Monday March 28th, 2011

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

unferthMadison Smartt Bell reviews Deb Olin Unferth’s memoir about dropping out of college in 1987 and chasing revolution in Central America: “At the heart of Revolution is Unferth’s slightly eccentric take on the venerable confusion of the political and the personal. Deb’s wires keep getting crossed between two expectations: revolution will be permanent, leading to utopia, and love will be permanent, leading to paradise.” . . . Julian Barnes on Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates, and whether grief is a state or a process. . . . Michael Levenson reviews Deborah Lutz’s Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism: “Signs abound that the author has been moved by the scenes of Victorian desire, by the way a culture of respectability was also a universe of pleasure, a theater of tease and compulsion. But somewhere along the line a decision was made to frame the erotic transgression for a trade readership. That’s where the book lost the lure of desire and acquired the reek of a publishing opportunity.” . . . Rachel Hurn relates to a collection of pieces by the very funny Mike Sacks: “Despite the fact that half of the characters in these pieces are irrational schmucks who do things like write rejection letters to Anne Frank, or who put together a list of warnings regarding their brothers’ upcoming bachelor party, or who send fan mail to Salman Rushdie, when you get past the ‘fictional fantasies,’ the people in these essays remind me much of myself.” . . . A new book about clouds aims to be a field guide like those used by bird-watchers, and looks to be, at the very least, beautifully illustrated. . . . Jake Whitney reviews a new book about the financial crisis: “The Monster is among a wave of books and films that attempt to shed light on the subprime crisis and the 2008 crash, but it is remarkably comprehensive on its own — a sweeping, detailed, and forceful account of the events, the people, and the policies that led to our current economic woes.” . . . David Oshinsky reviews two baseball books: Jimmy Breslin’s brief new book about legendary Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey and a “faithful if overstuffed” biography of the great Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella.