SINCE THE mid-’60s, David Cornwell, writing under the name John Le Carré, has given us literate spy thrillers tied in some way to the political zeitgeist of Cold War Britain and by extension Western Europe. Whether he is working with Palestinians or Northern Irish nationalists or Russian mobsters, he finds a way to deliver their worlds and their choices and also to keep us entertained. Based on his earlier, inestimable success, the advertising copy for his newest novel, Single & Single, declares that he “both epitomizes and transcends the novel of espionage”–not a small claim.
WRITING ABOUT MUSIC is like dancing about architecture, Lori Anderson said, at once over- and understating the case. The deep and physical reaction we have to music can’t be stimulated or duplicated by any other medium. The ecstatic sympathy brought on by, say, one of John Coltrane’s ascensions or the roar of Nirvana live can’t be codified or explained away, though thousands of critics and academics will try.
THERE IS SOMETHING of J.G. Ballard’s studied love of desolation in Red Land Blue Land, an appreciation for zones created by human thought yet inhospitable to human existence, a place where the twin illusions of technological progress and liberal sentimentality break down, stripping mankind of its conceits and leaving in their place nothing but ruin and savagery. On first viewing Claudio Hils’s photographs of simulated battlefields, the reader pauses at the vacant bombing ranges and the fake villages populated by manikins, thinking: how chilling, how strange. Whose bizarre idea was this?
LIKE ITS hermaphroditic narrator, Jeffrey Eugenides’ long-awaited second novel is a hybrid–at once a Greek-American family saga and a picaresque coming-of-age narrative.
THE DISASTER BOOK, like the disaster movie, enjoyed a brief rebirth during the last years of the millenium. The apocalyptic atmosphere was ripe for megablockbusters like The Perfect Storm and Titanic, Into Thin Air and Deep Impact, and their mega-success spawned copycats, some of which became megahits themselves. Even now, well into the new millenium, the public’s hunger for these appears insatiable, though it may just be an echo, supply hoping to spur more demand.