Friday January 8th, 2010

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

fly-by-wireAh, goodbye, year-end lists; hello again, substantial reviews. A strong initial batch for 2010: If you read one thing today, make it James Salter’s mesmerizing review of William Langewiesche’s book about “the Miracle on the Hudson.” . . . Mary Midgley expertly summarizes the appeal of a new book about the brain’s hemispheres. . . . Provocative defenses of the suburbs are, in my opinion, all too rare. Here’s one now: “The publisher’s blurb introduces The Freedoms of Suburbia, Paul Barker’s enchanting and persuasive pictorial essay, with a nervous defiance as if the book were proposing free heroin for toddlers.” . . . Dwight Garner says we’ll be reading books about the current financial crisis for decades, but “[f]ew if any of these books will be as pleasurable — and by that I mean as literate or as wickedly funny — as John Lanchester’s I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay.” . . . Michael Agger reviews You Are Not a Gadget, tech guru Jaron Lanier’s manifesto/lament about what the Web has become: “Lanier, to his credit, is not a simple pessimist. [...] But his critique is ultimately just a particular brand of snobbery.” . . . David Yaffe calls a new biography of Thelonious Monk “exhaustive, necessary and, as of now, definitive.” . . . Adam Shatz reviews the work of Orhan Pamuk, “who writes in the Esperanto of international literary fiction.” . . . Justin Taylor reviews The Book of Jokes by Momus, with a twist. The Believer asked him to review it anonymously—not Taylor; the book: “[S]oon enough a book arrived at my house. Its covers, front matter, and endpages had all been stripped, and the spine blacked out with a Sharpie. I didn’t know what it was called or who wrote it or who was publishing it or when. I didn’t know if it was the author’s first or twenty-first publication.”