Saturday, October 10, 2009


Lorrie Moore, A Gate At the Stairs. Tragic, surprising and strange. The slow-food-restaurant-from-hell scene was an added bonus. Rick Wartzman: Obscene in the Extreme. Thought-provoking book about the banning and burning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which turns 70 this year. I reread Grapes this month to mark the anniversary. Philip Roth. The Humbling and Indignation. I admire Roth's epics, such as American Pastoral, but lately he's been writing these pitiless little books that hit very hard. The Humbling is about a once-great actor on the skids, and the unexpected romance which might put him back in business or put him out of commission for good. I won't spoil the ending but if you've read Roth, you know he can be merciless with his main characters. Also by Roth: Indignation is about the price some people pay for flouting conventions. And it has the scariest panty-raid scene ever written. Speaking of Roth, Bob Morris's new memoir, Assisted Loving, reads like a light-hearted comedic twist on Patrimony. Tracy Kidder, Strength In What Remains is his best yet. This goes beyond "immersive'' creative nonfiction and (to steal a phrase from the William Finnegan blurb, right on the back of the book) turns into a work of "sympathetic imagination.'' Zeitoun. Dave Eggers. A fast-moving tale about a man who resists fleeing New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina movies in. The fate of this would-be Good Samaritan will set your teeth on edge. (The author's POV and outrage are very strong in this book, even though he avoids the "I'' and rarely announces his opinion.)

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