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THE CULLING: A Snippet From the Novel

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The first time I read Shirley Jackson’s famous short story “The Lottery” I had known nothing of its reputation. As I read, the dread built in me slowly, the reveal astounded me, and the memory was blazed in me. I will never forget the power and audacity of that story. Here’s the original story, published in 1948 in the New Yorker. “The Lottery” helped inspire...

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...

Dog Person, Cat Person, People Person

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Are you a dog person or a cat person? Apparently, you need to choose a side. I can tell you right now I am not a dog person. That doesn’t mean I don’t like dogs. I do. Dogs are fine. They can be playful and fun. But I don’t like it when dogs jump up and put their paws on me. Or when they have to stick their noses in my crotch or slobber on me. I don’ t like dogs licking me...

A Patron of the Arts Is Gone

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When I think of the Koch Brothers, I think of Charles and David and the behemoth Koch Industries. My impression of the Koch Brothers: ruthless capitalists and libertarians. Conservative and greedy polluters. I didn’t know of the eldest Koch brother, Frederick, whose obit I just read in the New York Times: “Frederick Koch, Who Spurned Family Business, Dies at 86.” It was this...

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...

Time for a Library Visit?

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For me, the best part of my local library is the book collection. There’s also music and video content, and a Library of Things: games, museum passes, even fishing poles. There are popular programs for kids, teens, and adults. There’s a full schedule of book discussions, school visits, mentoring, volunteering. I do some writing at the library (but not this post). I’ve decided...

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...

Six-Word Memoirs

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There is a legend about Ernest Hemingway responding to a challenge to write a six-word story with this: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” That’s about as devastating and definitive as a story can be–whatever its length. And it has inspired many writers to construct six-word stories and memoirs. Here’s another one, unlikely written as a six-word memoir, but...

A No-News Day?

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Still dark and frozen when I padded in my slippers down the driveway to retrieve my New York Times this morning. I haven’t opened it yet. I’ve watched the Australian Open. I’ve read about my lowly Buffalo Sabres. But the real news is getting me upset. I can’t read it. I don’t want to see it. I wish the Times wasn’t delivered in a plastic bag. I had a paper...

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...

What to Write Next?

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I’ve handed my novel THE SUITOR over to a trusted reader. I spent most of the past year writing little else. I wrote some posts on this blog. I scribbled a note or two on stray ideas. But the vast majority of my writing time was devoted to THE SUITOR. Now I’m waiting. With waiting comes new and unstructured writing time. My first thought is always what novel I’m going to write...

Winter is Painting Time

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During the winter I start painting rooms in my house. Every year, at least one room gets the treatment. This year it was the entrance breezeway and the adjoining den, where I have my desk. I just finished and I’m still not sure what color I painted. Two colors, actually: one called Greyhound (breezeway) and one called Iced Marble (den), plus a trim color, called Snowbound. The wall colors...

My Sauce is Comfort Food

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I learned to make sauce from my mother, who learned from her mother, two women of Italian descent who knew how to cook without looking in a book. We’d have sauce at least twice a week growing up: spaghetti and meatballs, usually, often with garlicky braciole rolled with twine and simmered right in the pot. A variation used penne or rigatoni instead of spaghetti. A special occasion called...

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...

This is Called Doubt

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I started thinking about the novel and got anxious that the characters are stupid and unappealing, or stock, or boring. They are duds and the story is a dud and the language is ugly and the writing forced.  The voice is wrought or annoying or soundless. The plot is vapid. The pace dull. This is called doubt. Crushing, debilitating, self-loathing doubt. I take full responsibility. I am disparaged...

David Klein

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

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