Books & Fiction

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.

Modern African Poetry Finds Its Voice Online

Lisa Vives

From the pages of private notebooks to the dog-eared copies of rare published editions, the works of modern African poets are emerging with great fanfare thanks to a dedicated handful of writers and teachers building a network of libraries and websites on the Internet. The South African Badilisha Poetry X-change is one such group which recently posted its archive of poems and writings on a “mobile-first” site. 

Sandip Roy’s Debut Novel Delves into Inner Turmoils of South Asian Family

Regina Bediako

In this unassuming way, through the lens of life-altering events that, as in the real world, just seem to happen, Sandip Roy’s debut novel Don’t Let Him Know gradually explores the arc of one South Asian family’s experience through a collection of sparkling vignettes. There’s Avinash, the man in that dusty Calcutta room who got married instead of getting away; Romola, his wife, who knows about Avinash’s ill-fated romance and hides one of her own; and Amit, their son, in the dark about his parents’ secrets and struggling to find his place between India, where he was born, and America, where he has chosen to build his life. 

New Book by Chuck Todd Analyzes the Obama Presidency

Lee Polevoi

One future historical analysis of Barack Obama’s presidency might read something like this: The most intellectually gifted politician of his generation takes office facing unprecedented challenges. An economy in freefall, two bitterly fought wars long past their expiration date, and a host of other infrastructural issues—all inherited from a presidential administration that history may yet judge to be the worst in modern times.

Remembering Robert Stone

Lee Polevoi

Everyone who loves to read can name a book that changed their lives. For me, it was Dog Soldiers, a novel written by Robert Stone, who died recently in Key West. The novel, Stone’s second, grafted a compulsively readable narrative onto a precise evocation of the war in Vietnam and what was happening back home. No writer described the era’s pathos, self-absorption and reckless abandon as well as he did. The 60’s died in Dog Soldiers and by the novel’s end, we understood why. 

Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler and the Modern Feminist Discourse

Kaitlin Ebersol

And so it seems appropriate that Lena Dunham and Amy Poehler, influential female actors and writers in their respected realms of comedy, would choose this year to publish memoirs detailing their experiences as women in entertainment. Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, released in September, and Poehler’s Yes Please, published a month later, build on the now well-established trend of intimate autobiographies penned by female entertainers. In fact, in her preface, Poehler cites the memoirs of comedians like Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Silverman, and Rachel Dratch as inspiration for her own writing. 

Best Books of 2014

Lee Polevoi

One of the chief pleasures of On Such a Full Sea is the anxious, reflective, self-questioning and cautiously prideful “chorus of We” that tells the story of Fan, a 16-year-old fish-tank diver in a highly stratified, post-apocalyptic America. The collective voice emanates from B-Mor, “once known as Baltimore,” whose inhabitants are charged with raising fish and vegetables to feed the elite Charter villages, located across a vast, lawless territory called the “open counties.”

Frank Bascombe Returns in Richard Ford’s ‘Let Me Be Frank With You’

Lee Polevoi

Frank Bascombe, the former novelist turned sportswriter turned real estate agent, stages a comeback of sorts in Let Me Be Frank with You, Richard Ford’s newest entry to the Bascombe saga. These linked novellas form a long-awaited coda to three novels describing in detail (and detail is the word for it) the life and times of Ford’s keenly perceptive narrator of our life and times. 

A Tale of Death and Texting in Matt Richtel’s ‘A Deadly Wandering’

Lee Polevoi

A Deadly Wandering tells the story of Reggie Shaw, a Utah college student whose Chevy Tahoe veered into another lane one night in 2006 and clipped a car carrying two rocket scientists, which then collided head-on with a truck, killing the two men. Shaw was texting a friend at the time of the accident. Richtel casts a wide net in the telling of this story, including a cast of characters that ranges from the scientists’ widows and children to lawmakers, prosecutors, neuroscientists and one tireless victim’s advocate. 

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