BY SEAN CLARK
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
NW, by Zadie Smith. Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani (New York Times).
It’s got to be tough to write a novel as brilliant as White Teeth at seventeen. Good luck ever living up to people’s expectations after that. Kakutani drops “clunky” into the first ten words of this review. Actually, even though most of this review compares NW unfavorably to White Teeth–as well as On Beauty, which Kakutani calls a masterwork; I couldn’t get into it–it’s far from a savaging. Actually, Kakutani’s chastisement that the book does Smith’s talent a “disservice” sounds an awful lot like the kind of line a guidance counselor gives a promising student content with collecting B-minuses. More than anything, Kakutani seems let down that despite “magical prose” the book isn’t an instant classic. It’s a little unfair, you can’t hit a home run in every at-bat. Fans of White Teeth should hang in there for the Times to run a second, more positive review before making a decision… everyone else should go read White Teeth.
Find it on Goodreads.
Lionel Asbo: State of England, by Martin Amis. Reviewed by Daniel Asa Rose (Barnes and Noble Review).
Amis is another one of those authors I’ve never gotten around to reading. I’m not sure if this is the book to start with, but it does sound like a fairly funny satire. It’s about a rowdy soccer hooligan who wins the lottery, which is a good premise. I mainly wanted to include this review because of one of Rose’s paragraphs:
There’s no formula for this sort of writing. It simply comes out of the same pot miracles do.
I’m not even sure what that means, but its hyperbole made me chuckle.
Find it on Goodreads
When It Happens to You, by Molly Ringwald. Reviewed by Carolyn Kellogg (Los Angeles Times)
I have a theory that Carolyn Kellogg and Susan Carpenter (of the Chicago Tribune) are the same person, a bored housewife blogger who the papers assign reviews to when they need a puff piece. This one (to be fair, nowhere does it actually claim to be a “review”) is completely devoid of criticism or objectivity; in fact it hardly talks about the book at all and certainly doesn’t talk about its contents. Instead, Kellogg intersperses a bland interview with Ringwald about her writing process (she wrote one story on her phone…) with some biological information that doesn’t matter for anything. It’s a shame, too, because I’m genuinely interested in whether Ringwald’s collection of short stories is any good–and having a heck of a time of it.
Find it on Goodreads
Quickly: I don’t really want to read a book about the history of blackface, but the review is interesting enough. Another interesting nonfic, this one about being the White House photographer. File this under not-at-all-shocking, reading on backlit screens before bed can lead to difficulty falling asleep. I like these color palettes for different authors.