Culture Vulture: reviews round-up

The critics' verdicts on Lionel Shriver and Michael Chabon.

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So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

The Telegraph's Lucy Daniel sees "big American themes of work and freedom at play" in the Orange Prize-winner Shriver's new novel. Shriver "makes her readers work to find the tender spots amid the toughness"; the "bleak" subject of US healthcare, though treated polemically, is made "uplifting" in the end. In the New York Times, Leah Hager asks: "can a novel that regards human experience through its relationship to dollars and cents have literary merit?" The answer is a guarded yes. "There's nothing wrong with writing a newsworthy novel, but at times these prodigiously researched and exhaustively argued critiques read more like excerpts from a position paper," she writes, praising nevertheless Shriver's "energy and grit."

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

For Doug Johnstone of the Independent, Michael Chabon "eloquently discusses in several of these essays the idea that childhood has become so packaged and formulated that we leave today's kids no room for experimentation." The author emerges from this "brimming with compassion and empathy, but not afraid to let loose a tirade once in a while if he feels the need." Michael Sayeau, writing in the Guardian, finds that "the problem for [Chabon's] readers is that the stuff of good, stable parenting isn't necessarily the stuff of persuasive, illuminating writing." Despite moments of intuitive grace, "its overarching sanity makes it difficult for it to transcend the level of right-thinking banality."

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