Friday September 11th, 2009

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

gate-at-the-stairsLorrie Moore’s return from a decade-long absence with A Gate at the Stairs has rightfully set off a flurry of coverage. The Times gave it the paper’s patented double-barrel coverage, with a Michiko Kakutani review in the daily paper and Jonathan Lethem’s take in the Sunday Book Review. Kakutani liked it (“[Moore’s] most powerful novel yet”) and, um, so did Lethem (“It’s a novel that brandishes some ‘big’ material: racism, war, etc. — albeit in Moore’s resolutely insouciant key.”) Claire Dederer says the presence of so much plot is “quite a change for Moore” and the novel is a “brilliant feat.” Second Pass contributor John Davidson finds the first half of the novel a disappointment, “Yet miraculously — indeed, when it’s almost too late — Moore turns her story around.” . . . In The Nation, Kim Phillips-Fein rounds up a group of books about the conservative movement in America and offers a smart analysis of them. (“For conservatives, it seems that their most crushing defeats herald their greatest victories. Given these Houdini acts, it is surprising that until recently there has been no significant body of scholarship on the history of postwar conservatism.”) . . . In the New York Review of Books, Gary Wills considers one of those books on conservatism, The Death of Conservatism by Sam Tanenhaus. . . . Isabel Berwick believes that Nurtureshock is a book that “every parent should read”: “This book’s great value is to show that much of what we take to be the norms of parenting – ie, what’s good for children – is actually non-scientific and based on our own adult social anxieties.” . . . The TLS review J. M. Coetzee’s latest, part novel and part autobiography. (“Metafictional playfulness aside, the interviews collectively produce a poignant, cubistic portrait – by turns pointedly critical, affectionate and indifferent – of the fictional Coetzee.”)