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Book Review Roundup: Movie Flops, Reality TV And The Constitution

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"Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self" by Danielle Evans
The New York Times

Evans follows girls and young women who are intelligent, gutsy and black. (Her few male characters orbit closely around sisters, girlfriends and daughters.) Rather than limiting the collection's gaze, this perspective amplifies the universal pitfalls of coming of age in 21st-century America.

"MY YEAR OF FLOPS: The A.V. Club Presents One Man's Journey Deep Into the Heart of Cinematic Failure" by Nathan Rabin
The New York Times

"My Year of Flops" covers some 50 underappreciated pictures; every troubled orphan is assessed and deemed a Failure, a Fiasco or a Secret Success. Rabin scrutinizes stinker after stinker, from the 1956 Howard Hughes-produced anti-miscegenation screed "The Conqueror" (he refers to its central figure, played by John Wayne, as John Wayneghis Khan), to the dismal 2005 film version of "Rent" (which he describes, aptly, as starring "fake 20-somethings playing fake bohemians in a wholly inauthentic take on la vie bohème"), to Cameron Crowe's woebegone 2005 "Elizabethtown" (which confounded Rabin so much he wrote about it twice).

"EELS: An Exploration, From New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Amazing and Mysterious Fish" byy James Prosek
The New York Times

And while to the Western eye eels lack the charisma we like to assign to glamorous marine megafauna like, say, striped bass (for which eels are often used as bait), their mysterious life cycle and tendency to turn up on the end of the line just about everywhere make them excellent game for an angling writer who is prepared to go deeper, so to speak.

"By Nightfall" by Michael Cunningham
The Los Angeles Times

Revolving around Peter and Rebecca Harris -- fortysomething aesthetes in Manhattan's SoHo, he an art dealer and she the editor of an independent art journal -- Michael Cunningham's "By Nightfall" wants to be a novel of ideas, an inquiry into the relationship between beauty and meaning, but it can't sustain the weight of its own self-consciousness.

"The Little Prince: A Graphic Novel adapted from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry" by Joann Sfar
The Los Angeles Times

In a new adaptation, graphic novelist Joann Sfar reinterprets this French classic with reverence and in saturated color. Gone are the art-naïf watercolors that Saint-Exupéry inked for the original, as is most of the text. Presented in neat, six-panel pages that preserve the most salient plot points, key phrases such as "draw me a sheep" are layered over drawings that illustrate the bond that forms between the two. At 110 pages, the graphic novel is longer than the original book, yet it is quicker to read because the prose is so condensed.

"L.A. Candy" by Lauren Conrad
Slate

If you've ever dreamed of the words "New York Times best-selling author" preceding your name, Conrad's literary achievements--that she landed a book deal at all--may make you want to tear off your fingernails. But the books themselves are entertaining looks at the pitfalls of Hollywood and the distortions of reality TV. While on The Hills Conrad seemed congenitally dull, her fictional voice is sharp and critical of everyone involved: her naive protagonist; the manipulative but not quite evil producers behind the show; and the hangers-on and industry that feed on low-level stars. The series should be required reading for anyone who answers reality-show casting calls in hopes of making it to the D-list.

"Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution" by Pauline Maier
The Wall Street Journal

The arrival of Pauline Maier's "Ratification," then, could not be more timely. It is the first comprehensive account of the debates in the 13 states over adoption of the Constitution. Others have written about specific aspects of the ratification struggle--about the arguments of one side or the other, or about the debate in a particular state--but remarkably, until now, no historian had written a full-length account of the politics, personalities, arguments, and outcomes between Sept. 17, 1787, when the Constitutional Convention completed its work, and May 29, 1790, when the last of the original states, Rhode Island, ratified the document.

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