Welcome back to the Critical Hit Awards for book reviews. This is a round-up, a recommended reading list, and—why not?—a terribly prestigious and coveted prize. Nominate your favorite review of the month by tweeting it at @electriclit with the hashtag #criticalhit or cast your vote in the comments section below.
Hard to believe, but in a month when Luc Sante dropped some knowledge about Patti Smith, Ben Marcus got everyone talking about The Flame Alphabet, and our beloved readers came through with some great nominations, none of those book reviews actually won. I know, I know. You’re aghast. Well, the competition for Critical Hit Awards is brutal. Here are this month’s winners.
Other critics don’t so much review Caitlin Flanagan as attack her. But Meghan O’Rourke keeps her cool and spells out exactly what’s missing from Flanagan’s “cultural history of girlhood.” O’Rourke can be radically mellow: “If your daughter is a relatively engaged teenager with an active academic life, worrying over whether she has sex at 16 or 19 is not unlike fretting over whether the kindergarten serves anything sugary at snack time.”
If you’re not familiar with the Latin etymology of “concrete” and the rhetorical device of antanaclasis, you may be in grave danger of not fully appreciating Tan Lin’s memoiristic text about language, family, and geology. Peter Nowogrodzki is here to help. His review is like a set of footnotes—the history of field guides to birds!—that make Lin’s work sound brilliant.
“The fabled Golden Age of publishing” is the backdrop for Richard Seaver’s memoir. In Choire Sicha’s telling, the Grove editor’s life becomes a dashing tale of financial risk and impeccable taste. That is, until Sicha calls Seaver “the very face of institutional sexism in publishing” and reminds us, as a former Gawker editor, that publishing is always a murky business.
Read a good review lately? Nominate it for a Critical Hit Award by tweeting it at @electriclit with the hashtag #criticalhit or cast your vote in the comments section below.
– Brian Hurley is over here.