The New York Times a few months ago announced that regular critic Janet Maslin would write fewer reviews.
Longtime Maslin fans are happy that the report was off-base. Maslin, who first made her name as the Times' chief film critic, has maintained a regular presence in the newspaper's pages.
Following her review last week of Jeffrey Toobin's examination of the Patty Hearst case, Maslin on Wednesday reviewed Jay McInerney's new novel, "Bright.Precious Days."
McInerney's book is the third part of his trilogy that tells the story of the marriage of a New York City couple, Corrine and Russell Calloway, from their youth to middle age.
Maslin praises McInerney's writing, while chiding him for not moving far enough away from his youthful infatuation with sex and drugs. As she points out, McInerney continually delves into the themes of brightness and shadow, as reflected in his books' titles. While Maslin expresses some reservations, she's entranced enough by "Bright, Precious Days" to call for McInerney to continue the Calloways' story.
Rocketing onto the literary scene with his first novel, "Bright Lights, Big City" in 1984, McInerney has forged a steady career on the borders of literary and pop fiction. He's also made a name writing about wine.
"Bright Lights, Big City," an autobiographical look at young wealthy New Yorkers' cocaine and party-fueled lifestyle, defined an era of hedonistic excess. Subsequent books were vilified, but McInerney kept writing, with his Calloway trilogy recognized as a significant achievement. McInerney in a recent Paris Review interview gave a masterly account of his career and the writing craft.
Good that Maslin with her understanding of American culture's shifts since the 1960s and 1980s can bring a deep historical perspective to reviewing books like Toobin's and McInerney's. She writes with easy wit about fiction and nonfiction, avoiding the cliches that mar other Times critics' work.