BY SEAN CLARK
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]
Night Soul and Other Stories, by Jospeh McElroy. Reviewed by Stephen Burn (New York Times).
I’m reading this collection currently, and I’m really liking it. It’s dense reading though, and there’s a lot of great writing in these pages that gets buried in confusing narrative. You can read my review next week. In the meantime, Burn does an excellent job of explaining the “problem with the way Joseph McElroy’s fiction reaches the contemporary reader.”
Punching Out, by Paul Clemens. Reviewed by Scott McLemee (Barnes and Noble Review).
This is a book about the dismantling of a car factory in Detroit. On the surface, that may not sound very interesting, but as McLemee tells it, Clemens takes an unexpected approach. He actually focuses on the dismantling, and not the breathing place it once was. The book doesn’t appear without fault. McLemee writes,
At times, Punching Out feels like a book in search of a thesis to pull it together, and Clemens admits as much. He is keen to avoid indulging in melancholy prose-poetry or cheap philosophizing about the “creative destruction” of postindustrial society. The real vigor of the book comes from its character sketches of the men who shrug off the label “vultures” as they go about their jobs.
The character sketches seem intriguing enough to me to make this book worth a shot.
Monsieur Pain, by Roberto Bolaño. Reviewed by Ursula K. Le Guin (Guardian)
After reading Amulet I find myself interested in all the Bolaño books being translated to English. This book–a hallucinatory, surreal novel occurring in a Parisian hospital in the 1930s–seems a lot different from the revolutionary South American tale of Amulet, yet Le Guin makes it seem fascinating all the seem. Her review is short, well-written, and worth your time.
Bonus Essay: I really liked this ranty piece by Neil Genzlinger (The Problem with Memoirs, New York Times) bemoaning the flood of memoirs by people unqualified to write them. He embeds in it 3 negative reviews (of babytown frolics proportions) and one positive one. It’s not too long, and it’s both funny and interesting.
Bonus Book Trailer: Just…wow. (Also, what is a Super Edition?)