All lazy book reviews are essentially the same: they reflect a reviewer’s inability, or perhaps refusal, to fully engage with the writer’s project on the book’s own terms.
Like most coming-of-age tales, Brewster is about the intensity of teenage experience, the blessed (or cursed) ability of the young to focus exclusively on what’s right in front of them: “I’d be a liar if I said that Gina’s nipples meant less to us than the Tet Offensive. We were sixteen.” For these kids, Vietnam doesn’t matter (until it does), and the slow leg on their relay breaking 2:10 for 800 meters feels more momentous than the little concert happening up the road in Woodstock.
Matt Seidel, “Portrait of a Runner: On Mark Slouka’s Brewster”
As all three books in Atwood’s trilogy attest, an apocalypse won’t destroy romantic attraction, longing, or jealousy, nor will it dismantle gender roles — if anything, these are magnified. Atwood’s characters have bodies, and she doesn’t let us forget that fact. (At the end of the world, people will still look at your ass, which is both a problem and a comfort. )
The dark suburban tales of Nine Inches are compelling and likely to appeal even to many Americans with no special interest in the short story, a form that has notoriously become the province of the ivory tower. But taken as a collection, Nine Inches reveals a fatal flaw that undermines the skilled artistry: Perrotta’s heavy hand.
Today’s banned book is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which has been banned for sexually explicit content.
Also, read our review “The Journey to Planet X: Margaret Atwood’s In Other Worlds" and her Year in Reading.
Jonathan Franzen’s deeply ambivalent portrait of St. Louis in The Twenty-Seventh City is in some ways the dark twisted fantasy of a native son. After almost a decade here, I understand how this city could have driven him nuts and broken his heart.
Indeed, perhaps the best way to try to get through Kerouac’s poems is to approach them not as literary texts but as private ramblings of the sort you might find in the files of a psych ward.
Sicha doesn’t use the words “gay” or “homosexual” in his book. He transcends these labels, not in the “universal” manner we’ve come to expect from treacly book-jacket copy written by marketers with the hope of appealing to the widest possible audience, but by telling stories in which such labels are washed away in the waves of specificity and truth that make up the days of our mostly unremarkable but precious and fragile lives. With any luck, Very Recent History will help to resurrect the gay narrative, so that we won’t need another book like this in 50 more years.