If the sweat wasn't making your eyes burn and consequently swell shut, you might have enjoyed this week's edition of the Times Book Review. Such is not the case, however — and so you can barely keep your eyes open while you dangerously head towards a heatstroke. You don't have much time to catch up on your literature before you pass out, so do enjoy this abbreviated guide to the review courtesy of Intern Alexis. After the jump, Josef "father of Jessica" Joffe gets slapped, The OC gets praised, and Benjamin Kunkel gets misty for a life lesson-filled memoir.
First off, Hugo Lindgren, let's hang out! He wants there to be a Laguna Beach about New York City private school kids (us too!) and he's addicted to The O.C. (us three!). We also dig his style. While pondering why there is no reality show for the 79th and Park crowd, he asks, "are they not loving hard enough?" and he throws around compound words like, "sick-rich" and the Book Review equivalent of a Yo' Mama taunt, writing, "let's just say the book's schematic narrative could help teach a geometry class. The angles are that cleanly drawn." A little odd, though, that Lindgren, editorial director of New York Magazine, she who houses the New York private school-obsessed "Intelligencer" column, left out the juicy tidbit that Trees taught at Horace Mann and that "Academy X" is clearly based on said esteemed institution and that all hell broke loose a few months ago when the book first came on the scene and that Trees was called the"biggest self-righteous arrogant traitor" by a Riverdale board of trustee member. That said, we would still like to have an O.C. party with you. We'll bring the Tostitos.
Reviewer Jennifer Senior came away from Joseph Epstein's expos of friendship not being very interested in his expos on friendship. We on the other hand, came away from Jennifer Senior's review of Epstein's expos on friendship feeling incredibly sorry for Epstein. Over and over again, Senior points out what a sad sack of potatoes Epstein is:
Repeatedly — oppressively, almost — Epstein says that he doesn't go in for the therapeutic, that he does not find sharing "manly," that he doesn't "wish to burden friends with such meager inner turmoil as I possess."
He's formal even when professing his goofiness — "He also encourages the madcap in me, which is very agreeable," he says of one friend — and dispassionate when discussing his sadness. "In a fortunate life," he says, "I have had only two serious (nonmedical) setbacks: I went through a divorce in my early 30's and I lost a son in his 28th year, when I was myself 53." Hearing a divorce described as a setback is common enough, but the death of a son is not; one reads on, expecting him to open up, to explain how his friendships bore this loss. Did they freeze? Intensify? Strain under the weight of his sadness? He never says. "A friend who is a psychiatrist, subsequently a good friend, once asked me, in the spirit of kindness, if I cared to talk to him about it," he writes. "I said no, thank you. The only one I care to talk to about it is God, though thus far he hasn't answered any of my queries on the subject."
Epstein, we'll be your friend! Let's hang out and watch The O.C. with Hugo Lindgren.
"It" father about town, Josef - father of Jessica - Joffe, gets his "Uberpower" uber-schooled by the International Herald Trib's Roger Cohen. Cohen's lede sums up the review:
Josef Joffe, a thoughtful German worried by the United States he loves, has written a book with endless, irritating alliterations, cudgel-you-over-the-head repetitions and a belabored quest for the kind of journalistic hipness that speaks of the "real estate" of the Roman Empire. Beyond the fizzling attempts at verbal cleverness, however, lies an important reflection on a time when anti-Americanism is perhaps the world's most effervescent idea.
Annoying writer; good points. Get this guy a J-school professorship!
Oh Kunkatron, how we missed thee! BK returns to the NYTBR this week, penning an essay on the state of the memoir. According to Kunkel, it seems like only people who have chugged bottles of Robitussin while
being sexually molested by a pair of Siamese twins in the supply closet at Taco Bell who then went on to spend three years in a prison in Thailand before eventually defeating the odds and turning into Madeline Albright can write them these days. Thoreau types who write about ponds and sitting near them are no longer getting their memoirs published. Kunkel asks:
But where is the contemporary writer reporting honestly, ambitiously and without therapeutic cant or smug self-help recipes on his or her effort to live a proud and decent life? Contemporary memoirists have taught us mostly how to survive. They haven't begun to teach us how to live.
A rallying cry to those who have lived uneventful lives - quit sitting around watching "Instant Beauty Pageant" on the Style network and start writing your boring memoir. Kunkel will read it!