CategoryReviews

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...

THE NIGHT WATCHMAN, Louise Erdrich

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Louise Erdrich is one of the most admired American authors and arguably the Queen of Native American Literature. I was awed back in 1984 by her debut novel, LOVE MEDICINE. It was my introduction to a novel in stories, without a central plot. Over the years, I’ve read a few of her other novels, and as good as they were, none of them made the same impression on me. Nothing like the first kiss, as...

The Best Books of 2021

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This is the time of year when media outlets that review books come out with their best-of-the-year lists. I compared the top ten books of 2021 as determined by the editors at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Amazon. What’s clear to me is there is very little consensus on what the top ten books are, which is not surprising for a number of reasons. First, there...

BEWILDERMENT, Richard Powers

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Devastating and essential are the two words I would use to describe this novel from Richard Powers, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of “The Overstory,” another novel I loved. In “Bewilderment,” Astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life in the cosmos while single-parenting his nine-year-old son, Robin, who is on the spectrum and about to get kicked out of third grade for bashing a fellow...

DUNE, Frank Herbert

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I revisited this novel I first read in college because a new movie will soon be released. I’ve never been an avid sci fi or fantasy reader, but I remember Dune having a big impact on me. It’s the story of the teenage Paul Atreides whose family is sent by the Emperor to rule the fearsome desert planet Arrakis, the universe’s single source of mélange, a highly addictive spice-drug that prolongs...

EVERYMAN, Philip Roth

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Philip Roth, toward the end of his writing career (and life; he battled many health problems), wrote a number of short novels. Everyman, which focuses on aging, sickness, regret, and death, is one of the grimmest. The novel opens at the protagonist’s funeral, then cycles back and tells the story of his life: he gave up the dream of being an artist to work as an advertising man. He was married...

GREAT CIRCLE, Maggie Shipstead

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This is one of those epic 600-page novels I don’t pick up very often and in this case, I couldn’t put it down. GREAT CIRCLE begins in dramatic fashion early in the twentieth century when Maggie and Jamie Graves, infant twins, are rescued from a sinking ocean liner by their father, the ship’s captain. The father, dubbed Captain Cowardice, is sentenced to prison for not going down with the ship...

FALLING

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Although it’s been almost seven years since my father died from Alzheimer’s, I’m only now researching on a deeper level how dementia is portrayed in the arts. Years ago, I read the bestselling novel depicting dementia—Still Alice. I also highly recommend the film, The Savages, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as adult siblings dealing with a very ill parent. It’s got both humor...

WHITE FRAGILITY, Robin Diangelo

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Dear White People: White is the status quo. White is the norm. White rules. White perspective is assumed to be universal and is imposed on everyone. White supremacy is a system we are all socialized into from the moment we are born. White schools are better than Black schools. White neighborhoods are better than Black neighborhoods. White health care is better than Black health care. White wages ...

THE FATHER

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A friend recommended The Father to me, with words of caution: it’s hard to watch. He was right. But hard to watch doesn’t mean don’t watch. In this case it means the film is so powerful, devastating, brilliant, and so close to home that the discomfort I experience is illuminating, even reassuring: I am not alone. I watched this film about a man struggling with dementia because I too had a father...

A TIDEWATER MORNING, William Styron

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Someone had left this slim book in my Little Free Library and I snatched it when I saw on the cover the name William Styron, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sophie’s Choice and a devastating memoir about his battle with depression among other works. The three tales in “A Tidewater Morning” are fictionalized accounts from his youth. In Shadrach, a 99-year old former Black slave...

THE INDEX OF SELF-DESTRUCTIVE ACTS, Christopher Beha

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First of all, great title: “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts.” It refers to a baseball metric that measures “the total number of hit batsmen, wild pitches, balks and errors by a pitcher, per nine innings.” There’s a bit about baseball in this novel, but the focus is on other types of self-destructive acts committed by the novel’s cast of characters: infidelity, financial...

ANNA KARENINA, Leo Tolstoy

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It’s a major commitment to read an epic novel these days, and I don’t do it as often as I did in my younger days. I can’t say my attention span hasn’t shortened in recent years due to various factors, and the task of reading an 850-page novel seemed daunting. But I’ve never read Tolstoy and every serious reader must at some point. My copy of Anna Karenina has been sitting untouched on my...

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

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You either love Quentin Tarantino movies or loathe them. Put me in the love column. I’ve seen most of the films he’s directed, and one of the best is ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. The story centers around washed-up actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Rick made a name for himself starring in the Western series Bounty Hunter but has recently been...

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, Erich Maria Remarque

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When I travel I tend to grab a shorter, paperback book that’s easy to pack and easy to read. For my trip to Birmingham, I nabbed a tattered copy of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT out of my Little Free Library. I’ve read a number of war novels and seen plenty of war movies, but this short, devastating novel is among the most powerful. Written by Erich Maria Remarque, a German soldier who served on...

David Klein

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

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