My new “Think Again” column is called “Crashing Occupy Wall Street” and it’s here.
My new Nation column on the nuttiness of Times pundit Thomas Friedman is here.
My Forward column on my kid’s Commie Humanities reading list is here.
There’s a bunch of new Library of America releases. My favorite might be The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael edited by Sanford Schwartz, though it loses points for coming outside the format of the series. I don’t know why Kael was not thought to rate the full treatment. She’s one of the most exciting writers to publish on any topic in the second half of the twentieth century. Her essay on Cary Grant, is, as I’ve said before, brilliant and beautiful. It is a model of the kind of critical intelligence that has (almost, but not quite) disappeared from our contemporary political and cultural life.
Another big ticket item from LOA this season is:
The American Trilogy 1997–2000
American Pastoral • I Married a Communist • The Human Stain
Enough has been written about these books so that I don’t think I need to say too much. I like “Communist” much better than most people and “Pastoral” less than most. I’m persuaded that in Pastoral, Roth is punishing Swede for trying to pretend he’s not Jewish, which is interesting, though some might find it objectionable. For the record I should like to note that the liveliest passages in the book are the Nathan Zuckerman ones, and I happened to have gone to the exact same Mets game that Zuckerman is allegedly attending and apparently Roth did too. “Stain” has already achieved a kind of classic status and it’s pretty great.
Also out recently is:
Novels & Stories 1963–1973
Cat’s Cradle • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater • Slaughterhouse-Five • Breakfast of Champions • Stories
I’ve not read Vonnegut since college, but when I saw this collection, I thought it was a greatest hits volume. Other, more devoted readers might complain, and if you’re one of those, well, here’s to you. Otherwise, this one will be enough for most people, I’m guessing. The collection I’m not so crazy about is Andy Borowitz’s alleged 50 Funniest American Writers*: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion. I don’t want to get into a fight with Andy, but a) a number of these pieces are not funny at all b) another number are funny but are not even close to being the funniest piece by the person in question (Woody Allen, Calvin Trillin, Veronica Geng).