Also of interest
The nonfiction of four fiction masters
See What Can Be Done
by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, $30)
Short-story writer Lorrie Moore rarely fails to be interesting, said Danny Heitman in CSMonitor.com. This 400-page collection of previously published essays and reviews is “a testament to the breadth of her intellect,” because her wit and insight come through whether she’s writing about John Cheever or Friday Night Lights. Though a few dated political pieces, including an essay on the Monica Lewinsky affair, shouldn’t be here, the book’s variety is among its sharpest pleasures.
The Destiny Thief
by Richard Russo (Knopf, $26)
How does a mediocre writing student wind up winning a Pulitzer 20 years later? asked Joan Silverman in the Portland, Maine, Press Herald. Richard Russo, the “funny, endearing” author of Empire Falls, can’t precisely say how he did it, but this essay collection will reward fans of his storytelling, criticism, and insights on craft as he seeks to unravel the relationship between talent and destiny. “I’ve never believed writers are special people with special gifts,” he writes. Yet his gifts are obvious.
by Michael Chabon (Harper, $20)
Michael Chabon has written “deeper and more challenging” books about family, said Adam Kirsch in TheAtlantic.com. But in Pops, the Pulitzer-winning novelist is writing about being a father, and he’s understandably inhibited by a desire not to say anything his children would resent. “These are determinedly entertaining and uplifting essays,” though, and even when Chabon is exploring such familiar themes, he handles the material “with appealing sincerity and self-deprecating wit.”
Somebody With a Little Hammer
by Mary Gaitskill (Vintage, $16)
Mary Gaitskill’s first book of essays—now in paperback—feels like essential reading, said Michael Upchurch in The Boston Globe. The author of Bad Behavior and Veronica “has a gift for traversing taboo territory with a subtlety that’s sometimes downright Jamesian,” and she exercises that talent in pieces on date rape, porn star Linda Lovelace, and, surprisingly, a lost cat whose disappearance prompts a meditation on traumas big and small. Skip the book reviews; “the more substantial essays are the gold here.”