The New York Times Book Review- Sunday May 7, 2023


Face to Face With Culture’s ‘Monsters’

An illustration of a grid of different faces of monsters, with the labels “polymath,” “genius,” “Nobel laureate,” “virtuoso,” “Pulitzer Prize winner,” “artist’s artist,” “best painter ever,” “visionary” and “comedy legend.”

Claire Dederer’s deft and searching book surfaces a “fan’s dilemma” over such figures as Vladimir Nabokov, Woody Allen, Willa Cather and Roman Polanski.

By Alexandra Jacobs

Expanding on a popular essay published in The Paris Review a month after the exposure of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation, “Monsters” sustains an essayistic, sometimes aphoristic tone throughout 250-odd pages.

Dark Shadows, Dark Times

Welcome to three novels set in locales where life is exceedingly difficult.

This is an illustration in shades of red, white and blue, of two women pressing their hands against a wall and peering at each other as if through a mirror.

By Alida Becker


The title comes from a French expression for twilight. Sure enough, her novel sends us to the dusk that borders the familiar and the wild, the known and the unknown. It’s where our beliefs and suspicions can cast dark shadows over our lives. And, of course, the lives of others.

One Man’s Foray Into the Heartland of the Far Right

Alarmed by the country’s political divisions, Jeff Sharlet embarked on an anguished quest to understand the rise of antidemocratic extremism. In “The Undertow,” he documents his findings.

In this color photo, a group of men and women, including a man holding a baby, an older woman in glasses, and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, stand alongside what appears to be the wall of a red barn, pledging allegiance to the American flag. Several people in the group hold their right hands over their hearts as they make the pledge.

By Joseph O’Neill

THE UNDERTOW: Scenes From a Slow Civil War, by Jeff Sharlet

The premise of “The Undertow,” Jeff Sharlet’s anguished new book of reportage, is that the United States is “coming apart.” The disintegration is political. It involves the rise of the autocratically inclined Donald Trump; the attempt by members of the Republican Party to overthrow the election of Joe Biden in January 2021; and, during the Biden presidency, the overturning by the Supreme Court of Roe v Wade.


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