Books & Fiction

The Disappointment of Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’

Kaitlin Ebersol

The reception of this controversial second book, Go Set a Watchman, released in July of 2015, has met with equally mixed reviews. However varied their opinions of the story, critics seem to agree on one aspect of the work: one can’t read Watchman without comparing it to, or at least mentioning, To Kill a Mockingbird. For one, Mockingbird so strongly impacted society at the time of its release, winning Lee a Pulitzer Prize and the movie adaptation of her novel three Oscars, and it has remained a staple of high school curricula and American culture ever since.

Comedy, Tragedy Collide in Thomas McGuane’s ‘Crow Fair’

Lee Polevoi

Flash forward some 40-odd years, and McGuane’s writing has grown leaner and more mature, while maintaining a characteristically deft balance between over-the-top comedy and heartbreaking tragedy. In Crow Fair, a new collection of short stories set mostly in Montana’s Big Sky country, he depicts better than most what one character thinks of as “the blizzard of things that could never be explained and that pointlessly exhausted all human inquiry.”

Erik Larson’s ‘Dead Wake’ Chronicles Horrific Sinking of ‘Lusitania’

Lee Polevoi

On the first page of his masterful account of the sinking of the Lusitania, Erik Larson notes that while researching the book, he realized that “buried in the muddled details of the [Lusitania] affair … was something simple and satisfying: a very good story.” It’s one of those occasions when an author doth protest too much. How a deluxe ocean liner, among the fastest ships on the sea at the time, came to be torpedoed off the Irish Coast remains a powerful episode of history, no matter how many times it’s retold.

T.C. Boyle Focuses on Cycles of Rage in ‘The Harder They Come’

Lee Polevoi

In the opening pages of Boyle’s new novel, The Harder They Come, a 70-year-old Vietnam vet named Sten Stensen and his wife are part of a tour group robbed at gunpoint while on vacation in Costa Rica. At some point during the ordeal, his long-ago military training kicks in and Stensen subdues one of the robbers, killing him in the process. On the bus ride back to the Red Cross Clinic, he experiences the adrenalin-charged aftermath of the incident.

Author David Downie Unravels the Mysteries of Paris

Gabriella Tutino

Ask anyone about the most romantic cities to visit, and Paris will undoubtedly be on the list. The city seems to be in everyone’s subconscious; Paris screams ‘romantic.’ But what is it about the City of Light--with its turbulent yet mesmerizing history of politics, violence, art and sex--that attracts thousands of visitors? What is that special essence of Paris that deems it so romantic? These are a few of the questions David Downie sets out to answer in his latest book A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light.

Taming 30 Ounces of Death in Helen Macdonald’s ‘H is for Hawk’

Lee Polevoi

When her father died unexpectedly several years ago, the British naturalist, historian and academic Helen Macdonald was devastated. Unhinged by grief, she sought relief in an unusual activity--training a captive-bred goshawk from infancy to maturity. The result is H is for Hawk, one of the most striking memoirs to appear in recent years. Macdonald, an experienced falconer, had never before taken on training a goshawk. 

 

Did Shakespeare Write ‘Double Falsehood’? Researchers Say Yes.

Will Dunham

A play called "Double Falsehood" published in 1728 by a man who claimed it was based on a lost Shakespeare play but has long been dismissed as a forgery may indeed be the real deal. University of Texas researchers have unveiled a sophisticated new study of "Double Falsehood" that used text-analyzing software that helped create a "psychological signature" of the playwright.

Truman Capote’s Tale of Murder: ‘In Cold Blood’ Fifty Years Later

Mike Peters

Almost from the moment of first publication in book form In Cold Blood - soon to be a best-seller and Book-of-the-Month Club selection - is surrounded by controversy. Has the author, by not doing enough to prevent the two culprits` executions, compounded the ruthless and chilling murders depicted in his book?  After all, without them and their co-operation, there would be no book. In spite of Capote`s furious protests and in spite of such notable defenders of his cause as the notable cultural commentator, Diane Trilling, the phrase `in cold blood` begins to take on additional significance.

Ian McEwan’s Lackluster ‘The Children Act’ Focuses on Intense Legal Complexities

Lee Polevoi

For all the potential drama presaged in the opening pages, The Children Act stubbornly refuses for the longest time to engage the reader. McEwan demonstrates his ample knowledge of the British legal system, no surprise since he’s done such a similarly impressive job with cardiovascular medicine, environmental science, World War II, etc. But laying the groundwork to establish such credibility takes up many of the early pages, undercutting the dramatic premise and robbing the novel of forward motion.

Yasar Kemal, Turkey’s Great Novelist, dies at 91

Ayla JeanYackley

Kemal's birthplace, the fertile Cukurova plain, was the setting for most of his stories, including his best-known work, "Memed, My Hawk" from 1955, about a bandit hero who exacts revenge on a cruel overlord. The novel eventually earned him a nomination for a Nobel Prize in 1973. "No writer can be a great novelist without their own Cukurova," Kemal once said.

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