Our Critic's Tip Sheet on Current Reading: Hillary and History, a Simic Sample, Fitzgerald Futzed

Could Hillary’s New Hampshire comeback mean that the groaning shelf of 30-odd Hillary books will also get a second look? An encouraging sign: In his Op-Ed piece this week, Frank Rich quotes approvingly from Sally Bedell Smith’s comprehensive and precise history of the Clintons’ White House years, For Love of Politics (Random House, $27.95). And coming next week: Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary, edited by Susan Morrison (HarperCollins, $23.95), in which an all-star cast of women writers—including Lorrie Moore, Roz Chast, Lionel Shriver and Kathryn Harrison—reflect on the politician who may become our first female president. I wonder: Did any of them consult “Hillary Rodham Clinton as ‘Madonna’: The Role of Metaphor and Oxymoron in Image Restoration,” a scholarly study published six years ago by Karrin Vasby Anderson?


TO CELEBRATE HIS appointment as the 15th poet laureate of the United States, Harcourt is publishing a selection of Charles Simic’s poetry. Sixty Poems (Harcourt, $12) is a splendid introduction to this lusty, brainy, friendly poet whose imagination is a carnival of delight. Here’s a taste:


In the frying pan
On the stove
I found my love
And me naked.

Chopped onions
Fell on our heads
And made us cry.
It’s like a parade,
I told her, confetti
When some guy
Reaches the moon.

“Means of transport,”
She replied obscurely
While we fried.
“Means of transport!”


A GENEROUS FRIEND has sent me what is inarguably the worst book of 2007: a graphic adaptation of The Great Gatsby published in Australia by Allen & Unwin. The artist—if that’s the appropriate term—has chosen to portray all the characters as “fantastical creatures”: Gatsby looks like a seahorse; Daisy is a puffball bisected by a worm; Nick is some kind of newt; Myrtle has one eye in the middle of her otherwise frog-like face. … So you turn the pages and read an abridged version of Fitzgerald’s text and gaze on these random mutants as they shuttle back and forth between Manhattan and West Egg. It’s obscene, a kind of desecration.

Luckily, some of us are safe from this toxic alien invasion. On the back of the book, under the barcode, a blessed consolation: “For copyright reasons, this book is not for sale in the U.S.A. or U.K.” If you’re Canadian, tough luck: Penguin Canada is releasing it this week.

Our Critic's Tip Sheet on Current Reading: Hillary and History, a Simic Sample, Fitzgerald Futzed