Ulin generally writes great reviews, and this one is no different. Carlson’s method, Ulin says, is “to let ideas and situations percolate, and in so doing to articulate with care and nuance the inner lives of characters who themselves may not be emotionally articulate: men mostly, middle-aged, living in the rural west and wrestling with the sense that opportunity has passed them by.” Doing this, he’s written just two novels in the last thirty years. This one revolves around a group of middle-aged men who played in the same high school band, and reunite thirty years later when one of them returns home to die. Sounds a bit like your standard we-must-deal-with-the-past novel, but Ulin can’t stop raving about Carlson’s subtlety and sharpness, so I’m assuming it’s a cut above the standard fare.
Brockes gives an admirably even-handed treatment to what sounds like an irrelevant and outdated (at best) pop-science book about female sexuality. Luckily, though, even-handedness doesn’t preclude Brockes from taking some enjoyable potshots, like, “Rats are a big part of this book, as they often are in pop-science, which could boil down many of its arguments to “because a rat did it”.”
Klosterman’s latest comes with an interesting premise: exploring the controversial figures of our time, like Joe Paterno. But I don’t get the sense that Havrilesky holds him to a very high standard. She mentions several of Klosterman’s rhetorical questions about Batman, and they all sound oversimplified, not to mention plain old wrong. E.g.: “If Batman were real, and you knew that a vigilante was killing criminals without due process, would you root for him or want him arrested?” Well, Batman doesn’t kill anybody, one of the carefully architected elements of his rootability. Another: what makes Batman a hero and some dude who shot some muggers on the subway less than a hero? Well, Batman’s not real, so he has no non-romantic flaws, and there aren’t any real consequences to his actions. Also, he doesn’t shoot anybody. Here’s hoping that the rest of Klosterman’s book has more heft to it… but, because of this sample, I probably won’t line up to read more of these unresearched and seemingly pointless rhetorical questions.