CategoryReviews

MARIETTE IN ECSTASY – Ron Hansen

M

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

&

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

T

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

S

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

A

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

A

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

N

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

A

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

T

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”

&

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

O

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...

“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”

&

El Camino offers a tremendously entertaining farewell to the Breaking Bad series. Punctuated by outstanding performances of Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman) and Jesse Plemons (Todd), the film is sure to satisfy fans of the series—who will likely be the only ones to watch it, or at least “get” it. The movie picks up right where the series left off, with Jesse escaping in Todd’s El Camino from the...

“Official Secrets”

&

I just read a New York Times news lead that President Trump said whoever provided information to the Ukraine whistleblower was a spy and guilty of treason. And, coincidentally or not, last night I saw “Official Secrets,” a whistleblower thriller starring the magnetic and convincing Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun, a true-story British Intelligence staffer who blew the whistle about...

“Once Upon a Time . . . In Hollywood”

&

I revere Quentin Tarantino. He is one of my favorite writer/directors, and “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood” keeps him firmly on top that pedestal. Ostensibly about an aging washed-up actor, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and his stunt double/personal assistant, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), the film recreates 1969 with detail, authenticity, and visual splendor. The cars, the movie marquees, the...

THE CHAIN, Adrian Mckinty

T

I tell myself to stop reading thrillers, because I find them all the same, but I keep hoping to come across one that I find brilliant. When I heard about The Chain, I thought this one might be different. Adrian McKinty, author of the Michael Forsythe trilogy and the Sean Duffy series of crime novels, goes for the throat with this thriller. The premise of The Chain, inspired by those old chain...

David Klein

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

Novels

Get in touch