Three excellent book reviews for what sound like three terrible books (one of which is on my shelf at home, waiting to be read).
Levine airily insists that necessities in New York are different from those of a “farmer in Bangladesh.” But she seems to forget this relative wealth when she describes the daily life she leads with her partner, Paul. She paints a pitiful picture: This “highly insecure” existence includes two residences (an apartment in Brooklyn and a house in Vermont), flexible work that allows the couple to take off and ski in the afternoon, three cars, a windsurfer, and a healthy diet of such Whole Foods staples as “Thai sweet black rice” and “Mexican huitlacoche fungus.”
Friedman is such a genius of literary incompetence that even his most innocent passages invite feature-length essays. I’ll give you an example, drawn at random from The World Is Flat. On page 174, Friedman is describing a flight he took on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore to Hartford, Connecticut. (Friedman never forgets to name the company or the brand name; if he had written The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa would have awoken from uneasy dreams in a Sealy Posturepedic.) Here’s what he says:
I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins.
Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.
Last, but not least, Garrison Keillor savages Bernard-Henri Lévy’s American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.
In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You’ve lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don’t own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French. There’s no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title.
No matter how much these books suck (or not), the book reviews are a wonderful thing to behold.
…digging the critics…