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And a highly original book it is, too. Like Salon.com itself, it collapses the distance between highbrow and lowbrow. Stephen King and Mario Puzo coexist with Lydia Davis and Donald Antrim; as a result, the game quickly becomes one of who is not included and who is. To Miller's credit, the answers continually surprise (though several omissions are regrettable). Loosely limiting authors to those who have some "contemporary" presence, entries attempt to place these writers in their time, to argue for their importance and influence. The entries themselves often suffer from bad writing; here's a metaphor that should be blocked: "If you could grab hold of one of O'Brien's images and wrestle it up from the page, you'd find long roots sunk deep into the earth. There's blood coursing through her exquisite prose, balancing its seeming delicacy with solidity and weight." Or, my favorite moment of exasperating silliness: "Are you sure you hate Bret Easton Ellis as much as you hate yourself?" A more limited pool of reviewers would have diminished a feeling of unevenness that undermines the book's authoritative posture. The best writing comes from Miller herself, who has emerged as the Pauline Kael of the book scene. Her prose is effortlessly provocative.
Often an entry about a writer's work will be followed by an essay by that author. These added essays and digressions are wonderfully varied and idiosyncratic: David Gates on "Breaking Up with the Beats," Dorothy Allison on why "Every Novel Is a Lesbian Novel," and though Calvin Trillin isn't assessed, he is allowed to write about "Books That Made Me Laugh." Combined with the guide's primary information, these additions allow the reader a glimpse into the chatter of famous authors--an imaginary tea party free of mercenaries and showoffs, of course, where pure-hearted readers hold forth about the joy of books and everybody has a turn. --Ellen Williams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I use this book as a reference over and over, and it's a fun read too. I sometimes grab it when I can't sleep at night for some light "sound bytes" to read.Published on March 3, 2007 by sarahc18
I return to this book over and over. It is uncanny at times. It can read your mind about the books you read. Read morePublished on April 18, 2006 by C. J. Anderson
It's hard to find anything like this book. Most literature reviews refuse to take any kind of stand except when talking about the classics. Read morePublished on January 11, 2006 by Seamus
Laura Miller is one of the most witty and exciting writer's around (see Miller's weekly column(s) in the NY Times and Salon. Read morePublished on June 6, 2004 by Adam
David Ford has done an excellent job on this book. It tells an interesting story. It is provacative and enlightening. Read morePublished on September 12, 2003 by Montgomery
Despite its 455 pages, this book is a fairly quick read. It is a book about contemporary literature, although not at all boring as book reviews sometimes tend to be. Read morePublished on May 27, 2003
The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors is one of the best books on contemporary literature I've ever read. Read morePublished on August 10, 2002 by Deidre
Like most inveterate readers (especially readers trained as librarians), I collect lists of books and authors and I'm a fanatical reader of book reviews. Read morePublished on June 28, 2002 by Michael K. Smith
Some of the reviews and "Must Read" selections make me engage in self-mutilation. In spots, the writing is embarrasing and too off-handish. Read morePublished on June 14, 2002 by Erin Tigchelaar