November 29, 2011

Alasdair Gray’s Excellent Last Last Novel is Really Four-in-One 2


One could argue that Gray has been writing his last book for years (and for some years, he’s said as much, though always managing to push out something new and even more “last,” like the never-ending last tours of The Who).

November 25, 2011

My Mother is a Book: On Elisabeth Gille’s The Mirador 2


No matter how liberal we consider ourselves about the slippery line between memoir and autobiographical fiction – even if we are more Exley than Oprah on the matter – there is still something that seems suspicious about the enterprise of full-on fictional memoir. Is this allowable? Can one simply jump in and narrate the course of another person’s life. Perhaps – if you do it right.

November 22, 2011

Beyond Holokitsch: Spiegelman Goes Meta 1


Art Spiegelman’s Maus is that rare work of literature that speaks to everyone while pandering to no one. MetaMaus is a record of how Spiegelman pulled off this magic trick.

November 21, 2011

Battle of the Heavyweights: Errol Morris vs. Susan Sontag 6


Book lovers love to watch two heavyweights slug it out. Bloodshed, though not necessary, is always welcome.

November 18, 2011

Mythology, Men, and Coonskin Caps: On Michael Wallis’s David Crockett 8


David Crockett was romanticized in the same way that classic film stars, athletes, and politicians are, and for a similar reason — the legend is inextricably entwined with the actual human being. Not only is there no urgency to demystify, there’s almost no reason to. Sometimes the legend and the person are inextricable for perfectly good reasons.

November 17, 2011

The Truth About ‘The Truth About Marie’ 0


There’s a lesson in this that might be too awful for us to want to learn, which is that death takes from us not just our lives, but also our right to insist upon a particular version of those lives.

November 14, 2011

Porn, Lies, and Videotape: On Russell Banks’ Lost Memory of Skin 2


Lost Memory is a novel of the ruin and possible renewal of the Garden of Eden, where “maybe the Internet is the Snake and pornography is the forbidden fruit.”

November 7, 2011

Bitesized Backwoods Bloodbath: On Charles Frazier’s Nightwoods 3


Nightwoods is not only grippingly cinematic, it’s also unabashedly movie-ready, no less so than Cold Mountain was.

November 2, 2011

William Kennedy’s Long Dry Spell Ends with Chango’s Beads and Two-Toned Shoes 3


Along the way there will be a duel, a failed assassination attempt, gun-running, Santeria rituals, kidnapping, torture, scorching sex, and, finally, a coveted interview with Fidel Castro. The storytelling has the irresistible pull of a riptide.

November 1, 2011

Magical Thinking: Joan Didion’s Blue Nights 3


In Blue Nights, Didion is once again following her time-tested formula of setting out a fondly held personal mythos and then smashing it, except that this time the mythos is her own vision of herself as a good mother.