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.]
Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell, reviewed by Emma Donoghue (New York Times)
Literary darling Karen Russell’s first novel begins in the Everglades amusement park of the title, from which the children of an alligator-wrestling family venture on surreal adventures. Donoghue says Swamplandia! boasts “a highly appealing narrator,” “high comedy,” and “a dazzling level of linguistic invention.” If that doesn’t get your motor running, you’re reading the wrong blog. I’m definitely reading this book; if you’re on the fence, this review will tip you over.
Fallin’ Up, by Taboo, reviewed by Joal Ryan (L.A. Times)
The third Black-Eyed Pea wrote an autobiography! Join me and the other seven billion humans on this planet in sighing… finally. Finally, we can learn about how “Taboo’s love of the mariachis gave way to dance” and finally we’ll be allowed behind the curtain, witness to such secrets as “the latter-day Prince doesn’t like cussing.” Hot! File this one between Jack White’s Guitar Tech’s Tour Blog: The Pocket Novel and Charlie Watts’s photobook of unusual pork sandwiches.(Seriously, this is a pretty funny review that tries (and fails) to make a horrible book about an irrelevant, boring “musician” sound worthwhile in the least. What I want to know is: what in the great blue yonder was Intel thinking?)
Shortcut Man, by P.G. Sturges, reviewed by Dennis Drabelle (Washington Post)
Drabelle raves about Sturges’s first novel, a noir thriller with a fairly well-trodden premise (rogue cop settles scores off the record, rich dame ropes him in and manipulates him), but Drabelle says, “this is an assured and diverting performance, with an ending that should impress even the most seasoned fan of hardboiled detective stories.” That’s enough for me to give it a good, long look, if not to pull the trigger just yet.
A Stranger on the Planet, by Adam Schwartz, reviewed by DeWitt Henry (Boston Globe)
A Stranger on the Planet is a “Bildungsroman” (or coming of age novel, for those of use who don’t wear cravats to tea). Henry likes it a lot. OK, this review is not actually very good, in fact it’s quite poor—full of too much plot description and not enough critical insight. But DeWitt Henry teaches at the MFA program I attended. I signed up for one of DeWitt’s courses once, but dropped it after the first class because he read aloud to us for three hours from a children’s book. So… there.
In brief: A brief, relatively bland review of Jane McGonigal’s video game treatise, Reality Is Broken; for spicier fare, try Ed Champion’s all-out attack on McGonigal, which includes him hilariously (and evidently genuinely) tweet-challenging her to a debate-duel. This quick mention of a children’s dictionary parody is tough to get a handle on, but looks kind of funny.