Reluctant Habits

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Posted by in Film, jackson-peter, Reviews, tolkien-jrr

Is 48fps enough to bring Tolkien back to the big screen? Or is imagination more important?

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Posted by in Comics, Film, Reviews, Spider-Man

I put forth the modest proposition that a movie containing this much paralogia should be rejected by a mass audience. Why the new Spider-Man movie is a drag.

Review: Dark Shadows (2012)

Posted by in burton-tim, Dark Shadows, Film, Reviews

An essay on Tim Burton’s disastrous reimagining of Dark Shadows and the lessons he has failed to learn from the original series.

A Hasty Response to The Late American Novel

Posted by in Reviews

A review written in 20 minutes shortly after reading Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee’s anthology, The Late American Novel.

New Review: Tom Bissell’s EXTRA LIVES

Posted by in bissell-tom, Reviews

I don’t confess nearly as much as Tom Bissell in my review of his excellent book, Extra Lives. But I do nevertheless come out to some extent in today’s Barnes & Noble Review: When Valve recently updated its shiny Steam client—that flashy desktop app permitting the user to waste numerous hours on video games and to spend precious dollars on special weekend sales—I received the soul-shattering news that I’d clocked in an alarming 131 hours of Team Fortress 2. I had not asked for this statistic, yet this seemingly benevolent…read more

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So Much for Shriver

Posted by in Reviews, shriver-lionel

My review of Lionel Shriver’s novel, So Much for That, runs in today’s Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s the first paragraph: In We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver axed at the angst of self-absorbed parenting while spinning the unspoken psychological grindstone that sharpens school violence. In her severely underrated novel The Post-Birthday World, Shriver expertly established two parallel universes that exposed the delicate fissures buried within a seemingly grounded relationship. One would logically assume Shriver to be the ideal social novelist to fire up the Flammenwerfer for a blistering assault…read more

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Donald E. Westlake’s Lost Novel

Posted by in Reviews, Westlake, Donald

In today’s Philly Inquirer, you’ll find my review of Donald E. Westlake’s Memory, published by Hard Case Crime. Here’s the first few paragraphs: The celebrated literary critic Edmund Wilson famously derided the detective story as a form that existed only “to see the problem worked out.” The French critic Roland Barthes was slightly less derisive, seeing a mystery as a facile narrative paradox with “a truth to be deciphered.” These reductionist takes presumptuously assumed that mysteries served only as plot-oriented puzzles, and that thematic truths and behavioral insight were taking…read more

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New Review: Gail Godwin’s Unfinished Desires

Posted by in Reviews

My review of Gail Godwin’s Unfinished Desires appears in today’s Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s the first paragraph: Over the past half-century, the extreme religious right, as documented in Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming, has transformed certain fidelities about faith into snaky traducements that resemble a spastic Tex Avery cartoon. This surrender of common sense has sullied the more sober connections between spirituality and American life, creating an exploratory reticence among novelists that has softly settled into the cultural berm. But Gail Godwin, one of American literature’s best-kept secrets, has quietly eked out…read more

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New Review: Charlie Huston

Posted by in huston-charlie, Reviews

I’ve interviewed the extremely entertaining writer Charlie Huston twice now for The Bat Segundo Show: once in 2007, where Huston rather devilishly attempted (and failed) to employ a minor Yojimbo between the good Rick Kleffel (also a Huston fan) and me, and again in last February (accompanied by a short video excerpt). But as funny and as enthralling as his last standalone novel was (The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, nominated days ago for an Edgar), Huston’s most recent novel, Sleepless, as I argue in today’s Barnes…read more

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New H+ Issue Up

Posted by in Reviews

The latest issue of h+ has been released, and there’s loads of good stuff: an interview with Ray Kurzweil, Andrew Hessel discussing the formation of the first DIY drug company, and Jonathan Lethem discussing Philip K. Dick. You can also find my review of Daniel Pink’s forthcoming book, Drive, which can be found on page 85.

