Monday March 22nd, 2010

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

ian-mcewan-solarA long version this week that continues after the jump. . . . Reviews of Ian McEwan’s latest have been mixed, but the most thorough I’ve seen so far is Thomas Jones’ in the London Review of Books. He says the book is genuinely funny, but that it also suffers from the “tyrannical predictability” of its plot. . . . Hilary Mantel reviews James Shapiro’s look at the controversies, ranging from highly unlikely to ludicrous, surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare’s work: “It’s a tale of snobbery and ignorance, of unhistorical assumptions, of myths about the writing life sometimes fuelled by bestselling authors who ought to know better.” . . . Second Pass contributor Alexander Nazaryan reviews a tour of Germany by Simon Winder. He’s not impressed: “Getting around Hitler is a nice thought, but it might be a bit late for that. Part history and part travelogue, Germania is too scattered to succeed as either. ‘Every attempt has been made to avoid a mere sequence of dreary dynastic events,’ Winder assures, but wrapping one’s mind around a nation that bequeathed to us both the Final Solution and Oktoberfest requires more than a breezy conversational style that, at its worst, comes off like a Wikipedia entry edited by a cantankerous Midlands comedian.” . . . The great Jill Lepore on a recent spate of books about settling for marriages, marriage troubles, and marriage counseling. . . . Eric Puchner says it’s all well and good that young story writers like Wells Tower and Nam Le get praised, but let’s not say they’re “saving” the short story when veterans like Richard Bausch are around: “Bausch, the author of nearly 20 books, many of them story collections, has been writing quietly beautiful stories for close to three decades, and I’m happy to say he’s never been better.” . . . Clive Cookson reviews four books about SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence: “The authors take markedly different approaches to the subject, so there is little overlap between their four books. However they are all mainstream scientists; there is nothing here about UFOs or alien abductions.” . . . Jonathan Eig reviews a new book about Fred Harvey, a now-forgotten figure whose life was a “Horatio Alger tale written in mashed potatoes and gravy”: “In many of the dusty railroad towns out West in the late 1880s and early decades of the 1900s, there was only one place to get a decent meal, one place to take the family for a celebration, one place to eat when the train stopped to load and unload: a Fred Harvey restaurant.” . . . Ana Marie Cox reads Emily Gould’s new memoir. Better her than me. “Gould is a member of a generation that has grown up confusing irony with tragedy, nonchalance with acceptance, a pose with poise, self-dramatization with self-awareness. That confusion is especially maddening because I sense that Gould is interested in figuring out those distinctions, but she shows little concern beyond realizing that a distinction exists.”