CRITICAL HIT AWARDS: January 2012

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.

Normally I use this space to remind you how exciting and informative book reviews can be. But I really want to share a quote from a book review by Joshua Cohen instead:

The Department of Homeland Security’s Analytic Red Cell Unit employs thriller novelists to envision terrorism scenarios: Brad Meltzer and Brad Thor and writers not named Brad receive assignments like, “Think of a way to blow up the Super Bowl.” When I first heard about this unit a few years ago, I started going to parties, drinking too much, and telling everyone I’d been recruited to Red Cell 2: We were a group of literary novelists, tasked with envisioning the terror scenarios the thriller novelists were envisioning before they envisioned them. This was in the event that any of the thrillerists went rogue. (Soon I was hinting at the existence of a Red Cell 3, assembled to predict our predictions of predictions. It was staffed entirely by poets in Brooklyn.)

See? And that wasn’t even the best review of the month.

Best Obsession

The Truth about Marie by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Reviewed by Christopher Byrd in The Barnes & Noble Review

“One reads Toussaint for his dashing sentences,” says Christopher Byrd, “and for their surprising, sometimes exulting engagement with a tangle of feelings.” Byrd reads a lot of Toussaint, apparently. He situates The Truth About Marie in relation to Toussaint’s earlier work and delves into a deep connection with Jorge Luis Borges. It sounds like a pleasurable obsession to have.

Best Save

The Chairs Are Where the People Go by Misha Glouberman and Sheila Heti
Reviewed by Jon Cotner in The Los Angeles Review of Books

This book sounds boring and disastrously self-indulgent. Heti has written down what her friend Glouberman thinks about… stuff. But the review saves them, calling the book a contemporary revival of rhetoric and dialogue in the tradition of Plato, Wittgenstein, and Montaigne. It also holds out the promise of “drunken wildfire.”

Best Alarm

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Reviewed by Gary Sernovitz in n+1

Eulogies for Steve Jobs haven’t been entirely flattering, but most of them avoid comparing the deceased Apple CEO to Joseph Stalin. This review goes there. Gary Sernovitz claims the Apple legacy is inextricably linked to unethical working conditions in Chinese factories. His suggestion that Jobs’ “totalitarian” style makes “China’s rise [feel] like Apple’s rise” is more persuasive than anyone wants it to be.

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.

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