american authors

Hostility, Terror, and Fear Highlight Cameron Ayers’s Debut Horror Novel

Adam Gravano

The action in the book starts innocuously enough with a group of six people taken into the woods by a small tour company, Mystic Tours, for a sort of Native American sweat-lodge-inspired purification ceremony. After the group is abandoned by their putative guide, John Lightfoot, they're left to their own devices in the face of limited food, struggles over what exactly to do, and the lurking perils of both the forest and the human mind.

Greed, Destiny, and Death at Sea Haunt ‘The Glass Hotel’

Lee Polevoi

The Glass Hotel revolves around two events:  the collapse of a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi scheme in 2008 and, years later, a woman falling (or being pushed) from the deck of a container ship at sea. In between swirl a variety of interconnected subplots and a host of living, breathing secondary characters. And, as with Station Eleven, the author enjoys (and is seemingly peerless at) shuffling time and point of view in ways that subtly enrich the text, while never disorienting the reader as to where and what is going on.

Earth Day: Dinner With America

Rick Bass

We might talk about what makes a great American. Great ones we’ve known. Teachers would be thick among them, and older people of integrity we’ve been lucky to know. My grandfather. My parents. Artists are my heroes, too. I’d talk about Berger, and Merwin’s poem “Thanks.” We’d stay up late. I’d plug in the porch lights.The pie would be pretty great. And after we caught up on her last ten thousand years — Say what you want about global warming, she’d laugh, but I was pretty excited at first, when that last ice sheet started to go away — she might ask what I’ve been up to.

H. Jon Benjamin and the Art of Failure

Adam Gravano

We all have a friend whom we laugh and have a good time with, but later, when we go through the events of time together, when it's too late to mention and we're too far apart, we wonder if everything is all right — perhaps while lying awake. This is a book written by that friend. You'll cringe; you'll laugh; you'll cringe while laughing. The book does a remarkable job of accomplishing its goal: You'll find that failure is an option and it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's great to read and makes a more helpful suggestion to people who haven't quite found a good fitting place after graduation.

Remembering Charles Brockden Brown, the Father of American Fright

Adam Gravano

While his reputation has diminished, as the first American gothic novelist who wrote about American characters in American settings, he can be considered the father of the tradition. There's much to suggest that America's first professional author might also be one of the more interesting writers of his period, and, as such, has been unjustly relegated to a second tier: he was read on both sides of the Atlantic, with nods and recommendations from the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Keats; he was an early feminist; and his likely influence on the titanic name in 19th century American gothic tales, Edgar Allan Poe. 

Author Tom Drury Revisits Grouse County in ‘Pacific’

Lee Polevoi

Anyone familiar with his work knows this is Tom Drury’s world and the rest of us just happen to live in it. Ever since chapters from his first novel, The End of Vandalism, appeared in The New Yorker some 20 years ago, readers understood they were in the presence of a unique voice—deadpan yet deeply insightful, slightly off-kilter yet in its assessment of the ebb and flow of the human spirit, wonderfully on target. Pacific is a sequel of sorts to The End of Vandalism, revisiting the fictional Midwestern domain of Grouse County (might be in Iowa, might be in Minnesota) and inhabitants known to readers of his earlier work. 

Family Secrets Emerge from Iconic Photograph in Marisa Silver’s ‘Mary Coin’

Lee Polevoi

In her new novel, Marisa Silver richly re-imagines the subject of this photograph as Mary Coin, struggling to keep her ever-growing family alive. The photographer who captures the melancholy image is a polio-stricken artist named Vera Dare. Silver tells their stories both before they cross paths in California’s Imperial Valley and as they diverge in the years thereafter. For different reasons, the well-known photograph haunts their lives: 

Literary Flashback: Reading ‘This Is Where I Leave You’

Kimberly Tolleson

As one might expect, when all these semi-estranged siblings and their provocative mother are forced to be under the same roof for seven days, shenanigans, fights, heartfelt moments, and confessions ensue. At the outset, it all feels a little too set up and predictable, almost a bad knockoff of Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections. Many characters have a too-familiar feel to them. 

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