Wednesday, August 11, 2010

NY Times critic compares Rosanne Cash's memoir to her tweets, finds tweets better

It was bound to happen. Sooner or later a critic was going to find a new way to wield a snarky dagger by comparing an author's work to their Twitter feed and preferring the tweets. The pioneering critic who made this breakthrough in Twitterspheric criticism was Dwight Garner in today's NY Times, reviewing Rosanne Cash's new memoir, Composed.
Ms. Cash rarely has a negative word to say about anyone. That’s a quality that might make her a lovely person to spend time with (she’s worth finding on Twitter, where her posts are forthright and funny) but is cloying on the page. The snappiest line I could find in “Composed” mentions the record producer Jimmy Iovine, about whom she writes, “I did not find him to be the most gracious person in the world.”
It's a pretty standard lit-world put-down of a writer who has achieved fame in another arena: The trouble with Rosanne Cash is that she's too literary.
The bad news about “Composed” is that its title fits too well. Ms. Cash, who is previously the author of “Bodies of Water,” a book of short stories, is a self-consciously literary storyteller. (Not for her the kind of memoir that’s stuffed with cheesy photo inserts.) Her calm book is short on rude humor and wit, and whatever narrative tension it manages to build mostly leaks away. “Where’s the MADNESS, Rose?” Ms. Cash was once asked, she says, by a friend who found one of her records too mannered. Her book, too, is short on sonic clutter and emotional reverb.
For some reason, "Ms. Cash" was less than thrilled by the review.
Can't say I'm thrilled w/ NY Times review. Seems he reviewed the book I DIDN'T write. I'll stick with the WaPo review.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley's review does seem more thoughtful, and it also does a nice job of tying Cash's approach to writing for print to her roots as a songwriter. You can read it here. Don't know about you, but I'm reserving Composed at the library.

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