Frederick Seidel, in an essay on Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers in the latest New York Review of Books, makes that assertion you hear so frequently in book reviews: the novel doesn’t seem “real”:
One of the problems of the book is that while lots of people in it have lots to say about many things, important things included, the things they say never sound like what real people might say, like real thoughts or real speech. The book keeps being entertaining (except for the really bad bits) and keeps being unconvincing.
What snags my attention here is not that I think The Flamethrowers is a success and Mr. Seidel doesn’t, but rather that Mr. Seidel’s criticism rests on the novel’s failure to remind him of his own experience of life. It’s most glaring when he takes down Ms. Kushner for her writing about motorcycles:
They are not very convincing motorcycles, nor are the accounts of how it feels to go fast particularly convincing. I like motorcycles. The race bikes I myself have ridden have mostly been Ducatis, made in Bologna.
The home of the late American poet, Robert Lowell, is on the market. Mr. Lowell’s endured a fulfilling run as a poet and author having been a founder of confessional poetry and winning the Pulitzer Prize (twice), National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award.
Lavish is not a word normally associated with book parties. Most of them are characterized by warm white wine and pallid cubes of cheese. Unless you are a member of the celebrated Guinness family, in which case your guests will be treated to Blood Orange Bellinis and delicate crab cakes in a mind-blowingly glamorous apartment Read More
Frances Kiernan, biographer of Brooke Astor and Mary McCarthy, is writing her next book about Elizabeth Hardwick, Lady Caroline Blackwood, and their respective marriages to the poet Robert Lowell.
Gerry Howard, who worked with Ms. Kiernan on her McCarthy biography when he was at Norton, will edit the book, which is Read More
Robert Stone is coming to town to read, and I’m feeling a little apprehensive already. If Auden was the avatar of the previous Age of Anxiety, is not Robert Stone the poet of the current Age of Dread? While Mr. Stone’s seductively sinister novels ( Dog Soldiers , Children of Light , Damascus Gate , Read More
I learned about George Harrison after a draft of this column went to the copy editors. Reading the many well-deserved tributes he’s getting now made me feel even more strongly the importance of paying tribute to artists while they’re still with us rather than waiting for death to provide a “peg.” It’s one of the Read More
In July 1955, the American poet Weldon Kees disappeared and was presumed to have committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. His car was found on the north approach to the bridge, where it had been abandoned in the midsummer fog. There was no suicide note, and the body was Read More