Rebecca Solnit: Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge
I would be interested in this book if it focused solely on the “annihilation of time and space” that hooked public and professional attention in the late-nineteenth century, but certainly Muybridge’s life and work is a compelling way to focus this story. And Solnit seems primed as the perfect guide. But a wealth of intriguing material is, unfortunately, diluted into a pile of anecdotes linked more by association than anything more meaningful. Read the review here.
Francine Prose: Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife
I felt relieved by Prose's stance that takes the diary seriously as a work of art. Her case for Frank as both an ambitious and talented writer, rather than an incidental one, is convincing. She also pays particular attention to how the Frank line about "people being really good at heart" has been mutated and decontextualized beyond belief. But. Something is missing. Read the review here.
William Styron: Lie Down in Darkness
What a dark and strange novel this is. I came away impressed with Styron's guts, both as a technician and an imagination. Indeed I was surprised by how far Styron was willing to go with the macabre; the overtures of incest complicated the rendering of love that threads through the novel. At times, though, I itched at the book's pretension. Read my review here.
Amelie Nothomb: Hygiene and Assassin
An unlikeable, combative Nobel laureate finds out that he will die soon from a rare form of cancer, and he grants five journalists very rare interviews. See my video book review here
Rob Vollmar: Bluesman Complete
There's a lot going for Bluesman, including woodcut-style art that often bends out of the box. The thick, exaggerated lines and heavy shadows hit just the right note for a story about roots musicians. And there's a fearlessness in how the book faces the Gothic mythos and religiosity that informs so much of the blues. Ultimately, though, it felt thin. What was probably intended as archetypes felt like caricature.
Read my review here.
Melissa V. Harris-Perry: Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
Harris-Perry's unconventional book wobbles as it straddles academic rigor and mainstream accessibility, intimacy and analysis, but its ideas have worth, interest, and urgency. Read the review here.
Toni Morrison: Sula
Sinking into Toni Morrison's fiction is like sinking into loamy earth. She writes novels that are ground heels-down into a planet of soil and water and stone. Read my review here.
Carla Speed McNeil: Finder Library Volume 1
The first thing to know about Finder is that it is really weird. This a book full of beginnings, a provocative pile-up of crushing characters. Read my review here.
Vladimir Nabokov: Pale Fire
Nobody does a madman like Vladimir Nabokov. He revels in the voices of those who inhabit a space where reality blurs: voices that are by turns disconcerting, obnoxious, hilarious, provocative, and altogether intoxicating. Read my review here.
Best European Fiction 2012
The hybridic nature of this anthology gives it a rare dynamism. But the fiction feels more mixed than in previous editions, with more middling stories and few that I was head over heels for. More.