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

In all the NYFF madness, I failed to note that my review of Morris Dickstein’s Dancing in the Darkappeared in Friday’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times. It begins: While the intrepid academic Morris Dickstein has been noodling around on Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression (W.W. Norton, $29.95) for 29 years, the regrettable surprise is that the chapters read like airless lectures delivered to a fidgety audience that’s only sitting through the whole darn talk for a college credit or a free barbeque. You can…read more

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The Underestimated Nicholas Meyer

Posted by in Reviews

In today’s Barnes & Noble Review, I take on Nicholas Meyer’s The View from the Bridge. Meyer is best known as the man behind Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the film that arguably saved the Star Trek franchise (for better or worse). But people often overlook the fact that Meyer also wrote a series of amusing Sherlock Holmes pastiches (beginning with The Seven Per-Cent Solution), as well as the 1983 TV movie, The Day After. Meyer is a far more interesting figure than most people give him credit…read more

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

My review of Chuck Barris’s Who Killed Art Deco? appears in today’s Chicago Sun-Times. And truthfully, the review is far crankier than I remember it being when I filed it. Indeed, the piece is more than a bit ridiculous with some of its pedantic quibbles. I don’t know how many reviewers would actually confess such qualities, but I am committed to candor. This is a Chuck Barris novel, for crying out loud. Not a Donald Westlake novel. But it was an annoying book with homophobic conceits.

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New Review: I Am Not Sidney Poitier

Posted by in everett-percival, Reviews

In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, you can find my review of Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier. And it’s rather fitting that much of my review ended up as a list of rhetorical (and possibly unanswerable) questions. As it so happens, just after filing the review and being wowed by the book, I learned that Everett happened to be in New York. And I was able to set up a rare interview with him (which will be airing as the next episode of The Bat Segundo Show, to be released…read more

New Review: Chuck Palahniuk

Posted by in palahniuk-chuck, Reviews

Chuck Palahniuk is regularly dismissed by the snobs. Despite his sales, you will not see a New York Review of Books or a Bookforum essay on the man anytime soon. The atmosphere is too retrousse. Here is an author who seems to be uncritically admired by his fans and just as unilaterally (and unfairly) condemned by the literary elite. But people do read the man and the man is not without talent. It is a foolish person indeed who does not submerge himself with some frequency into the common lake…read more

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

In today’s Barnes and Noble Review, you can find my piece on Nancy Kress’s Steal Across the Sky. The first sentence — what some folks in the know call the lede — reads as follows: The latest volume from the prolific, award-winning science fiction author Nancy Kress bombards the reader with big ideas aplenty — but only a genre-addled birdbrain would pigeonhole Kress as yet another concept-slinging roughneck kicking around speculative turf. To find out just what that turf entails, read the rest of the review. Needless to say, I…read more

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May Podcast Madness!

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Reviews

In today’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, you can find my review of Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger. Waters appeared on The Bat Segundo Show back in 2006. And she’ll soon be making a second appearance. Which brings us to an unexpected issue of productivity that I need to address. First off, I wish to offer a profound apology to several authors and publicists, who have been waiting patiently for several Segundo installments. I am not entirely certain how it happened, but I apparently interviewed quite a number of intriguing…read more

My Services Elsewhere

Posted by in Reviews

Two pieces have been recently cajoled out of me. Chris Robbins recently acquired the domain, embarrassing.com, through some legerdemain that I won’t inquire about. (It seems more interesting, anyway, to keep it all a mystery.) When he told me that a number of writers had suggested that they might write pieces for him — in the same cowardly way that a casting director tells you that he will call you or an accounts payable person tells you that the check is in the mail — I felt compelled to offer…read more

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“The Worst Book I Have Read in the Past Three Years”

Posted by in Reviews

In today’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, you will find my review of Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones. Let it be known that I did not arrive at my assessment lightly. I am an ardent lover of ambitious literature, and I realize when taking on any review assignment that an author has probably sweated for years on a project. As such, I do everything in my power to attempt to understand a book on its own terms. But this novel was so atrocious that I was forced to record a…read more

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

The book appears to have been completely ignored by American newspapers. There’s this snobbish Bookforum review which observes “lowbrow thrills” and appears written by a humorless gentleman who wouldn’t know fun even if he were offered the role of his choice in a custard pie fight. (This regrettable quality is quite typical of the people who Albert Mobilio hires these days. It has been suggested to me that Mobilio does not laugh at all or that he titters infrequently at best. To expect humor, much less fun, in Bookforum‘s dilletantish…read more

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

My review of G. Xavier Robillard’s Captain Freedom appears in today’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, along with many other interesting pieces, including Mark Athitakis’s profile of Jesse Ball.

