Starting off with the Los Angeles Times today. Call it West Coast bias, but I thought they had the most interesting selection of book reviews this weekend.
David L. Ulin, perhaps my favorite book critic, writes a review of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. He suggests that readers try to read the 926 novel in as close to one sitting as possible. This may sound silly (and impossible), but Ulin insists that "there's something about the book that requires the deep immersion, the otherworldly sense of connection/disconnection, that only an extended plunge allows." He continues that the book draws readers "into a landscape where the boundary between reality and imagination has been rendered moot." So what's the plot? you ask.You can read the full review here. But suffice it to say that "this is a major development in Murakami's writing."
Carolyn Kellogg writes a review about A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown, in which Julia Scheeres, who chronicled her own experience as a troubled teen sent to a tropical religious camp in the best-selling Jesus Land, uses published reports and recently released FBI files to protray the members of the Jonestown massacre "as victims, not fools." In Kellogg's words, "It's hard to imagine how people might be so browbeaten, afraid and misled that they would bring about their own deaths "” but Scheeres has made that terrifying story believable and human."
The Cat's Table debuted at #1 on the Los Angeles Times list. Reviewer Nick Owchar writes that "Ondaatje is a quiet writer," explaining that the primary characters in the book "experience their own moments of quiet revelation" while aboard a ship heading from Ceylon to England. "While the more privileged passengers use binoculars to sightsee from the rails, the boys "” and readers "” are more intent upon all those things going on in secret aboard the ship. Ondaatje teaches us that the most marvelous sights are those most often overlooked. It's a lesson that turns this supple story, like the meals at the cat's table, into a feast."
Lastly, a fine new book has come out called The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales. It is a unique book, a sort of sequel to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, which was published twenty five years ago. Author Chris Van Allsburg does the drawing, while a host of contributors, from Stephen King to Sherman Alexie to Susan Lorie Park (collectively, the fourteen authors have won five Newberys, three National Book Awards, two Caldecotts, one Printz, and one Pulitzer) write short stories about his artwork, which balances somewhere between childlike wonder and adult intrigue. There's even an Introduction by Lemony Snicket.
Reviewer Jennifer Schuessler asks about Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, "Do dogs deserve biographies? In Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, Susan Orlean answers that question resoundingly in the affirmative, while also asking a harder one: Can a dog deserve an Oscar?
Alan Hollinghurst has a new novel. Of it, the Times says, "Hollinghurst's fine new book, The Stranger's Child "” the closest thing he has written to an old-fashioned chronicle novel "” contains a whole hidden literary curriculum, out of which he has fashioned something fresh and vital."
And Garrison Keillor introduces Harry Belafonte's My Song with a compelling blowfish of a sentence that's trying to disguise itself as a whole paragraph: "Here is a gorgeous account of the large life of a Harlem boy, son of a Jamaican cleaning lady, Melvine Love, and a ship's cook, Harold BellanÂfanti, who endured the grind of poverty under the watchful eye of his proud mother and waited for his chances, prepared to be lucky, and made himself into the international calypso star and popular folk singer, huge in Las Vegas, also Europe, and a mainstay of the civil rights movement of the '60s, a confidant of Dr. King's, who lived for years in a U-shaped 21-room apartment on West End Avenue, but never forgot what he ran so hard to escape from, the four or five families squeezed into a few rooms, the smell of Caribbean food cooking, the shared bathroom, his father drunk, yelling, blood on his hands, beating his mother, and 'a terrible claustrophobic closet of fear.'"
In the Paris Review Staff Picks section, two books stood out. The first was chosen by staff member Deirdre Foley-Mendelson, who wrote of The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition, "I was curiously entranced and chilled by the newly discovered photographs of Scott's expedition to the South Pole. They're bleak, beautiful, and suffused with doom.
And Sadie Stein says of Amor Towles's Rules of Civility, "I've been enjoying Amor Towles's Depression-era Rules of Civility with delight; it's a good read in every sense."
In a story entitled "The Hobbit as JRR Tolkien imagined it," the Guardian informs us that "when The Hobbit was first published almost 75 years ago, JRR Tolkien provided a set of wonderful illustrations." You can see the pictures here.
The Daily Beast informs us: "If book sales determined who won the GOP primary, then Ron Paul would be wiping the floor. Jason Pinter breaks down the numbers and what they reveal about the candidates"”and why Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, and other pundits always do best."
The New York Review of Books is running an interview with Saul Bellow that took place in 1988. It is entitled "A Jewish Writer in America," and begins "So, in my first consciousness, I was, among other things, a Jew, the child of Jewish immigrants. At home our parents spoke Russian to each other, we children spoke Yiddish with them, and we spoke English with one another."
Want to know some fun facts about Dickens?
This is a nice piece about a dastardly word.
The Onion's A.V. Club offers Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance"
Five unsung heroes who shaped modern life.
And finally, Susan Orlean gets the last word in her essay on wild animals.