Bamboo by William Boyd – an overlong collection of his essays and reviews. I would have edited this down quite severely. There are several weak pieces, particularly early in the book, which makes it difficult to keep reading at times. There are multiple pieces on certain subjects (most notably Evelyn Waugh and Ken Saro Wiwa) which contain far too many repetitions, and would have benefitted from being edited in a single piece. And there are too many essays that employ the most irritating trick of his short fiction: the A-Z list. I hate these in his collections of short stories, and I hate them just as much here. But all that being said, there is still an awful lot of really good stuff here. Some of the pieces on Waugh, for example, do make you wish he had done a longer and more serious analysis, and there is a wonderful little essay about a visit to a one-horse town in the American South inspired by a Wallace Stevens poem. He is an accomplished book reviewer (within a fairly narrowly defined range), and his art criticism is both fresh and engaging (as you might expect from the author of Nat Tate.
First published at LiveJournal, 2 May 2007.