Critical Notes

Roundup: May 3, 2010

By Bethanne Patrick

The LA Times lead review last weekend was Gregg Barrios on “The Farthest Home Is an Empire of Fire” by John Phillip Santos:

His story is initially more compelling than his search for ancestors past — what ancestor wouldn't be eager to learn of a future progeny's success? — but this labyrinthine quest isn't about his mother's family as much as it is about finding a way to write and research that story. Santos wisely takes a more daring and imaginative what if approach to explore his forebears' “deeper unrecorded legacy, the story they had imagined themselves to be living and telling to time.”


Michael O’Donnell reviews David Lipsky’s “Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace” in The Washington Times:

Even though officially Lipsky was the interviewer and Wallace the subject, they became pals, talking about movies, music, craft. Lipsky abashedly admits that he wanted to be liked. His subject was a fun dude, observant, generous, exuberant, hilarious—in short, great company. The reader, hanging out with Wallace vicariously, gets the sense of jogging along with a world-class sprinter. The jogging is very fine.


Tim Brown on Morris Dickstein’s “Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Depression” in Rain Taxi Online Spring 2010:

Demonstrating a mastery of his source material, Dickstein persuasively argues that “the arts of the thirties give us a richly subjective understanding of the mind and heart of the Depression” as well as “an incomparable case study of the function of art and media in a time of social crisis.”


In Obit Magazine, Julia Klein reviews Michael Kammen’s “Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials:”

What Kammen calls the “cultural politics of exhumation” is a subset of larger debates over cultural memory, as expressed through monuments, historic sites, museum displays and other representations. As reputations rise and fall, and power changes hands, neglected figures may be singled out to receive their new historical due, and a more appropriate gravesite and memorial may begin to seem necessary.


Art Winslow’s review of “Hellhound on His Trail” by Hampton Sides appeared in The LA Times:

Sides' writing is trenchant on King's political aims and concerns, stuffed with sharp first-person quotations, chilling in detail and particularly haunting in evoking the confusion and pathos in the minutes following the single crack of Ray's rifle. Half of “Hellhound on His Trail” builds up to the murder, the remaining half follows law-enforcement attempts to identify and track down the unknown assailant, and the efforts by King's bereft circle to carry on his work in earnest.

NBCC member Bethanne Patrick is the Managing Editor of The WETA Book Studio (<a href=""></a>) and tweets as The Book Maven.