The Acacian

Art Is The View From Somewhere Else, Nothing More, Nothing Less

Posts tagged Book review

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10/21/2011: Book Review: The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen - BookPage
The Revisionists meanders through the interconnected lives of Zed and those around him, each one in turn struggling with the Big Questions of morality and absolutes. Of course, the reality presented within its pages is one of nuances, and is ultimately far less simple than we like to pretend, but Mullen makes no bones about that. When all the layers are peeled back, this novel is about choice and consequences, and it just so happens to involve time travel. This is an excellent, thought-provoking read that checks boxes for sci-fi lovers as well as students of humanity. - Tony Kuehn
(Read the full Review HERE)
Time travel is tricky and exciting. I think it takes a certain amount of luck to write about it successfully. Lets hope Mullen has done just that.

10/21/2011: Book Review: The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen - BookPage

The Revisionists meanders through the interconnected lives of Zed and those around him, each one in turn struggling with the Big Questions of morality and absolutes. Of course, the reality presented within its pages is one of nuances, and is ultimately far less simple than we like to pretend, but Mullen makes no bones about that. When all the layers are peeled back, this novel is about choice and consequences, and it just so happens to involve time travel. This is an excellent, thought-provoking read that checks boxes for sci-fi lovers as well as students of humanity. - Tony Kuehn

(Read the full Review HERE)

Time travel is tricky and exciting. I think it takes a certain amount of luck to write about it successfully. Lets hope Mullen has done just that.

Filed under Books Book Review Time Travel Free Will Thomas Mullen BookPage

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10/20/2011: Book Review: Zone One by Colson Whitehead - NPR
Always known by that full name (not his real one, but a post-plague moniker bestowed upon him after a disastrous battle on a bridge), Mark Spitz travels with the rest of Team Omega across Zone One — Manhattan below Canal Street — which is protected from the swarming undead by a concrete retaining wall. In each building, Omega kills off the “skels,” hungry active zombies, and the “stragglers,” brain-dead victims stuck in place who waste away to nothing in a haunting echo of their former lives. (The copy boy, for example, stares blankly at a Xerox machine until he’s put down with a shot to the head.) Collection gathers the bagged corpses; Disposal burns them in enormous incinerators next to the wall. The 24-hour ashfall that results is just one of this disquieting novel’s canny echoes of post-Sept. 11 New York. After all, Zone One itself both includes, and seems like the natural descendant of, ground zero. - Dan Kois
(Read The Full Review HERE)
(Read an Excerpt HERE)
Ooooo zombie book. Excellent. 

10/20/2011: Book Review: Zone One by Colson Whitehead - NPR

Always known by that full name (not his real one, but a post-plague moniker bestowed upon him after a disastrous battle on a bridge), Mark Spitz travels with the rest of Team Omega across Zone One — Manhattan below Canal Street — which is protected from the swarming undead by a concrete retaining wall. In each building, Omega kills off the “skels,” hungry active zombies, and the “stragglers,” brain-dead victims stuck in place who waste away to nothing in a haunting echo of their former lives. (The copy boy, for example, stares blankly at a Xerox machine until he’s put down with a shot to the head.) Collection gathers the bagged corpses; Disposal burns them in enormous incinerators next to the wall. The 24-hour ashfall that results is just one of this disquieting novel’s canny echoes of post-Sept. 11 New York. After all, Zone One itself both includes, and seems like the natural descendant of, ground zero. - Dan Kois

(Read The Full Review HERE)

(Read an Excerpt HERE)

Ooooo zombie book. Excellent. 

Filed under Books Book Review Colson Whitehead Zombies NPR

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10/19/2011: Book Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - The Guardian
"The Sense of an Ending is a short novel, but one that packs in a lot. Full of insight and intelligence, it is in some ways a more intellectual version of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, touching on the same themes of youthful sex, inhibition, class, regret and false recollection. It is the story of a retired sixtysomething man, Tony Webster, a relatively dull and “peaceable” character, once in arts administration, who seems, while broadly accepting his own decline, to be trying to impose a pattern on his past. Barnes has taken his title from Frank Kermode, who in his 1965 book, The Sense of an Ending, explored the way in which writers use “peripeteia” – the unexpected twist in the plot – to force readers to adjust their expectations. Barnes has visited the subject of death two or three times recently, most directly in his 2008 nonfiction work, Nothing to Be Frightened Of, and he is fascinated by how people deal with death, and the changed circumstances it can bring to the surviving partner. So we rightly come to suspect that this novel is setting the reader up for peripeteia.” - Justin Cartwright
(Read the full review HERE)
The Sense of an Ending was just announced to have won the Booker Prize. It was Julian Barnes’s fourth time on the shortlist. It’s a short book, 160 pages, but it sounds very good indeed.

