January 12, 2012

If You Could Hear A Book, This Is How It Would Look 3


Chromatic documents a segment of today’s music scene by favoring exciting and important visual examples that contribute to a sensory overload that better represents the music than words or notes ever could on their own.

January 10, 2012

Sailing on the Open Sea: John Updike’s Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism 1


The collection focalizes Updike’s mid-to-late career as a man of letters. It also foregrounds his secondary reputation as a consummate art critic.

January 4, 2012

Nihilists Have Feelings, Too: Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory 8


Michel Houellebecq may be a petty misanthrope and an average prose stylist, but he can also be drop-dead funny.

December 27, 2011

Storytelling is a Deadly Business: Krzhizhanovsky’s The Letter Killers Club 2


These tales are harder than the grotesques of Gogol. Borges, too, you suspect, is up to something relatively straightforward compared to Krzhizhanovsky.

November 30, 2011

Naples and The Gallery 2


John Horne Burns’ The Gallery was his first book, a chronicle of the chaos and beauty and horror of occupied Naples in 1943 and 1944. It’s an interesting hybrid: a novel in which stories alternate with an elegant travelogue, and the travelogue appears to be the author’s memoir: “I remember that at Casablanca it dawned on me that maybe I’d come overseas to die.”

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.