As reviewers come back from the holidays, they seem to be making up for lost time. There have been so many new book reviews so far this week that we wanted to follow up with a weekday edition of our book review roundup.
"Last Words", George Carlin
George Carlin didn't want to write an autobiography in the classic sense. In his mind, only "pinheaded criminal business [leaders] and politicians" wrote autobiographies. The word he settled on to describe "Last Words" was "sortabiography." A comedian's sortabiography.
"Memoir: A History", Ben Yagoda
San Francisco Chronicle
There is nothing easier to poke fun at than people vain enough to write books about themselves.
Yagoda, historian and humorist, takes ably to this literary high ground. Rather than indulge the newest genre to afflict our shores, the memoir of the failed book deal - see "Out of Sheer Rage," Geoff Dyer's nonbiography of D.H. Lawrence - Yagoda insists upon a more rigorous treatment: not "Memoir: A Memoir" but "Memoir: A History."
"My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir", Zarah Ghahramani
The trickle of testimonies over the past six months has turned into a revelatory flood about prisoner abuse in Iran's jails. Despite coming to power pledging to dispense justice with Islamic mercy, the Islamic Republic has presided over horrific state-sanctioned crimes. Ms. Ghahramani's traumatizing experiences serve as a reminder that, even after eight years of reformist rule, little has changed in the regime's far-flung power centers.
"DownBeat: The Great Jazz Interviews -- A 75th Anniversary Anthology", Hal Leonard
Laid out less like a book and more like a magazine, the anthology's pages feel contemporary rather than retrospective. Headlines announcing a new tour by Louis Armstrong, an in-depth interview with Duke Ellington or a feud between musicians capture the urgency of music journalism as highbrow tomes rarely do.
"The Play That Changed My Life", edited by Ben Hodges
New York Times
Despite its parlor-game title, "The Play That Changed My Life" is anything but a dry assignment in theatrical autobiography. Rather, as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Paula Vogel ("How I Learned to Drive") writes in her introduction, "this book documents desire: the moment writers-to-be were caught in the tantalizing web of theatrical allure."