CategoryReviews

MOLLY’S GAME

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The title turned me off at first. Molly’s Game. Sounded young adult or chick flick, two genres I don’t watch often. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice the film when it came out in 2017. But then I discovered Jessica Chastain was the star. She’s on my list. She appeared in two movies I thought were excellent and I highly recommend: Take Shelter (she plays the wife of Michael Shannon, another...

Joan Didion–THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD

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“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” The author of that line, Joan Didion, is a rare breed in America: a literary writer with rock star status. I finally had the pleasure of watching the 2017 Netflix documentary about Didion, The Center Will Not Hold. The film expertly compiles and edits conversation with the 82-year-old Didion, interviews, and historical footage and...

INTERIOR CHINATOWN — Charles Yu

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The narrative structure and storytelling of Charles Wu’s quick-read “Interior Chinatown” are like no other novel I’ve read—and I’ve read a lot of them. It’s part screenplay for a cop show—Black and White—being filmed at the Golden Palace restaurant, and part interior monologue of the protagonist Willis Wu, who plays Generic Asian Man/Dead Asian Man/Background Oriental in the margins of the show...

THE GLASS KINGDOM, Lawrence Osborne

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I was really looking forward to Lawrence Osborne’s new novel, The Glass Kingdom. I had read and greatly admired two of Osborne’s other novels: Beautiful Animals, about two young women on a Greek Island who set out to help a refugee they discover on the beach; and The Forgiven, a clash of cultures among Moroccan Muslims and Western visitors that results from a car accident. Both of those books had...

HAMNET — Maggie O’Farrell

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This novel came highly recommended to me and I can see why. A reimagining of the life of William Shakespeare’s family—focused primarily on his wife, Agnes, and his son, Hamnet—the writing in this novel is almost as lyrical and eloquent as the Bard of Avon himself delivered. Although I found the beginning was overwritten and a bit hard to get into, soon enough I became deeply absorbed. The beauty...

THE VANISHING HALF, Brit Bennett

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THE VANISHING HALF appeared on a number of top 10 books of the year lists and it’s easy to see why. The novel has all the ingredients for a successful novel in 2020: Racial themes explored in the story of light-skinned Black twin sisters—Stella and Desiree—whose lives diverge when one decides to live as white and the other “stays” Black; a secondary, transgender theme and subplot; an up-and...

LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND — Rumaan Alam

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I eagerly awaited my opportunity to read LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, by Rumaan Alam, a novel that has received a lot of attention and hype this season. I have mixed feelings. First, what I really liked. Some of the writing is stellar, the novel moves briskly along, and it clocks in at a trim, bloat-free 241 pages. The premise itself is powerful and promising: a white Brooklyn family heads out to the...

A PALE VIEW OF THE HILLS–Kazuo Ishiguro

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Delicate, elegiac, mysterious, haunting. If those words describe the kind of novel you like, A PALE VIEW OF THE HILLS is for you. It’s on my list of The Most Important Novels in My Life, which I’ve been revisiting during the coronavirus pandemic, and a recent rereading of Ishiguro’s first novel reminds me that it belongs. I first came to this novel in 1993, while I was working on a...

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT

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I love the opportunity to read a novel and see the film adaptation in a back to back sequence. This was the case with The Queen’s Gambit, which I thank Owen for bringing to my attention. This novel, written in 1983 by Walter Tevis (The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth), centers around Beth Harmon, a young female chess prodigy who is orphaned, discovers her talent at chess by playing the janitor...

CULTS: The Girls, a novel, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, a film

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Sometimes I do a two-for-one, packaging a thematically-linked novel and film review, such as the novel The Revenant and the film 1917. Today’s theme is cults, which I’ve become interested in recently, although I have no interest in joining or starting one. The two works of art: The Girls, by Emma Cline (2016), and Martha Marcy May Marlene, written and directed by Sean Durkin (2011). Apparently...

A FAREWELL TO ARMS: Ernest Hemingway

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I first read A FAREWELL TO ARMS many years ago when I was going through what the narrator, Frederic Henry, is going through in the novel: not the part about the war on the Italian front, but the experience of great love. This personal experience of love surely colored my impressions of the novel, yet its standing as one of the Most Important Novels in My Life remains assured. If you can...

Tim O’Brien and Facing the “Moral Emergency”

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During the pandemic, I’ve compiled a list of the “The Most Important Novels in My Life,” then started re-reading to see if they maintained their esteem over time. Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” made my list for its haunting narrative of the author’s Vietnam experience and its structure as a series of connected stories. The piece I remember the most, and still cuts me every time I read...

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, Milan Kundera

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What was once light, has now become heavy. I’m continuing to reread from the list of The Most Important Novels in My Life. I just finished THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, by Milan Kundera. This novel was published in English in the mid-eighties when I was just starting out as a writer. I wrote and read voraciously and when I discovered Kundera’s unique, philosophical novel I was, to put it...

THE NICKEL BOYS, Colson Whitehead

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I’ve taken it upon myself to participate in Black Lives Matter. I’ve attended a BLM protest, explored my own experience with racism, made financial contributions, and tried to become more educated and empathetic to the systemic plight of Black Americans. Within this context, I read Colson Whitehead’s THE NICKEL BOYS with high expectations. First, there was the high standard that any Pulitzer...

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...

David Klein

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

Novels

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