10/19/2011: Book Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - The Guardian

"The Sense of an Ending is a short novel, but one that packs in a lot. Full of insight and intelligence, it is in some ways a more intellectual version of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, touching on the same themes of youthful sex, inhibition, class, regret and false recollection. It is the story of a retired sixtysomething man, Tony Webster, a relatively dull and “peaceable” character, once in arts administration, who seems, while broadly accepting his own decline, to be trying to impose a pattern on his past. Barnes has taken his title from Frank Kermode, who in his 1965 book, The Sense of an Ending, explored the way in which writers use “peripeteia” – the unexpected twist in the plot – to force readers to adjust their expectations. Barnes has visited the subject of death two or three times recently, most directly in his 2008 nonfiction work, Nothing to Be Frightened Of, and he is fascinated by how people deal with death, and the changed circumstances it can bring to the surviving partner. So we rightly come to suspect that this novel is setting the reader up for peripeteia.” - Justin Cartwright

(Read the full review HERE)

The Sense of an Ending was just announced to have won the Booker Prize. It was Julian Barnes’s fourth time on the shortlist. It’s a short book, 160 pages, but it sounds very good indeed.

Filed under Books Book review literature The Guardian Booker prize

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10/13/2011: Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami - Grantland

"And yet, readers will be surprised how restrained 1Q84 is for such a mindfuck. There’s a rigid format to the book that alternates between Tengo and Aomame’s viewpoints, and the most surprising structural turn comes with the introduction of a third perspective in the last act. I’m not entirely convinced Murakami needed a thousand pages to frame a metaphysical love story. It’s worth comparing it to other thick books of recent memory: Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom deliberately overwhelms the reader with a decade’s worth of hypocrisies and ethical dilemmas crammed in every sentence; the late David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King illustrates the existential banality of the middle American workplace with chapters that are “stupefying dull”; another posthumous work, Roberto Bolano’s five-book 2666, repeatedly describes gruesome murders to point where readers are numbed to the violence. These novels are imperfect, messy, and have been praised rightfully for those reasons.

1Q84, on the other hand, shows an extraordinary amount of control over the course of a thousand pages.” - Kevin Nguyen

(Read the rest of the review HERE)

I have never heard of this guy, but this sounds really interesting! Is this the next literary sensation from overseas?

Filed under Books Literature Book Review Haruki Murakami Japanese Niponese

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10/12/2011: Book Review: Damned by Chuck Palahnuik - The Guardian
"John Hughes isn’t the only cultural touchstone. As well as Dante and Jane Eyre, Palahniuk frequently invokes Swift, another satirist heavily invested in bodily revulsion: there’s a Brobdingnagian scene in which Madison appeases a giant flesh-eating demon by pleasuring it with the severed head of a teenage punk. But despite copious gobbets of demonology (“Whispering to me, Leonard explains that this is the dethroned Celtic god of stags”), Palahniuk’s hell owes more to South Park than to the Inferno or Gulliver’s Travels. There’s an over-familiarity, too, to his portrayal of the underworld as a place of grinding bureaucracy and trivial torments, endless waiting rooms where the seats are boobytrapped with chewing gum. Hell turns out to be other people’s versions of hell.” - Justine Jordan
(For the rest of the review, click HERE)
Seems middling. Perhaps one for the completist. On the other hand, might be good. Only one way to find out.

10/12/2011: Book Review: Damned by Chuck Palahnuik - The Guardian

"John Hughes isn’t the only cultural touchstone. As well as Dante and Jane Eyre, Palahniuk frequently invokes Swift, another satirist heavily invested in bodily revulsion: there’s a Brobdingnagian scene in which Madison appeases a giant flesh-eating demon by pleasuring it with the severed head of a teenage punk. But despite copious gobbets of demonology (“Whispering to me, Leonard explains that this is the dethroned Celtic god of stags”), Palahniuk’s hell owes more to South Park than to the Inferno or Gulliver’s Travels. There’s an over-familiarity, too, to his portrayal of the underworld as a place of grinding bureaucracy and trivial torments, endless waiting rooms where the seats are boobytrapped with chewing gum. Hell turns out to be other people’s versions of hell.” - Justine Jordan

(For the rest of the review, click HERE)

Seems middling. Perhaps one for the completist. On the other hand, might be good. Only one way to find out.

Filed under Books Literature Book review Chuck Palahnuik The Guardian

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10/11/2011: Book Review: Nemesis by Philip Roth - NYTimes

"Why, I wondered, if the guy’s so anti-­everything, does he keep bothering to write?

