- The Deep Blue Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. Scribner. 438 pp. ***1/2
I was wildly enthusiastic about Jennifer Egan’s previous novel, A Visit from the Good Squad. That book was aesthetically stunning, every chapter from a different point of view, a narrative that was wildly distorted in time, a set of characters that only vaguely related to one another ... Read more
- To Nowhere On the Road from Road Novels 1957-1960 by Jack Kerouac. Edited by Douglas Brinkley. Library of America. 864 pp.
It’s an odd feeling to reread On the Road after just reading The Dharma Bums for the first time. In a way it’s the same book all over again, Jack Kerouac on a mad dash around the ... Read more
- Drunken Saint The Dharma Bums from Road Novels 1957-1960 by Jack Kerouac. Edited by Douglas Brinkley. Library of America. 864 pp. ***1/2
Jack Kerouac is the spiritual father of every whacked-out hippie who ever stumbled his way through the Sixties, head bobbing in mild agreement, mouth perpetually grinning, a beard flowing around his collar. Kerouac himself was a ... Read more
- Choosing Life The Light That Shines Through Infinity: Zen and the Energy of Life by Dainin Katagiri. Shambhala. 229 pp. $16.95.
Jesus’ Son Stories by Denis Johnson. Picador. 133 pp. $15.00
It was unnerving for me to read Denis Johnson’s excellent but disturbing book of stories at the same time I was reading the new book of lectures by ... Read more
- Problem Solved Tishomingo Blues from Four Later Novels by Elmore Leonard. Library of America. 961 pp. $40.00.
No sooner do I complain about a problem in Elmore Leonard’s work—the fact that every novel seemed to feature a monstrous guy who killed people casually and unnecessarily, as if such people don’t need explaining—than it disappeared. Tishomingo Blues includes plenty ... Read more
- My Elmore Leonard Problem Out of Sight from Four Later Novels by Elmore Leonard. Library of America. 961 pp. $40.00.
I’m coming to the end of my Elmore Leonard period. I never thought, when I decided to look into his Detroit novels because my son now lives in Detroit and I’ve gotten to know the place a little, that I ... Read more
- Time is a What? A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Anchor Books. 340 pp. $16.00. *****
I’m aware as a writer that many people I read are more talented than I, but now and then I’m pulled up short by a writer who does something I couldn’t even aspire to. I felt that way about War and ... Read more
- Grad Student from Hell The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy. Grove Press. 338 pp. $16.00.
The Ginger Man was one of the famous dirty books from my youth, published by Olympia Press and occupying the shelves alongside Tropic of Cancer, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and My Life and Loves. My freshman college roommate in 1966 showed up with everything trendy in ... Read more
- The Whiteness of the Whale Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Library of America. 638 pp.
I’ve recently expressed my admiration for the Library of America and its beautiful editions, but I was disappointed by the Melville Chronology in this volume, which seemed positively paltry. Elmore Leonard gets 27 pages and Herman Melville gets five? My brother tells me there’s a famous ... Read more
- Master Craftsman Having Fun Four Novels of the 1980’s: City Primeval, LaBrava, Glitz, Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard. Library of America. 1010 pp. $37.50.
Elmore Leonard began to relax into his craft when he entered the decade of the eighties, when he would turn 60. He had stopped drinking, for one thing, spoke openly about how that affected him. He ... Read more