Parul Sehgal of The New York Times Book Review reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
This week, we're taking a look at two new biographies of literary lions: Norman Mailer and Philip Roth.
On the cover of the New York Times Book Review, Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, reviews "Norman Mailer: A Double Life" by J. Michael Lennon. Mailer, who died in 2007, was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of books including "The Naked and the Dead" and "The Executioner’s Song." He was also a poet and playwright, a mayoral candidate, a co-founder of the Village Voice, a staunch anti-feminist, a father of nine, and a compulsively unfaithful husband who stabbed one his wives. Carter calls Mailer "one of the least boring and most tireless and tiresome public figures of the last half of the 20th century."
Our review praises the biography’s attention to both Mailer’s seamier sides and his immense creative energy. Carter writes, "Mailer never coasted and he never sat back and let his fame do the work. Right up to the end, when his heart, his legs and his lungs had basically given up. Mailer remained in the game, always working on the next big book on the next big subject."
Sharing the cover of The Book Review is Martin Amis on "Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books", an authorized biography by Claudia Roth Pierpont, a staff writer at the New Yorker. It’s a detailed look at Roth’s corpus, his great themes and obsessions, his successes and his flops, his champions and critics.
Amis calls the book, "a lively and clever monograph" and says that Roth, now 80-years-old and retired from writing (or so he says), comes across as "droll, sagacious, and securely self-deprecating."
Find more reviews of new books in the New York Times Book Review at nytimes.com/books.