Reviews and Articles in General Publications
Monday 25 September 2000
§ All Over...
A remarkable number of reviews this week of a new novel by Wonder Boys author Michael Chabon , The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Random House), about two immigrant teenagers in 1939 who create a comic book superhero. [Updated from Friday's post.]
- Janet Maslin in New York Times: ''Mr. Chabon has fashioned a big, ripe, excitingly imaginative novel and set it in the world of his grandfather, a New York City typographer at a plant where comics were printed. ... In a cameo-studded book (Salvador Dali at a party, Orson Welles praising the Escapist) that echoes "Ragtime," just as it sometimes suggests John Irving in fanciful mode, Mr. Chabon tells a bustling, convoluted story in an eloquent, exceptionally precise voice.''
- Newsweek: ''...the themes are masterfully explored, leaving the book’s sense of humor intact and characters so highly developed they could walk off the page. (His treatment of the sexual ambiguities of men in tights is particularly rich.) In the end, Kavalier fails in his attempt to become the Escapist himself, but Chabon has pulled off another great feat.''
- Time: ''...a serious but never solemn novel about the American comic book's Golden Age, from the late 1930s to (and this could cause a generational squabble) the early 1950s. ... Chabon knows and loves his pulps. He also seems to understand intuitively that in the U.S., popular culture is the culture, and there is no point in pretending it is not....''
- CNN: ''For [Kavalier and Clay]'s career outline, Chabon had only to look to the real-life story of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, two New York kids who created Superman in the '30s, then sold the rights for a pittance and missed out on the financial bonanza when comic books became the obsession of America's boys. Growing up in a later era, Michael Chabon was a comic book fan, too. Even as an adult, the interest never entirely left him....''
- Entertainment Weekly, Sept. 29 (grade: A-) ''The book is, in a sophisticated way, comic-bookish. It's all zings and zigzags, bold strokes and curlicures and peculiar coinckidincks. It's like a graphic novel inked in words and starring the author himself in the lead role: Wonder Boy.''
- New York Times Book Review, Sept. 24 (by Ken Kalfus): ''the depth of Chabon's thought, his sharp language, his inventiveness and his ambition make this a novel of towering achievement.''
- USA Today:
''His subject may be comic books, but this wizard of words often comes close to creating literature.''
§ Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 24, 2000
A front-page review by Morrie Ruvinsky (in a venue that never reviews genre SF) of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Telling (Harcourt). But the LAT did award Le Guin its Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award, for a body of word by a Western writer, last year. And so:
In "The Telling," Le Guin is at the top of her game. Her vision is clear and her observations precise. Her language, which sings true in every line, is simple and profound and her storytelling is sure--an absolute requisite for a novel in which she has isolated and identified the loss of story as that most profound of all cultural wounds. Lose our stories, she warns, and we lose our selves.
Yet, upholding a long tradition of literary condescension toward science fiction (dating back at least to Walter M. Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz -- ''If it's good, it's not SF; if it's SF, it's no good''), the only mention of the words ''science fiction'' in the review are in this parenthetical remark:
(Imagine that it is just science fiction and you'll never understand the deliberate, insightful universe in which Le Guin lives and works.)
It's a common theme lately: see notices by Harold Bloom on Le Guin, and LAT on T.C. Boyle, earlier on this page, below.
§ New York Times Book Review, September 24, 2000
In addition to Chabon, listed above, a review by Abraham Verghese of Alan Lightman's The Diagnosis, and a review of Molly Gloss's Wild Life.
§ Washington Post Book World, September 24, 2000
Paul Di Filippo
SF column covers Kathleen Ann Goonan’s Crescent City Rhapsody, James Stevens-Arce’s Soulsaver, Ken MacLeod’s The Sky Road, Gene Wolfe’s In Green’s Jungles, and Ellen Datlow’s anthology Vanishing Acts. On Wolfe, Di Filippo remarks:
Reading [this book] I was lightning-blasted by a critical epiphany. Much as the protagonist of Wolfe's latest series, a humble papermaker named Horn, has now become the object of his own selfless quest, so has Wolfe, through ceaseless exercise of his formidable talents, become an American incarnation of one of the century's premier fabulists, Italo Calvino. Both men possess a certain moral gravitas embodied in a style at once simple and deceptive, simultaneously antiquarian yet postmodern. Each retreats self-effacingly behind the elaborate scrims of their fictions. Each seems an outwardly peaceful and jovial fellow often drawn to write of life's brutalities.
Also: the first review, by Nina King, of Stephen King’s nonfiction On Writing. And Michael Dirda on José Saramago’s new novel All the Names (Harcourt).
§ Times of London, September 24, 2000
by Peter Kemp of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin.
Friday 22 September 2000
§ Salon, Sept. 19, 2000
Maureen F. McHugh contributes an essay about rude cellphone behavior, in Dear businessman at the grocery store. Also lately in Salon: Martha Soukup's reports on Survivor.
§ The Observer, September 17, 2000
Stephen King is interviewed.
§ Books Unlimited, September 13, 2000
Stephen Moss summarizes various reviews of J.G. Ballard's Super-Cannes by way of considering the state of fiction reviewing [in Britain, at least]. Also on this website: transcript of a recent online chat (Sept. 11) with Iain M. Banks.
An interview of Spider Robinson and review of Robert Reed's Marrow (Tor).
Monday 18 September 2000
§ Washington Post Book World, September 17, 2000
- Ana Marie Cox reviews
Kit Reed's @expectations (Forge), a novel of ''Internet romance and intrigue''.
- Jonathan Fasman reviews
Michel Faber's Under the Skin, that novel about hitchhikers in the Scottish highlands and aliens preying on earthlings, ''which admittedly sounds like a particularly inane episode of 'Star Trek' '', is nevertheless ''a compelling, unusual tale about species difference and the limits of compassion''.
- Associational reviewers and reviews: Paul Di Filippo reviews William T. Vollman; Jonathan Carroll reviews Will Self.
§ San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2000
Floyd Skloot reviews Alan Lightman's The Diagnosis (Pantheon), ''a funny, troubling story about our culture's devotion to technology at the expense of humanity.''
§ Book: The Magazine for the Reading Life, July/August 2000
A profile of Ursula K. Le Guin includes Harold Bloom's take on Le Guin and on SF:
Bloom rejects the SF label for Le Guin. He doesn't like the term, and, he says, she has written too much and too well to be categorized that way. "I wouldn't talk about her greatest contribution in terms of mode or genre," he says.
...Le Guin on Harry Potter:
"I'm glad kids are reading," she says. "But when grownups sit around saying that there's never been anything like Harry Potter, well, gee, I had a wizard school in 1968 (in A Wizard of Earthsea). These people simply haven't been reading this stuff. They've been sneering at fantasy until the huge success of a fantasy made them read it."
...And Le Guin's status as the only SF writer who deals with the ''same subjects as realistic fiction--human nature, politics and feelings'':
"There are a lot of people who will say I'm the exception, the only good science-fiction writer. That's nonsense," she declares. "I do seem to be someone who has carried people across from realistic literature to fantasy and science fiction and back. I'm happy to do that. If I'm a steppingstone, walk on me, for heaven's sake."
Also: just an excerpt online from a profile of Anne Rice.
§ London Telegraph/BooksOnline
Helen Brown reviews J.G. Ballard's Super-Cannes.
With this sharply focused detective novel, Ballard takes a long, sniper’s look at the mirror-walled corporate dream, and then shatters it.
§ New York Times Sept. 16, 2000
An op-ed piece by Bruce Sterling on Olympic Engineering.
§ Bookreporter.com, September 15, 2000
An interview with Douglass Clegg.
Monday 11 September 2000
§ Los Angeles Times; San Francisco Chronicle, September 10, 2000
A new novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle, A Friend of the Earth (Viking), is reviewed by Eric Zencey in LAT and by Brian Bouldrey in SFC. The book is set in 2025 and concerns "the future of the planet" -- but it's not science fiction, according to Zencey, who reassures his readers: " 'A Friend of the Earth' is set largely in the future. Yet breathe easy, this is no science fiction, nor has Boyle abandoned his roots."
§ New York Times, August 23, 2000
On that same theme, this article by Doreen Carvajal, When Is It Time to Hang Up the Pen?, which considers how authors (among them Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut) decide when it's time to retire, describes Iain M. Banks's recent output as "an annual novel or science fiction title for the last 16 years".
§ Reason Online, August/September 2000
A long essay by Tom Peyser about Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000-1887, that utopian novel whose protagonist wakes on September 10, 2000.
§ PalmPower Magazine
Short fiction reviews (!) by Ben Brickman of two stories available from Fictionwise.com, Robert Silverberg's "Death Do Us Part" and Damon Knight's "Masks".
Friday 8 September 2000
§ Times of London, September 3, 2000
John Sutherland reviews J.G. Ballard's Super-Cannes (Flamingo):
There are many reasons for reading J G Ballard. Not least that in his 70th year (having witnessed with a connoisseur's cold eye some of the greatest atrocities in world history) he is still here and writing. For himself, or for us? One never knows with Ballard. In his recent novels, he has become interested in the mechanics of plot and mystery. Super-Cannes is, on one level, a humble whodunit. It is one of those novels whose last 100 pages you turn over faster and faster, wanting hundreds more.
But the main reason for reading Ballard nowadays is, I think, the truth one finds
in his fiction - truth that one can see reflected in any day's news stories.
This latest novel continues a line begun in his 1970s dystopia, High Rise. The
Ballardian law of the universe runs thus: every idealistic attempt by human society to organise itself into progressive or "higher" forms will, inevitably, precipitate catastrophe. Interesting catastrophe, of course. ...
One peels this novel like an onion. Halfway through, I thought I could see the denouement. Three-quarters of the way through, something quite different seemed to be looming up. I have to say that the ending eluded and amazed me. As Ballard always amazes.
§ New York Times Book Review September 3, 2000
Gerald Jonas's SF column
covers Joan Slonczewski's Brain Plague (Tor), Wil McCarthy's The Collapsium (Del Rey), Jane Yolen's collection Sister Emily's Lightship: And Other Stories (Tor), and Robert Charles Wilson's collection The Perseids: And Other Stories (Tor). Slonczewski's book is an example of SF's occupational hazard of "overreaching": "Trying to do too much, Slonczewski wastes a fine opportunity to explore, in a coherent manner, a premise that innovations in microcircuitry may soon remove from the realm of fiction...". McCarthy, on the other hand, "cheerfully embraces overreaching as its theme".
Another review, by Claude Lalumière, of Robert Charles Wilson's The Perseids.
§ San Francisco Chronicle September 3, 2000
Several associational reviews:
§ The Onion AV Club
Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics and just-released Reinventing Comics, is interviewed.
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