- He Cared Too Much Stories by John O’Hara. The Library of America. 860 pp. $40.00
John O’Hara was an Irish Catholic and doctor’s son from Eastern Pennsylvania who believed—apparently for much of his life—that he would have been a happy man if he had just gone to Yale. That didn’t keep him from getting booted from three prep schools, one ... Read more
- Overwhelmed The Happiness that Takes Some Time to Ripen
We had sat down for the reception at my niece’s wedding—tables of eight arranged all around the room—when I realized how my brother had seated us. It was the three living siblings from my generation—Bill, Rusty, and me, with our wives—along with our sister’s oldest child Tade and ... Read more
- Academic Hack Straight Man by Richard Russo. Vintage Contemporaries. 391 pp. $14.00. ****
I read this book because of Jennifer Senior’s review of Richard Russo’s latest book, in which she called Straight Man a better academic novel than David Lodge’s Campus Trilogy. I was so impressed by that remark, and the general tenor of Senior’s review, that I ... Read more
- Beckett in the Bardo The Unnamable from Three Novels by Samuel Beckett. Grove Press. 407 pp. $15.95.
The mystery of Samuel Beckett continues, at least for me. Some months back, when I had finally tackled his Three Novels—which had been sitting on my shelves for years—I finished the first two, but admitted publicly, in this space, that I gave up ... Read more
- Stories Short and Long Autumn by Ali Smith. Pantheon. 264 pp. $24.95
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley. Washington Square Press. 208 pp. $14.00
There are short stories that seem to have enough material for novels. Alice Munro’s late work was like that, any number of mid-length stories, forty or fifty pages, which encompassed an entire life. Frank O’Connor said ... Read more
- Distinctly Praise the Years Atlantis: Three Tales by Samuel R. Delany. Wesleyan/New England. 212 pp.
Every now and then I reread something by Samuel R. Delany because all of his work is intelligent, beautifully written, and unfailingly deep. The fact that I’ve read it before doesn’t in the least diminish it. I love spending time in the presence of such ... Read more
- You Gotta Start Somewhere Beginners a film by Mike Mills. With Ewen McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent, Mary Page Keller, Cosmo.
I have the perfect solution for those who loved 20th Century Women and don’t know what to watch next (after they’ve read the profile of director Mike Mills in the New Yorker): watch Mills’ previous film Beginners, which streams ... Read more
- Maybe Not This Village Twentieth Century Women a film by Mike Mills. With Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Lucas Jade Zumann. ****1/2
When I first heard the title of this movie, I thought, what the hell is a twentieth century woman? How is she different from a twenty-first century woman? But now that I’ve seen it, I think the ... Read more
- My Father’s Gaze Is That Me or Is It Him?
I look into the mirror sometimes these days and see—to my astonishment—my father’s face staring back at me. The man died 52 years ago, and didn’t reach nearly the age I am now; he was 47, and I’m 68. Life had been hard on him at the end, wasted ... Read more
- Maggie’s Farm Chronicles, Volume One by Bob Dylan. Simon & Schuster. 293 pp. $16.00
I’ve been fascinated by the reactions to Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize, which was announced as I was heading to Pittsburgh for my 50th high school reunion. A number of Baby Boomers seemed to regard it as a validation of their whole lives, as if ... Read more