Friday September 25th, 2009

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

van-gogh-lettersThis rave about a six-volume, illustrated edition of Vincent van Gogh’s letters makes me want to start saving money for it. (“Intimate, compelling and comprehensive, the letters make a serious formal biography both redundant and impossible.”) . . . Speaking of illustrated, a look at “a glorious new full-color visual history of the USSR” that draws from “one of the world’s most admired collections of Russian posters, photographs and graphics.” . . . Natasha Wimmer believes there “is room for a resurgence, even a resurrection” of the work of Mercè Rodoreda. Her books included The Time of the Doves. (Wimmer: “many thousands of books have been written about the experience of the Spanish Civil War, but none has equaled it.”) . . . Ross Simonini reviews The Book of Jokes, a novel by pop-music experimentalist Momus. (“In the way that Robert Coover and John Barth reinterpreted fairy tales and American urban myths in their fiction, Momus uses the folklore of humor. [T]he book is less a single narrative than what it says it is: a novel-in-jokes, an episodic account of the joke’s ability to grab attention and flip expectation.”) . . . Scott Simon says that half a century after it was published, Allen Drury’s novel Advise and Consent “remains the definitive Washington tale.” . . . Andrew O’Hagan takes a long, absorbing look at Samuel Johnson.