Books in Brief

Books reviewed in The Atlantic Monthly in 2005

Shalimar the Clown, by Salman Rushdie (Random House)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("Hobbes in the Himalayas," September 2005)

"This is a highly serious novel, on an extremely serious subject, by a deeply serious man."


Household Words, by Joan Silber (Norton)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Judd ("New Fiction," November 2005)

"A virtuoso performance: meticulously crafted, unflinching, and ultimately dazzling."


Ideas of Heaven, by Joan Silber (Norton)
Reviewed by Christina Schwarz ("A Close Read," June 2005)

"Silber's writing is smooth, yes, but it's also liberally spiced."


On Beauty, by Zadie Smith (Penguin)
Reviewed by Joseph O'Neill ("New Fiction," October 2005)

"Although the full, tragic dimensions of the human adventure may be missing—an odd, sitcommy inconsequentiality colors the disasters that befall her characters—there's no doubting the artistic conviction that underlies this unabashedly conventional novel."


Holy Skirts, by René Steinke (William Morrow)
Reviewed by Sally Singer ("The Lady Is a Tramp," July/August 2005)

"René Steinke's fictional re-imagining of Man Ray and Duchamp's mad muse is wonderfully insightful about the self-absorption required to be a fashion avatar."


Villages, by John Updike (Knopf)
Reviewed by Christina Schwarz ("A Close Read," January/February 2005)

"An ideal evocation of the mundane.... Quintessentially Updikean."


Memoirs of Hadrian, By Marguerite Yourcenar (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Reviewed by Terry Castle ("Gender Bending," September 2005)

"Now, here's an oddity: a butch lady novelist who's also one of the great gay-male writers of the twentieth century. She didn't like women, and it shows—especially in this, her masterpiece about the Roman emperor Hadrian and his beloved catamite Antinous."


James Agee: Film Writing & Selected Journalism, Edited by Michael Sragow (Library of America)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("He Found It at the Movies," September 2005)

"Appearing weekly, Agee's reviews were no doubt a marvel, but envelop them in LOA's solemn black dust jacket and print them on its for-the-ages acid-free stock and his blind spots and shortcomings become glaring."


At Ease: Navy Men of WWII, edited by Evan Bachner (Harry N. Abrams)
Reviewed by Terry Castle ("Strange Butterflies," June 2005)

"These images of 'ordinary' shipboard life were taken by Edward Steichen, Horace Bristol, Charles Fenno Jacobs, and other members of the wartime Naval Aviation Photographic Unit.... The unguarded homoeroticism of the men in the photos is at once astonishing and oddly moving."


Forgotten Armies, by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper (Harvard)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("War Without End," November 2005)

"A panoramic chronicle of the war in South Asia ranging from swank prewar Singapore to famine-ravaged Bengal, where three million people died in 1943-1944.... A brilliant marriage of social and military history and a work of extraordinary literary merit."


Our Bodies, Ourselves, edited by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective (Touchstone)
Reviewed by Cristina Nehring ("Latex Conquers All," October 2005)

"The world we encounter in Our Bodies is so strongly politicized as to be nearly fabricated, and therefore worthless. Except, of course, when it is worse than worthless, as is the case when the authors plunge into disquisitions about sex."


Harvard Rules : The Struggle for the Soul of the World's Most Powerful University, by Richard Bradley (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Clothes-Minded," March 2005)

"This detailed if not necessarily reliable picture of the intrigue and controversies that surround Larry Summers's presidency of Harvard is gossipy and kind of trashy but wholly compelling—a Sex and the City for the Northeast-corridor elite (now, there's an unappealing concept)."


The London Look: Fashion from Street to Catwalk, by Christopher Breward, Edwina Ehrman, Caroline Evans (Yale University Press)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Clothes-Minded," March 2005)

"As much a cultural as an aesthetic history, this book is fascinating and great fun."


Cheap Psychological Tricks for Parents, by Perry W. Buffington (Peachtree Publishers)
Reviewed by Sandra Tsing-Loh ("Marshal Plan," March 2005)

"After bemoaning soft-on-child-misbehavior philosophies ... Buffington claims that the age of parents as friends is over."


Journals of William Emmanuel Bugg, by William Emmanuel Bugg (B. Ffyliaid)
Reviewed by Allan Gurganus ("One Great Book Per Life," March 2005)

"To justify its high-cost living, every life is worth examining. And Farmer Wm. Bugg's existence seemed (to him at least) worth a spunky daily pencil jotting. Journals of William Emmanuel Bugg, 1848-1935 (1986) reveals one rustic fellow as funny as strict."


Mao, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday (Knopf)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Passion in Fashion," December 2005)

"This volume, the most complete and assiduously researched biography of its subject yet published, presents a detailed portrait of Mao as an opportunistic gangster and a sadist."


The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, by Richard Cook and Brian Morton (Penguin)
Reviewed by Terry Castle ("Gender Bending," September 2005)

"Cook and Morton are ... polymathic, fanatical, obsessed with outtakes and reissues and obscure Japanese imports. (They also write exquisitely.)"


Sample: Cuttings from Contemporary Fashion, Edited by Bronwyn Cosgrave (Phaidon)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Passion in Fashion," December 2005)

"[A] sleekly gorgeous book ... Bronwyn Cosgrave, formerly of the British Vogue, assembled ten doyens of the fashion scene and asked each to pick the ten most promising budding designers from around the globe."


Edmund Wilson, by Lewis M. Dabney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Elements of Style," July/August 2005)

"With the optimism and myopia of a scholar consumed by his subject, Dabney sees Wilson as a vital influence in today's American intellectual and cultural life."


Carry Me Back, by Steven Deyle (Oxford)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Golden State," June 2005)

"What's most disturbing about this fine book—by far the best work to date on [the slave trade]—is its depiction of the weakness of men who thought themselves upright, and of how easily and casually equivocation and self-delusion permitted enormities."

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