Author Archive

Blurbese: “The First _____”

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When Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was published, in 2010, the British Daily Telegraph called it “the first great American novel of the post-Obama era.” If that sounds oddly specific (not to mention premature), they at least had good reason for it: the title of “first great American novel of the

Blurbese: “quiet”

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I’m not usually one to pick on my own, but for illustrative purposes only there’s a line to which I’d like to draw your attention from Anne Gray Fischer’s most recent “Women In Trouble” column: The stakes are perhaps too low in this quiet novel for it to qualify

Blurbese: “a _____ debut”

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Book reviewers generally frown on unnecessary adjectives. Precisely how they frown depends on the situation, but you can bet if an author’s use of adjectives comes up in a review it’s not as a compliment. If a book is filled with rare and unusual descriptions (e.g. “a perturbing peccadillo”),

Blurbese: “funny”

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Book reviewers’ relationship with the word “funny” is, well—a little funny. I’m somewhat sympathetic about this one, too, at least when it comes to novels that are deliberately comic, because it’s tough to review authors whose reputation is based entirely on humor. What, after all, can the word “funny”

April Fools: Some Funny Novels (Seriously, That’s What the Post Is About)

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Our valiant editorial intern, Sean Mackey, suggested this month that in honor of April Fools’ Day we recommend a few humorous books. He had this to say himself: Humor is becoming more and more specific for different audiences, where a reader who laughs at I Am America, And So

Blurbese: “Unflinching”

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I think a lot of book reviewers were smacked as children. Some of them must have at least been bullied. How else to explain their admiration for the ability not to flinch? Just look at the first page of results when you Google “unflinching book review.” At the British

Blurbese: “Haunting”

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In his new regular column, our blog book reviews editor Andrew Ladd looks at “blurbese,” the contemporary language of book reviews, and names its most egregious offenders. What is it about book critics and the heebie-jeebies? Show most reviewers a pulpy horror story and they’ll turn up their noses

Love and Capital

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Love and Capital Mary Gabriel Little, Brown and Company, September 2011 768 pages $35.00 When Simon Montefiore reviewed Mary Gabriel’s recent, frighteningly expansive Karl Marx biography in the New York Times last month, he was generally complimentary—but for the wrong reasons. You see, Montefiore came at the book as

Book Review Editor Speaks: Literature of Place

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In this week’s reviews on the blog, Claire Blechman calls Ned Zeman’s new book, Rules of the Tunnel, “a very L.A. memoir.” (“In the Manhattan version,” she adds, “we’d be spending lots of quality time in the patient-writer’s head.”) Julia Lichtblau seems to be getting at the same issue,

You Are My Heart

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You Are My Heart and Other Stories Jay Neugeboren Two Dollar Radio, May 2011 194 pages $16.00 All authors have subject matter to which they constantly return, consciously or not. For Dickens it was the lower classes, for John Irving it’s small town New Hampshire—and for Jay Neugeboren, in