Sweet Lechery: Reviews, Essays & Profiles
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Heer has a plenty of charm in his way of talking his way around those [authors in the collection]. He has the quality that every good host has; he speaks with intelligence, yet never weighs his subjects down with bloviating.... I suspect you'll find that his enthusiasm, like that of any good party host, is completely infectious.'--Michelle Dean "National Post "
Among critics, Heer is unusually well-suited to having his reviews collected in book form. The daily churn of the newspaper world means that most reviews disappear within 24 hours; yet, Heer takes pleasure in doing more research than is required, and adding careful context that most readers will never even notice, all in the name of a sturdier piece of prose. That's even clearer in his magazine writing: When Heer is given room to really follow his nose on a topic, be it the surprisingly robust tradition of cannibalism in CanLit or the glut of neocon novelists hiding in plain sight within the administration of George W. Bush, readers will come away equal parts delighted and informed.
And because each piece is centred on a subject that is not Heer himself, it takes a collection like this to really get an overall sense of him as a reader and critic. '--Michael Hingston "The Globe and Mail "
Heer has a knack for making anything interesting, which might be the best praise a writer can garner.
Jeet Heer displays the leisurely wit and wisdom of a polymath, writing about everything from Canadian culture and politics at large, to comics and science fiction, in his collection Sweet Lechery.
Heer is a cultural journalist whose publications include work for Slate, the National Post, the Boston Globe, and others. He has also edited or coedited several books, and received a Fulbright Scholarship.
Though Heer's tastes and expertise are wide-ranging, he's always authoritatively knowledgeable about his subjects: as a Canadian writer, his insights into that country's literature and politics are pointed and revealing. Having edited or coedited several comic strip collections, he's uniquely suited to write about underappreciated early twentieth-century cartoonists like Winsor McCay, as well as modern masters of the art like Chris Ware and Ben Katchor. His intimate familiarity with the work of science fiction writers Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and Philip K. Dick similarly offers a solid foundation for comparisons and discussion. There's never a moment in Heer's writing where he seems in over his head.
Many of the pieces in this collection are ostensibly reviews?of a Heinlein biography, Yann Martel's latest novel, and many other recently published books. But the topics raised by these reviews usually serve as jumping-off points for Heer to educate the audience with his own observations or relevant facts; thus, the reviews become much more than typical appraisals.
The tone in Heer's writing is scholarly but not high-handed, as exemplified by his discussion of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy, in which he describes humanity, as portrayed in the series, in terms of Wile E. Coyote:
It's not just Wile E. Coyote's invariable failures that make him funny but also his resilience. Every near-death scrape is followed by a come-back. Part of the comedy of MaddAddam is that humanity, despite the best laid plans of the lunatic Crake, displays a cartoon character's ability to bounce back.
One of the best things about essay collections as varied as Sweet Lechery is that they serve as a sampler of a wider spectrum of culture than most books, and often introduce new writers, artists, and other figures in the process. It's easy to skip sections that aren't of interest, but Heer has a knack for making anything interesting, which might be the best praise a writer can garner.--Peter Dabbene "Foreword Reviews "
Currently one of Canada's most interesting and sought-after cultural commentators, as the popularity of his Twitter essays attests, Heer is many things: a journalist, an academic, an immigrant, a proud but non-nationalist Canadian citizen, a "social democrat living in a conservative era." Recently made a senior editor at The New Republic, Heer is positioned to become a public intellectual of the magnitude he revels in profiling in Sweet Lechery. With a solid sense of the critic's ideally non-partisan role, gestured at in a few places in the book and largely adhered to by the author, Heer is convinced that the critic's job is to be empathetic, to attempt to understand another's point of view, even while censuring it. Furthermore, "the critic should help readers gain a better understanding of the writer but not eclipse literature with flashy and irrelevant displays of intellectual pyrotechnics." If truth be told, intellectual pyrotechnics abound in this collection as Heer dazzles the reader with his knowledge, research and ease in forging meaningful and elegant connections between ideas and their progenitors, happily rarely to the detriment of the subjects under discussion.'--Dana Hansen "Literary Review of Canada "