David Blackburn

Across the literary pages | 15 December 2010

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Here is a brief selection of the best offerings from the world's literary pages:

Whilst the chattering classes are reverberating to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, Jon Michaud of the New Yorker isn’t:

‘I breathed a sigh of relief and held up my hands like a distance runner breaking the tape. Though “Freedom” is sizable enough at 562 pages, it read to me like a much longer book. As I made my way through the final chapters, I began to feel like Walter Berglund, trapped in an unending marriage to this moody, depressive, Patty-like novel, while alluring, Lalitha-like books—“Unbroken,” “Room,” “Tinkers,” etc.—pressed themselves on me. I was sorely tempted to dump “Freedom” and take up with one of those svelte volumes, but having devoted more than a month to the Berglunds, I gritted my teeth and carried on.’

And for those who still can’t get enough, here is Franzen talking about himself to the Guardian.

The chattering classes aren’t reverberating to Gordon Brown’s Beyond the Crash, and probably never will. Joseph Stiglitz, however, has given the tome a glowing review in the Slate. How much editorial arm-twisting did Gordon do, I wonder?

‘Much of Beyond the Crash will be familiar to readers who care about economics and globalisation, but seeing the issues through a political leader who helped shape globalisation for more than a decade provides new insights. Like many of us, Brown's thinking was shaped by the East Asian economic crisis and the clear need for financial regulation and global co-operation demonstrated by that crisis. He doesn't dwell, however, on the mistakes of the past, either those that led to that crisis or the more recent one. What he tries to do is to learn the lessons – as different as they may be from the conventional wisdom that prevailed before the crisis. He clearly sides with those who believe that unregulated markets may be prone to excessive volatility, with booms and busts in real estate and destabilising capital flows.’

Writing in the Guardian, John Walsh tries to understand the return of the celebrity memoir, and is forced to extremes:

‘These books are not only dominating the bestseller lists at he moment, but my life too. The plan is simple enough: to collect these less-than-literary works, resolve to get beyond the first sentences, and thereby take the national pulse. So, I duly line up the memoirs of McIntyre, Minogue, Alan Sugar, Chris Evans et al – along with the supposed work of a fictional meerkat – and get to it.’