“Why are we interested?” Taggart said. He smiled at his old teacher. â€śWeâ€™re both just curious about themâ€” thereâ€™s a lot of discussion about how they evolved. Why do you think a cave-dwelling species might lose its eyes?â€ť
Review by Roger BrunyateÂ (MAR 2, 2014)
Phoebe Cornelius, the protagonist of “The Ether of Space,” the second of the five long stories in this collection, makes a living explaining scientific concepts to laymen. This is Andrea Barrett’s forte also. Three of these stories are set in the wings of some great scientific discovery: Phoebe is trying to comprehend Einstein’s Relativity; her son Sam becomes a pioneer in the relatively new science of genetics; and an earlier story explores the impact of Darwinism on the younger generation of scientists in America. In all these cases, Barrett explains the underlying concepts with great clarity. Sometimes, though, the stories seem to be running on two tracks simultaneously, one scientific and the other personal; I don’t know that readers with little interest in science would get much out of the book on the personal level alone. Read the rest of this post »
“Shouting himself hoarse, sweat-soaked and exhaustedâ€” ‘Cressida! Honey! Can you hear me? Where are you?’
Heâ€™d been a hiker, once. Heâ€™d been a man whoâ€™d needed to get away into the solitude of the mountains that had seemed to him once a place of refuge, consolation. But not for a long time now. And not now.
In this hot humid insect-breeding midsummer of 2005 in which Zeno Mayfieldâ€™s younger daughter vanished into the Nautauga State Forest Preserve with the seeming ease of a snake writhing out of its desiccated and torn outer skin. “
Review by Bonnie BrodyÂ (FEB 28, 2014)
Carthage is quintessential Oates. It is stylistically similar to many of her other books with the utilization of parentheses, repetitions and italics to make the reader take note of what is important and remind us of what has transpired previously. The book is good but it is not Oates’ best.
As the novel opens, the Mayfield family resides in Carthage, New York in the Adirondacks. Zeno Mayfield, once mayor of Carthage, and a political bigwig in a smallish town is the head of the family. His wife, Arlette, along with his two daughters, form the whole. Juliet, 22 years old is the “beautiful” daughter and Cressida, 19 years old is the “smart” one. Juliet is still living at home and she is an obeisant and sweet child, a devout Christian. She is engaged to marry Brett Kincaid, an Iraqi war hero who has been seriously injured in battle. He has suffered head injuries and walks with a cane. His face is badly scarred and he suffers from myriad problems requiring many psychotropic medications. However, Juliet’s love for him has never faltered. She drives him to rehab and stands by his side in all ways. Read the rest of this post »
There are ten of them in the limo’s plush passenger bay, the eight remaining soldiers of Bravo squad, their PA escort Major Mac, and the movie producer Albert Ratner, who at the moment is hunkered down in BlackBerry position. Counting poor dead Shroom and the grievously wounded Lake there are two Silver Stars and eight Bronze among them, all ten of which defy coherent explanation. “What were you thinking during the battle?” the pretty TV reporter in Tulsa asked, and Billy tried. God knows he tried, he never stops trying, but it keeps slipping and sliding, corkscrewing away, the thing of it, the it, the ineffable whatever.
“I’m not sure,” he answered. “Mainly it was just this sort of road rage feeling. Everything was blowing up and they were shooting our guys and I just went for it, I really wasn’t thinking at all.”
Review by Jill I. ShtulmanÂ (FEB 27, 2014)
It is, perhaps, a fortuitous accident that I turned the last pages of Ben Fountainâ€™s absolutely brilliant novel during Memorial Dayâ€¦a day when rhetoric about courage, support, sacrifice, and patriotism overflows.
Billy Lynn â€“ the eponymous hero of this book â€“ is a genuine American hero. He and his fellow Bravo Squad members decimated an insurgency â€“ caught on film by an embedded Fox News crew — and became overnight sensations in a nation starved for good news about Iraq. They are brought home for a media-intensive â€śVictory Tourâ€ť â€“ in cities that happen to lie in an electoral swing state — to reinvigorate support for the war. We meet them at the end of that tour, on a rainy Thanksgiving, hosted by Americaâ€™s Team, The Dallas Cowboys. Read the rest of this post »
February 27, 2014
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 21st-Century, Football, Great American Novel, Real Event Fiction, War Story Â· Posted in: Drift-of-Life, Humorous, National Book Award Finalist, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), Texas, Unique Narrative, United States, y Award Winning Author
â€śI wondered how the wife I had known when Daniela was first bornâ€” the quiet, sunken woman who read the Czech newspapers in the library every morning and then wrote long letters to her mother in Prague, Â letters Katka had known would be swallowed by securityâ€” could have become this confident voice on the line.”
Review by Jill I. Shtulman Â (FEB 21, 2014)
A title such as The UnAmericansÂ begs this question: what is an American? Or more specifically, what is an unAmerican in Molly Antopolâ€™s world?
Molly Antopolâ€™s characters are mostly Jewish or Eastern Europeans and they are mostly alienated â€“ from spouse or kids, from past ideology and beliefs, and often, from their most authentic selves. Each story is a little gem unto itself.
In one story, we meet an American actor of Russian ancestry who has eschewed his Russian past, only to leverage it in order win a part with a leftist film director. Fingered during the McCarthy era, he goes to prison in support of beliefs that arenâ€™t even truly his. Upon release, he spends a weekend with his admiring 10-year-old son and comes face-to-face with his hypocrisy. Read the rest of this post »
â€śYou canâ€™t stand against a flood, Annie Clyde.â€ť
Review by Poornima Apte Â (FEB 25, 2014)
Oh, yes she can. Or at least die trying. A descendant of the native Cherokees, Annie Clyde Dodson has deep-rooted connections to the land of Yuneetah, Tennessee. Long Man, the river that courses through, is tempestuous and moody but the farmers here have learned to corral its powers to make their living off the land. The Tennessee Valley Authority though, has other plans. A dam has been built upstream and in a matter of a few days, Yuneetah will be under water. Annie Clyde is one of the last holdouts. She just canâ€™t up and leave the land which she wanted her daughter, Gracie, to know and love. And as much as her husband has plans to find factory work up north in Michigan, Annie canâ€™t stomach the thought of a stark existence away from the natural surroundings she loves. Read the rest of this post »
February 25, 2014
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: Amy Greene, Dam, Flood, Knopf, Nature, Real Event Fiction, Tennessee Â· Posted in: Contemporary, Facing History, Reading Guide, Theme driven, US South
“The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living. My short stories and novels have always filled my life with meaning, but, at least in the first decade of my career, they were no more capable of supporting me than my dog was. But part of what I love about both novels and dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return they thrive. It isn’t their responsibility to figure out where the rent is coming from.”
Review by Eleanor BukowskyÂ (FEB 24, 2014)
Before Ann Patchett achieved fame as a novelist, she honed her writing skills as a contributor to Seventeen, where she worked for eight years. She also wrote articles for such publications as Elle, Vogue, Gourmet, and the New York Times Magazine. These free-lance jobs paid Ann’s bills and taught her self-discipline, flexibility, and humility. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a compilation of Ann Patchett’s most memorable essays.
All of Patchett’s pieces are nicely done, but some are particularly meaningful. Read the rest of this post »