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Review-a-Day

Saturday, March 25th


 

Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds

The Art of (Postpunk) Noise

A review by Gerry Donaghy

There is a saying that when one door is closed, another opens. The door on punk rock was effectively slammed shut in January of 1978, when Johnny Rotten, the lead singer/raconteur of the Sex Pistols, tauntingly asked his audience, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" at the end of their show at San Francisco's Winterland. It was a salient question at the time. In less than two years his band had gone from guttersnipe musical upstarts to ubiquitous media whores. Instead of smashing the system, they became the lubricant for the machine that is the music industry. Seeing the punk movement he so earnestly believed in devolve into both parody and its own lockstep conformity, Rotten quit the band and immediately distanced himself from punk.

According to Simon Reynolds, the postpunk door opened when Rotten, rechristened with his surname Lydon, formed Public Image Ltd, or PiL, which was a distinctively different band from the Pistols. Incorporating Jamaican dancehall bass, dissonant,...



New Selected Poems and Translations by Ezra Pound

Happy Birthday, Ezra Pound

A review by Chris Faatz

October 30, 2010, marks the 125th birthday of that utterly original American voice, Ezra Pound. Pound is equally renowned as poet, translator, essayist, and champion of previously unknown works. Included in the latter category would be the long poem "The Wasteland," by his good friend T. S. Eliot, which we'd not have today without Pound's tremendous efforts as an editorial midwife. So, there's much to celebrate on this august anniversary. Not least of which is the newly released New Selected Poems and Translations edited by Richard Sieburth and published by New Directions.

New Directions...



My Friend Leonard by James Frey

The Reentry

A review by Anna Godbersen

For a book that begins with a jailhouse beating and ends with a forced entry to an exclusive country club, James Frey's My Friend Leonard has a very pink cover. There is good reason for the pinkness of the cover, although it has nothing to do with Frey's style; readers of his last aggro memoir, A Million Little Pieces, will recognize the bare bones storytelling, the big swaths of anger, anxiety and rage (liberally punctuated with fucks, fuckings and motherfuckings), that characterize his sophomore effort. My Friend Leonard begins with Frey's post-rehab, post-jail reentry into society, and it...



Beijing Coma by Ma Jian

Casting a Lifeline

A review by Francine Prose

Sixty pages or so into Ma Jian's novel Beijing Coma, the hero, Dai Wei, is troubled by the memory of a harrowing anatomy lecture that he attended as a university student. Taught by "a celebrated cardiovascular specialist," the class observed the dissection of the fresh corpse of a criminal whom the government had just executed (in celebration of National Day) and whose organs had been speedily harvested for transplant.

Dai Wei's moral revulsion was tinged with personal anxiety, for this was not the first time that politics had placed a serious strain on his love life. In high school, he...



The Futurist: A Novel by James P. Othmer

Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

A review by Ron Charles

I have seen your future. Or at least a small part of your summer. You're reading a debut novel by James P. Othmer, and you're laughing, and then you're feeling deeply unsettled about the state of the world.

As predictions go, that's an easy one. (Still waiting for flying cars, meals in a pill, being greeted as liberators.) Othmer was an executive with Young & Rubicam, a mammoth marketing communications company that operates behind the scenes in 81 countries and describes itself as "a single, borderless, boundaryless agency." That sounds something like working for Doctor No...



Acceptance: A Novel by Susan Coll

New Fiction

A review by Thomas Mallon

Susan Coll's new novel about the top-tier college-admissions game tries hard and amiably, but it needs to be wait-listed behind worthier spring fiction. Acceptance follows the luck of some affluent suburban-D.C. high-school seniors, including "AP Harry," a charmless version of Michael J. Fox's old Family Ties character, a kid so obsessed with getting into Harvard that he perceives the world through a compulsive synonymizing brought on by too much SAT prep: "He looked up and saw an extremely tall, thin (lanky, gangly, awkward) man with a shock of white hair..."

Carried by the bright...



My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson--His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous by Susan Cheever

Spirit against spirits

A review by John Sutherland

Alcoholics Anonymous proclaims itself the largest self-help movement in the world. With the fall of Communism, its integration into hospital rehabilitation therapy and court sentencing, and the adoption of its twelve-step programme for addictions ranging from chocolate, through cocaine, to sex, AA can only get bigger.

Once associated with sad old men in church basements, the fellowship has become chic. Two critically admired confessional best-sellers ("drunkalogs", in AA speak) currently testify to the fellowship's power to save: James Frey's A Million Little Pieces and Augusten Burroughs...



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