Books & Fiction

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. 

Life by the Pen: Portrayals and Perceptions of Writers in American and British Pop Culture

Sophia Dorval

Unlike Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, an exploration of a literary figure as flawed as Twain is a tough sell to both social media-centric, smartphone-owning Millenials and Baby Boomers brought up during the Civil Rights era.   On both sides of the spectrum, there will be Americans who could care less about his groundbreaking use of American vernacular in literature, who would wince at his minstrel-style portrayal of slaves,  who need to believe that the words and thoughts of Twain belong to an America that is no more.   

Victim and Accuser Clash in David Bezmozgis’ ‘The Betrayers’

Lee Polevoi

The setup of David Bezmozgis’ second novel is refreshingly simple. Baruch Kotler, a prominent Israeli politician (and former political prisoner in the USSR) has fled Tel Aviv in disgrace with his much younger mistress, Leora. They come to Yalta, a resort town in the Crimea, where, after a mix-up over hotel reservations, they rent a room in an apartment owned by a Russian woman, Svetlana. As we quickly discover, Svetlana’s aged husband, Chaim Tankilevich, is the man who long ago denounced Kotler to the KGB, which led to Kotler’s 13 years of exile and imprisonment.    

Why Anne Rice’s Vampirical World Is the Next New Hollywood Trend

Megan Walsh

Anne Rice's popular vampire series, known collectively as The Vampire Chronicles, was recently acquired by Universal Pictures with the intention of relaunching the series as a new film franchise. Following on the heels of that announcement was the news that Televisia USA acquired another of Rice's series, the (questionably) erotic Sleeping Beauty trilogy, with plans to bring it to television. In many ways, this sudden return of Anne Rice to current pop culture comes as no surprise. 

Joshua Ferris Examines the Life of a Cyberstalking Victim in New Book

Lee Polevoi

The plot, such as it is, kicks in when Paul discovers that someone, perhaps a former patient, has begun to impersonate him online. First, a new company website appears (not of Paul’s doing), with more or less accurate staff bios for everyone but him (which instead of facts about his life promulgates strange notions about religion). Then there’s a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a Wikipedia entry—every upsetting development reported to Paul by Connie or Mrs. Convoy while he’s hard at work deep inside the mouths of his patients.

The Story of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses: From Contraband to Masterpiece

Lee Polevoi

Modern-day readers of a novel published in 1922 and banned as “obscene” in Europe and America might legitimately wonder what all the fuss was about. Almost a century later, in a culture saturated by explicit references to sex, masturbation and everything in between, the international uproar over references to sex and bodily functions in James Joyce’s Ulysses seems hard to imagine. But, as Kevin Birmingham illustrates in his engagingly written “biography of a book,” the 720-page, epoch-defining work changed both the way novels are written and the way novels are read. 

Covert Attempts at Mideast Peace Detailed in ‘The Good Spy’

Lee Polevoi

That long intelligence war is the focus of the book, which goes into considerable detail about Ames’ comings and goings throughout the Middle East (and in the Washington, D.C. area). Bird writes at great length about many clandestine meetings Ames arranged and conducted with PLO members at that time, an account that comes to have, for the reader, gradually diminishing returns. The fact that he had so many unauthorized encounters with the PLO is significant for the time, but is not in itself terribly interesting. 

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