Monday March 8th, 2010

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

chang-rae-leeJames Wood writes about realism and David Shields’ recent “manifesto” about, among other things, his distaste for conventional fiction, before settling into a review of Chang-Rae Lee’s latest novel, The Surrendered—“a book that is commendably ambitious, extremely well written, powerfully moving in places, and, alas, utterly conventional.” . . . Pagan Kennedy reviews Marilyn Johnson’s new book about librarians in the digital age: “This is one of those books, in the vein of Mary Roach’s Stiff (about human cadavers), that tackle a big topic by taking readers on a chapter-by-chapter tour of eccentric characters and unlikely locations. Given Johnson’s attractions to wild tangents, the journey often dissolves into a jumble. It is a testament to her skill as a writer that she remains fascinating, even in the throes of A.D.D.” . . . Stephen Burt reviews a collection of the great Kay Ryan’s poetry: “If you are the sort of reader who underlines witty, widely applicable remarks, you may underline something on every page. You may even get tired of underlining: Sage, mordant general claims about life are almost the only kind of poem she writes.” . . . Christopher Tayler with a long look at the five volumes of memoirs by Clive James, culminating in a review of the newest, which covers James’ years in TV. . . . Ian McEwan’s latest, Solar, will be published in the U.S. at the end of this month. Early reviews from the UK are quite positive. Peter Kemp says that “sizzling lucidity distinguishes this enormously entertaining novel about rationality and unreason,” which is “a comedy every bit as brilliant as its title might suggest.”