Joe Donnelly has written a wonderful review of Alan Rifkin's Burdens by Water for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Donnelly riffs eloquently about the days when personal nonfiction was in high demand, when journalists were flown all over the country in search of capital-t Truth, and people like Alan Rifkin were paid not just to report on what was going on in the world but to write what was going on in their heads.
The point is, journalism was once allowed and even encouraged to tackle Chekhovian concerns, to give purpose to factual storytelling beyond the mere transfer of information. Rifkin comes from that time, and he did it better than most. This collection is a testament to that. In lesser hands, of course, these pieces would collapse under their own ambitions, but Rifkin’s mastery of narrative architecture and the crystallizing line never let contemplations run away or the prose grow too ponderous. For instance, the “Pool Man” characters mine the “gorgeous crypts” — rectangular, kidney-shaped, or “reedy Xanadus” — of their tenuous middle-class lives for signs that their California dream survives.
Check out the entire review here.