Have Words–Will Write 'Em

On Books, Writers, Most Things Written, Including My Light Verse.

Archive for December, 2020

Jonathan Lethem’s The Arrest

without comments

Although the publisher says this novel is not a post-apocalyptic or dystopian story, Lethem not only makes Journeyman an expert on post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories, he gives the duo a “pet project, one of Todbaum’s supply of ‘killer pitches,’” a science fiction movie called Yet Another World. ….Todbaum wants Journeyman to pillage scenes for Yet Another World from Walter Tevis’s book Mockingbird, and other books like Earth Abides, Dr. Bloodmoney, Station Eleven, and A Canticle for Leibowitz, and pilfer dystopian scenes from writers like Riddley Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, and Stephen King. Pilfering, modifying, and referencing dystopian scenes is pretty much what Lethem does in his book. Readers might get a literary rush out of Lethem’s dropping the names of long-time acknowledged heavyweight champs like Vonnegut, Atwood, and King. But it was probably even more fun for Lethem, through Todbaum, to take a shot at old Cormac McCarthy and his dystopian, post-apocalyptic novel The Road. McCarthy’s fans probably won’t like reading: “If McCarthy were honest, he’d admit he wrote a campfire story, Sandman. Instead he inserts all this Old Testament horseshit. The world’s reduced and cleansed, the ambiguity scrubbed out.” Lethem’s is no country for old men.

You can read my review of Jonathan Lethem’s The Arrest in The Brooklyn Rail by clicking the image below.

You can buy Jonathan Lethem’s The Arrest at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 15th, 2020 at 7:55 am

Lost in Space in ‘Black Hole Survival Guide,’ by Janna Levin

without comments

Her “Survival Guide,” illustrated by painter and photographer Lia Halloran, is an exuberant, flashcard-size book of 13 chapters with, naturally, a black cover that draws you in, as it depicts an astronaut similarly attracted toward a mirror-like sphere, perhaps exploring it. Levin takes us on a virtual adventure to black holes, a safe trip that we can actually survive as long as we stay far enough away. Her writing is clear and so colloquial that it sometimes seems as though she’s right there chatting with you, telling a story in a conversation so compelling that you hardly notice the complexity of the actual physics. That’s her trick of talking about science to a lay audience. Levin writes, “I don’t know what it was like where you were…,” before telling the story of black holes as if you were pursuing one in its own territory like you’re the astronaut — you in your space suit on the book’s cover.

You can read my review of Janna Levin’s Black Hole Survival Guide in The Boston Globe by clicking the image below.

You can buy Janna Levin’s Black Hole Survival Guide at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 5th, 2020 at 2:34 pm