Thursday, May 28, 2009

The critic takes aim

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot starts this evening, which will keep me from recording more commonplaces but not from finishing Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows and Tim Winton’s Breath, just out this week in paperback. Watch this blog for reviews of both next week.

In the mean time, here is some good criticism by better critics. R.T.’s autobiographical exploration of Wise Blood, a book that he described here as having changed his life, has grown to six parts. Each one is worth reading. Indeed, R.T.’s series is so good that Nige was provoked to start reading O’Connor.

The Mookse and the Gripes calls for a wider appreciation of the Northern Irish novelist David Parks’s Swallowing the Sun.

Genevieve Tucker recommends an Australian story writer who will be unfamiliar to most Americans—Tom Cho, the historian of patchy employment.

Daniel Green concludes that Paul Griffiths’s short novel Let Me Tell You, an account of Ophelia’s life before Hamlet, “has very little claim on our attention” apart from its Shakespearean source.

Philip Lopate’s Notes on Sontag is the first entry in the Princeton University Press series Writers on Writing, and Ron Slate dissects it carefully, saying that his “persistent if respectful antagonism” affords Lopate the “entertaining and profitable opportunity” to consider Sontag’s postmodernist agenda.

At the University of Rochester’s Three Percent, Emily Shannon warns that the Turkish novelist Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s Mind at Peace puts in question what you believe about humanism.

Jake Seliger gives a thumb down to George Johnson’s Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics. The analysis is flat or inadequate, and the research is thin. Thus Seliger’s conclusion.

Georges Simenon’s Rules of the Game is the latest book to be rescued from neglect by Brad Bigelow’s irreplaceable Neglected Books Page: “it has something of the attractive bitterness of a glass of Campari,” Bigelow concludes.

Rebecca O’Neal, back from a sixteen-day absence, promises good things to come about Revolutionary Road and Wilfrid Sheed’s Max Jamison, one of the few interesting novels about a critic.

Best of all, of course, is Patrick Kurp, whose delightful account of the Field Guide to the Sedges of the Pacific Northwest published last year by Oregon State University Press is a reminder that criticism can (and should) be written as well as fiction.

9 comments:

R. T. said...

Thank you for acknowledging and recommending my series on WISE BLOOD. I am flattered by your kind words. FYI, I anticipate another ten to fifteen more installments before I have completed my critique of O'Connor's exemplary novel.

Mark Thwaite said...

Erm, re Dan Green on Paul Griffiths, did you just stop reading at that clause you quoted? In a very positive review, Dan goes on to say, in just the next sentence, "Admiration for the skill with which Griffiths rings changes on those 500 words is an unavoidable part of the reading experience. Indeed, the pleasure one takes in a work like 'Let Me Tell You' is precisely the pleasure of witnessing in a particularly intent way the way a writer is using a structural device to bring character and event into existence." I'll presume you just skimmed and weren't being disingenuous (or worse)...

Paul Griffiths said...

Hey, that's not a very fair spin to place on Dan Green's considered and appreciative review.

Rebecca V. O'Neal said...

Thanks for the link!
=)

D. G. Myers said...

I am really very sorry that neither Mark Thwaite nor Paul Griffiths appreciated what I took away from Daniel Green’s review of Let Me Tell You. In point of fact, however, the sentence that I quoted is what made up my mind to give the book a pass. I pulled out the sentence precisely because I doubted that I would be alone in reaching that conclusion.

Although I am not sure how it is possible to be “disingenuous (or worse)” about a review to which I provided a link—readers, after all, can make up their own minds—Thwaite and Griffiths might wish to reconsider their breathy descriptions of the review in light of Green’s third-to-last word.

D. G. Myers said...

P.S.

Erm?

R. T. said...

I like the new look of your blog. What template are you using? (I like it so much that I may have to follow suit and change my site.)

D. G. Myers said...

New template is my revision of an existing design. Glad you like it. The narrower columns make reading on a computer easier, I think.

genevieve said...

This is a smart design, DG - and firstly can I say thanks for linking to my review of Tom Cho's Look Who's Morphing.
Secondly I am delighted to be able to advise that the book is available from the publisher for interested overseas readers, and there is a direct link in my review.