Wells Tower

Wells Tower’s 2009 story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, was met with nearly universal critical praise, the capstone being Edmund White’s glowing front page review in the Times book review, an enviable accomplishment for an author who had already made a name for himself as an ace magazine reporter (he has since been deemed one of the New Yorker's twenty best writers under 40). Now, in the Brooklyn Rail, Paul Maliszewski has written a much-discussed, mostly negative review of Tower's work, noting a curious inertness in his fiction, and finding that it is too much like his detail-obsessed yet oddly detached journalism: “When the stories most need a character expressing something difficult, Tower just creates another chilly narrator, an aloof observer who registers minutiae but cannot feel.”

The Guardian investigates how a great American novel becomes a capital-G Great American Novel, comparing Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector with Jonthan Franzen’s Freedom. (via The Millions).

Meehan Crist has stepped down as The Believer's book reviews editor (presumably to focus on writing her forthcoming book, Everything After), and Daniel Levin Becker is taking over the section, with intriguing plans to recast it entirely. In a recent letter to contributors, Becker writes: “We're planning to move away from the one-review-per-page format, which will leave room for longer pieces about multiple books and miniature blurbs about things that bear only minimal consideration. We're also going to review more than just books: forthcoming reviews already include discussions of song lyrics, ad copy, a sitcom episode, and the wording of the 2010 U.S. Census.” Becker notes that conventional book reviews will be rare; instead the magazine will “prefer to run completely cockeyed appraisals of books, or relatively close readings of specific elements, details or themes.”

"Did you read . . . ?" The IFC sketch comedy Portlandia hilariously sends up the daunting task of keeping up with everything.