John Irving's review of Gunther Grass' Peeling the Onion
in the New York Times Book Review, Sunday July 8, 2007 In an era when daily newspapers are downsizing book review sections--or gutting them altogether--it's more than heartening to see the Gray Lady let John Irving unwind for more than 4,400 words on Gunther Grass' memoir in its Sunday book review. I've never been even a passing fan of either--I read Grass' The Tin Drum more out of a sense of duty to try to be something resembling a literate person, not coming from a background that put any priority on such, and dove into a string of Irving in my late teens because college peers from better, private East Coast schools had read him, and, I feared, my missing allusions to such didn't endear me to the young women from better, private East Coast schools. Neither grabbed me as a reader, and I never thought once about revisiting either when there's Boris Vian to reread or Wyndham Lewis to retackle. But Irving's "A Soldier Once" guided tour through Grass' memoir--intimate, personal, exceptionally informed, and lovingly elucidated--makes me feel like I need to revisit both, especially Grass. What more can you ask for from an essay--and what better argument for the value of book review sections in newspapers. Mike Jones' "My 64" featuring Bun B and Snoop Dogg Houston humid gully beats meet California G-funk in this wiggly lead single from Mike Jones' upcoming The American Dream. And it's a sensible sonic and thematic match: Both Houston's Fifth Ward and Compton are perfect climes for this ode to classic convertible cars. Superbad, due out in August, and its trailer alone has almost caused a little pee to come out with laughter.