Walter Kirn

  1. 2008–2009: After an October Surprise …… the new president handles the financial crisis with aplomb.
  2. Celestial MarriageThe Romneys experience couples’ massage.
  3. Reservation XThe Native Americans in “On the Rez” aren’t noble savages, to be revered for their mystical connection to nature. For once, refreshingly, they’r […]
  4. Melting-PotboilerThe Polish heroine of Susan Sontag’s compelling new novel dreams of losing her European identity. But rebirth isn’t as easy as crossing the ocean.
  5. Viral CultureMalcolm Gladwell uses a medical metaphor to explain modern culture. And his optimism recalls that of a medical forebear: Dr. Pangloss.
  6. Heaven Can WaitE. L. Doctorow’s newest depicts a New York on its way to a spiritual awakening. But as a novel, it doesn’t quite get out of bed.
  7. In Trump We TrustWe should have guessed that Donald Trump (albeit completely inadvertently) is one of America’s greatest political satirists.
  8. BlackjackedWhat are a couple of smart, ironic writers doing in a place like a casino? They’re (how did you guess?) losing. But their loss is the readers’ gain.
  9. Call Me Mrs.“Ahab’s Wife,” the latest in the emerging genre of footnote fiction, doesn’t add much to Melville’s masterpiece. On its own terms, though, it’s […]
  10. Toy StoryIn Michael Lewis’s new book, a “Last Tycoon”-ish tale of brilliant excess, a Silicon Valley genius builds the tallest sailboat in the world.
  11. Bad AptitudeIs the S.A.T., instituted to create a fairer society, having the opposite effect? That’s Nicholas Lemann’s conclusion in his excellent new book.
  12. ManhandledIn her new book, Susan Faludi takes her reporter’s microscope insearch of American men. Predictably, she misses the forest for the trees.
  13. GoodfellaFrank McCourt’s latest is another virtuoso display of charm and sheer likeability. But the suspicion arises: Is he really a misanthrope?
  14. Hitler in BedRon Hansen is a very good writer, but did we really need someone to imagine the (predictably nauseating) sex life of the personification of evil?
  15. TownmouseDisney’s controlled experiment in small-town life is both a little Utopia and a breed of fascism. But mostly, there’s not enough there there.
  16. Speed ReadWe can’t escape the accelerating pace of modern life, argues James Gleick, so we might as well enjoy it. But that doesn’t leave time for much el […]
  17. Lost Generation XGeoff Dyer’s “Paris Trance” follows Fitzgerald back to France – with ecstasy in place of vin rouge. But here, the City of Light is dimmer.
  18. The UnredeemedIn a world obsessed with self-help, personal growth, and happy endings, David Gates’s stories are realistically, refreshingly bleak.
  19. Leap of FaithThe cobbled-together “Juneteenth” makes one wonder – did Ralph Ellison ever intend to let the evangelical Reverend Hickman loose?
  20. The Sweetest ScienceIn his new book, Francis Fukuyama offers evidence that things are bound to improve. It’s a beautiful theory – but has he read the papers lately?
  21. True WestWriting about the West is trickier than it looks – and Annie Proulx, in her new collection of stories, carries it off without a hitch.
  22. Second ComingPaula Fox’s “Desperate Characters,” reissued after 28 years, hardly feels dated – one definition of great literature.
  23. Immaculate Confection“East of the Mountains,” David Guterson’s follow-up to “Snow Falling on Cedars,” is polished, heartwarming, civic-minded – and devoid of mystery.
  24. All the President’s ManGeorge Stephanopoulos’s odyssey from star-struck, ambitious young politico to older, wiser, much richer pundit is an emblematic generational sto […]
  25. Lewinsky in OzDorothy had ruby slippers; Monica had presidential knee pads. Dorothy had the wicked witch; Monica had Linda Tripp. Guess who the wizard is.
  26. Diet FictionNew novels by Hanif Kureishi and Chimo are attractively slender – the book as accesory – but there’s less there than meets the eye.
  27. Escape From IrelandOut of old-fashioned Irish literary stock – crazy father, long-suffering mother, many restless children – Emer Martin makes a modern, fast-pac […]
  28. The Smashing EggheadsNorman Podhoretz’s memoir of bare-knuckle intellectuals is good, trashy reading – Jerry Springer by another name.
  29. More Than ZeroFor a few hundred pages of his new novel, Bret Ellis makes art out of vacuous night crawlers and brand names. Then – too bad – he tries to mak […]
  30. Gore TextAn anthology spanning 50 years of Gore Vidal’s smart, gossipy, opinionated prose reveals this acerbic writer – whatever literary form he choose […]
  31. Updike at EaseIn “Bech at Bay,” John Updike takes aim at German tourists and literary-world pomposity, among other targets. He’s a good shot – but they’re st […]
  32. Well RedPhilip Roth revisits the Red-scare fifties and finds the same old stories of passion and disillusionment – but told in rhetoric that’s a weird […]
  33. Last Year’s ModelJay McInerney’s “Model Behavior” is a retelling of a certain eighties novel about Manhattan high life – but with book critics as villains. Mere […]
  34. As L.A. DyingIn “Ecology of Fear,” Mike Davis takes cruel pleasure in describing the disasters – natural and man-made – awaiting the Pompeii of the Pacific.
  35. Commercial FictionIn Richard Powers’s “Gain,” capitalism itself is the main character, and selling soap has never been so interesting.
  36. Best WesternJust when it seemed his “Border Trilogy” had thundered out of control comes Cormac McCarthy with a novel that lassoes the first two neatly.
  37. The Norman Heart“The Time of Our Time” is Mailer’s compelling, exhausting anthologized account of Mailer’s boxing match with history.
  38. Boyish SmarmThere’s wit and good writing aplenty in Nick Hornby’s “About a Boy.” But the plot is a well-worn homily of emotional growth.
  39. Buyer’s RemorseThe products have forsaken the consumers in Douglas Coupland’s oddly old-school dispatch from the McAbyss.
  40. She’s Gotta Have ItIn her strange new novel, “Spending,” Mary Gordon has taken the themes of Jackie Collins and transposed them to the Upper West Side.
  41. Tough Chaps Don’t DanceIn “Night Train,” Martin Amis wanders into a dark alley: His novel about hard-bitten American detectives is a stiff.
  42. review
    For White Girls Who Have Considered SuicideElizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation is a work of singular self-absorption, and its pain often seems fake on the page.