From the acclaimed novelist (Henry and Clara, Two Moons), essayist (A Book of One's Own), and critic (1998 National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing)--an engaging new collection of essays. In Fact gathers the best of Thomas Mallon's superb criticism from the past twenty-two years--essays that appeared in his GQ column, ""Doubting Thomas,"" and in The New York Times Book Review, The American Scholar, The New Yorker, and Harper's, among other publications. Here are his evaluations of the work of contemporary writers such asNicholson Baker, Peter Carey, Tom Wolfe, Do DeLillo, Joan Didion, and Robert Stone, and reassessments of such earlier twentieth- century figures as John O'Hara, Sinclair Lewis, Truman Capote, and Mary McCarthy. Mallon also considers an array of odd literary genres and phenomena--including book indexes, obituaries, plagiarism, cancelledchecks, fan mail, and author tours. And he turns his sharp eye on historical fiction (his own genre) as well as on the history, practice, and future of memoir. Smart, unorthodox, and impassioned, this collection is an integral piece of an important literary career and an altogether marvelous read.
Mid-length book reviews are a tough sell when put between covers, but the pedigree here will make this collection a must-have for the drier side of the Inside.com set. Mallon is the author of five respected historical novels (Henry and Clara, etc.) and solid nonfiction on plagiarism (Stolen Words) and diaries (A Book of One's Own), among other volumes. But his bread-and-butter is the feature-length review and book-biz musing, including a six-year stint as a GQ columnist ("Doubting Thomas") and regular appearances in the NYTBR and the New Yorker, among other mags. Almost all of the 45 essays here first appeared in such publications, many of them contributing to his winning the NBCC Citation for Excellence in Reviewing in 1998�and it's easy to see why. There are great titles ("Six Feet Under but Above the Fold"; "Is God Read?") and great leads ("Half his writing life was aftermath," begins a review of a Truman Capote bio). But serious readers will find on the whole that the pieces don't work outside of their original do-I-want-to-buy-this-book? contexts, lacking a compelling critical framework beyond cogent dispatching of plots, characters and conceptual terrains. The discussions of near-canonical oeuvres (of Sinclair Lewis, John O'Hara and others) don't compel fresh readings, despite Mallon's judicious enthusiasm. And not-so-serious readers will find they already know all they want to about Snow Falling on Cedars, the mechanics of historical fiction or the author's stint at Brown. (Jan. 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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August 21, 2012
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