Not quite recovered from having Michiko Kakutani serve her her ass on a plate, A.M. Homes gets another mini-beating in this week's Times Book Review, courtesy of Walter Kirn, who calls Homes a "Streisandist." Why Walter, you just coined an awesome new insult! Well done! After the jump, Intern Alexis muses on Streisandism, happy books, and scary turtle pictures in her weekly guide to sounding like you read.
This Book Will Save Your Life
By A.M. Homes
Reviewed by Walter Kirn
Several weeks ago, Michiko Kakutani truly pulverized A.M. Homes's "This Book Will Save Your Life" in the NYBTR's younger cousin, "Books of the Times."
She opened with a kazam: "A. M. Homes's dreadful new novel, 'This Book Will Save Your Life,' reads like a cartoon illustration for a seminar on men and middle age — a pastiche of all that is hokey, hackneyed and New Agey in Robert Bly's 'Iron John' and Gail Sheehy's 'Understanding Men's Passages.'"
And ended with a shebang: "In a blurb on the back of this book, Stephen King writes that "this brave story of a lost man's reconnection with the world could become a generational touchstone, like 'Catch-22,' 'The Monkey Wrench Gang,' or 'The Catcher in the Rye.' To this reader, the apt comparison is not to a modern literary classic but to a television show starring Montel Williams or Dr. Phil."
As we often do with books that have been Kakutani-fied, we waited, with bated breath, wondering what the NYTBR would do to poor Homes-slice. Walter Kirn, who's been known to have Kirn-ified a few books in his day, was a little nicer in his negative (but non-commital) review, peppering his criticism with compliments: "This Californian talent for turning absurdity into sustenance and employing farce to build its future presents a challenge for a writer as knowing, cool and ingenious as A. M. Homes, who's decided — as all social novelists dream of doing but only the cocky or careless still attempt — to take a grand stab at the laughing vampire's heart and hope that her actions create a show worth watching." Then Kirn goes for the gut, writing that "Homes's respect for the wisdom of the East and her disdain for the vanity of the West are both very Santa Monica, of course. Properly combined with opportunism, in fact, they form Streisandism — the alchemical religion that allows Hollywood's bipolar elite to self-loathe its way into a party mood every wartime Oscar night."
He just backhandedly called Homes a "Streisandist." We are not sure — is this is better or worse than comparing her book to an episode of Dr. Phil? Perhaps more importantly, is Streisandism the new Scientology? And if so, we'll sign up only if Streisandists have a cruise ship like Freewinds that we can go on. All aboard!
Stumbling on Happiness
By Daniel Gilbert
Reviewed by Scott Stossel
Stossel reviews "happiness studies" expert Daniel Gilbert's new book, "Stumbling on Happiness," which examines why we're so terrible at predicting our future happiness. We enjoyed the review — dare we say, it made us "happy" — but take issue with one part. Writes Stossel:
...from the acknowledgments page forward, it's clear Gilbert also fancies himself a comedian. Uh-oh, cringe alert: an academic who cracks wise. But Gilbert's elbow-in-the-ribs social-science humor is actually funny, at least some of the time. 'When we have an experience... on successive occasions, we quickly begin to adapt to it, and the experience yields less pleasure each time,' he writes. 'Psychologists calls this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage.' But underneath the goofball brilliance...
Whoa there ho there, "goofball brilliance"? That "call it marriage" quip is not an example of goofball brilliance. We cringe imagining what the non-funny elbow-in-the-ribs social-science humor is to which Stossel refers. Take-my wife-no-really-take-it-style we imagine! Oy!
Timothy: Or, Notes of an Abject Reptile
By Verlyn Klinkenborg
Reviewed by David Gessner
Veryln Klinkenborg has written a book from the point of view of a literate turtle named Timothy who is oddly a female. We found David Gessner's review very adorable. With lines like "But then slowly (as befits her kind) Timothy starts turning on the turtle charm" and "But there is still the sticky problem of our very human turtle not being particularly turtle-ish" and "Timothy's language is English and proper, and some sometimes comes off like a little person in a turtle suit" we fell in love all over again with the word "turtle." However, more creepy than adorable is the accompanying illustration:
Let this be a lesson to us all: Never let a turtle-lover near Photoshop. Or our grandmother.