BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
Pym, by Mat Johnson, reviewed by Adam Mansbach (New York Times)
Calling a book “funny and action-packed” several times in an 800-word review generally guarantees my interest. Pym seems hard to summarize, and there are a few other red flags (such as the fact that “this supporting cast is far from robust in the personality department”), but overall, I’m much more interested in this novel than I was before the review.
Instruments of Darkness, by Imogen Robertson, reviewed by Jason Goodwin (New York Times)
If “funny and action-packed” is the way to my heart, “sensitive melodrama” is the way back. I was really looking forward to Instruments of Darkness, which I had confused for a mystery, until this review impressed its stodginess upon me. In the review, though, there’s also an interesting bit about the history of this novel, which started as a thousand-word contest entry.
Townie, by Andre Dubus III, reviewed by Oscar Villalon (BN Review)
I did not realize that Dubus’s memoir centered around his career as a streetfighter. Also, Villalon says it “reads like the kind of book a writer has been waiting his whole life to produce.” Interesting.
Known and Unknown, by Donald Rumsfeld, reviewed by Phillippe Sands (Guardian)
Leave it to a non-American paper to clearly and precisely eviscerate Rumsfeld’s empty memoir, which with its smirking, self-satisfied title tells you all you need to know about its content. Also: here’s an awesome video in which Louis C.K., somehow booked to a radio show at the same time as Rumsfeld, repeatedly asks Rummy if he’s a lizard from space, and if he’s ever tasted human flesh. Good stuff.
In brief: I did not realize until I saw this picture that singer/songwriter Steve Earle, whose first novel comes out in May, played that rehab guru on The Wire. … This “nonfiction” book, Aerotropolis, sounds a lot stupider than its awesome title originally led me to believe (basically: fancy airport cities). … We, The Drowned looks like one part Gabriel Garcia Marquez and one part Jacob de Zoet.