[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]
Every Third Thought, by John Barth. Reviewed by James Greer in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
This book has been out for six months already and I had no idea it existed. Greer calls this “the thunderclap of silence that has greeted Every Third Thought since its publication in October 2011.” Now, I’m not quite ready to call Barth “one of America’s greatest living writers,” as Greer is, but he’s undoubtedly one of the biggest names in postmodern literature. He definitely shouldn’t be ignored. Perhaps he’s simply too intimidating. If that’s the case, this slim new volume—barely tipping the scales at 200 pages—should be the remedy. Also, Greer is adapting Barth’s massive novel, The Sot-Weed Factor, into a TV show. So there’s that. Find this book at Goodreads.
The Juice: Vinous Veritas, by Jay McInerney. Reviewed by Peter Lewis in the B&N Review.
I keep finding myself reading about this book, partly because I have trouble imagining that anyone, even Jay McInerney, could write even a single column about wine, let alone enough of them in to fill multiple printed volumes (this is McInerney’s third collection of wine writings). So what does he write about? Mostly wines so expensive or rare that his readers will never sample them. Weird stuff, but endlessly fascinating. Find this book at Goodreads.
Calico Joe, by John Grisham. Reviewed by Chris Erskine in the L.A. Times.
This review is not good in the traditional sense of being well written or edifying. It’s good in the sense that a Uwe Boll movie is good, i.e., it’s endlessly entertaining, even if the jokes are often unintentional. Erskine’s review is a slurry of mixed metaphors, signifying nothing, about a tossed-off book by a big-name writer. John Grisham writes about a major league pitcher intentionally hitting a rookie phenom with an inside pitch. That actually happened just a couple of weeks ago—it merited a couple of breathless articles and a meaningless suspension, and then it got forgotten a week later. In Grisham’s story, it ruins the rookie’s life. If the world were just, this piece of crap cash-in book would’ve merited a polite cough and a head-shake at the pitch meeting where Grisham proposed it. Instead, it gets this bizarre review in which Erskine (amid many other inanities) admits to his “dirty little [book-reviewing] secret”: quoting. Egad. Find this book at Goodreads.
Railsea, by China Mieville. Reviewed by Tony Bradman in the Guardian.
I’ve come to my own conclusions on China Mieville’s books: they’re closer to meaningless conceptual art than storytelling, but they’re not too bad if that’s what you’re looking for. Mr. Bradman has clearly not read Mieville before: he breathlessly compliments the prose (“packed with wit”) and Mieville’s ingenious premise (which, incidentally, closely resembles the Danny Glover epic Age of the Dragons, which we discussed on a recent podcast). I’d be willing to bet that Railsea’s plot is as full of epic holes as it is wildly imaginative, but Bradman rabidly disagrees. He also calls one of Mieville’s characters, Sham ap Soorap, “pleasingly named,” so let that calibrate his taste for you. Find this book at Goodreads.
In brief: Paul Theroux’s latest is a “surprising misstep,” says Carolyn Kellogg. … David L. Ulin says Richard Ford’s new novel Canada is about place, and characters coming to resolution with themselves. But it sounds kinda boring. … This review about the true story of the videogame Grand Theft Auto contains only one amusing anecdote, about how GTA was originally meant to be a police-simulation game, but developers found playing the bad guys to be much more fun. Hopefully the book is better. … A new book about the growing divergence between the rich and the poor. … Everybody lies, just like Gregory House taught us.