Category: american-literature

  • Grad Student from Hell The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy.  Grove Press.  338 pp.  $16.00. The Ginger Man was one of the famous dirty books from my youth, published by Olympia Press and occupying the shelves alongside Tropic of Cancer, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and My Life and Loves.  My freshman college roommate in 1966 showed up with everything trendy in ... Read more
  • The Whiteness of the Whale Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  Library of America.  638 pp. I’ve recently expressed my admiration for the Library of America and its beautiful editions, but I was disappointed by the Melville Chronology in this volume, which seemed positively paltry.  Elmore Leonard gets 27 pages and Herman Melville gets five?  My brother tells me there’s a famous ... Read more
  • Master Craftsman Having Fun Four Novels of the 1980’s: City Primeval, LaBrava, Glitz, Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard.  Library of America.  1010 pp.  $37.50. Elmore Leonard began to relax into his craft when he entered the decade of the eighties, when he would turn 60.  He had stopped drinking, for one thing, spoke openly about how that affected him.  He ... Read more
  • Servants of Life In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman.  Picador.  497 pp.  $17.00 ****1/2 This is the last book—the last of many—that my friend Levi recommended to me.  He always recommended books as if to say: Go buy this and start reading it tonight (though I never did that).  He went on and on ... Read more
  • He Showed Up Levi G. 1953-2017 I won’t say that Levi was my best friend in the world—I have many wonderful friends—but he was the friend with whom I most resonated.  When I was in Asheville we met every week for a couple hours, having breakfast and drinking coffee.  As soon as we sat down we fell into the ... Read more
  • Living Deliberately Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls.  University of Chicago Press.  615 pp.  $35.00. This is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read.  Right at the moment I can’t think of a better one.  And it comes at an ideal moment for me. The official occasion is the bicentennial of Thoreau’s birth, in 1817.  ... Read more
  • Notes on a Remark by Elmore Leonard How He Gave Up Booze and Learned to Relax “By then I was in AA and perhaps not taking myself so seriously.  I do think my writing began to improve at this time, mainly because I wasn’t taking the writing so seriously, either.  I learned to relax and not think of it as writing.” One of the ... Read more
  • Lives of Crime Elmore Leonard: Four Novels of the 1970’s.  Unknown Man No. 89, The Switch.  Library of America.  809 pp.  $37.50. I’ve begun to decide—as I read one Elmore Leonard novel after another (that’s one of the advantages of the Library of America; you get to soak yourself in a single writer) that he wasn’t a crime novelist ... Read more
  • Going Dutch Fifty-Two Pickup, Swag from Four Novels of the 1970’s by Elmore Leonard.  Library of America.  808 pp.  $37.50 Elmore Leonard wrote great—I would almost say groundbreaking—dialogue, but the rest of his writing was ordinary, even pedestrian.  Let’s the opening of Fifty-Two Pickup. “He could not get used to going to the girl’s apartment.  He would be tense, ... Read more
  • And Gets Back Up Again Empire Falls by Richard Russo.  Vintage.  483 pp. $16.95. **** Richard Russo has done it again, written a book where I was full of a kind of mild admiration through the first half, seeing how he had set up an interesting situation, sketched in some sympathetic characters, done some writing that was mildly humorous, then somehow, ... Read more