[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]
Lights Out in Wonderland, by DBC Pierre, reviewed by Alan Warner (Guardian)
I’m unspeakably excited for the new DBC Pierre novel. I loved his debut, Vernon God Little, and I was one of the few who liked his sophomore effort, Ludmilla’s Broken English. So I didn’t read this review past the subhead (“Alan Warner is impressed by DBC Pierre’s fast and furious satire on contemporary decadence”) in the interest of not spoiling a single bit of the book. This profile of Pierre is pretty safe, though. The only bogey on the radar: Wonderland still doesn’t have a release date in the U.S.
Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership, by Lewis Hyde, reviewed by Robert Darnton (New York Times)
A few weeks ago, I got in a Facebook fight about the recent rash of library closings around the country—I argued that free access to all the world’s knowledge should be considered a human right in any industrialized nation. Hyde, in Common as Air, goes a step further: he uses the writings of America’s founding fathers to argue that all “knowledge is ‘common property.’” Hyde digs into intellectual property law and the thorny issue of copyright, Hollywood and Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Mickey Mouse. It’s an excellent review of what sounds like an excellent book.
The Nearest Exit, by Olen Steinhauer, reviewed by Paula L. Woods (L.A. Times)
Woods says, “Olen Steinhauer makes another bid to be the espionage writer for our times with ‘The Nearest Exit.’” Strong words, and while the premise seems a bit familiar (hero searches for X amidst shadows), there are a few inventive details, like the “Department of Tourism,” which is really a division of the CIA. The real power of the novel, Woods says, comes from its willingness to ask deeper questions about the people who are asked to sacrifice—and sometimes to do horrible things—for “the greater good.”
Phantom Noise, by Brian Turner, reviewed by Courtney Cook (Washington Post)
The Hurt Locker was based on a poem? Evidently yes, and its writer is back with another collection of wartime poetry. Cook says this of the two collections: “Taken together, these books are an unusual two-part portrait of a decade of war: its strength, its wounds, its fantasies of home and, as it happens, the strange beauty of a stubbornly foreign culture.” Sounds good to me.
City of Veils, by Zoë Ferraris, reviewed by Diane White (Boston Globe)
Some of my favorite mysteries are set in far-off lands with exotic, entirely foreign cultures. The last few of these I’ve read—this one set in Thailand, and this one set in India—have disappointed, but even when the mystery is crap, you’ve at least got an interesting semi-travelogue. Ferraris’s new mystery—her second—is set in Saudi Arabia, with its brutally strict laws and savagely misogynistic attitude. White calls Ferraris “a formidably talented writer,” and says her characters are “utterly human.”