Feature

Also of interest...in critics, essayists, and thinkers

Pauline Kael by Brian Kellow; Backward Ran Sentences by Wolcott Gibbs; Buckley by Carl T. Bogus; Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan

Pauline Kael
by Brian Kellow
(Viking, $28)
“There are now many moviegoers too young to know much about Pauline Kael,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. Should they pick up Brian Kellow’s “smart and incisive” biography of the influential film critic, they’ll be in for “a colossal eye-opening.” Kellow captures Kael’s strengths but also her weaknesses, like a tendency to “cheerlead for the filmmakers who became her friends.” Though Kael was often reckless with her opinions, “her love for film has no present-day counterpart.”

Backward Ran Sentences
by Wolcott Gibbs
(Bloomsbury, $22)
Unlike his New Yorker contemporaries E.B. White, James Thurber, and A.J. Liebling, Wolcott Gibbs has been passed over by history, said Michael Scherer in Time.com. This “marvelous tour” through Gibbs’s diverse and barbed writing aims to correct the slight. The 667-page collection shows Gibbs to have been “one of the great curmudgeonly scribblers of the now-passed American century,” a writer who “found a calling putting others in their place with uncommon edge.”

Buckley
by Carl T. Bogus
(Bloomsbury, $30)
It’s impossible to talk about William F. Buckley “without talking about his personality,” said Terry Teachout in BarnesandNobleReview.com. The National Review’s founding editor was an “irresistibly charming man,” which made it possible for him to band conservatives together in “a movement that is now as central to politics in America as the liberalism that he opposed so passionately.” Carl T. Bogus’s book, which ends in 1968, captures Buckley’s intelligence, but it misses Buckley’s charisma completely.

Pulphead
by John Jeremiah Sullivan
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16)
Journalist John Jeremiah Sullivan is one of his generation’s best essayists, said Dan Kois in NPR.org. In these stories, taken from GQ, The Paris Review, and elsewhere, the young Kentucky native tackles subjects from Axl Rose to animal attacks, and makes each one compelling. His secret? He possesses an “essential curiosity about the world” and exhibits “great good humor in revealing both his subjects’ and his own foibles.”

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