Reviews

September 26, 2012

Lamenting the Modern: On Zadie Smith’s NW 10

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Smith is able to build a very solid portrait of her protagonist from bits and pieces, implying that this is how we are all fashioned by our society and that perhaps such a form is the best way to render modern experience.

September 26, 2012

Those Grand, Wicked Futures: The Library of America’s American Science Fiction: Nine Classics Novels of the 1950s 9

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From Bester to Heinlein, Sturgeon to Matheson, this collection digs deep into the decade’s traumas and comes up with visionary gold.

September 25, 2012

The ‘You’ In Yunior: Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her 3

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Yunior is not a bad guy, but he is growing up, and as Diaz is honest enough to admit in this collection, getting older isn’t necessarily all mellowing out and seeing the error in your youthful ways.

September 17, 2012

The Girls’ Guide to War: Shani Boianjiu’s The People of Forever Are Not Afraid 1

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If you are finding it just a little difficult to picture a Venn diagram where a novel-in-stories about the Vietnam War intersects with a Tina-Fey penned movie about the travails of high school girls, consider this: both war and high school are marked by a strange blend of ennui and nearly unbearable stress, of existential dread and petty banality.

September 13, 2012

Defiance unto Death: On Mortality by Christopher Hitchens 4

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Martin Amis recalls that when he was in Cyprus to be best man at Hitchens’s first wedding in 1980, he would spend his mornings decamped by the pool, whereas Hitchens would often show up in a suit and announce his immediate intention of going to the bar to find someone to argue with.

September 13, 2012

At Sea in the Deserts of Letdown: On Davy Rothbart’s My Heart is an Idiot 2

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But the laziness with which Rothbart’s hookups and hangouts are depicted, highlighting major moments of failure without meditating on their significance, indicates a troubling trend in young memoirs. It takes more than experience to make a narrative voice, and not every failure or triumph should be destined for memoirization.

September 12, 2012

Golden Oldie: Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue 9

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Until the final pages, when the meshugas that is the plot of Chabon’s novel finally falls of its own weight, Telegraph Avenue is a sparkling, mesmerizing read.

September 6, 2012

Eating Dirt: On Charlotte Gill and the Life of the Treeplanter 2

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Gill’s stories are fascinating, but she is possessed of that rarest of attributes among memoirists: an understanding of her own story as only a part of a broader picture, a willingness to broaden the focus beyond the particulars of her personal experience.

August 31, 2012

Burnin’ Down the (Big) House: The Unhappy Marriage between Michigan Football and Rich Rodriguez 4

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The “aw-shucks” Rodriguez blundered at his first press conference by answering “Gosh, I hope not!” to the question of whether he needed to be a “Michigan Man” in order to coach the Wolverines. In Ann Arbor, that’s tantamount to saying you’ve never heard of The Beatles. Months later, he would be reprimanded for using the word “ain’t” in an interview.

August 29, 2012

Internet Connectivity Error: On Joshua Cohen’s Four New Messages 1

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In Joshua Cohen’s new collection of long stories, the characters struggle to reconcile their physical existences with their online selves — struggle to cope with the effect the Internet has on their experience of the world.