CategoryReviews

The Magic of Air Travel

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What is it about air travel that makes it so ripe for speculative storytelling? Maybe it’s the improbability of flying 30,000 feet above the earth in skinny metal tubes. Or as a passenger, the complete surrendering of any sense of control over your fate.   A recent French novel and an American television series both rely on a similar premise about air travel. In the NBC series Manifest (now...

The Goddam Lousy Life of a Teenager

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Harriet’s worn copy she’s had since high school. The life of a teenager can be isolating, confusing, and painful. It was at times for me and maybe for you too. It certainly was for Holden Caulfield, the 16-year-old narrator of J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” Holden has just been kicked out of his third private boarding school and embarks on a dark night of the soul in Manhattan...

Does It Stand the Test of Time?

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When I travel, I like to bring along a favorite book to reread. I’ve been rereading from the list of The Most Important Novels in My Life (some short story collections made the list), and one of the questions I consider is whether the book stands the test of time. Almost forty years after first reading Lorrie Moore’s debut book of short stories, “Self-Help,” I realize time isn’t a test, or if it...

White Privilege on Display in “The White Lotus”

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Since we’re paying for a plethora of streaming services (HBO, Hulu, Netflix, etc.), I decided it was time to actually watch something on one of them. HBO’s “The White Lotus” was my choice. Six episodes, six hours of witnessing the power of white wealth, privilege, and entitlement, skewered and served up with huge doses of cynicism, cringe, and above all, entertainment. Entertainment because...

Be Careful Who You Slap

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A couple of years ago, I made a list of the Most Important Novels in My Life. Since then, I’ve been rereading them to see how well they stand the test of time. Christos Tsiolkas’ “The Slap” remains near the top of my list. The story is set in suburban Melbourne and follows a core group of friends and relatives that cross racial and class lines. It opens with Hector and Aisha hosting a...

How Many Husbands Does a Woman Need?

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Sometimes the essence of an entire novel can be distilled from one line in the text. In the case of “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” it boils down to this: “So I had two choices. I could do it for free, or I could do it for free candy.” This moment occurs early in the novel, before Evelyn has become a famous movie star or married any of her seven husbands. She’s a young teen, just developing...

It Couldn’t Happen Here

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Or could it? This is the question posed in Philip Roth’s 2004 novel “The Plot Against America” and further explored in the 2020 HBO limited series (six episodes) by the same name. Roth imagines an alternate history when American aviator and suspected Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. The result is a turn toward fascism in the...

Banned Books–“The Bluest Eye”

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The “State of America’s Libraries Report,” concluded that the year 2021 represented the largest number of attempted book bans in public and school libraries since the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom began tracking challenges 20 years ago. The leading initiators of book challenges are parents, patrons, administrators, and religious and political groups. Only six...

“Mercy Street” — Jennifer Haigh

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Jennifer Haigh’s “Mercy Street” was published this past Spring in what has proved to be an exquisite sense of timing. My reading of it also happened to be very timely, given recent Supreme Court rulings against women. Claudia, 43, divorced, no children, is the novel’s protagonist. She is a counselor at Mercy Street, a women’s health center that provides a range of health services including...

A Summer Blockbuster Streaks Across the Sky

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My friend Jimmy texted me and said it was $7 night at the Spectrum and did I want to go to the movies. What film did he want to see? Top Gun: Maverick. Uh, no. Not my kind of movie. But my friend said his son saw the movie and it was incredible and the action sequences were some of the best he’s seen. Plus, it’s got a 99 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s almost...

“The Candy House” — Jennifer Egan

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In Jennifer Egan’s 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “A Visit From the Good Squad,” the goon is time. There is no escaping the passage or ravages of time. That novel of many characters and many narrative threads unfolded in the world of rock music. In her latest novel, “The Candy House,” the candy house is the digital world: you think it’s free, but there’s always a price to pay when handing...

“Sea of Tranquility,” Emily St. John Mandel

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In 2020, six years after her huge bestseller “Station Eleven” Emily St. John Mandel published “The Glass Hotel,” a novel about a Ponzi scheme I found compelling and have read twice—one of those alternatively structured novels that follows a diverse cast I tend to gravitate toward. Less than two years later came “Sea of Tranquility.” I thought: Mandel is on a creative tear. She’s wholly juiced up...

There’s No Avoiding the Goon

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Back in July 2010, two compelling novels were published by Random House. One was “Stash” by David Klein and the other was “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan. Both novels were structured around interlocking stories told from the point of view of multiple characters, but while Egan’s book became a huge bestseller and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, Klein’s novel received only modest...

AMERICAN PASTORAL — Philip Roth

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“What sort of mental existence had been his? What, if anything, had ever threatened to destabilize the Swede’s trajectory?” So asks the narrator of the novel, Nathan Zuckerman, a stand-in for Roth who appears in the first quarter of American Pastoral and then retreats to the background as the Swede’s story unfolds, a brilliantly executed narrative strategy Roth deploys in a number of his...

Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action

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I had an opportunity to see the Oscar-nominated live-action short films. Every year (except for the last two because of Covid), these films are shown at my local Spectrum Theater. After the last time I saw the live-action shorts in 2019, I said I never wanted to go again. Each of those short films (there are usually five or six shown together) was so utterly depressing and tragic that I left the...

David Klein

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

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