CategoryReviews

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...

“The Worst Person in the World”

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I’m fortunate to live just a few minutes from the Spectrum 8 Theaters, where independent and foreign films are still shown. And now that I’m going to theaters again, I had a chance to see The Worst Person in the World, a subtitled film from Norway that takes place in Oslo. Simply seeing another culture with its nuances and new faces depicted is refreshing for me. I’d classify the film as a...

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...

THE POWER OF THE DOG

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I’m very much in the minority on this one: I didn’t love the film The Power of the Dog, by acclaimed filmmaker Jane Campion (The Piano). Me, who likes the understated, who appreciates the quiet story, found myself restless, even bored at times while watching the movie. The drawling narrative focuses on two brothers, wealthy ranchers in Montana in 1925. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the classic macho...

“Drive My Car”

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Do you believe behavior can be guided by intimate, private, and unseen forces, and that the face people present to the world doesn’t always align with what resides in the deepest regions of their hearts? If that kind of philosophical speculation appeals to you, please see Drive My Car. I did, on Tuesday night at the Spectrum Theater, when tickets are only seven dollars, and I sat masked with two...

David Klein

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

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