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Review-a-Day

Friday, December 21st


 

Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel by Marie Phillips

Divine Wit

A review by Ron Charles

Marie Phillips's first novel, Gods Behaving Badly, hovers somewhere between Pride and Prejudice and an episode of Bewitched. I'm not complaining; I have an unusually high regard for Elizabeth Montgomery's oeuvre. And Austen got off some good lines, too.

Phillips lives in London and studied anthropology at Cambridge, but now she's following that great British tradition of high-brow silliness with a story that suggests the gods must be crazy. The premise of her sentimental sex-romp is that the Greek divinities are still alive, but barely. They're holed up in a London townhouse that they bought for a song 350 years ago during the plague. But they've let it run to Hades, and there's only so much even a crafty god like Hephaestus can do when none of the others will so much as hang up a toga. As usual, these 12 unearthly, egotistical roommates bicker and complain and plot revenge. But believe me, it's a long way down from Ovid; closer to what MTV might call "The Divine World."

The ...



About a Mountain by John D'Agata

Lingering Questions

A review by Vu Tran

Near the beginning of About a Mountain, John D'Agata reflects on the human search for meaning, "the dream that if we linger long enough with anything, the truth of its significance is bound to be revealed." Pursuing that truth is the aim of every ambitious writer, and for D'Agata -- an experimental essayist who teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa -- significance lies also in the pursuit itself.

In the summer of 2002, after helping his mother move to Las Vegas, he ended up lingering to investigate two local occurrences. One was the Senate approval of Yucca Mountain -- 90...



Bossypants by Tina Fey

Fame, Glory And Laughs In Tina Fey's "Bossypants"

A review by Janeane Garofalo

I received Tina Fey's new book, Bossypants, last Friday and read it straight through until 7:40 Saturday morning. I guess, as they say, I couldn't put it down. Not just a trite expression; in this case it is literally true.

Switching gears for a second: I'd like to reach back to the turn of the century, specifically the 1990s. Career-wise, things were going very well for me. And I was frequently ashamed of that fact. Especially when I knew Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. They were always so much funnier, and so much younger, than me. And I could only assume they were as perplexed by my success...



Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam by David Kaufman

The Absurdist

A review by Adrienne Miller

By the time of his death in 1987, Ridiculous Theatrical Company founder Charles Ludlam had become a massive influence to an entire generation of actors, comics and improvisers. In the seventies, for instance, Bette Midler wanted to play the lead in Ludlam's musical Corn (a proposal to which the resolutely forward-thinking Ludlam said No way). Born in Long Island in 1946, Ludlam was a much-loved little boy, raised principally by his mother and two doting aunts. That his life and career seemed in large part a kind of attempt to flee this heavy maternal influence is an irresistible, and obvious, ...



Everyman by Philip Roth

The Disappearing Novel

A review by Joseph O'Neill

Following the historical panoramas of his recent work, Roth's new novel -- a novella, really -- is a transfixing summary biography of a seventy-one-year-old mortal from Elizabeth, New Jersey: "He'd married three times, had mistresses and children and an interesting job where he'd been a success, but now eluding death seemed to have become the central business of his life and bodily decay his entire story."

Thus the personal history of this "average human being" is reduced almost to a surgical history: hernia trouble as a boy; a burst appendix and peritonitis in his...



Verandah People by Jonathan Bennett

A review by Georgie Lewis

There is a bird native to Australia called the lyrebird. Think of it as a "liar" bird, for it is a remarkable mimic, not only of other bird songs, but of the sounds of encroaching industry and destruction. It replicates with astonishing fidelity the sounds of its habitat slowly being sacrificed to commerce: the chop of an axe on wood, the buzz of a chainsaw, and the jangling hum of a cell phone ring. Time moves on, habitats change, and Australian lyrebirds record and reiterate. They say lyrebirds have sometimes preserved songs from ancient aboriginal corroborees.

In Jonathan Bennett's...



Twilight (Twilight Saga #1) by Stephenie Meyer

What Girls Want

A review by Caitlin Flanagan

Children's books about divorce -- which are unanimously dedicated to bucking up those unfortunate little nippers whose families have gone belly-up -- ask a lot of their authors. Their very premise, however laudable, so defies the nature of modern children’s literature (which, since the Victorian age, has centered on a sentimental portrayal of the happy, intact family) that the enterprise seems doomed from the title. Since the 1950s, children have delighted in the Little Bear books (Mother Bear: “I never did forget your birthday, and I never will”) -- but who wants to find a...



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