File this one next to Portnoy's Complaint and Sabbath's Theater, as its part of Phil's "randy dudes" series. Oh sure, there's parts of it where Roth aims towards writing about something other than the time a depressed old man got his withered old fuck on, a tale about what it might mean when one loses mastery over ones art after a lifetime spent earning it, but Roth's primary commitment this time around is clearly decided, whether or not he wanted it to be: "to bang or not to bang, oh a threesome? Fuck yeah i'm totally in. As with the other book's in this portion of Roth's catalog, there's a curiosity factor--is that how the author himself picks up the extra bed partners? Slumming on drunk shopgirls in the antique hunting part of town?--but mostly you just slide through the whole experience. This dude can still write, it's just that you wish he had something to write about.
By Matthew Gasteier, 2009
Yeah, what? Maybe it's just being spoiled by Wikipedia or free articles from Seymour Hersh, but this book felt like it should've been published as a fanzine, and I don't mean like Cometbus or any fanzine that anyone refers to as "interesting". This was just baby's first Nas book. The 33 1/3 series is so much more impressive when you don't read any of them.
The thing that Stephen King has most in common with Jackson Pollack is that a lot of people respond negatively to their work by saying "anybody could do that", and while they're usually wrong, Under The Dome probably comes closest to them being right as anything I've ever read by the guy. (His worst book is probably still Dreamcatcher, yet Dreamcatcher is so fucking strange and, by the end, essentially unreadable, and that novelty guarantees it some kind of special title.) Under The Dome is still compulsive in the way these sorts of world-building fantasy-ish books are, even when you can tell 15 pages out that the survival prospects aren't looking good for the wise old cop who serves as sanity's local linchpin, but it's only King's oddball mix of hokum and faux-Americana touches that keep this book from reading like the million and one slush pile books that the world's hopefuls continue to produce.
I know a lot of people who have read and loved Motherless Brooklyn, a few who have read and loved Fortress of Solitude, a couple who dug Chronic City, but I've never met anyone who finished You Don't Love Me Yet, and now I know why: this one was a total misfire. Like reading the lyric sheets to a Matthew Sweet album while a father of two teenage girls tells you about all the times when they sing Mates of State songs, this is a book best left forgotten.
Fences and Windows
By Naomi Klein, 2002
This book is probably a good indication of the future of print, in that it's a collection of undercooked essays and poorly thought out jeremiads (trust me, I can smell these kinds of things) previously published somewhere else. There's some attempt to make the work look less date-stamped than it is, as well as a lazy jab towards making its Frankenstein-ian qualities resemble a cogent narrative, but you're never going to forget that you're reading something that probably worked better somewhere else, before.
Kind of weird timing to dig this one out again, and probably a mistake to do so, as it hasn't aged well. Reading plays probably isn't high up on many people's list of a relaxing pastime; at least, it isn't mine, and there's probably no weaker section in a bookstore than the one dedicated to theater. (With the obvious exception of dance, which often combines the sensitivity of the artist with the intensely athletic physique that invariably escapes those most likely to call themselves "creative".) And make no mistake: I probably still read plays primarily because an attractive young woman once approached me and said "you must be very serious" because I was reading a bunch of Christopher Durang plays. (The irony that Durang's plays are almost completely unserious does not escape me, but as the only reason for mentioning this whimsical anecdote is to imply that I was picked up for sex with a stranger, which I was, which is why the idea in my head of "read plays, people will fuck you" has stayed in my brain, despite the obvious fact that this young lady was definitely uninterested in plays or whether I was "serious", and for some reason interested in me, or at least what I represented, which in that little town could've been any number of things, although I'm most likely to lean towards "not fat" as that was the biggest problem being faced at that time in rural Northeast Georgia, which was where I went to college and did most of my playreading, although it is of course possible (while unlikely) that she knew Durang's work and assumed that anyone reading the collected short works of a known New York homosexual playwright would certainly be amenable to what pop culture refers to as a one-night stand, which this of course was, although I believe we parted on excellent terms as there was never any mention or pretense towards getting one another's number, and while I obviously no longer regret not having done so as I am happily married to a woman I quite prefer in all the categories available to muster judgments in, I will not deny that I don't often question how I managed to play a situation as cool as I admittedly did, as I can point to no other time when I so easily handled myself, with the obvious exception of how I broke up with my high school girlfriend, which is a story that I will save for a later time, possibly after I read an Arthur Miller play, who I still like even if everyone else doesn't.
The Dramatic Imagination
By Robert Edmond Jones, 1941
I don't have a book I read every year, the way Anthony Lane reads Day of the Jackal. But if I did, it might be this one. The subject material interests me less and less as time goes by, but the way the guy's mind moves, the way he's able to mix class and homespun idealism into a sort of weird manifesto for artistic creation and a well-mannered approach to living never seems precious or affected. There's so much value to be found when an artist just describes why they do what they do and why they love it.
This is one boring slog of a spy novel, one that takes forever to get to its one, final, brutally simple satirical point. It was actually planned this way, so one has to acknowledge and give credit to it for that. Le Carre wanted to say goodbye to his marriage, his past, and he wanted to say fuck you to the people he used to work for, and so he did so, successfully, in this book. Here's the thing: he's so successful at achieving his goals that you'll have to exert some real effort to ride it all the way to the non-shattering and totally unsurprising conclusion, which is also delivered in an on-purpose unsatisfying fashion. Interested?
-Tucker Stone, 2011