- 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
- All Stories Are Made Up Moonglow by Michael Chabon. Harper. 430 pp. $28.00
Voss by Patrick White. Penguin. $18.00
The great Pittsburgh writer John Edgar Wideman—whom I wrote about in a recent post—once published a book entitled All Stories Are True. I thought it a brilliant and fascinating title, but it could just as easily have been All Stories Are False. Even ... Read more
- Doctoring the Story Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Vintage. 667 pp. $15.95.
The one time I formally studied creative writing, in a class with Reynolds Price my freshman year at Duke University, he encouraged us to pay special attention to openings. “It doesn’t have to be ‘Rape!’ screamed the Duchess’ every time,” he said, “but you want to ... Read more
- He’s the Best Friend I’ve Ever Had. He Does Fart a Lot. He’s Also Dead. Swiss Army Man. A film by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. With Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe.
People say this about movies all the time, but in this case I feel fully confident: you’ve never seen anything like Swiss Army Man.
Hank (Paul Dano) has somehow gotten stranded on the proverbial desert island. He has all the ... Read more
- Mommy and I Are So Damn Brilliant The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt. New Directions. 484 pp. $18.95
I can’t remember when I’ve had such mixed feelings about a novel. There is an assumption behind this book that people with higher IQ’s, or people who have more knowledge, are superior individuals, who don’t have to deal with the rest of us. There is ... Read more
- No But I Saw the Book Brooklyn a novel by Colm Toibin. Scribner. 262 pp. $15.00
Even I, a person who loves reading above all other pleasures, who believes the novel is the Great Bright Book of Life, was thinking I didn’t need to go back and read Brooklyn because I’d seen the movie. I loved it, figured the book couldn’t add ... Read more
- Hammerin’ Henry The Master by Colm Toibin. Scribner. 338 pp. $14.00.
I bought this book because I saw it in a used bookstore where I had a lot of credit, so it was free. Some months back I started and couldn’t get into it. But my reading buddy Sally Sexton recommended it highly, along with Toibin’s Brooklyn—so I ... Read more
- Jane Austen Meets Machiavelli Love & Friendship A film by Whit Stillman, with Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Tom Bennett. ****1/2
Love & Friendship centers on a single character—Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale)—and she controls the action the way a great conductor directs an orchestra. She is not only in almost every scene but is the focus of those ... Read more
- Free to Be Me Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Farrar Straus Giroux. 562 pp. $28.00
Jonathan Franzen is the novelist I always wanted to be. Like The Corrections, Freedom essentially dissects one dysfunctional family, really just four people—maybe five or six, if you include important friends—and does so at exhaustive length, yet never seems dull, or overly long. Franzen sees so ... Read more
- Fearful Symmetry Blake by Peter Ackroyd. Knopf. 399 pp.
My re-kindled interest in Blake began, weirdly enough, when I ordered some copies of Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior for some inmates and noticed that the most perceptive Amazon review was written by a woman named Laurie from New Zealand. I clicked to see the rest of ... Read more