Tuesday April 26th, 2011

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

Craig Fehrman reviews Randall Fuller’s examination of the Civil War’s influence on American literature. Fehrman notes that the lack of lasting contemporary literature about the war — “In fact, the work most people think of is The Red Badge of Courage — a novel published 30 years after the war’s end by a writer who wasn’t even born until 1871.” — but says Fuller carefully makes the case for the war’s effect on the writing and mindset of Melville, Whitman, Emerson, and others. . . . I have no idea what I would think of it now, but I read Tim Sandlin’s Skipped Parts eons ago and got a big kick out of it. Mike Peed reviews Lydia, Sandlin’s fourth book following those same characters: “Sandlin doesn’t specialize in subtlety. In large part, he relates his story via megaphone, with loud plot turns and louder wisecracks. ‘Life is a Saturday-morning cartoon meant to entertain a God who tends to sleep late’ is a typical one-line digression. But although the novel masquerades as jeremiad, it’s ultimately uplifting, adroitly chronicling the ways we seek to transcend our fears.” . . . Laura Bennett reviews the ubiquitous Tina Fey’s memoir: “Neurosis makes Bossypants funny (and it is very funny), but it is fueled by reflexive self-deprecation instead of real reflection.” . . . Laird Hunt reviews a novel about a writer who commits suicide that can only be read in a “troubling light,” as the real-life author took his own life just days after finishing the book. . . . Michael S. Roth reviews a book — inflated from a widely discussed magazine article — by an anonymous adjunct professor who bemoans the state of today’s college students. . . . Adam Mars-Jones reviews David Lodge’s half-novel/half-biography of H.G. Wells: “The benefit of this hybrid form for the writer is that it frees up the texture of the book, avoiding the build-up of clogging documentation, and allows him to hurry over or emphasize themes at will. The benefit for the reader isn’t so clear.”