Sweet but not Short Boston Globe rundow

I know I must sound like the proverbial broken record with the constant ‘I am too busy to blog’, but I at least wanted to get a quick review of the Globe‘s review pages. Luckily, April 3rd’s section has some good things in it.

Like every other paper in the U.S., their lead review is of the new Jonathan Safran Foer Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Steve Almond—an interesting pairing. Almond finds ELIC lacking in areas and takes Foer to task for not trusting enough in his writing. [On a side note, I completely forgot that Foer was appearing last night at the Brattle theater. I wish I had gone.] The column to the left also surprised me this week. In ‘New Thinking‘, George Scialabba muses on Apologies to Thucycides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa by Marshall Sahlins and From Athens to Auschwitz: The Uses of History by Christian Meier. As a former classicist, I am always excited when I see books like this get coverage. Though Scialabba liked the first book better than the second, I found the column itself thought-provoking in its dicussion of the study of history.
On the following page I enjoyed Richard Marinick’s review of Legends of Winter Hill: Cops, Con Men, and Joe McCain, the Last Real Detective by Jay Atkinson. Novelist Atkinson spent a year working for McCain investigations to learn the ins and outs of the trade. It sounds like a really interesting book, according to Marinick. Europe Central by William Vollman also gets covered on the bottom of the page by John Freeman. He manages to get behind the surface of Vollman’s prolific output enough to discover Vollman’s true purpose—“to show how totalitarianism occurred and how it felt on the inside, and to bring us up close and personal with the nubbly texture of history.” I like the use of nubbly. Barbara Fisher covers 3 so-so books in the ‘Short Takes‘ column this week (at least they didn’t interest me). She liked House by Michael Ruhlman, found problems with A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin by Judith Flandes, and only does a plot recap for The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern.
I am no longer going to cover the ‘New & Recommended‘ section as it only changes when they put up a good review of a book. Rather than focus on new titles each week, they wait until someone writes a glowing review in their pages and they substitute that book for an old one. Personally, I find it silly.
Katherine Powers spends a lot of time discussing 2 garden related books in her ‘A Reading Life‘ column this week. Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols and The Botanist and the Vintner: How Wine Was Saved for the World by Christy Campbell. [Obviously, someone should send Richard Adam’s article on overinflated subtitles to the author.] Michael Langan found things to like in Thomas Friedman’s new book The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, where he argues that technological advances have ‘flattened’ the earth forcing multinational adjustments.
The last page contains a nice interview by John Dougherty with Nigel Holmes, a graphic designer who wrote/designed 1 2 3 4 (Wordless Diagrams). Of course, it can’t beat one of Birnbaums lengthy interviews. Below that is Christine Temin’s review of De Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, which just won the Pulitzer Prize in the Biography category. It’s a thoughtful look at what seems to be an amazing book. The final piece on the page is the ‘On Audio‘ column, which spends a lot of time running through plots and a little time criticizing the actual audio.
All in all, it was a good week for the Globe. They ran several strong pieces on the first 2 pages, grew a little weaker on the second two. The fiction to nonfiction ratio is skewed to the nonfiction, but where isn’t that the case? I wish they would break out their shells over there though and try something exciting. Even though some of the reviews were interesting to read, I wonder if I need another article on the Foer or the Friedman, which will get plenty of copy in other places. But I will give them a B+/A- this week.