The trailer for this novel stank of the sort of bullshit answerless mystery that ruined Lost. And, indeed, there’s a high probability that something utterly ordinary and disappointing is at the heart of this quasi-ironic, McSweeney’s-esque “novel.” It takes the form of an old library book stuffed full of marginalia (as well as letters, mimeographs, postcards, pictures, and other objects). Two readers respond to the text and each other, and ostensibly create some postmodernist counter-textual subreality in so doing. Hill’s review mentions very little about what actually happens in the story (except that the two readers—gag—”meet cute”), but he quotes Dorst as saying, “I don’t want this to come across as some sort of magic puzzle, which has a simple answer.” In other words, it’s a magic puzzle with a very complex answer or no answer at all. The book itself does sound cool, but its odds of delivering a satisfying story are very low.
Apuzzo and Goldman delve into the NYPD’s post-9/11 initiative to spy on American Muslims, with some pretty interesting results. Drogin says it reads like a thriller at times (though at others it slows noticeably), and Apuzzo and Goldman won a Pulitzer in 2012 for their reporting for the AP on this subject. So, keep this one on your list.
This unique take on The Simpsons examines its writers’ love of numbers. It seems a bit beyond the average civilian, but Jones calls it “lively” and says it’s full of anecdotes, which seems like a broad pleaser. We’re getting on toward gift-giving season, put this one down not for your math professor relative, but for the one who talks about how they almost became a math professor.
Havrilesky lobs withering sarcastic barbs throughout this takedown of Franco’s latest “self-indulgence.” She writes that Franco arrives “Lacking the chops to apply the sophisticated concepts that are no doubt ricocheting through his synapses,” and “Considering his other artistic dalliances, you might expect his stories to be heavy on pretentious flourishes and overwrought details.” The best she can muster is writing that the stories are “at times engaging.” Obviously avoid this one, but check out the review.