Vernon God Little, Amis, Salih, Don Quixote, Frederick Barthelme, more

I agree with Sam Sifton’s review of DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little, which appears in this week’s New York Times Book Review. Sifton praises Pierre’s writing, his rendering of adolescence, and more, while acknowledging the book’s shortcomings:

Of course, ”Vernon God Little” isn’t a perfect novel. It doesn’t aspire to be. It is a howl of satirical protest against much that helps define American culture to the rest of the world: reality television, fast food, religion, the death penalty. The youthful exuberance of that moralizing wears a little. It is, in fact, the only part of the novel that makes one think of the author’s nationality, or lack of one: Born in Australia to English parents, Pierre (his real name is Peter Finlay) has lived in both the United States and Mexico, and now resides in Ireland. He appears to know America well, but does not fully understand it. Texas barbecue, for instance, which comes in for a drubbing throughout the book, is not an emblem of what is wrong with this nation; quite the opposite.

Amis’ Yellow Dog takes a bit of a beating in Walter Kirn’s review, but Kirn takes care to distance himself from Tibor Fischer’s withering assessments. Kirn concludes:

Aside from the novel’s jagged formlessness and Amis’s wearisome fondness for comic euphemism (there isn’t an embarrassing bodily function that he doesn’t dress up with a fancy Latinism), the writing is still agile and exact, the hyperbole driven and punishing and the characters — when he lets them be — charismatically repulsive. The problem is Amis’s intellectualism, which sticks out like a parson at an orgy and shrinks and shrivels whatever it goes near.

Although Amis is the featured author in the book review this week, an excerpt from Yellow Dog is notably missing from the round-up. The Washington Post has posted a transcript of an online chat with Amis. (Via Bookwatch.)

Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies, has been reissued, but not retranslated. (Last item.)

Michael Dirda says the latest translator of Don Quixote is about as capable as his predecessors, but Dirda criticizes the novel itself. (Via Sarah Weinman.)

Dail Willis admires Frederick Barthelme’s Elroy Nights.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’ death, biographer Andrew Lycett lists his ten favorite works by Thomas.


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