BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
[sic], by Joshua Cody, reviewed by Dwight Garner (New York Times)
[sic] has been building buzz for a couple of months now, since its release in October, but its cloying title has always kept me from taking a closer look. I was missing “such filthy and ecstatic sex writing that the author makes you feel you’ve been, your entire life, doing it feebly and wrong.” So that’s too bad. But it’s also just the start. In addition to an unabashed sex fiend and drug aficionado, Cody is a composer and a professor of music, and he includes a handful of insights about music and culture, ranging from the technical to the poetic. Then there’s the fact that, as if all this wasn’t enough, [sic] is actually about Cody’s fight against an aggressive cancer that came quite close to killing him. These threads braid together in mesmerizing ways, like the twisted scene in which Cody has sex with a fellow cancer patient. Take a look.
Walking With the Comrades, by Arundhati Roy, reviewed by Chandrahas Choudhury (Washington Post)
Another book that I haven’t paid enough attention to is this one, a nonfiction volume by the author of the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things. As fiction fans might not know, Roy has spent the 14 years since her one and only novel becoming an outspoken political leader in India. Walking With the Comrades explains and recounts the conflict between the Indian powers that be, and ragtag (though numerous) marginalized indigenous left-wing gangs known as Maoists. It’s a first-hand account of these Maoists’ operations, including their violent, distinctly un-Gandhian methods, which have gotten better results than a series of nonviolent campaigns.
Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler, reviewed by Susan Carpenter (L.A. Times)
Daniel Handler writes the Lemony Snicket children’s books, and also an assortment of novels for various ages under his own name. His latest, meant for readers age 15 and older, is an illustrated account of a high-school breakup. Carpenter finds few surprises in its construction (from its cliched opposites-attract conceit to its predictable ending), but is still notably charmed by Handler’s style, which is quite understandable (Adverbs is my favorite novel of his).
Savage Messiah, by Laura Oldfield Ford, reviewed by Iain Sinclair (Guardian)
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this book. It seems to be a collection of “post-authorial” guerilla pamphlets, whatever those are. If you figure it out let me know.
In brief: The first paragraph of this review of the new Pauline Kael biography is funny in an oddball way. … Publishers square off against libraries; generally, anytime you find yourself on the other side of a fight with a library, you are wrong. … The best literary moments of the year, in cartoon. … Let’s not forget that Lenore Hart is a plagiarist and that her publisher still refuses to admit it. The latest news is that Hart has been asked to take a leave of absence from her fellowship at the Norman Mailer Center.