February 13, 2004

How It Ended
Jay McInerney
The Toughest Indian in the World
Sherman Alexie
The Last Empire
Gore Vidal
The Paris Diary and The New York Diary
Ned Rorem

Judging Books -- It's too bad we're not suppose to judge books by their covers; if we were, McInerney's short-story collection would be a knockout. I picked up the Bloomsbury edition in London (and may I say how cool it is to say that!) where I fell head-over-heels for this handsomely designed printing. So how are we to judge books? I found these stories slight, even featherweight, but McInerney is a good writer, so maybe these stories simply suffered in comparison -- I had just finished reading Raymond Carver. Similarly, I am now enjoying the perspective and insights of Sherman Alexie's book -- but is that because I've recently finished the McInerney? Reading Gore Vidal's essay collection was getting on my nerves because Vidal is such a self-centered writer; but then I also started reading Ned Rorem's diaries. Did I say Vidal is self-centered? "Ned Rorem" must be an anagram for meglomaniac. Reading these two books together, Vidal soon appeared downright humble. All of this only underscores the ultimate inconsequence of critics and reviewers, myself included. One man's opinion is, after all, nothing more than one man's opinion -- at that time, in that place.


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