CategoryReading

A Little Praise Goes a Long Way

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It doesn’t happen nearly often enough, in fact hardly ever, but it happened twice in one week, and I admit I feel damn good about it. First, I got a letter (actual handwriting, ink on paper, delivered to my mailbox) from a reader who said great things about my novel In Flight. “The mystery of what happened when Robert was in the fugue state made it a real page turner . . . I’d be reading along...

A Writer of Very, Very Short Stories

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I once again got to take advantage of living in the same community that is home to the New York State Writer’s Institute. I haven’t been attending many of their events this year because the writers they’ve been scheduling haven’t been that compelling to me. Just like with the publishing industry, the Writer’s Institute is placing significant emphasis on writers and voices that have historically...

“Therein Lies the Brilliance of This Book”

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Readers bring their own expectations and perceptions to a reading experience, and may interpret or connect with a novel in ways an author had never considered. Maybe they see a character trait or motivation that the author didn’t consciously write. Or they find a different meaning in a crucial plot point than the author intended. I’m fascinated when this happens because it reinforces the dynamic...

Why Read a Sad Story?

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I have a friend who doesn’t want to read books or watch shows or movies that are sad or involve tragic circumstances. It’s a form of curation: she doesn’t need that negativity in her life, doesn’t want to be exposed to those feelings because it interferes with her happiness. I’m the opposite. I find sad, depressing, painful, tragic stories to be essential to my own quest for well-being. These...

A Writer of Darkness Dies

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He wrote one of the most powerful, memorable novels I have ever read—The Road, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2007—and now he’s dead. Cormac McCarthy, age 89. The Road is a simple story: a father and his young son traverse a post-Apocalyptic world in search of . . . what they are searching for is not explicitly stated. Safety. Humanity. Hope. The next breath. Like very few novels, The Road...

About That Ending . . .

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The pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson (The Grifters, The Getaway, A Hell of a Woman—and many more) said, “There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.” And to realize that truth about fiction, chances are you have to read to the end of a book. The ending is the most important part of any novel—because no one reads a book to find out what happens in the middle. I’ve been hearing from some...

How Many More Times In Your Life Will You . . . ?

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My sister Susan once said she felt compelled to finish a book once she started reading it, even if she wasn’t enjoying it. I advised her otherwise. I told her I had calculated how many books I had left to read in my life given my reading rate and average expected life span. It wasn’t nearly as many as I wanted it to be. Since then, my sister started putting books down she didn’t love. And then...

Literature Readers are Part of a Resistance

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One of the benefits of living where I do is that the New York State Writer’s Institute is located here. Last night I got to see the acclaimed novelist Jennifer Egan, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for A Visit From the Good Squad (my review), and was here to talk about her most recent novel, The Candy House (my review). Goon Squad has a secure place on the list of “The Most Important Novels in...

This Solemn Form of Joy

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Sometimes I read a passage that strikes so close to me that it answers the question: Why do I read? In the novel, Trust, by Hernan Diaz, a young woman, Helen, walks from a European villa where she is staying into a nearby town, 1920s: The dry echo of her shoes on the cobblestones was all she could hear in the empty streets. Every few steps, she gently dragged a foot, just to feel the skin on her...

“I Didn’t Want It to End”

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“. . . an engrossing read.” “. . . a compelling story, beautifully written.” “I didn’t want it to end.” These are a few statements that reviewers wrote about my latest novel, The Culling. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, or if you haven’t browbeaten all of your family, friends, neighbors, and strangers you run into on the street to get and read their own copy of The Culling, you still have...

I’ve Got a New Volunteer Gig

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I’m beginning a new volunteer position as a reader of short story submissions to the prestigious literary journal Ploughshares. Every serious writer would love to be published in Ploughshares. For the record, I have not been published there, but I did land a story once in the equally respected Storyquarterly. To become a submissions screener, I had to pitch my experience as a writer, my views on...

The Most Important Novels in My Life

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I have set myself a task for 2020: re-read the ten most important books in my life. To qualify for the list, the novel (or novella or short story collections; I’m including those also), must meet one or more of the following criteria: It was so profound and meaningful to me that I’ve read the novel multiple times. It significantly influenced my own development as a novelist. The...

What About That Ending?

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I’m in a phase of rereading some of my favorite novels that I’ve been pulling from my bookshelves. Last week it was Revolutionary Road. This week it was In the Lake of the Woods. Only a daring and confident writer (or a misguided one) would write a novel that carries the reader along, building an overwhelming sense of suspense and uncertainty, and then leave what seems to be the major story...

The Road to Suburban Malaise

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One of the things that drew me to literary fiction as both a writer and a reader is the deep dives this form of art takes into human psychology, desires, identity, and motivation. Through novels and short stories I was able to cultivate my sense of empathy and at times “see myself” in other characters and through fictional worlds. One of those worlds is suburbia, where I have lived for more than...

Joan Didion–THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD

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I’m reposting this from last year in honor of Joan Didion, an incredible writer who died yesterday at the age of 87. The reason she wrote is the reason I write. “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...

David Klein

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

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