Another week, another issue of The New York Times Book Review. This one, dated 5 Jun 2011, is exceptionally padded. Padded with Sports Books. Summer = sports = thick issues of The New York Times Book Review.
So, just to make things clear, self skipped over all the following sections of this issue of TNYTBR: All the Baseball Books (In spite of the fact that she is very personally enamored of her home team, the San Francisco Giants); All the Cooking Books (Self swears: if she can manage to live the remaining years left to her on God’s Earth without ever seeing the inside of a kitchen again – say, if she could just get herself a permanent abode in L’Fisher Chalet – she would have considered her time well spent); All the Gardening Books (No more virtuous dragging around of that plastic green bucket, ever. Rose bushes be damned). Self also, by the way, skips the Travel Books, but only because the reviewer keeps bringing up the author’s age (Someone is in the mid-40s, someone else is in the xxx, whatever. It’s boring to keep associating travel with age. Or with youth. Or with whatever.) She also skips Marilyn Stasio’s “Crime” column, for the first time in ages!
So, since life is short and self is very impatient (these days, at least), self will file only a tiny fraction of the reviews that she read today. And these are they:
Bryan Burrough’s review of Bill James’ Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence
Here’s a particularly pungent quote from the review: In Popular Crime etc (It’s too tiring to type the whole book title), James takes the analytical eye he normally lavishes on Honus Wagner’s Monday afternoon on-base percentage and applies it to, among other things, each of Lizzie Borden’s 40 whacks. Oh, how simply fab! Self adores, simply adores, the macabre.
Jennifer A. Kingson’s review of Edward J. Larson’s An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science
Kingson writes: Although many of the best-known stories of Antarctic exploration are retold here . . . Larson provides enough fresh perspective that even devotees of polar literature will learn things. And self, for one, never tires of gleaning fresh perspectives or learning new things about Antarctic exploration.
Henry Shukman’s review of Paul Theroux’s The Tao of Travel: Enlightenment From Lives on the Road
Coming clean: Ever since self read Theroux’s writing about Palawan in his book Fresh Air Fiend, self has been a die-hard Paul Theroux devotee. But there’s something else going on in this review: Shukman asks, Why do people travel? Is it only, as Philip Larkin suggested, a “deliberate step backwards” in order to create a new objective, namely homecoming? Now that, self thinks, is a very interesting question!
Michael Washburn’s review of Michael Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
Washburn writes: The pleasures – and values – of this story reside in admiration of fortitude in a vortex of treacherous circumstances. It is the 1940s, though, so primitive sexual politics – Margaret Hastings, the surviving Wac, is repeatedly praised for her unexpected “gumption,” and the Army’s first airdrop includes food, blankets and lipstick – abounds, as does the lazy racism of “cockpit anthropologists,” even after the New Guineans prove indispensable. (Self unfortunately got lost somewhere in the middle of that sentence – nevertheless, the review was successful in whetting her appetite for the book)
Carlo Rotella’s review of China Miéville’s new novel, Embassytown
In this review, self learned of Miéville’s astonishing ambition: he has declared he will write “a novel in every genre.” According to Rotella, Thus far, in addition to various subgenres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, he’s sampled the western, the police procedural, the sea adventure and more. Miéville sounds like a writer after self’s own heart. She is grateful to Rotella for making self aware of him. (And also for making self aware of the fact that one can be named after an Asian country: Singapore, say. Or Indonesia. Or even the Philippines! Though having a writer named, for example, Philippine Godot or Laos Dinh would never be as fetching, self feels, as the name China Miéville)
And that’s it, all the reviews self deems worthy of saving in the 5 June 2011 issue.
Self even skips reading the end-paper essay because the title is partly in French, and she doesn’t know what it means.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.