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

I’ve had a quiet obsession with the Panama Canal for a while. Now another book has come along — Julie Greene’s The Canal Builders — hoping to provide an alternative history. Does Greene’s book live up to the task? You can find out in today’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Another New Review

Posted by in Reviews

There’s a lot of fresh content that will be unloaded onto these pages over the course of the day, including three podcasts and a film review. But while you’re waiting on all this, you can find my review of Christopher Moore’s Fool in today’s Barnes and Noble Review. About a month ago, this assignment caused me to delve into any number of King Lear adaptations and reworkings, getting in touch with a rather obsessive interest of mine that I’ve kept quiet about (for reasons cited in the review). And while…read more

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

A new issue of h+ Magazine has left the building. The quarterly magazine, edited by the incomparable R.U. Sirius, features contributions from the likes of Alex Lightman, Douglas Rushkoff, Tara E. Hunt, John Shirley, and yours truly. (You can find my unusual comparative review of Mac Montandon’s Jetpack Dreams and Brian Rafferty’s Don’t Stop Believin’ on Page 67.)

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New Review: George Friedman’s THE NEXT 100 YEARS

Posted by in Reviews

Well, the Gerald Celente post continues to draw plenty of haters to this site. And that’s fine. Because everybody needs a hobby. But I’m pleased to report that I’ve taken on another dubious futurist in the fine pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. I had truly hoped for more from the book. I have a soft spot for futurists and I always start reading a book hoping for the best. But, alas, it proved to be grand bunk. Today, if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can pick…read more

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Conversations In the Book Trade

Posted by in Reviews

Deadlines and line dancing which pertains to deadlines will keep me occupied for the better part of today. So pardon the silence while I clack away on the keyboard. In the meantime, I should observe that Finn Harvor has managed to extract some possibly interesting answers from me on the publishing industry, e-books, the Internet, which mediums work best for fiction, online bookstores, literary agents, and numerous other topics. (Also, as both the Washington Post‘s Bob Thompson and The New York Times‘s Motoko Rich observed this morning, the NEA’s outgoing…read more

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New Review

Posted by in Poetry, Reviews, spicer-jack

Pardon the sparse updates. It’s been busy on this front, but more long-form content is coming. There will also be some more podcasts. In the meantime, my review of Jack Spicer’s My Vocabulary Did This to Me can be found in today’s Los Angeles Times.

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

My review of Tony Vigorito’s Nine Kinds of Naked appears in this morning’s Chicago Sun-Times. I’m particularly excited about this review, because I somehow managed to sneak “420-friendly” into a family newspaper. This is also the first review I wrote by hand on a moving bus. I am quite serious about meeting deadlines, no matter how silly the conditions.

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New Guardian Post

Posted by in Reviews

The Thomas Nelson affair (not to be confused with The Thomas Crown Affair) sent a considerable tizzy through the Twittersphere last week. I’ve written about the whole mess for The Guardian.

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New Roundup

Posted by in Reviews

One of my projects over the past few months was reading somewhere in the area of sixteen books (along with a good deal of beginnings) for a science fiction roundup. I’m pleased to report that the fruit of my labors can be read this Sunday at The Washington Post, where the books featured include Gene Wolfe’s An Evil Guest, Nancy Kress’s Dogs, Leslie What’s Crazy Love, and Benjamin Rosenbaum’s The Ant King. I did my best to include a variegated mix of big and small authors, expected and unexpected presses,…read more

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