This week's white-knuckle Times Book Review features a an over-educated Yale graduate reviewing the new novel by an over-educated Yale graduate. Which, everyone is going to want to read that, right? Then there's the super pretentious review of a super pretentious book that name drops every author who's ever died. And then a bunch of fawning letters to Joe Queenan who wrote about reading in which, finally, the snake of the New York literatti swallows its own tail, drinks its own Kool Aid, and bores the rest of us to death. After the jump, our own over-educated Yale graduate, Intern Alexis, tries to keep it all down.
The Emperor's Children
By Claire Messud
Reviewed by Meghan O'Rourke
Meghan O'Rourke went to Yale and writes for a "contrarian" publication and in this week's NYTBR, writes about Claire Messud who also went to Yale and wrote a book about a group of privileged New Yorkers who went to Brown who write for a "contrarian" publication.
To make matters more complicated, the "Up Front" column, penned by "The Editors," which we t ake to mean Sam Tanenhaus, Yale MA '78, explains how O'Rourke went to Yale, and wrote about Messud (who went to Yale) who wrote a book about Brown graduates.
And here's the icing on the cake that may just blow your mind: We went to Yale (and St. Ann's where Meghan O'Rourke went!) and write for a "contrarian" publication.
Yale graduate/St. Ann's-attender (we didn't graduate from there) writes about Yale/St. Ann's graduate writing about Yale graduate who wrote about Brown graduates. AND Yale graduate/St. Ann's-attender writes about "Up Front" column written by Yale graduate about a Yale/St. Ann's graduate writing about a Yale graduate who wrote about Brown graduates.
There you go.
Now you can send us a bag of burning poop.
Voyage Along the Horizon, Your Face Tomorrow
By Javier Marias
Reviewed by Wyatt Mason
This was one of the more alienating reviews we've seen in quite sometime. Almost as alienatingly pretentious as a class we heard about called "Re-reading Faulkner." Damn. Wyatt Mason might be a smartie, but there is no reason to write this first paragraph:
To judge the Spanish novelist and essayist Javier Mar as solely on the basis of "Voyage Along the Horizon" would be akin to imagining Flaubert only from "Salammbo" or Nabokov from "Transparent Things.
This is the like the obnoxious Jeff Bridges character in The Squid & the Whale who referred to A Tale of Two Cities as a "minor Dickens."
Mason then goes on to drop Proust, Italo Calvino, Agatha Christie (she doesn't really count, but we threw her in for good measure), Proust again, and uses the words Conradian, Jamesian and Melvillean in a row.
Remember, New York Times Book Review writers, your audience may have just finished reading "Come on and Do the Tuckermotion with Me." Be gentle with us.
Oh, come now re: the GUSHING letters to the editor about Joe Queenan's show-offy and dull backpage essay, "Why I Can't Stop Reading Books."
Saul Schachter of Sea Cliff, NY writes this whimsical little number:
I started reading Joe Queenan's essay, "Why I Can't Stop Starting Books" (Aug. 6), when about halfway through I switched over to the review of the Richard Hofstadter biography, which I didn't finish because I was attracted by "The Syringa Tree," Pamela Gien's novel of apartheid...
And so on.
Leni Grossman of Whitehouse Station, NJ cutesie-poo-ly writes:
Aging lady would like to meet Joe Queenan. Thick glasses but good measurements: 36 (books on my nightstand), 26 (books on the table next to my reading chair), 36 (books piled on the floor....
And so on.
And finally, Rochelle Clerkin of Hamilton Square, NJ, writes:
Thank you, thank you and thank you again, Joe Queenan. I thought I was the only one who kept the same unfinished, dog-eared volumes in strategic reading locations around my home for years at a time....
And so on.
We were trying to think of something snappy to say involving Saul Schacter, a Syringa tree, and Joe Queenan's feces, but we're reeling from the mental image of Leni and Joe, rolling lustily around in a pile of unread paperbacks. Yeek.