Revoltin’ Bolton and Winnin’ Winnie

In case you are tempted to read the memoir of the former national security advisor, I’ll try to dissuade you here. Not that I believe he violated any publishing standards (and I’m for an increase generally in book sales). But because he violated the standard of country over personal gain. So, what would you read instead?
Here’s one for you (more to come later): Erik Larson’s account of Churchill’s first year as prime minister, The Splendid and the Vile, a fairly consequential period from 1940 to 1941 that saw the first bombardments of Britain by the Luftwaffe, and a complex set of domestic political crises. Churchill was, of course, a complex character, and even now crowds are scribbling “racist” over his statues. All evidence on that score points to a conviction, but as national leader during an unprecedented and deadly crises, he had no match. It is a worthy effort to discover how he did this, almost day by day, hour by hour.

In Other Literary News…

In this posting, I’ll do my best to refrain from mentioning too often the happy news that after ten years of work, my biography of Sol LeWitt will come out this spring, published by Wesleyan University Press. I’ll instead offer some thoughts on some recent books that have illuminated the world in a way thatContinue Reading

Fire and Fury and Us

Once, long ago, we consoled each other about the difficulties of starting out in the writing and publishing business. Back then, I learned the curiously Manhattan term, “unspeakable,” from him. Nowadays we are old hands, but Steve Rubin (the slightly older hand), is at the very top of the game, having published Michael Wolff’s blockbuster,Continue Reading

Five Good Reads

1. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan Read this not so much for its action but for its character development. It’s always tricky to say that a book is character-driven rather than plot-driven. There is, of course, a plot in Jennifer Egan’s novel. But the reader sticks with the narrative largely because of the developing characterContinue Reading

Writing in Future Tense

In 2027, Donald Trump is planning a fourth term as president (he has declared the Constitution illegal) and the Supreme Court can’t do anything about it because it is reduced to one doddering justice who, at more than 100 years old, has forgotten everything she knows. Read about final case to come before the courtContinue Reading

You Go Girl, Title-Wise

Anyone who read Gone Girl, or Girl on the Train, or Girl in the Dark or Girls on Fire, or the Stieg Larsson’s trilogy that began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that started the girly title trend must know the irony. These are no girls, at least in the sense that, in responsibleContinue Reading

Michael Lewis and the Roundabout Reward

Today Michael Lewis’s new book, “The Undoing Project,” will be published to great fanfare, and for good reason. For writers, this event holds many lessons. One is that the old saw, “Write what you know,” now requires an expanded definition, maybe something like, “What you know is more than you think you know, and lessContinue Reading

Afraid to Live

The patrons of memoir and the players of politics seldom hang out at the same urban street corner, but they certainly do in the cases of a stunning new book by Cindy Brown Austin and the election of Donald Trump. To fully appreciate this intersection, and the potential power of eloquent words in a timeContinue Reading

In a Nutshell, Keep it a Secret

If you become a fan of Ian McEwan’s new novel, Nutshell, and I can’t see why you wouldn’t once you’ve read the very first page, you must do your best to hide your enthusiasm from certain people. As you probably know by now, this narrative is in the voice of a fetus who demonstrates aContinue Reading

All The Light We Can Research

In the back of his blockbuster novel, All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr provides an extensive acknowledgment list. It is not uncommon, of course, for authors to publicly thank those who provided support, but in the novel world it is an element seldom carried out to this extent. Anyone reading the book wondersContinue Reading