BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, reviewed by Janet Maslin (New York Times)
There’s been a lot of both hype and backlash about this book; the NYT’s skeptical, skewering review is the best I’ve read. Maslin convincingly paints Chua as a narcissistic psycho, willing to sacrifice the mental wellbeing of her daughters on her tyrant’s quest to raise productive, excellent, joyless offspring. Maslin shares a few of Chua’s insane adventures, draws parallels to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and sympathizes darkly with Chua’s poor husband. It’s a good read.
J.D. Salinger: A Life Raised High, by Kenneth Slawenski, reviewed by David L. Ulin (L.A. Times)
Ulin is a solid reviewer who’s appeared several times even recently in this column. This time around he discusses the new biography of J.D. Salinger. Obviously, writing the biography of a notorious recluse is a tricky proposition, and Slawenski’s methods—including a lot of conjecture—make for interesting review fodder, as does Ulin’s commentary on those methods. I probably won’t be picking up the book, but the review itself is a great read for anyone even slightly interested in Salinger.
Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, by Rebecca Solnit, reviewed by Lynell George (L.A. Times)
Infinite City sounds like a fascinating book: it’s half atlas and half essay collection, it comes printed on either cloth or paper, and basically every description of it is captivating. This review is must-read for everybody who lives or has lived in San Francisco. For everybody else: you should endeavor to find Infinite City and flip through it the next time you’re in a bookstore.
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, by Patton Oswalt, reviewed by Alex Spanko (Boston Globe)
Patton Oswalt is one of the smartest, funniest comedians working today. Perhaps the best praise Spanko can give his new memoir is that Oswalt “successfully transport[s] his comedic voice from the stage to the essay.” Still, this is a slim book at sub-200 pages, and the snippets Spanko presents are less than hilarious. It’s a tough call. But whatever you decide, make sure you check out Oswalt’s special, No Reason to Complain, his comedy-tour documentary, The Comedians of Comedy, and the companion live-performance feature, The Comedians of Comedy: Live at the El Rey. All are available on Netflix Instant Streaming.
In brief: Powerful poems by one of India’s untouchables. David Vann’s new prose-centric Alaska novel, Caribou Island, looks like a contender—the NYT likes it more than the Globe. Kevin Brockmeier’s beautifully surreal stories give me high hopes for his new novel, The Illumination (even if its premise sounds entirely silly). This review of a book by Ahmad Chalabi’s daughter is well worth a read. Here’s a brief note about an upcoming mystery to keep an eye on: it features “a hard-boiled literary PI” who carries the show. Meanwhile, Elmore Leonard’s latest is quite good, according to the Post. Finally, the BN Review highlights a tidy little historical thriller.