shaken & stirred

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a good review

Liz Hand has written a really enjoyable and fine review in today's Washington Post. (And you guys know I never say this, I'm not much of a review reader -- well, I read first and last paragraphs or read them after I finish a book or see a movie sometimes -- and am hardly ever impressed with the writing of a review in and of itself. Yes, I realize this is likely my flaw and not that of reviews in general.) The opening of her review of Peter Rushforth's Pinkerton's Sister:

Elvis Costello once remarked, more or less, that you get 19 years to make your first album and 12 months to make your second. The same holds true for publishing, where successful first-time novelists are expected to crank out sophomore efforts within a year. (If Book No. 2 tanks, you generally can take the rest of your life writing No. 3.) Pinkerton's Sister, the second novel by the English writer Peter Rushforth, arrives a cool 25 years after his acclaimed debut, Kindergarten. That first book was a slender volume -- less than 200 pages -- a controlled, harrowing take on "Hansel and Gretel," filtered through an account of Holocaust survivors and late-20th-century terrorism.

At first glance, Pinkerton's Sister, which clocks in at 729 pages, 235,000 words and 2.4 pounds, seems to have little in common with its trim older sibling. But like Kindergarten -- whose protagonist is an illustrator of children's books, and which is filled with references to children's literature and fairy tales -- the new work is a book filled with other books.

The book sounds as if it could have used some serious editing, something Hand expresses with this elegant sentence:
This story, with its sinister echoes of the gothic tales that Alice loves, and a nightmarish, beautifully written denouement set during a blizzard, should have been freed from some of the wads of paper that surround it.

And yet, like after reading a good Stephen Hunter review of a movie he finds flawed but interesting*, I find myself wanting to give the book a try.

*Hunter being one of the few reviewers I do regularly read, since he never finds himself reduced to plot summaries only.


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