Book Review

In her moving, elegiac new novel The Burning Girl, Claire Messud alludes to childhood as a Wordsworthian time when we still trail “clouds of glory.” For adolescence, though, she invokes the Biblical phrase “through a glass darkly,” meaning that what we think we see and know of life and ourselves is imperfect. That the “weight of the world falls upon us” in adolescence, and pain and fear and uncertainty replace the bliss of being young.

Despite praise for Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films – an assignment journalist Molly Haskell accepted for Yale University Press’s Jewish Lives series, this witty, accessible though sometimes glib inquiry disappoints. But not because Haskell’s not Jewish.

It’s been said that if there are raised letters on the jacket cover and the pages have a ragged, hand-cut look, the book’s important. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is, but in the case of Anita Shreve’s new novel, The Stars are Fire, her 18th, the signaling design proves correct. 

The name “Tim Ferriss” meant little to me until his father, a friend, showed me some magazine articles with his son on the cover, noting, proudly, that Tim’s business podcasts are #1 on iTunes and that “The Tim Ferriss Show,” the first such podcast on iTunes to go over 1 million hits, has been the most downloaded site for the last three years. Forbes called Tim a start-up investment guy we ought to know about. Fortune cited him among forty under forty to watch (he’s 39).

Toward the end of his adoring tribute to Mary Astor, the villainess star of The Maltese Falcon, the famous cartoonist Edward Sorel explains his half-century infatuation with Mary as just another odd couple. “Why did Frederik Chopin fall for a woman who smoked cigars?” he asks. And “Why would Donald Trump, who prides himself on his good taste, fall in love with Donald Trump?” In other words, don’t ask.  

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