After a little vacation, Intern Alexis is back with her recap of the latest installment of the Times shitter-friendly Book Review. This week, Joe Queenan talks about how's he such a darn good reader, metaphors get out of control and Sam Tanenhaus fills some blank pages with some insomniac ramblings (good as anything else, really). After the jump, your weekly guide to sounding as if you'd know a book if it hit you on your head.
We've read our fair share of mediocre back-page essays in the New York Times Book Review, but this week's, "Why I Can't Stop Starting Books" by Joe Queenan, seemed particularly mediocre. The premise of the essay, "but I am never reading fewer than 25 books," that Queen lays out for us at the beginning is merely a ruse that enables him to then list all 25 books and to preen over his abilities as a reader. He ends up coming to the conclusion that the reason he reads so many books at once is not, as his friends suggest, because he suffers from a short attention span. Instead, he writes, "I do not stop reading books
because I lose interest in them; if anything, I have too long an attention span, one that allows me to read dozens of books simultaneously without losing interest in any of them." Well, isn't that sweet.
There is an exciting experiment wherein Queenan tries his darndest not to start a new book, and "whittle down the number to a manageable 10 by July 15," but... Queenan is just so frickin intellectually curious
that he can't resist buying a book about the 1954 French catastrophe at Dien Bien Phu and the experiment fails.
At the end of the essay he buys another book he doesn't need:
"I'm already reading 25 other books, so why am I buying this one?" I asked a friend. "Do you think this is a disease?"
"Yes," interjected the cashier. "But it's a good disease to have."
"Yes," agreed Alexis. "But let's just hope it's not sexually transmitted... "
"Wow, that's odd that there is a 800-million-word, four-full-pages-long review of the new Richard Hofstadter biography smack in the middle of the Book Review," we initially thought to ourselves upon doing a quick skim of this week's NYTBR. Then we thought, "Oh no, that's not odd, because it's by Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the Book Review, and he can do whatever he wants." What's next? His freaking "Dear Diary" entries?
Generally when reviewers take issue with an author's curious use of metaphors we're right there with them ("Her eyes were like pomegranate seeds, spit out and then eaten again and then pooped out") but we're not sure we agree with Danielle Trussoni's claim that Elisabeth Hyde's "metaphors can veer out of control." Trussoni is a little concerned that "a police officer's perspiration problem is revealed when 'twin
pockets of sweat darkened her underarms, like Muppet mouths.'" But we, on the other hand, are not! We think that is genius and adorable and clever. Muppet mouths for president 2008.