From 'NB', in tomorrow's TLS: Readers who depend on Amazon for reviews of new books might have stumbled on one in response to Molotov's Magic Lantern by Rachel Polonsky. The Amazon reviewer did not like it at all... The reviewer's "nickname" is given as "Historian" and also as "orlando-birkbeck". He or she appears to be something of an authority on Russian subjects, having already posted notices of books on Stalin, Trotsky, and Robert Service's Comrades (“awful"). Orlando-birkbeck has also tackled The Whisperers: Private life in Stalin's Russia by Orlando Figes, Professor of History at Birkbeck College, London. This time, orlando-birkbeck was mightily pleased...
Reviewers in the UK seem to have quite liked Invisible, Paul Auster's latest novel, and I was starting to wonder if it might be worth checking out – I haven’t read a book of his since The Book of Illusions (2002) – when
In this week's New Yorker, Jill Lepore reviews a new book on management consultancy by Matthew Stewart, The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting It Wrong. Both the book and the piece take a dim view of what management consultancy achieves: offices become more 'efficient', but life doesn't become any better for those who work in them. Efficiency was meant to lead to a shorter workday, but, in the final two decades of the twentieth century, the average American added a hundred and sixty-four hours of work in the course of a year; that’s a whole extra month’s time, but not, typically, a month’s worth of either happiness minutes or civic participation.
'What makes Melville Melville is digression, texture, and weirdness,' says Damion Searls. No, said Orion Books in 2007, all that extraneous business just gets in the way of the story arc. Without all that whale stuff, you could make a readable book. Hey, maybe someone could make an action movie. The result was Moby Dick in Half the Time (which you can buy in a bargain bundle at Amazon with Vanity Fair in Half the Time and Anna Karenina in Half the Time). 'All Dick and no Moby,' said Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker. Moby Dick is the novel you read to see what novels can be, and for delight.
Reviews in the LRB of novels on the Man Booker Prize shortlist: Colin Burrow on Wolf Hall by Hilary MantelThomas Jones on The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters Coming soon: Frank Kermode on Summertime by J.M. Coetzee James Wood on The Children's Book by A.S.
Richard Poirier, the founder of Raritan and the chairman of the board of the Library of America, died on Saturday. He wrote his first review for the LRB in December 1979, on David Halberstam's The Powers that Be. Many pieces followed, on Melville, William James, Henry James, Whitman, Pynchon, Bellow – and Norman Podhoretz. His last, in 2003, was about Vivienne Eliot.
It's been a slow summer for shark attacks in Florida, so American cable TV news has had to content itself by filling its hours with the 'birther' movement, which is less organic than it sounds: the belief that Barack Obama was not born in the USA, and is therefore ineligible to serve as president. Despite some evidence to the contrary – such as a birth certificate validated by the Republican governor of Hawaii and its Department of Health, as well as birth announcements in two Honolulu newspapers – the birthers have managed, according to the latest poll, to convince a majority of Republicans that Obama is as foreign as his name, and part of some Kenyan (or something) conspiracy to turn the White House red.
The New York Times Book Review prides itself on its objectivity: no known lovers or sworn enemies are allowed to review each other. In actual practice, this means that the author of a novel about getting divorced in Pennsylvania will extravagantly praise the author of a novel about getting divorced in Connecticut. A political ‘moderate’ will air and then dismiss the ideas in a book by a left-winger; a right-winger will express some mild reservations about an ultra-right-winger; and a left-winger will only be asked to review something without contemporary content (e.g. a feminist on the biography of a suffragette). Edited by Sam Tanenhaus (biographer of Whittaker Chambers and, in progress, William F. Buckley), the NYTBR is predictably softcore right-of-centre.