CategoryReviews

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...

A Manly Duo: 1917 the Movie; and REVENANT, the Novel

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Mostly by coincidence, this week I read a novel and watched a film, both of them by men, about men, and for men. There is a lot of traditional masculinity on display in these stories. They are about courageous men driven by a singular mission, battling external forces. I missed Michael Punke’s The Revenant when it was published in 2002, and passed on the Leonardo DiCaprio film by the same...

NORMAL PEOPLE, Sally Rooney

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After several people whose opinions I respect said they found NORMAL PEOPLE “okay” and “pretty good,” I started the novel with low expectations. But I found the book much more than just okay or pretty good. Sally Rooney is a talented young writer. Where most of her talent resides is in the writing itself, as opposed to character motivation, plot, pacing or other elements...

AMERICAN DIRT, Jeanine Cummins

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I managed to get my hands on an advance reader copy (ARC) of AMERICAN DIRT, by Jeanine Cummins, a novel that has received a lot of hype and seems destined to become a best seller based on early reviews and reader enthusiasm. Plenty of five-star ratings on Goodreads. Don Winslow calling it a GRAPES OF WRATH for our times. The novel is a story of chase and escape. Lydia and her eight-year-old son...

THE TENNIS PARTNER, Adam Verghese

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Someone left this memoir in my Little Free Library and I snatched it up because the title included the word ‘tennis’. I like tennis. I play, I watch, I read about it. This compassionate and thoughtful book is not about tennis. It’s about a friendship between two men: Adam Verghese, a physician whose marriage has fallen apart, and David Smith, a medical student recovering from...

“Parasite”

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In Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, the wealthy Park family collides with the poor but street-smart Kim family, causing . . . a movie like nothing I’ve ever seen. Sure, it’s a social issue film addressing the enormous gulf between the haves and have nots. But it’s also a black comedy, thriller, farce, tragedy, and domestic drama.  Add it all up and you get Art House. The storyline, the filming, the...

ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS, Ocean Vuong

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Maybe it’s time for bookstores to devote shelf space to a growing genre: Autofiction. As the name implies, autofiction is autobiographical fiction, starring the author, often written in the first-person point of view. There are many examples: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s epic account of his life, “My Struggle.” Rachel Kusk’s triology whose protagonist is a novelist. Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick...

David Klein

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

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