A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.
David L. Ulin reviews two books by Albert Cossery that were recently translated into English. Ulin writes that Cossery, “who died in 2008 at age 94, ought to be a household name. He’s that good: an elegant stylist, an unrelenting ironist, his great subject the futility of ambition ‘in a world where everything is false.’ [. . .] If these books are any indication, someone should get the rest of his writing — there are seven other titles — back into print.” . . . A new biography of Edith Wharton is ostensibly aimed at young adults, but Katie Roiphe’s review makes it sound appropriate for older ages. It includes some great details: “Wharton embarked on her second novel at 14, in secret, and called it Fast and Loose. As soon as she completed it she fired off several reviews by fictional critics: ‘A twaddling romance’; ‘Every character is a failure, the plot a vacuum, the style spiritless, the dialogue vague, the sentiments weak and the whole thing a fiasco.’” . . . In a review that’s unsurprisingly moving around the web at the speed of sound, John McWhorter discusses a new book about the possible remedies for the worst problems in African-American communities. . . . Michael Dirda recommends the work of James Lees-Milne, “widely regarded as the most entertaining English diarist of the past century.” . . . Before Chicago was a hit musical on stage and screen, it was a real-life story of “how it happened in 1924 that the Cook County jail came to be packed with young women accused of murder.” A new book tells that story, and Jonathan Eig admires the result. . . . Ludovic Hunter-Tilney writes about the “hippy Arcadian back-to-nature ethos” in Britain and its folk music, and reviews five new books about some of the country’s most cultishly adored musical artists, including Syd Barrett and Kate Bush.