OK, I’m about halfway through so this is an incomplete review:
1) My take on the book so far? Orlean is an excellent writer (duh!) who does a great job portraying her subjects. But she seems to have trouble getting out of the way. In some places I feel like I’m reading more about her than about her subject. It’s a subtle distinction. She needs to describe interactions, of course, and that means putting herself in the scene, but sometimes she puts a bit too much of herself in and thus detracts from her subject.
2) My favorite profile so far? “Shoot for the Moon” (New Yorker, March 22, 1993) about then-high school-basketball-star Felipe López. It’s one of the longest chapters in the book so far, and it is a delight throughout. Nobody could read her profile of Felipe and not end up liking him. About the most innocent, unassuming, teenager you’d ever meet.
3) My least favorite? The thankfully short “After the Party” (New Yorker, March 21, 1994) about former Hollywood agent Sue Mengers. Four-and-a-half pages of pure, distilled bitterness. This isn’t Orlean’s fault, of course, she captured her subject perfectly. I’m just glad she didn’t feel the desire to write anymore, and I hope she got paid well for the misery she endured.
Next week: a full review. (I’ve got to get it back to the Library, after all!)