Monday November 1st, 2010

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

instructionsI don’t know if you’ve seen Adam Levin’s debut novel, The Instructions, in stores yet, but it is a monster, the thickest brick of a book that I’ve seen in some time. Maud Newton says it’s worth the possible back pain to pick it up: “[L]ike Roth’s and Vonnegut’s, Levin’s flights of fancy are placed in service of a deadly serious project. Not only is he, as he recently told The Chicago Tribune, having “a conversation with Jewish literature,” he’s illustrating, in a wholly original way, exactly what sort of catastrophe results when fervent religious conviction meets brute force.” . . . Tim Parks reviews Philip Roth’s latest, and really his last several books. About the latest, Nemesis he says, “so brazenly are we thrust towards this textbook enigma that readers may find themselves more intrigued by the author’s loyalty to tired literary stratagems than interested in the fate of characters who were never much more than pieces on a chessboard.” . . . Jed Perl on the New York stories of Elizabeth Hardwick: “Hardwick’s stories have the potency of metropolitan fairytales. It is the eloquence of certain images, characters, and actions that holds us, while the meanings or morals to be drawn from these adventures remain just beyond our reach.” . . . Steven Shapin reviews The Emperor of All Maladies, oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee’s sprawling story of cancer, “a history of the disease and of the attempts to describe it, explain it, manage it, and cure it, or just to reconcile its victims to their fate.” . . . Philip Caputo reviews Bruce Machart’s “impressive” debut novel: “Machart has dared to park his wagon on the tracks of the Desert Limited and managed not to get flattened by [Cormac] McCarthy’s locomotive.” . . . Evelyn McDonnell says that Sara Marcus’ history of the Riot Grrrl movement “puts into printed narrative a much misunderstood and maligned but crucial piece of the feminist past.”