Books & Fiction

Smaller Publishing Houses Provide for a Rich, Diverse Literary Landscape

Gerry LaFemina

On a warm Friday night in October in Frostburg, Maryland, a small college town in the Allegheny Mountains, some 75 people sit in Main Street Books listening as four editors introduce a writer each from their respective publishing house.  This is the kickoff event of the Frostburg Independent Literature Festival, one of many such events celebrating independent publishers happening every month around the country.  The editors all say the same thing: What they do is about the writers.  It’s about publishing work they believe in.  It’s about getting good books into the hands of readers.

Author Penelope Lively Wonders ‘How It All Began’

Lee Polevoi

The mugging of an elderly woman on a London street sets things in motion in Penelope Lively’s 22nd novel, How It All Began. This expertly rendered opening scene (“The pavement rises up and hits her. Slams into her face, drives the lower rim of her glasses into her cheek”) lays the foundation for rippling events that directly affect nine different individuals.

Stalking Graham Greene

Lee Polevoi

In The Man Within My Head, British-born travel writer Pico Iyer attempts to uncover the source of a nagging, lifelong obsession. Why does Graham Greene, one of the 20th century's most accomplished writers, continue to haunt his life years after the great man’s death?

Rediscovering the Joy of Quiet: Thank You, Pico Iyer

Sandip Roy

When a friend forwarded me Pico Iyer’s recent New York Times essay, “The Joy of Quiet,” I was squashed in the back of a Maruti shuttle van on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass of Kolkata....The honking din of traffic around me was deafening. The construction happening on the bypass added its grating groan to the general bedlam. The Maruti rattled and creaked, the FM radio non-stop hits swelling and garbling with each bump on the road. Every single person in the shuttle was shouting into their cell phone. I wanted them all to stop, take a deep breath and read what Iyer had to say.

Et Tu, Tintin?

Sandip Roy

From New America Media and Charles de Gaulle famously said, “My only international rival is Tintin.” Now Hergé’s Tintin  has his own rival — [Steven] Spielberg’s Tintin. The (battle)lines are drawn. What should be an homage from one master storyteller to another will instead become a battle of technique — Hergé’s ligne claire vs Spielberg’s CGI. The complexity of the simple will become simply complex and the trepidation is that somewhere in that dimensional leap we may find the secret of the unicorn but lose forever the secret joy of Tintin.


Julian Barnes and the Minefields of Memory

Lee Polevoi

In The Sense of an Ending, winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize, Julian Barnes has achieved an oddly remarkable thing: He’s written a long novel in the form of a short one. It spans the lifetime of Tony Webster, a late-middle-aged Englishman of no special distinction who receives a mysterious bequest of £500 and is prompted for the first time to reflect on how his event-filled adolescence has influenced the outcome of his adult life.

Don DeLillo Stories Offer Terror and Dread in Captivating Prose

Lee Polevoi

Reading the stories in The Angel Esmeralda reminds us how varied, adept, intelligent and ruthlessly honest this great writer has been from the beginning.  Like his novels, each of these stories trades in dread and terror, and our failure to connect in the fractured and chaotic past half-century.

James Wolcott Lucks Out in the Big Apple

Lee Polevoi

It doesn't hurt that James Wolcott can write up a storm.  He proves this once again with a gritty and compulsively readable memoir, Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York.  Not quite a memoir in the conventional sense, rather Wolcott has written five long essays that seek to encapsulate the reckless, head-long world of movies, Punk music, porn and the New York City Ballet during a time when the glittering metropolis was both grimy and resplendent, when the likes of Norman Mailer, Blondie and Balanchine somehow co-existed in an urban fever dream of creativity not seen since.

New Fiction: Death Threat

Lee Polevoi

The Bentley was parked and idling at the curb.  As always, my driver Emil Vaka stood by the open rear door,  his own uniform of ancient Habsburg design garlanded with regal epaulets.  I already pictured myself settling in the backseat as we sped downtown; but as I tugged my camel-hair coat against the morning chill, a woman crossed my path, walking a black-and-tan spaniel on a jewel-encrusted leash.  She was tall, dark-haired, no older than forty, wearing a fur stole and the  air of Old World wealth.  As we exchanged a cordial smile, new purpose suddenly entered my life. 

Jackson Brodie Strikes Again

Elisabeth Blais

Started Early, Took My Dog is the fourth novel in Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. Brodie has appeared in three previous novels by Atkinson, but he’s merely one consistent player among a changing ensemble cast in each book. Atkinson’s books don’t really qualify as mysteries. Yes, Brodie is a policeman-turned-private detective, but the projects he works on are not your typical ‘CSI’ scenarios. He is not confronted with murder scenes, where he must rely on his superior investigative skills to uncover clues, then pull out his Sherlock Holmes-like brain power for a big reveal. More often than not, Brodie chances onto a solution by accident or simply by being in the right place at the right time. 


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