Books

Sally Rooney’s Riposte, Ralph Nader’s Candidacy and Other Letters to the Editor

Bright New World

To the Editor:

On Brandon Taylor’s review of Sally Rooney’s third novel, “Beautiful World, Where Are You” (Sept. 12): The book struck me as a satire and a literary tour-de-force, evidence that the novel lives on.

Chapter 12 seemed to me to be Rooney’s modern riposte to Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor”; Chapter 14 could be her update and nod to a 19th-century British sense and sensibility. Throughout, the voice of J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield echoed, as did the sentence style of Hemingway — terse, declarative, deadpan descriptive and even masculine! Tolstoy’s inclusion of expository commentary at the end of some chapters of “War and Peace” is mirrored by Rooney at the beginning of most of hers. The clinching clues that this young lady of genius intends a salute to great literature and a satire of current social, political and publishing conventions are the main male characters and the sex scenes: perfect, complete idealizations of contemporary, feminist, politically correct men and sex. Brilliant.

I imagine Rooney might have been urged to hurry her third book, make it longer and freely strut her stuff. She sure did. With earth’s population of eight billion living longer, receiving more education and connecting worldwide, gifted young people are appearing everywhere in every human endeavor: science, business, sports and even literature. I find it encouraging.

Joseph V. Mortillaro Jr.
Binghamton, N.Y.

9/11 Reading

To the Editor:

At the risk of being one of many to point out omissions in Dwight Garner and Jennifer Szalai’s essay “Literature Since 9/11” (Sept. 5), I would like to speak up for the inclusion of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer.

This novel was published in 2005, shortly after the events themselves by publishing standards. And even then it “metaboliz[ed] 9/11 and its aftershocks.” Foer’s focus is not only on how one young boy deals with the event and his own grief, but also on how New Yorkers in each borough and everyone around the world at many stages of life do as well in the context of other events both great and small.

Your Guide to Fall Reading

Whether you want biographies, novels or essay collections, we can help you find your next book to read. Here are 57 titles to get you started.

    • New novels from Jonathan Franzen, Tiphanie Yanique and Gary Shteyngart are on the way.
    • Prefer nonfiction? Look for these essay collections, an exploration of the Marvel Comics universe and more.
    • Get to know your favorite actors and artists with these titles.
    • Six new books take up the pandemic, #MeToo and other timely topics.
    • Five biographies dive into the lives of Pablo Picasso, Oscar Wilde and more.
    • Or hear it straight from the authors: Check out these seven memoirs.

    Among other elements, the book deeply examines the mysteries of growing up, parenthood, the presence or absence of God, the struggle of belief, connection, communication, visual culture and the book as physical object. In its motif of duality, so well expressed in its final image of a half-dark and half-light page, it brings into view the paradoxical individuality and interrelationality of all of us and our experiences as well as our ambivalence to this fact, lending additional meaning to the image of the twin towers themselves.

    Matthew Kubacki
    Staten Island

    To the Editor:

    Garner and Szalai’s list of outstanding recent war novels omits Michael Pitre’s “Fives and Twenty-Fives.”

    Narrated in part by an Iraqi interpreter who was working on his master’s thesis (on “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”), it provides insight into those who helped the United States in the war.

    Kim Cox
    El Cajon, Calif.

    The Nader Effect

    To the Editor:

    In his review of Paul Sabin’s “Public Citizens: The Attack on Big Government and the Remaking of American Liberalism” (Sept. 5), Timothy Noah agrees with Sabin that it is time to put to rest the notion that Al Gore’s defeat in the 2000 presidential election was due to Ralph Nader’s “spoiler” candidacy.

    Not so quick, please. That George W. Bush beat Gore with a “mere 537 Florida votes,” as Noah points out, makes the sizable 97,488 votes that Nader received all the more important. Surely Nader’s name on the ballot pulled some votes away from Gore.

    Absent Nader’s candidacy, perhaps some of those votes would have been cast for others, or not at all. But it is far from a stretch to think that a significant portion of them, if only a few thousand, would have gone to Gore, giving him Florida’s 25 electoral votes and the national election.

    Kenneth Ragland
    San Pedro, Calif.

    Worlds and Words

    To the Editor:

    I was both surprised and thrilled to see Amy Kurzweil’s illustrated reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin’s wonderful novel “Always Coming Home” (Aug. 13).

    Introduced to the book by a friend when it was first published — accompanied by a cassette of music from the Kesh people — I finally read it recently. It is a feat of world (and word-) building à la Tolkien, and too little known. I am glad that the Book Review has brought its pleasures to a wider audience.

    Alan Goldman
    University Heights, Ohio

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