From the vantage point of two decades and thousands of pages of Roth later, I don’t think it’s a bad question. My mistake was asking it rhetorically. If treated as a point of real inquiry, the question affords an opening, a way of reading and being reached by the work. For a writer so generously endowed in the irony department, Roth turns out to be astonishingly earnest. We see this in his excesses — not merely the prolificacy of his output, but the outrageousness of his characters’ offenses, their deeds, appetites, shames and confessions. Steaming along on the twin engines of intellect and humor (and what engines — horsepower through the roof), the novels transport us or run us over or both. His characters sometimes get caught up in a kind of Socratic Möbius strip, endlessly debating one another and themselves in a way that can verge on the tedious, but even then one cannot but marvel at his sheer energy, his unremitting investment in — what? Provocation. Interrogation. The feat of living. This is not a nihilist. This is a writer whose creative work lays bare the act of struggle.” - Leah Hager Cohen

(Read the rest of the review HERE)

I must say I haven’t read much of Roth’s work, just Portnoy’s Complaint, and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to read more, but I hesitated, always worrying that the humor I had enjoyed, the laugh out loud funnyness of that book didn’t exist in his other work. I read the synopses of his books and I still wonder.

Filed under Philip Roth Jewish Literature NYT Books Book review

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10/10/2011: Book Review: The Price of Civilization by Jeffrey Sachs - The Guardian

In structure, the book is a bit like a medical treatise: the symptoms are identified, their causes diagnosed, the cures prescribed. However, the science is a bit of a veneer. Sachs is a very political doctor. This does not mean he has written a bad book. He is a fine economist and statistician, and if you want to stockpile facts and arguments for radical advocacy, this is the book for you. I had hoped, though, for something more arresting than a millennium manifesto for the Democratic party.

It is also a very American book. This is not just because it is exclusively about the United States – with the existence of a few European countries acknowledged occasionally as reference points; it is suffused with classic American optimism. The “American people” are good, but policy has been captured by the “interests”. Dethrone the interests and the goodness of the people will assert itself. American conservatives and radicals both sing to this hymn sheet, differing only about the source of the evil: for the Tea Party it is “big government”, for Democrats such as Sachs it is big business. Both find difficulty in explaining why the good people are so often duped by one or the other. - Robert Skidelsky

(Read the full review HERE)

Filed under The Guardian Jeffery Sachs Economics books book review politics

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10/7/2011: Book Review: Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
"It’s clear from the beginning of Christopher Buehlman’s debut novel that things won’t go well for Nichols. What transpires is a horror story that manages just the right balance between building dread and suspense and delivering action. Buehlman spends a lot of time introducing the residents of Whitbrow, sharing their strengths, flaws, and charms in order to make the drama that follows all the more potent. The early chapters also offer some particularly witty dialogue, like a taxidermist explaining that he gains satisfaction from feeling like he’s beaten God: “As though the Almighty said, Let thus and such critter be dead, and I said, ‘Fuck you, he can still play the banjo.’” Buehlman leisurely paints a portrait of mellow, almost idyllic days of checkers at the general store and nights dancing at the town social to show how poorly the town is equipped for violence and tragedy.” - Samantha Nelson
(Read the full review HERE)
I know from personal experience that Buehlman is a funny sonofabitch, but I never knew him by that name. You see, to me, he’s been for a long time: Christophe the Insultor at my local Renaissance Festival. He has this book out now and it sound good.

10/7/2011: Book Review: Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

"It’s clear from the beginning of Christopher Buehlman’s debut novel that things won’t go well for Nichols. What transpires is a horror story that manages just the right balance between building dread and suspense and delivering action. Buehlman spends a lot of time introducing the residents of Whitbrow, sharing their strengths, flaws, and charms in order to make the drama that follows all the more potent. The early chapters also offer some particularly witty dialogue, like a taxidermist explaining that he gains satisfaction from feeling like he’s beaten God: “As though the Almighty said, Let thus and such critter be dead, and I said, ‘Fuck you, he can still play the banjo.’” Buehlman leisurely paints a portrait of mellow, almost idyllic days of checkers at the general store and nights dancing at the town social to show how poorly the town is equipped for violence and tragedy.” - Samantha Nelson

(Read the full review HERE)

I know from personal experience that Buehlman is a funny sonofabitch, but I never knew him by that name. You see, to me, he’s been for a long time: Christophe the Insultor at my local Renaissance Festival. He has this book out now and it sound good.

