A baby-faced 25-year-old, Ben Dolnick, has written a delightful post-ironic novel. Zoology (Vintage, $12.95) is a coming-of-age story with the Central Park children’s zoo as warm-and-fuzzy backdrop. Our hapless hero has to cope with a runaway goat, a girl just out of reach and a family that’s quietly cracking up. The story is simple, sad, sweet and funny—and saved from sentimentality by a streak of cold-eyed honesty about the ubiquity of human failings.
Even by the standards of the combustible author of The Female Eunuch, the rant in the May 7 issue of The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk) about the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of King Lear was explosive. Germaine Greer hated everything about Ian McKellen’s performance in the title role (his “virtuosic caricature makes sympathy impossible”), especially the moment when he “drops his trousers and displays his impressive genitalia to the audience.” No eunuch he.
Let us now praise famous fish markets. In 1979, photographer Barbara Mensch rented a loft near South Street and began taking pictures of the late, lamented Fulton Fish Market—and kept at it over the next four years. The photographs, gathered in South Street (Columbia, $29.95), are stunning—intimate, dramatic, poignant; Philip Lopate, in his authoritative introduction, calls them “an anthropological trove” and also “an aesthetic vision of the highest order.” I’ll second that.