Category Archives: Book Review


So this week I took a look at Michael Oren, the intellectual-turned-Israeli ambassador. He had some serious missteps coming into the job a year and a half ago and now seems to have found the right role for himself. Take a look.

I also realized that I’ve been covering Oren for a while now. Here’s a profile I wrote in 2007. I also reviewed both of his big books. In an essay taking apart the historiography of the Six Day War, I included his important book on the war. And for his last tome, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: The United States in the Middle East, 1776 to 2006, I wrote a long review in Bookforum.

“Blini-Wrapped Bildungsroman”

My review of Gary Shteyngart’s new novel is up. You can find it here. I had some fun with this one, especially trying to describe the scary but funny dystopia that he has created:

But who would want to spend eternity in this illiterate future where all that is most shallow has prevailed? Everyone is a slave to their äppäräts, a handheld device that makes the iPhone look as ancient as one of those brick-sized car phones Michael Douglas used in “Wall Street.” People are on them constantly, combing through intimate details about the strangers around them — cholesterol levels and favorite sexual positions — and then rating and ranking each other. “Credit polls” on every corner flash the credit scores of those walking by. Completely transparent jeans, called “onionskins,” are all the rage. In this future, adults speak in the abbreviated patois of 12-year-old teenage texters. In one of Lenny’s first conversations with the woman who will trigger this “super sad love story,” she tells him, “TIMATOV. ROFLAARP. PRGV. Totally PRGV.” To which Lenny, as bewildered as we are, answers, “IMF. PLO. ESL.” Oh, and there are no books. When Lenny opens up a volume of Chekhov on a flight, he is reprimanded by his neighbor, who says the book smells “like wet socks.” In his own apartment, he guards his contraband paperbacks as if they are the last of some endangered species of butterflies.

Super Sad True Love Story

I just turned in a book review of Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, which will appear in the Forward next week. I’ll let my review speak for itself, but I couldn’t help but post the trailer for “Super Sad True Love Story,” which appeared on the internet this week. Like the book, and like everything Shteyngart writes, it’s very, very funny. The world of the literati is filled with so much over-inflated self-importance, it’s always refreshing to see someone who actually seems to be having fun, who has a sense of humor. Whatever you think of his writing style, Shteyngart is not a pretentious man, which is something I wish I could say for more authors. Then again, the guy was so kind as to blurb my book, so I probably shouldn’t be trusted to have an opinion about him…