Sunday, April 29, 2007

Links & Reviews

- In the NYTimes, William Grimes has an essay on some of the many new Shakespeare-related books that have made their appearance recently (designed to coincide with the author's birthday, 23 April). Over in the Guardian, A.S. Byatt reviews one of these titles, A.D. Nuttall's Shakespeare the Thinker.

- The new Tolkien title, The Children of Húrin, is reviewed in the Telegraph by Philip Hensher (unfavorably: "There are almost too many reasons to detest this new Tolkien confection") and by Ethan Gilsdorf in the Christian Science Monitor. Gilsdorf says this book's for "hard-core devotees," adding "readers may not identify with the characters ... or tolerate the bygone diction, even if they're wowed by the heroic exploits." Gilsdorf also gets the review in the Boston Globe, where he notes "In the final analysis, Tolkien was what he was. He didn't want to write a modern novel like his contemporaries. So one hesitates to criticize the obsolete diction and days-of-yore storytelling voice found in Húrin. Oddly, in anticipating the cultural need for myth and fantasy, Tolkien was ahead of his time. But he was also centuries behind it."

- Christopher Buckley's Boomsday (my review here) gets some ink in the Boston Globe: "Buckley's dyspeptic caricature of politicians and their enablers isn't particularly subtle, but then Washington isn't a particularly subtle place" ... yes, that's the point, actually ...

Judy Budnitz reviews Boomsday in the Washington Post; she writes "[Buckley] has a well-honed talent for quippy dialogue and an insider's familiarity with the way spin doctors manipulate language. It's queasily enjoyable to watch his characters concocting doublespeak to combat every turn of events." But she didn't much like the book either, and also missed the point. Her final paragraph: "Though I was willing for the most part to sit back and enjoy the rollicking ride, one incident in particular strained my credulity to the breaking point: Cassandra advises Sen. Jepperson to use profanity in a televised debate as a way of wooing under-30 voters, and the tactic is a smashing success. If dropping an f-bomb were all it took to win over the young folks, Vice President Cheney would be a rock star by now." What worked about Jepperson's gimmick in the book was the forceful "telling of truth to power" - I think a better analogy than Cheney's "f-bomb" might Stephen Colbert's White House Correspondents' Dinner speech, which fell flat with the "in crowd" but resonated with everyone else.

- Bookride's got some good profiles for us this week: Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet and Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy.