Book Review // The Lawgiver

The Greatest Story Ever Retold The Lawgiver Herman Wouk Simon & Schuster 2012, $25.99, pp. 232  The Lawgiver, a new novel by the 97-year-old, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Herman Wouk, is about a new novel that fails to get written by a 97-year-old, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist named Herman Wouk. It is honest, highly readable, entertaining and more than a little silly. But above all, what any respectful reader takes away from this book is a sense of awe that this colossus of 20th-century American fiction is still at it in his 10th decade. What is particularly impressive is the manner in which this nonagenarian delivers his narrative—in short, almost epigrammatic bits, most via the current media of electronic messaging: texting, emails, phone and Skype conversations between the characters. This from the author who was heralded as the last important writer still composing in...

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Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon cover

Record Store Blues

Telegraph Avenue Michael Chabon Harper 2012, $27.99, pp. 465 The most perilous pitfall for a tour de force is that the tour can come off as forced. Alas, Telegraph Avenue, a lengthy opus of virtuosic language and ambitious, potentially riveting themes, tumbles into that very pit.  Its dazzlingly complex sentences too often come across as self-conscious flourishes, and its ideas, gussied up in jazzy garb, ultimately feel slight. My disappointment in this book saddened me. I know without a doubt that Michael Chabon is a major talent. His novel Wonder Boys is near the top of my list of brilliant American comic novels of the past 50 years, right up there with Portnoy’s Complaint and Richard Russo’s Straight Man. Wonder Boys is a laugh-out-loud masterpiece that deftly lampoons literary ambition and its evil twin, self-defeat. The prose is nimble, the dialogue...

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