about Mr. Hoffman's book,
however, is the skill with which he narrows his focus (and his
indefatigable reporting) down to a few essential areas. Thanks to
interviews and new documents, he provides the fullest "” and quite
frankly the most terrifying "” account to date of the enormous and
covert Soviet biological weapons program, developed in defiance of
international treaties at the same time that the Soviets appeared to be
earnestly interested in reducing their weapons stockpile.... 'The Dead Hand' is deadly serious, but this story can verge on
pitch-black comedy "” 'Dr. Strangelove' as updated by the Coen Brothers."
- Maslin on Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer: "Mr. Krakauer cobbled together his book in a spirit of desperation.
Though he set out in search of Mr. Tillman's whole story, he didn't
find what he was looking for.... 'Where Men Win Glory' keeps readers constantly aware of Mr. Krakauer's
straining. He had some of Mr. Tillman's journals and the cooperation of
Mr. Tillman's widow, brother and mother.... But he didn't have enough new, firsthand
information to sustain a book."
- Charles on Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby: "As usual, Hornby's dialogue between exasperated women and clueless men
hits all the right comic notes. The likable slackers who mope through
his stories appeal to that stuck and frustrated adolescent in us all.
While wicked novelists like Jonathan Franzen or Claire Messud expose
our pettiest thoughts and snicker at them, Hornby's gentle satire of
arrested development offers a comforting, shame-free sense of
recognition. You may want to knock some sense into his Peter Pans, but
you also want to give 'em a hug."
- Anna Mundow on The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott: "With consummate skill and compassion, Stott plunges Daniel the innocent
into a serpentine plot that involves spies, philosophers,
revolutionaries and scientists. Treasure may be at the heart of Stott's
mystery, but fossils and corals are equally precious in this hybrid
novel of action and ideas. Like Daniel, the reader emerges from 'The
Coral Thief' having had an adventure and an education."
Los Angeles Times:
- John Freeman onThe Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood: "Because Atwood thinks deeply on these matters, her vision is often
bleak. So it's a welcome surprise that her new novel, 'The Year of the
Flood,' is a slap-happy romp through the end times. Stuffed with
cornball hymns, genetic mutations worthy of Thomas Pynchon (such as the
rakuunk, a combined skunk and raccoon) and a pharmaceutical company run
amok, it reads like dystopia verging on satire. She may be imagining a
world in flames, but she's doing it with a dark cackle."
- Sonja Bolle on The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley: "'The Georges and the Jewels' bears none of the signs of a literary writer slumming it for the kids
-- no condescension, just the keen interest in what makes life tick
that animates all of Smiley's fiction, but with a seventh-grade
narrator. I have never admired her writing as much as I do in the first
of what promises to be a series of books for children."
- Ben Ehrenreich on Desert by J.M.G. Le Clezi "The problem with 'Desert' is not that its author is European or that he
won the Nobel, but that it is a truly dreadful book, a dull and dimly
plotted fable based in one of the West's oldest and most self-serving
myths, that we are the locus of all corruption and that purity lies
outside. What better escape from the beguiling demands of humanity than
to strip another of all complexity and will?"
Globe and Mail:
- Randy Boyagada on The Death of Conservatism by Sam Tenenhaus: "What I miss most from my time in the United States is all the
yelling. I lived in the U.S. from 1999 to 2006, a tumultuous period
from any political perspective.... More than once in those years, I was at dinner parties where people
were standing on chairs yelling at each other until it was time to go
home, at which point they would shake hands and return to their corners
until next time. The only reason I think you would see someone standing
on a chair at a Toronto dinner party is to change a light bulb."
- Donna Bailey Nurse on Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard: "As Burnard reiterates "“ repeatedly "“ Suddenly is not a religious
novel, even though the staircase in the Rusano household is as 'wide as
that of a church,' and the young Sandra regards her pubescent body as
an 'article of faith,' and Jack describes Sandra's pills, and the juice
to wash them down, as 'communion.' However, Burnard does exhibit great
faith in memories "“ in stories "“ as a kind of salvation. In oral or
written form, stories keep us alive. She champions vivid, modest
portraits, where not much happens, with an emphasis on character and
quotidian detail. And as everybody knows, God is in the details."
- Geoff Dyer on A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore: "On first reading A Gate at the Stairs, one can become not
frustrated, exactly, but impatient with Moore's determinedly
lackadaisical way of proceeding. Second time around, when you know
what's going to happen, when you give yourself up to the book's unusual
and distinctive rhythm, it quivers on the brink of being a masterpiece.
That quivering, that slight feeling of uncertainty (like 'candlelight
vibrating the room') is entirely appropriate given Moore's hesitant
engagement with the demands of a big novel and the protracted gestation
of this, her eventual response and solution."
- Graham Parry on A Gambling Man by Jenny Uglow: "This is panoramic history of a high order. Uglow evokes the tumultuous
events of the 1660s, and catches the feel of men and women living at
the extremes of danger, pleasure and recklessness..... Yet from first to last
it is the king who lives again through these pages, holding the age
together, making his own history through calculation, compromise, whim
and ingenuity. To understand how Charles learnt the difficult art of
kingship, read this book."
The New Yorker:
- Bad James is back! James Wood on Generosity by Richard Powers: "His novels lead double lives, in which the sophistication of his ideas
is constantly overwhelming the rather primitive stylistic and narrative
machinery; the reader has to learn to switch voltages, like a busy
international traveller. What falls in the gap is any subtlety of
insight into actual human beings.... Powers's new book, 'Generosity,' his most
schematic and coarse, exaggerates the weaknesses of his better work.... 'Generosity' is a slimmer, hastier, more crowd-pleasing book than
anything Powers has yet written. Perhaps it is just a quick folly
between more considered works. Still, in insidious ways it diminishes
its better predecessors."
Harper's (behind subscription wall):
- Nicholas Fraser on The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard: "Like the Orwell of 1984, as well as Daniel Defoe and Thomas
Hobbes, Ballard was an arch-dystopian, making his debut amid the
postwar British scene of cracked Bakelite, chipped teacups, and
squadrons of bombers on the flatlands of East Anglia, readied for
Armageddon.... He was to
prove formidably effective in destroying the last vestiges of the
British official morality of cheeriness and stiffened upper lips, and
you can still see people reading Ballard in the crowded, ramshackle
carriages of the London Underground, absorbing a whiff of catastrophe
between the familiar, blandly named tube stations, as their forebears
must have done when turning the pages of H. G. Wells's
end-of-civilization fantasies.... When his wife died in 1964, he brought up their three young children by
himself. If one envisions Ballard ironing school ties and cooking
bangers and mash, these glazed, absent stories set in other worlds
acquire miraculous, restorative properties."
- Geoffrey Wheatcroft on Bite the Hand That Feeds You by Henry Fairlie: "He combined brilliance as a writer with self"“destructive profligacy as
a man to a degree unusual even among his journalistic contemporaries,
and he left behind a wreckage of debts and lawsuits, of broken
contracts and hearts"”but he left fond memories too. After a first
Fairlie cult had flourished in London, a new cult was born in
Washington, D.C., where The New Republic offered him a home, eventually in the most literal sense of the word.... This fascinating book allows us to judge how far his admirers were
justified. It might also prompt some reflections on the nature of
conservatism, of journalism, and of our trade's equivalent of the poÃ¨te maudit: the myth of the heroic but doomed scribbler."