“Eastman Was Here follows Alan Eastman, a washed up author who turns to Saigon for the swan song that will save his career and his marriage. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, the book highlights the type of authors who have cast a spell on us at some point—manly men boasting manly emotions, who dissolve their Pain in drugs, women and prose. These are writers descended from Hemingway’s poisonous line, but with a more urbane spin, like Roth, Updike, Irving, Mailer and their peers. You know, the stereotypical novelists who were the accolade-winning dicks in the American post-war literary scene.
We’ve all been suffering in their long, dark shadows ever since.”
“Antarctica is a place of extremes: coldest place on earth; home of the world’s largest desert; land of constant sun and constant night. So it stands to reason that Antarctica draws only the most intrepid and unique individuals.
While the continent has no permanent population, numerous scientists and support staff are scattered across its surface. It is here, by design, that Antarctica is meant to avoid at least one polarizing factor: politics. Operated under the Antarctic Treaty System, the South Pole is meant to be a brumal Eden of science, where research centers are freed from the political binds that exist in the world above.”
“Even if some of the story beats sound familiar, their placement in Wuertz’s Seoul, where hair gleams “like the belly of a giant tuna” and drinks arrive “one after the other like the next turn on the disco ball” even as American GIs tear families apart and agitators are whisked away in black cars, renders them new.
The novel reveals an exciting place and time, in the catalytic sense, and all the more-so for us as visitors who are surrounded by its echoes—class, sex, race—even now.”
“The line-by-line quality of that purple prose is the novel’s greatest strength and biggest flaw. There are flashes of stunning beauty, like when Mendelsohn describes Steven’s chest rising and falling like an empire or a dress of “threaded nothingness.” But Mendelsohn is at her best in House when things are at their worst. At times, she can come across as tautological (“She sees his fall as she sees her fall. The dropping from a great height. The gulf between high and low.”) To be fair, this is the bane of most florid writers, this reviewer included, who struggle beneath the weight of many metaphors and similes. There is, in the weakest moments, a sense of great talent with little aplomb.”
“The two great markers of a man’s social class are his name and his hobbies, and Fleming used both to establish James Bond as a class apart. While “James Bond” is now indelibly associated with sangfroid and sex, when Casino Royale came out in 1953, the name was “anonymous and sleek,” Matthew Parker wrote in Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born. It was a name with no connotations. Fleming also endowed his character with a love for what Parker deems “consumer sports” like golfing, gambling, skiing, and skin diving—activities and distractions in which courage and capital and the next luxury are more important than a last name or coat of arms.”
” [Sophie] McManus does not fear to let such seemingly cancerous things as money or medicine or measured love act as her story’s heroes; it is an unromantic portrayal of love’s shortcomings which she regularly stands, from the novel’s first page to its last, across from the beast’s great power, allowing her portrait of the titular unfortunates, those who cease to be suspended properly between the two.”