Reviewers’ Darlings

Three books are the reviewers’ darlings of the moment. Oddly, they all have extremely short titles; Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee, Infinities by Jon Banville and The Ask by Sam Lipsyte.

Leading the pack in number of holds is The Ask. It was ordered in the lowest quantities, so it also has the highest ratio of holds, averaging 8:1 in libraries we checked. Booklist starred this “darkly humorous story.” It received equally strong reviews from Kirkus and PW, but LJ felt that, despite being a “A treasure trove of brilliant asides and one-liners,” it “never really comes together as a coherent novel.”

The consumer press is also divided,

  • NYT BR, 3/7, Lydia Millett; “Lipsyte is not only a smooth sentence-maker, he’s also a gifted critic of power…What makes The Ask work so well is the way it dovetails its characters’ self-loathing with their self-consciousness…And that’s why this book is a success: not only the belly laughs but also the sadness attendant upon the cultural failure it describes.”

The author is also being featured in interviews,

  • WSJSlouching Toward Success; “Having made failure the signature theme of his fiction, Mr. Lipsyte seems especially unprepared for the critical success of his new novel, The Ask.”
  • New York magazine, “The Loser Chronicles: With his new novel, The Ask, Sam Lipsyte finds the funny in failure.”
The Ask: A Novel
Sam Lipsyte
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – (2010-03-02)
ISBN / EAN: 0374298912 / 9780374298913

BBC Audio; UNABR; 9780792770794; 7 CD’s;  $89.95

Audio available from OverDrive


The Surrendered is the second in number of holds, but, because of an average of twice as many copies on order, hold ratios are less than 3:1. Michiko Kakutani gives it a strong review in the NYT today, ending with a Michiko-style back-hand compliment,

If the reader stops and thinks about it, there are lots of infelicities of craft in this novel…But Mr. Lee writes with such intimate knowledge of his characters’ inner lives and such an understanding of the echoing fallout of war that most readers won’t pause to consider such lapses — they will be swept up in the power of The Surrendered and its characters’ aching and indelible stories.

The Surrendered
Chang-rae Lee
Retail Price: $26.95
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover – (2010-03-09)
ISBN / EAN: 1594489769 / 9781594489761

ebook available from OverDrive


Infinities, by John Banville has been reviewed nearly everywhere but is described most memorably by Laura Miller in Sunday’s NYT BR,

If The Infinities has the bones of a novel of ideas, it’s fleshed out and robed as a novel of sensibility and style. Its drapery is velvet and brocade — sumptuous and at times over-heavy.

Other reviewers agree with her assessment that,

Fortunately, lavish demonstrations of literary virtuosity don’t bog down The Infinities, as they often did with The Sea, the novel that won Banville the Man Booker Prize in 2005.

Library holds, however, are modest.

The Infinities
John Banville
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2010-02-23)
ISBN / EAN: 0307272796 / 9780307272799

RH Audio; UNABR; 9780307706652; $35

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