CategoryReviews

THE EXORCIST, William Peter Blatty

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I first read THE EXORCIST when I was still in high school, late at night, in bed. One more chapter before turning out the light. It was sometime before the movie came out, because I was able to frame my own images and let my imagination take over, and not see only Linda Blair. This might be the original paperback version. Like everyone else, I sped through the novel. I can’t say I remembered...

LEGENDS OF THE FALL, Jim Harrison

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I’m only going to write about one of the three novellas in this collection, “The Man Who Gave Up His Name.” The other two, “Revenge” and “Legends of the Fall,” are worthy, but neither impacted me the way “The Man” did. I first came to this novella (89 pages) years ago when I was still in my twenties and starting out as a writer. It was...

SMILES ON WASHINGTON SQUARE, Raymond Federman

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In 1985 I went to the University of Buffalo to finish my graduate degree in creative writing. Raymond Federman headed up the program and that year “Smiles on Washington Square” was published. This novel was my introduction to metafiction, or experimental fiction, or whatever you want to call it–and I was blown away. My world expanded. The definition of a novel expanded...

THE HOURS, Michael Cunningham

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In my first graduate fiction writing workshop, I submitted a story called “Landscaping.” It was about a woman who lives largely inside her head and her stream-of-conscious voice narrates the day that a landscaper comes to her house to plant a garden. The professor asked the class, “Who’s writing does this remind you of?” Immediately someone responded, Virginia Woolf. I said, “Who’s she?” I was...

THE PLAGUE, Albert Camus

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No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and the emotions shared by all. I probably would not have chosen to read “the Plague” if we were not in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic and had I not found the novel on a bookshelf. But it seemed an appropriate read, tucked between my rereading of the most important novels in my life. I had just...

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, John Irving

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During the period of COVID-19, I’ve been re-reading novels from a list of twenty-five of The Most Important Novels in My Life. Next up: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. Published in 1978, when I was in college, the first time I attempted to read Garp I put it down. A few years later I started reading it again, and this time I couldn’t put it down. What changed? Sometimes you’re just...

THE ACCOMPLICES, Georges Simenon

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I recently made a list of the 25 most important novels in my life and have been rereading them to see how well they’ve stood the test of time. I had included this short, harrowing crime novel on my original list. I must have first read it when I was a teenager or in my early twenties, and the impression it made on me was indelible. The novel’s protagonist — Joseph Lambert, a...

THE GLASS HOTEL, Emily St. John Mandel

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I loved Emily St. John Mandel’s dystopian love ballad STATION ELEVEN and was looking forward to getting my hands her newest, THE GLASS HOTEL. I was not disappointed. Mandel has a gift for writing intersecting narratives that seamlessly move back and forth through time and between characters. Despite the non-traditional structure of the storytelling, there is nothing discordant or choppy in how...

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA — Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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This novel, which I read when first published in 1988, had stuck in my memory and made my list of top 25 of all time. I just reread it as part of my “Reading in the Time of COVID-19” project. It’s a simple story about a lifetime of unrequited love finally becoming requited after 50 years. Florentino Ariza pursues Fermina Daza beginning as a teenager, but she eventually rejects...

ASYMMETRY – Lisa Halliday

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I had to think on this novel for a while. “Asymmetry” was a darling of the literary media when it appeared in 2018. The New Yorker called it a “literary phenomenon,” The New York Times included the novel on its list of top books for the year, as did Barak Obama. Of course I had to find out what the fuss was all about. My conclusion is as asymmetrical as the novel itself: I...

MARIETTE IN ECSTASY – Ron Hansen

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While practicing social distancing, I’ve decided to read from a list of the 25 most important novels in my life. Ron Hansen’s MARIETTE IN ECSTASY came out in 1991. I read it then and I re-read it this week. This haunting, melodic, vivid story woke me up almost thirty years ago to what “voice” means in fiction, and the impression the novel made on me then remains indelible...

“The Getaway” — McQueen & MacGraw

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I was excited to watch the 1972 movie The Getaway, starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. I had seen the film once before, probably in the late 1970s, and I had a romanticized memory of it: tough and ultra-cool Steven McQueen, beautiful and mesmerizing Ali MacGraw, a taut and compelling plotline based on noir crime writer Jim Thompson’s novel. And then I watched the movie. The story itself...

THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS vs. AMERICAN DIRT

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I read AMERICAN DIRT and while I appreciated the author’s efforts and her skill at writing a thriller, I was also conflicted by the lack of authenticity I felt about the novel — even before the controversy exploded. I wrote a review (3 of 5 stars) and then another post about appropriation. I got caught up in the protests over Jeanine Cummins’ novel, mostly by Latino writers, who...

SOMETHING IN THE WATER, Catherine Steadman

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There’s a lot to admire about Catherine Steadman’s psychological thriller, Something in the Water. First off, that’s a great title. Honeymooning couple Erin and Mark find a bag of money and diamonds floating in the water off the coast of Bora Bora. Guess what? They decide to keep it. The “finding a bunch of money and deciding, against your better judgment, to keep...

Appropriation and AMERICAN DIRT

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The fervor over AMERICAN DIRT continues to flame on. I wrote an early review of the novel, which I enjoyed, but found problematic, and then I came across this takedown by the writer Myriam Gurba, who scorched both the book and its author, Jeanine Cummins. Here’s a quote from Gurba’s review: Cummins plops overly-ripe Mexican stereotypes, among them the Latin lover, the suffering...

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.

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