BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
A Naked Singularity, by Sergio De La Pava. Reviewed by Paul Ford in the Slate Book Review.
This is a quirky little piece from the brand-new Slate Book Review. It contains a few oddities like a big block quote in the early going, and a bar graph detailing how many pages the main character spends at different activities. These quirks befit a massive (600+ page) debut novel full of lists, anecdotes, asides, court transcripts, and other digressions. Another peculiarity: De La Pava self-published this book in 2008, and it was only recently picked up by the University of Chicago Press (more on that here). That alone makes it worth a look. Find this book at Goodreads.
Making Babies, by Anne Enright. Reviewed by Judith Newman in the New York Times.
Newman kicks off with this eye-catching opening line: “No subject offers a greater opportunity for terrible writing than motherhood,” and then proceeds to explain that writing well about children is hard because child-rearing is so mind-numbingly boring. On the shortlist of qualities I prize in book reviews, “acerbic humor” might be at the very top. Find this book at Goodreads.
In One Person, by John Irving. Reviewed by David L. Ulin in the L.A. Times.
Ulin finds Irving’s latest—which follows the life of a bisexual man over the course of four decades—good, but too familiar and ultimately unbelievable. His meditation on the modern-day role of sexually political novels like this one is well worth reading, shame that Irving’s novel does not seem the same. However, Jeanette Winterson, in the New York Times, takes a more favorable outlook. But then Ron Charles breaks the tie on Ulin’s side. Find this book at Goodreads.
The Vanishers, by Heidi Julavits. Reviewed by Buzzy Jackson in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Julavits’s latest mixes a pitch-black tone with a markedly silly setting: a liberal arts college for psychics. Sounds like it has enjoyable passages that don’t quite cohere. Oh, and a completely inappropriate cover. Find this book at Goodreads.
In brief: Christopher Buckley’s latest political satire, reviewed in the NYT. … A nice remembrance of Maurice Sendak at the BN Review. … The Seattle Public Library hid books all over their city for young people to find. … Flavorwire protests libraries banning Fifty Shades of Grey by offering other books to ban? Uhhh… And finally, James Patterson “produces” (i.e. doesn’t write) 12 books a year, and now authors are pressured to write more, instead of better.