NYT Sunday Book Review, 2010.4.18

Some interesting reading:

  • Review: Ander Monson’s VANISHING POINT: NOT A MEMOIR (Graywolf Press) – “Over the last 25 years, the memoir — or The Story of My Life, as Vivian Gornick calls it — has become one of the major gestures of American writing. In direct opposition to the literal- minded, linear and epistemologically naïve nature of many such works, there has emerged in the last dozen years a vital countertradition, what John D’Agata labels the “lyric essay.” It’s a form with ancient roots. Hera clitus, anyone?…” …In D’Agata’s words, “what the lyric essay inherits from the public essay is a fact- hungry pursuit of solutions to problems, while from the personal essay what it takes is a wide-eyed dallying in the heat of predicaments. . . . Lyric essays seek answers, yet seldom seem to find them.” …This is an exact and useful description of the work now being done by, among many others, Ander Monson, who in “Vanishing Point” performs the same crucial inversion his fellow travelers do: he turns the banality of nonfiction inside out and thereby makes nonfiction a staging area to investigate claims of fact and truth, an extremely rich theater for exploring the most serious ontological questions…”
  • Review: Deborah Eisenberg’s THE COLLECTED STORIES OF DEBORAH EISENBERG – “Anyone who loves the short story, that perennially marginalized and disrespected form, should rejoice in the appearance of a writer’s collected stories. It’s simply good for the team. (Recent proclamations that the novel is over and done with take aim at the bigger target for a change. Welcome, novels, to the realm of the unquiet dead.) When the short-story writer in question is as innovative and idiosyncratic as Deborah Eisenberg, it’s an opportunity for both celebration and appraisal, a chance to explore our expectations of narrative in contentious times. As if there were any other times worth writing about.  …This collection contains in their entirety the four books of stories Eisenberg has written over a 20-year span (“Transactions in a Foreign Currency,” 1986; “Under the 82nd Airborne,” 1992; “All Around Atlantis,” 1997; and “Twilight of the Superheroes,” 2006). The resulting book weighs in at just under a thousand pages: heavy lifting but not heavy reading. Although the stories explore different geographies and different lives, there is more consistency throughout than variety. Those who admire some portion of Eisenberg’s writing will find the same pleasures in the whole: remarkable language, unconventional story telling and her characters’ well-­rendered and profound unease at inhabiting an uneasy world.”
  • Review: Rachel Cusk’s THE BRADSHAW VARIATIONS – “Ostensibly, the central characters in “The Bradshaw Variations,” Rachel Cusk’s seventh novel, are a husband and wife named Thomas Bradshaw and Tonie Swann. Also ostensibly, the novel’s plot follows the year Thomas leaves the work force to take care of their daughter and his wife returns to a full-time job. But it soon becomes apparent that the novel is not exactly about these two individuals, nor is it overly concerned with the “Mr. Mom” circumstances newly introduced into their lives. What “The Bradshaw Variations” is about, however, is hard to say. …Cusk, who won Britain’s prestigious Whitbread Prize for her debut novel, “Saving Agnes,” is a first-rate writer, caustically intelligent and sharply observant. Perhaps best known here for her 2007 novel “Arlington Park,” which chronicles a day in the lives of a group of mothers outside London, Cusk is also the author of the motherhood memoir “A Life’s Work,” though neither of these books is about the hilarity of diaper blowouts or grade-school antics. Instead, they concern adult women’s sometimes desperate and furious struggles to retain their identities after having children.”

Looks like the new Harper’s Magazine will have an interesting article on cell phones and brain tumors, and a review of Robert Walser’s MICROSCRIPTS (New Directions) penned by Rivka Galchen.