Category Archives: Review Reviews

Boston Globe Round-Up

There’s much to cheer about as well as much to lament in this past Sunday’s Book Review. On the one hand, we’ve got Gail Caldwell’s beautiful essay and some well-written reviews. On the other hand, most of the reviews of books that came out 3 or more months ago. I’ve included the pub date of each book after the title and author just so you don’t think I am crazy. So follow me after the jump…
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Boston Globe Review roundup

There I was all set to read the Book Review section and write a scathing report and I open up the pages of the paper to find it devoted to kids’ books this week. I wonder why? What could make them do that? They at least present us with a few non-kids related columns, which I’ve covered below.

The main piece devoted to secret places at least mentions some oldies but goodies—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Secret Garden, The Indian in the Cupboard (I remember my fourth grade teacher read us this book everyday after lunch. I loved this book). Jodi Daynard wrote a nice piece on the value of a school’s curriculum and how difficult it can be to balance classics versus newer writers. James Sallis’ devotes his ‘A Reading Life‘ to Ed McBain. It’s a nice tribute to a great writer, who though he wrote many books, had much more to offer.

Amanda Heller has the ‘Short Takes‘ this week and looks at The Mysterious Flam of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco, Lavoisier in the Year One: The Birth of a New Science in an Age of Revolution by Madison Smartt Bell, and Meet the Beatles by Steven Stark. And the last column is ‘On Memoirs‘ by Kate Bolick. She writes about the difference between a memoir and a diary, covering Drawing From Life: The Journal as Art, an anthology edited by Jennifer New and A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit (which I am currently reading). It’s a thought-provoking piece.

That’s it folks. The rest is all kids’ books. I will save the scathing commentary for next week.

The Better Late than Never Globe Review Review

The fiction/non-fiction ratio was way off last Sunday—only 2 fiction reviews and books that have been reviewed in many other publications. I know that some people like to read multiple reviews of the same book to see the varying opinions, but at the same time, how many reviews do we really need of Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk’s new book? I don’t know. But I do know that whereas the Globe does pretty well with their non-fiction coverage, occasionally even reviewing books that are overlooked in other papers, their fiction coverage just plain sucks. There’s no daring. There are exceptions of course. They did after all do a nice piece on Richard McCann’s Mother of Sorrows. But week after week, I turn to these pages and find the same reviews I find in other papers on the 4 pages. If you had 4 pages, what would you spend it on? Let’s take a look at the Globe‘s choices, shall we?
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Boston Globe Review roundup

Here we are again, poring over the Boston Globe Sunday Book review section. This week has both hits and misses. First let me mention that they only covered 2 fiction books this week. Out of the 4 pages, they ran an interview column, the ‘Reading Life’ column, 3 long non-fiction and 6 short non-fiction reviews. That just plain sucks. The interview, which I will get to later, is great. And I thought the lead non-fiction review well done. But why only 2 fiction (and one of them is a book I just plain won’t read)?
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Boston Globe Review roundup

Another week, another book section to pore over. This week is just so-so. A couple of interesting picks tossed in with the usual stuff.

Hallie Ephron starts the ball rolling with her ‘On Crime‘ column where she discusses Oblivion by Peter Abrahams, Citizen Vince by Jess Walter, and Face Down Below the Banqueting House by Kathy Lynn Emerson. Whereas I enjoy Ephron’s writing style, I feel like she could have devoted the column to books that haven’t gotten reviewed everywhere else. Sarah Weinman’s a good example of someone who really reads the whole spectrum. Check out the right hand column on her page and you’ll see a good mix of books that you might not hear about elsewhere. The rest of the page is taken up with William Pritchard’s analysis of Sue Miller’s new book Lost in the Forest. Its a nice review with good insights.
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Boston Globe Review roundup

Spring finally arrived in the Northeast this past weekend (but only for a few days of course) and I think the Globe people were affected. That’s the only explanation I can think off for the how uneven the review section was on Sunday.

As most know, April 1 brings the start of baseball season. The first game at Fenway wasn’t until yesterday however (we beat the Yankess 8-1!) and they decided to make Katherine Powers (an otherwise great columnist) write this long, and I mean long, breakdown of 16 books on the Red Sox. I love baseball and I really love the Sox, but even I was bored to tears by this article. There were too many books! She spent the first column (because of course they devote the whole first page plus a quarter of the third page) on just a few of the books, then she must of lost heart. It becomes 2-3 line synopses. The whole thing felt sloppy and like they were doing it just because….well, I don’t know.

But the reviews got a little better after that. Page 2 started with Richard Eder’s review of The Face of the Naked Lady: An Omaha Family Mystery by Michael Rips. Eder finds the book ambiguous and puzzling. One of the other good things this week was Gail Caldwell’s review of Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro’s new book, which I loved. She sees past the sci-fi aspects as did Kakutani last week, though she finds it frustrating that the mystery of how the modern world got that way is never explained. I also found Amadan Heller’s ‘Short Takes‘ column particularly well-written this week. She managest to both let you know in a sentence or two the basic plot as well as her impressions of each. This week she covers Jonathan Lethem’s The Disappointment Artist, Marina Lewycka’s A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, and Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn by Hannah Holmes.

Page 3 starts with a Sandra Shea’s review of Empire Rising by Thomas Kelly. Next to it, is David Waldstreicher’s impressions of A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff. Frankly, I am getting a bit tired of these tomes that keep appearing which want to convince me how the dead white men responsible for founding our country are great. Got the message. This one does have a different take, since it follows Franklin to France.

The last page has only 2 columns, since the runoffs from the tedious baseball book article and the Ishiguro review are continued here. But I was really excited about Caroline Leavitt’s ‘A Reading Life‘ this week. She discusses 2 books featuring Arab heroines in America. One I have read and loved—The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber, which Leavitt found “passionate and playful, rich with memories of relatives and friends, all hungry ‘for home, for family, for the old smells and touches and tastes.'” The second book is Towelhead by Alicia Eran, a coming of age tale. The more I hear about this book, the more I want to read it. Leavitt’s column was one of the highpoints this week as she covered books that sound interesting and have not gotten as much coverage as they maybe should. The BGBR section ends this week with ‘Pop Lit‘ by Diane White, which is a monthly column about ‘new light and popular fiction’. She enjoyed Lucky Strike by Nancy Zafris and Can’t Get Enough by Connie Briscoe, but found Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik “needy” and the voice “phony”. Honestly, these books are in not my cup of tea, and I didn’t leave the review wanting to read them, but White’s coverage is well done.

So that’s it for this week. Two stars in a sea of mediocrity. The ratio was 7 fiction (2 long, 5 short) to 21 non-fiction, albeit 16 of them were, as I said before, barely covered. Still, it would be nice to see some translations or books from smaller publishers. At least Joshua Glenn, in ‘The Examined Life‘ column in the Ideas section, usually gets some of the smaller publishers. In fact, this week, he discusses a book from Johns Hopkins University Press! Here’s hoping that the BGBR gets better.