July 25, 1999 |
If you stacked up all the books about Cuba published in the United States, you could build a land bridge from Key West to Havana. The phenomenon, nothing short of remarkable, includes fiction, travel literature, guidebooks, natural science, short story collections, politics, history, sports and poetry. Though the best movies about the island in the Castro years have, with a few notable exceptions, come from Cuba itself, the opposite holds true for the printed page.
September 20, 1998 |
Elizabeth Hardwick takes her time. In an essay on Carl Sandburg, she spends almost 17 pages discussing Vachel Lindsay and Edgar Lee Masters before turning to her ostensible subject. When writing book reviews, she's in no apparent hurry to engage the book under consideration, which may be because the real subject under consideration is her own critical faculty, her view of the world and of literature's relationship to it.
July 17, 1998 |
On the first page of former Republican campaign operative Tom Lowe's debut novel, "Spin," his antihero wakes up amid the shambles of the California Assembly speaker's office and in a pool of his own vomit. His character, GOP wunderkind Jim Asher, has destroyed an $1,800 Armani suit--and his future in politics.
December 1, 1996 |
Collections of appreciation are field guides. These are the first to attempt explanation of the writing of Wallace Stegner and to inquire how we might finish a simple and, in his case, impossible sentence: Wallace Stegner, who. . . . Who evoked panoramas by looking through clean and ordinary windows, and who brought calm appraisal to agitated events in the developing West. Who, never mind the flash and fizzle of other gloried American writers, grew in stature and accomplishment all his life--steady gains--so that now, looking back 2 1/2 years after his death, this itself can be recognized as a lasting achievement.
March 10, 1996 |
When you want to be entertained and you hear that Darwinism is at a novel's core, you might understandably move on to the next shelf. When the author is Joanna Scott, however, you are guaranteed horror and intrigue that makes even the brutal work of natural selection look tame. Who else but Scott would reveal what taxidermists do with cornmeal (a hint: no cooking required) or which household chemicals best preserve a cadaver?
May 10, 1994 |
The crowds are different from the restive, hard-eyed fans who straddle the red carpet outside the Music Center at Oscar time or bunch up behind velvet ropes at movie premieres. These followers are a different stripe of Hollywood camper--some carry first editions of "The Day of the Locust," "The Last Tycoon," or "What Makes Sammy Run?"
January 4, 1994 |
It is all too easy to lump minority writers together. For Asian American writers, it's been no different. Gish Jen jokingly refers to the "Gang of Four" approach: She is often compared to Gus Lee, David Wong Louie and Amy Tan. What then is the purpose of not one, but two anthologies of Asian American writing? Plenty. Above all, to show the individuality of the Asian American experience and the breadth of human stories these writers have to tell. Jen, represented in both anthologies, has a story in "Growing Up Asian-American" that is the perfect example of how grouping all Asian Americans together can be a big mistake.