Friday August 28th, 2009

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

tracy-kidderJohann Hari charts the contours of Tracy Kidder’s new book, about “Deogratias Niyizonkiza, a 24-year-old man who had narrowly survived a genocide in two countries and suddenly in 1994 found himself on a flight to a place he had only heard of — America,” and asks provocative questions about what certain nonfiction projects (and certain traumatized human beings) can and can’t accomplish. . . . Nicholson Baker’s new novel, The Anthologist, is out in a couple of weeks. Simon Schama calls it “200 toe-tappingly fantastic pages” that add up to “Baker’s best novel to date.” Geoff Dyer is less thrilled: “[R]eading The Anthologist I often felt that I wasn’t having quite as good a time as I needed to be having in order to stop me wondering why I wasn’t having a better time.” . . . Matthew Battles reviews Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges’ polemic about our increasing stupidity and unreality. “I agree with almost everything Hedges alleges here, but I dislike myself for it. [. . .] Joe the Plumber solaces himself with guns and religion; for Hedges’ audience, it’s love and the New Yorker.” . . . Speaking of that magazine, only the synopsis is available online, but this week’s issue has a piece by James Wood about the “new atheism.”