BY SEAN CLARK
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
Subtle Bodies, by Norman Rush. Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani (New York Times).
Kakutani wastes no time tearing into this critical darling, calling it “eye-rollingly awful” in her second sentence. She continues:
The novel’s preening, self-absorbed characters natter on endlessly about themselves in exchanges that sound more like outtakes from a dolorous group therapy session than like real conversations among longtime friends.
She hits the nail on the head with her comparison to “The Big Chill.” Watch that movie (it’s both somber and uplifting), and enjoy this review (it’s hilariously vicious), but go ahead and pass on Rush (he won the NBA in 1991!) and his “totally annoying” novel.
Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City, by Dung Kai-cheung. Reviewed by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons).
I love me some Calvino, so any fiction compared to his pricks my ears up. Indeed this novel about a “transtopian” alternate-history Hong Kong, called “Victoria,” sounds pretty out there. Samatar describes a historical travelogue of sorts, of a city that grew under colonialism very differently from the Hong Kong we know today. Definitely worth a look.
Traveling Sprinkler, by Nicholson Baker. Reviewed by David L. Ulin (Los Angeles Times).
I liked Baker’s The Anthologist quite a bit. But I’m not sure how I feel about a sequel. On the one hand, the idiosyncratic poet-narrator-protagonist was definitely the selling point of that book, on the other, I’m not sure he’s enough to sustain a second novel. Paul Chowder (the aforementioned character) is getting into music now, as well as sticking to his old preoccupations. Probably going to wait and see on this, but fans of The Anthologist should give this review a glance–and everyone else should go check out Baker’s excellent last novel.
Quickly: NBA poetry longlist is out, as well as the YA longlist. So is the Man Booker shortlist (which will be opening to Americans beginning next year). This annoying blog post highlights for me exactly why I don’t give a shit about book reviews by (most) authors.