Filed under Christopher Buehlman Books Book review Christoph the Insultor The AV Club

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10/7/2011: Book Review: The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman - NPR

"Chuck Klosterman’s second novel, The Visible Man, is an example of elegant notebook-to-novel translating. Love him or hate him, Klosterman’s stoner-genius extemporizing is unmatched, and here he offers theories on everything from why Facebook caught on with adults to why North America has more crazy people than the population of every other industrialized nation combined. But The Visible Man isn’t just an occasion for Klosterman to rant and flaunt; his book’s complicated premise forces some of the biggest epistemological questions to the plot’s surface. Its revelations are the sort you make when you’re tipsy, mentally polish on the cab ride home, and wake up in the morning to discover they’re still pretty damn good.” - Alice Gregory

(Read the full review HERE)

I haven’t read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I’ve read his work in other places, notable at Grantland and he’s a talented writer as far as I can tell.


Filed under Chuck Klosterman Book Review Books Literature NPR

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10/6/2011: Book Review: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides - The Gaurdian

"As well as locating the style of Madeleine’s dilemma, Eugenides’s opening tracking shot of those library shelves is also a nudge to the reader: this is the territory we are in. And here is the challenge he sets himself: to breathe new life into the redundant marriage plot; to create a properly absorbing love triangle, not only as pastiche or irony, but as something as full of life as those books on Madeleine’s shelf. In the 400-odd pages that follow he mostly succeeds in this aspiration, both knowingly and brilliantly." - Tim Adams

(Read the full review Here)

Middlesex, Eugenides’s previous book, is one of my favorite books of all time and also won the Pulitzer Prize. I’m not going to lie, this doesn’t sound nearly as interesting, but Jeff is a wondrous author and his writing is engaging and deep. When I started Middlesex, I was completely hooked by the end of the first page. I’m starting to get the feeling there are more books in the world than I could ever read.


Filed under Jeffrey Eugenides Books Literature Book Review pulitzer prize The Gaurdian

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10/5/2011: Book Review: Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson - NPR

"The first thing he did after returning from safari was head to the Wheeler shipyard in Brooklyn, N.Y., and buy a 38-foot fishing boat he namedPilarPilar would be Hemingway’s refuge for the rest of his life, a place to escape from bad reviews and broken relationships. It’s also the inspiration for a new book about the author,Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961.”

(Listen to the Interview with the author Here)


Filed under NPR hemingway books book review

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10/5/2011: Book Review: All Over the Map by Michael Sorkin - The Guardian

He is undistracted by the false debate about which was the best design in the Ground Zero competition, questioning the very idea that there must be buildings to replace those lost and looking at the wider context of the ecology of Lower Manhattan and beyond. “We do not hallow this ground simply by filling it with buildings,” he writes. It is “disaster triumphalised”, and he asks “why must the world’s tallest office building be built on this hallowed ground?” He dismisses Libeskind’s “treacly recitations of his immigrant sagas” and is disgusted by a fashion piece that compares the eyewear of the design competition finalists. “Never was vision so conflated with sight or sore eyes,” he writes scathingly. - Chris Hall

(Read the full review Here)

I’m, in fact, a bit of an architecture fan. I’m looking forward to picking this up. 


Filed under The Guardian Michael Sorkin Architecture Books Book Review Rem Koolhaas

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10/4/2011: Book Review: When The Killing’s Done by TC Boyle

"When the Killing’s Done is Boyle’s finest novel yet. Depicting a fierce conflict over the best way to protect the natural environment of two islands off the California coast, he takes the long and tragic view. Of course our efforts to clean up the messes we’ve made are flawed, he suggests as he surveys more than a century’s worth of attempts to make those wild islands serve people’s economic demands. We are flinging ourselves at a natural order perennially evolving to take advantage of our missteps. If that makes it sound as though humor has been eclipsed by homiletics—well, in a way it has. There are some funny moments: Boyle is still Boyle, and he was never one for preaching, but the overall mood is rueful and somber.” - Wendy Smith

(Read the full review Here)

I added this to my wishlist after reading this review. I’d heard of Boyle but never looked into him. I also looked into his book, The Women. 

Filed under TC Boyle Books Lit book review Slate

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10/3/2011: Book Review: The Letters of T.S. Eliot (V.Eliot & H. Houghton, Eds) - NYTimes

"After a poet is dead, his letters are the windows to his soul — or perhaps just the cellar doors. These two volumes detail Eliot’s struggle to find a career and to shoulder his way into the London literary world, a school of sharks where writers reviewed their friends and publishers reviewed their authors." - W. Logan

(Full Text Of Review Here)

I’m a big TS Eliot fan, have been for a long time. I believe I would find these books very insightful. But at almost 800 pages each. Wow. That’s a lot of letters. Still, perhaps one day. A bit of Anti-Semitry running about in those letters. Disappointing but not surprising.

Filed under T.S. Eliot book review poetry nyt