[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]
Tender Hour of Twilight, by Richard Seaver, reviewed by Michael Dirda (Washington Post)
With the modern publishing world edging ever closer to the abyss, it’s at least diverting to read about its heyday, when a young literature buff in Paris discovered and doggedly championed the work of an entirely unknown Irish writer named Samuel Beckett. Most of the rest of the memoir seems to be less historically important, but it sounds uniformly entertaining.
Agent 6, by Tom Rob Smith, reviewed by Paula Woods (L.A. Times)
Woods is disappointed with this final volume in Smith’s Leo Demidov trilogy—and it does sound like Smith keeps going back to a well that he rather expertly emptied in the trilogy’s first book, the excellent Child 44. I’ve been taking my time with the second book, and it looks like I should continue to dawdle.
Your Voice in My Head, by Emma Forrest, reviewed by Nicholas Lezard (Guardian)
This slight review—which seems to expend more effort on a (good) discussion of Voice’s cover than a discussion of the book’s real merits—sums up Lezard’s praise of Emma Forrest in a single simple phrase: “she can write.” Voice is a “memoir of madness” written by a talented young madwoman. Fair enough.
Da Vinci’s Ghost, by Toby Lester, reviewed by Jonathan Lopez (New York Times)
Another brief review, with a rather brief thesis statement: the Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci’s (or perhaps anyone’s) most famous drawing, is not the pinnacle of his career, but rather a play for respect from the patrons of his day who favored ancient, sometimes unsound texts like the one by Virtuvius which inspired the sketch. It’s difficult to see how the book would satisfy, given that the story it tells is wrapped up in the few hundred words of Lopez’s review, but that review is worth the five minutes it takes.
In brief: Reviews of a couple of Book Radar picks: Zona, by Geoff Dyer, and No One Is Here Except All of Us, by Ramona Ausubel. … Elmore Leonard’s latest Raylan Givens novel looks possibly entertaining, even if it is short and written expressly to cash in on Justified. … Should we celebrate scathing book reviews? Um, yes, probably. Here’s one. … And more on Geoff Dyer, the author of my new favorite book that I haven’t read yet: here he picks five unusual histories. … In this semi-bizarre review of a book about dust jackets, Michael Dirda says, “Nobody blithely discards dust jackets anymore.” I beg your pardon, sir. I do and will continue to do so, for the rest of my natural life.