cover image Bamboo: Essays and Criticism

Bamboo: Essays and Criticism

William Boyd, . . Bloomsbury, $19.95 (512pp) ISBN 978-1-59691-441-4

This noteworthy compendium of British writer Boyd's nonfiction work of the last 25 years is a cornucopia of critical opinion, memoir and social commentary. In addition to their insights on contemporary culture, many of these pieces illuminate aspects of Boyd's novels and short stories. In fact, Boyd (A Good Man in Africa ) expresses surprise about how much autobiographical material has “crept into” his work. While some of his subjects will be of less interest to American than British readers, his critical essays on such icons as Woody Allen, Toni Morrison and Kurt Vonnegut, his reflections on the New York scene, American art and a Georgia town called Tallapoosa are refreshing opinions from a foreigner's perspective. He owns up to enjoying the hoax he perpetrated by inventing and assessing the paintings of a fictitious artist called Nat Tate, and there are lively accounts of how the duke and duchess of Windsor became characters in his novel Any Human Heart . Certain preoccupations become evident. No less than seven essays on Evelyn Waugh reflect Boyd's confessed “obsession” with and ambivalence toward the man and his work. At 500-plus pages, this volume is perfect for a bedside table, to be read for sustained excellence of observation and lucidity of prose. (Nov.)