AROUSED BY BOOKS by Anatole Broyard


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If anyone questions the longevity of a book (logistically and pragmatically known as shelf life), what of the shorter-lived book review? As a corrective, Broyard, the alternate daily New York Times reviewer has collected some 100 of the 300 pieces he has written in the last three years -- expanding on some of them. His canon will be made plain when you read his piece on Pauline Kael's Deeper Into Movies -- ""she includes the cosmos. . . a Kael review gives you a pretty good idea of the current state of our morality, our aesthetics, our politics -- and yes, I might as well say it: our souls."" Broyard has of course much less space to work with -- he also has none of her maverick thrust. But he does take a sound position on most of the books he reviews from (initially reluctantly) mysteries to art (a special area of interest). Sometimes he's personally self-indulgent (""I was trying to plow right through Home Life in order to get my review in on time, but it was impossible. Every few pages I had to stop and admire the book -- or simply sit back and feel it. My God, but my fellow creatures are fascinating!""). Well, some fellow creatures may fred this fascinating. However he does have courage (re the untouchable Nabokov -- ""brilliance is no substitute for sympathy"" so sadly lacking in all his books save Lolita); often the just-right insight (re Malamud -- he's ""too pained by life to be able to shape it at will in his stories""); considerable humor and flair (re Donleavy -- ""to call the action of this book free association would be to flatter it""); and chivalry (re Anais Nin -- ""turning her into a vogue may be the best solution to the ungallant task of evaluating her critically""). But he is far more uncomfortable with today's issues and newer women (""Let us hope that women never become so liberated that it is impossible to write love poems to them""). While Broyard is not in a class with Sheed, Burgess or Leonard -- all former book reviewers of greater resilience and presence -- he's a conservator with a vested interest in the past.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1974
Publisher: Random House