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James Lever

James Lever is the author of Me Cheeta.

Franzen’s Soap Opera

James Lever, 7 October 2010

Jonathan Franzen has in the past been a writer who has flourished in sequences and streaks, in set-pieces and sections, the kinds of book of which you could ask: ‘What are your favourite tracks?’ The Corrections’ war of attrition between Caroline and Gary Lambert is a breathtakingly good sequence – but Gary remains the most underpowered character in the novel. This grumble doesn’t obtain here. Tonally more even, but also more subdued than The Corrections, Freedom is Franzen’s smoothest novel. It is patient, decorous, sure of itself and, in that its author sounds like himself throughout, definingly Franzenesque.

Nicola Barker

James Lever, 9 September 2010

How did Nicola Barker end up choosing Burley Cross in West Yorkshire – ‘a tiny, ridiculously affluent, ludicrously puffed-up moorside village stuffed to capacity with spoilt second-home owners, Southerners, the “artistic”’ – as the setting for her new novel? After two collections of droll Angela-Carterish short stories and two brisk, borderline surreal...

Philip Roth

James Lever, 28 January 2010

Here’s a novella of slightly over 30,000 very plain words – Philip Roth’s shortest book since The Prague Orgy – structurally straightforward, winnowed of syntactical excitement, sterilised of jokes, rhythmically muted, baldly plotted, low on confrontation, low on tension, low on brilliancies and generally low all round. Here, the writing temperature has sunk below even...

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