BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
City of Bohane, by Kevin Barry. Reviewed by Pete Hamill in the New York Times.
Kevin Barry’s outlandish first novel overflows with “literary marvels,” Hamill claims, “marvels of language, invention, surprise.” It takes place in anachronistic 2053 Ireland, where computers and cell phones do not exist, and the housing projects are named after poets. It features a violent gang called the Fancy and a noirish style that reminds Hamill of Frank Miller (the creator of the comic books Sin City and 300). Despite all that, the “the binding story is about love.” Sounds like a high-risk, high-reward genre mashup.
Damn Yankees, edited by Rob Fleder. Reviewed by David L. Ulin in the L.A. Times.
This collection of baseball essays sounds perfect for the start of the season. They seem to be centered around the Yankees, and the review (Ulin is a Yankees fan himself) carries some fire. Plus the anecdote about Ulin playing Wii baseball with his daughter is pretty hilarious.
The Crusader, by Timothy Stanley. Reviewed by Matthew Continetti in the Washington Post.
This biography of human paraquat Pat Buchanan sounds more interesting than I would’ve thought. Continetti leans right, but still admits that “Buchanan’s life has been remarkably consistent: He tends to bring out the worst in people,” and doesn’t seem to admire Buchanan’s historic brand of vitriolic political punditry. I certainly won’t be picking up the book, but it’s interesting to see the gears working inside a famous (and famously durable) crazy person.
Butterfly in the Typewriter, by Cory MacLauchlin. Reviewed by James Parker in the BN Review.
Last week, I knew only the broad strokes of John Kennedy Toole’s life: he committed suicide after failing to find a publisher, then his mother worked tirelessly to get his great novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, published, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction twelve years after Toole’s death. As it turns out, the details are more gruesome and heartbreaking than even that cheerless synopsis would indicate. Butterfly evidently weaves a biography of Toole together with an account of the creation and publication of Confederacy. Parker sticks to the latter (and tries a bit too hard), but if you’re a Toole fan, read this review and the Toole Wikipedia entry at least.
In brief: A little optimism in tough times. … Two-time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey has a new book out in the UK. It’s out in America in mid-May. … An interview with Etgar Keret. … Joyce Carol Oates does nothing but write. … Ben Marcus reviews Mark Leyner’s latest weirdness.