BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
My Heart Is an Idiot, by Davy Rothbart. Reviewed by August Brown in the L.A. Times.
I highlighted Rothbart’s book in my September Book Radar column. My only experience with the Found Magazine founder was a reading I went to years ago. I thought him to be earnest and honest as a writer and charming, if a bit weird, as a person. Sounds like this collection emphasizes the weird part. For instance, Rothbart writes about comparing every woman he’s met since 1992 to a character played by Fairuza Balk in the movie Shade. When he comes across a “book contest scam artist,” he mails the guy bottles of his own urine, and then hunts him down in New York City. In the end, Brown calls it “a book of small but keen observations,” and says, “it’s refreshing to see a young male writer owning up to his own neediness.” Sounds pretty entertaining to me. Find this book at Goodreads.
Inside and The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain. Reviewed by Len Gutkin in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
James M. Cain’s last novel, only recently discovered nearly 35 years after his death, was another of my Book Radar picks this month, and was next on my list until I read this review. Gutkin triangulates Cain’s hardboiled style between that of Hemingway and Dashiell Hammett, and that’s a pretty flattering Venn diagram. But that’s early Cain, the days of Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. By his final years, when he wrote The Cocktail Waitress, his writing had slipped considerably. In fact, Lutkin says, “I know of no other major writer who so completely lost his touch.” Yikes. This one’s headed to the back burner. Find this book at Goodreads.
The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom. Reviewed by Yvonne Zipp in the Washington Post.
I’m never been a Mitch Albom fan, but I can understand how a book like Tuesdays with Morrie gets popular. A man reconnects with an old mentor, and they share life lessons and heart-warming moments. Fine. What I don’t understand is how Albom jumped from that into religion-exploitation books like The Five People You Meet in Heaven, or this latest one, “a fable about Dor, the inventor of the first clock.” In it, “one of God’s helpers sentences Dor to 6,000 years of solitary confinement in a cave as a punishment for measuring time.” Ugh. Zipp curtly sums it up in another line: “At 224 pages, it’s about 180 too long for its plot.” Stay away from this one, even as a gift for the Albom fan in your family. Find this book at Goodreads.
In brief: This week’s NYTBR review Breasts, Vagina, The End of Men, and The Thing About Thugs, that last one being a crime novel set in Victorian London. One of these things is not like the others…. From the Wall Street Journal, five ways science is influencing political campaignery. … Continuing the reviews of Book Radar books, here’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, reviewed in the L.A. Times.