Books & Fiction

Intrigue and Deception Fuel Rebecca Starford’s ‘Unlikely Spy’

Lee Polevoi

Evelyn is charged with infiltrating the Lion Society, a group of homegrown fascists whom the authorities fear might help Hitler and the war effort. She conducts herself with maybe a little too much savoir faire, given that this is her first undercover experience, but soon enough the society’s members ask her to supply classified information from the British War Office. Then she discovers a surprising personal connection among the Nazi sympathizers—a connection that will return to haunt her in the years after the war.

Should Non-Diverse Authors Write Diverse Stories?

Angelo Franco

Perhaps what we as readers can do is just take everyone else’s opinions in strides. Take reviews with a grain of salt, and then decide on our own whether a book merits a place in our bookshelves, in our community book exchange program, or in the recycling bin. To read and consume consciously, patronizing the authors who gave us the stories that stirred our emotions, and then to tell everyone else about them until the industry finally gets the message.  

Rachel Kushner Has a Million Stories to Tell in ‘The Hard Crowd’

Lee Polevoi

While some of these essays feel slight and perhaps too condensed, several deliver the same impact as her best works of fiction. In “Bad Captains,” for example, she considers the repercussions of the infamous wreck of the Costa Concordia, which struck a rock off the Italian coast in 2012, resulting in dozens of passenger deaths. Absent among those fatalities was the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, who chose to ignore the age-old maritime tradition wherein the captain always goes down with the ship.

Love, Death, and the West of Ireland in ‘That Old Country Music’

Lee Polevoi

Over the years, the small country of Ireland has produced a disproportionate number of great novelists and short-story writers. In addition to gods of literature like Joyce and Beckett, there’s a bounty of very talented Irish writers at work today, from Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, and Colm Toibin to relative newcomers like Colin Barrett and Sally Rooney. High up in that pantheon is another wonderful writer named Kevin Barry.

‘Watkins Glen’ Tells a Moving Story of the Remarkable Strength of Family Bonds

Eleanor Lerman

The gift shop where I worked was not near enough to the racetrack to be super busy, but during racing season we still brought in a steady crowd of visitors. We sold the usual  race-related memorabilia including hats, tee shirts, key chains and model race cars, but also kept  a few shelves stocked with homey items like scented soaps and car-themed potholders for the  people who owned or rented summer houses along the lake.

Curating Identity: Fabric Façades in ‘Le Père Goriot’

Eva Berezovsky

Truth in Père Goriot seems to detach from its clothing façades and succeed societal suppression in moments of climactic doom. Reality not only lies beneath clothing––beneath appearance and subsequent labels––but it hides beneath it, creeping out with the mere removal of a shirt. Just as Gustave Courbet declares that “titles have never given a true idea of things,” clothing in Père Goriot titles its characters in preservation of a society that revolves around the superficial and rejects realism.

A Visual Revolution: The Japanese Emperor in Popular Nishiki-e

Alice Y. Tseng

Much ink has been spilled on Emperor Meiji’s transition from nonvisual to visual. Scholars have investigated his initial photographic sessions in 1872 and 1873, the proliferation of woodblock prints that featured him in the 1880s to the early 1890s, the construction of his “true likeness” (go-shin’ei) in 1888 from a combination of drawing and photography, and the posthumous painting cycle of eighty works housed in the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery (Seitoku Kinen Kaigakan) that required more than two decades to complete in 1936.3

New Thriller Examines Mystery Surrounding a Death in Maine

Chris Crowley

One imagines the intimate business of getting Gus down the steps. Harry stands at the bottom of the companionway, and gets his arms around him (a face full of fur, legs every which way; Gus’s great face is interested but relaxed: they’ve done this a hundred times). Then he picks him up, all hundred pounds of him, and gently sets him down on the cabin sole. Sets out some water. Harry put him below because he didn’t want him to see. Or more likely, he was afraid the dog would jump in and try to save him, as Newfies are bred to do.

‘Souvenir Museum’ Delves Into the Tragicomic Lives of Its Characters

Lee Polevoi

Elizabeth McCracken is one of these writers, and it’s a rare pleasure to immerse yourself in her new story collection, The Souvenir Museum. As with Thunderstruck, her previous (and equally brilliant) book of short stories, it’s immediately clear she knows what she’s doing—not surprising, given her distinguished career as both a novelist and short story writer.

International Political Intrigue Spans Continents in ‘Treasure Seekers’

Roberta Seret

She wondered who could have helped Rafsanjani with his gold from Ceausescu’s corrupt deals and terrorist partnerships with Gaddafi, Arafat, Ali Bhutto, and North Korea’s Kim Jung Il. A billion dollars of gold from Romania, such a poor country, while the people lived for twenty-four years under a ruthless dictatorship with little food, little heat, little light, no rights, no freedom, no life. Marina wished she knew what had happened to that gold, deposited in Tehran.

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