Tuesday July 27th, 2010

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

rick-moodyRick Moody’s kitschy latest is built around a 600-page sci-fi novel within a novel. Sam Sacks shakes his head: “If nothing else, The Four Fingers of Death provides further evidence for the inverse relationship between literary theory and literary quality. As a ‘project’—that’s what the author calls the book in his acknowledgments—it succeeds; as a novel, it’s harebrained and largely unreadable.” . . . Colm Toibin praises Wendy Moffat’s “well-written, intelligent, and perceptive” biography of E. M. Forster, which addresses the writer’s homosexuality. “She uses the sources for our knowledge of Forster’s sexuality, including letters and diaries, without reducing the mystery and sheer individuality of Forster, without making his sexuality explain everything.” . . . David Greenberg assesses a new biography of the 28th President of the United States: “Woodrow Wilson is too authoritative and independent to be reduced to the gadfly position of contrarianism: it is a judicious, penetrating measure of the man and his achievements and it should stand as the best full biography of Wilson for many years.” . . . Jessa Crispin reviews a new co-authored book about the prehistoric roots of human sexuality: “[Though the authors] claim they are not out to make the hunter-gatherer way of life sound more ‘noble,’ that is exactly what they do. Their anthropology sections are basically cut-and-paste jobs, and they leave out any of the dark stuff. Complex social and sexual systems are reduced to a paragraph, sometimes a sentence, making every society they mention sound like a sexy utopia.” . . . Matt Zoller Seitz examines the “psychological evolution” of George Carlin, as told in two recent books about the comic.