For my money, Neil Gaiman’s premier talent is his ability to take oversized fantastical story elements and use them to make a personal story feel epic. In this latest case, a man’s midlife crisis finds a foil in a battle between the supernatural Hempstock sisters and a netherworld full of richly imagined monsters. Donohue does a nice job of explaining this premise without spoiling it, and of detailing Gaiman’s charms.
The author of The Psychopath Test reviews this true account of what it’s like to be a sociopath. The woman in question, who identifies “more as a sociopath than by my gender or profession or race,” has been labeled a “successful” psychopath, i.e. she channels her lack of empathy into business success instead of indiscriminate murder (not that she’s not “chillingly cruel” at times). Reading the book sounds like an experience very similar to Ronson’s description of interviewing a psychopath: by turns fascinating and intensely irritating. Ultimately, all the personality and charm is merely a mask designed to hide “the gaping nothingness underneath.”
This is an irritatingly fair and even-keeled analysis of Tao Lin’s bibliography and his latest novel (bias update: finding out that Lin once compared his style to Lorrie Moore’s has turned my opinion of him from bemused indifference to active hatred). I’m taking heart in the fact that I couldn’t find many reviews of Taipei, and Lin’s publicity powers seem to be mercifully on the decline.