The cover review, entitled Hero and Heroin, was not, as LA-centric me thought, about Jerry Stahl's I Fatty. In fact, it's a balanced review of Brett Easton Ellis' Lunar Park. Film critic AO Scott manages to avoid the likely me-n-Brett intro that I imagine almost anyone on the NY literary scene could write. Instead, he acknowledges hype and prejudice, gives the book a fair shake, and finds it good to ok.
In her review of The Prophet of Zongo Street, the debut short story collection by Mohammed Naseehu Ali, Elizabeth Schmidt delivers a spoiler, revealing the end of the final story and explaining how it gives meaning to the whole. So if you're interested, stop before the third column.
Ada Calhoun, who does the fiction round-up this week, can't stand Man Camp by Adrienne Brodeur, which she calls "fantasy ficiton for wealthy, young, soulless Manhattan-dwelling women with Lady Chatterly tendencies." Nor can she stand Kingston By Starlight by Christopher John Farley, a "goofy" gender-bending pirate novel: "the only thing one might empathize with in the course of reading this grog is the apostrophe key— beaten to a pulp to yield ye-olde speak like 'glitter'd,' 'weather'd'...." Maybe it's just because I'm reading this before 7am, but I think she could have backed off the nastiness a bit and still made her point. She liked a few things, tho: The Hill Road by Patrick O'Keefe and Sky Burial by Xinran.
I would have appreciated a bigger dose of nastiness in Barbara Ehrenreich's back-page essay that, ever so mildly, takes down biz-world self-help books like Who Moved My Cheese. (Full disclosure: I worked at a dot-com that went public the day the bubble burst; when, months later, it came apparent just how screwed we all were, we each were given our very own copy of Who Moved My Cheese and were instructed to read it very, very carefully).
For me, the surprisingly interesting book of the week is the nonfiction A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous. A diary of a 30-year-old woman living in the German capital as it fell to the Russian army, it is now out in a new translation. It chronicles the details of her days and her neighbors, including a series of brutal rapes by the liberating soldiers. Reviewer Joseph Kannon writes that, more than just a diary, it is "a work of literature, rich in character and perception."