Books & Fiction

John Lanchester Explores Money, Character and Destiny in ‘Capital’

Lee Polevoi

British author John Lanchester displays an impressive range of skills in his books—from a gourmand/serial killer’s disturbing confessions in his first novel, The Debt to Pleasure, to a beguiling memoir Family Romance and an incisive examination of the global economic crisis in IOU: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One can Pay! Lanchester’s interest in the global economy bears full fruit in Capital, the finest novel yet from this hugely talented writer.

NY Times Writer Researches Michelle Obama’s Ancestry in ‘American Tapestry’

Cynthia Gordy

In her new book, American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama, Rachel L. Swarns digs up the first lady's family roots. Throughout the meticulously researched tome, Swarns, a New York Times correspondent, uncovers a diverse history that Mrs. Obama hadn't even known herself. Swarns speaks  about what struck her most about the project, her extensive research process and what she hopes readers will take away from learning about a family that went from slavery to the White House.

Crime, Punishment and Exile in Richard Ford's 'Canada'

Lee Polevoi

The details of small-town life in the American West are, as always in Richard Ford's work, richly imagined and closely observed. These details, along with looping meditations on luck, the follies of heredity and the tragedy of bad choices, occupy much of the story in Canada, and would become tiresome if not for the narrator's poignant and elegiac voice. 

Two Months Later, the Pulitzer Prize Rebuff Still Speaks Volumes

Veronica Giannotta

For the first time in 35 years and the 11th time in history, this year’s Pulitzer Prize deliberately overlooked all three fiction nominees.  Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, and Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams were speculated to be stranger choices than usual. This motley trio admittedly inspired a  few raised eyebrows, but none were prepared for the news that would precipitate from the Pulitzer Board’s final conference -- that ,in fact, none had been worthy of the prestigious literary prize.

Author Rosecrans Baldwin and the American Love Affair With Paris

Mark Bizzell

Knowing which co-workers to kiss on the cheeks, watching Claudia Schiffer model lingerie below your office balcony, and being berated for eating lunch at your desk are just part of the job for an American living and working in Paris.  Rosecrans Baldwin’s Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, is an insightful memoir of his 18 months at a Paris ad agency. His follow-up to You Lost Me There, this funny narrative shows the joie de vivre and frustrations of Gallic living. He recently spoke with Highbrow Magazine.

Despite Growing Trend, Publishing Experts Still Frown Upon Self-Published Books

Gerry LaFemina

The recent rash of self-publishing success stories capture the spirit of the American Dream, in which anybody can be successful with entrepreneurship and a good idea – rags-to-riches stories in which the little guy, forgotten by corporate publishers succeeds on his own skill and perseverance. The response from other writers and publishers is often disdain toward self-published and vanity press books.

Acclaimed Intellectual Slavoj Žižek Waxes Philosophical About God

Trevor Laurence Jockims

Slavoj Žižek has earned himself a reputation as something of a philosophical wild man, an epithet derived at least as much from the way he inhabits a room as it is from the content of his books. The crux of God in Pain  is a good one, and although tempting to see it as a corrective to Hitchens and Dawkins-esque writings on atheism, the latter group is so thoroughly outweighed by the sheer force of Žižek’s brain that the comparison is sort of pointless.

William Boyd’s New Literary Thriller Traverses Vienna and London Circa WWI

Lee Polevoi

Boyd is an immensely gifted and adroit writer, whose control of language places the reader immediately within the world of his characters. Over the years, his prose—always vivid and cinematic—has condensed to a sort of a crystalline purity, both elegant and lucid. Unfortunately, tension is undermined by a curious lack of events in the first third of the novel, along with the frequent appearance of secondary characters who add little beyond some local color. 

Kathryn Harrison’s ‘Enchantments’ Examines the Lives of the Last Russian Royals

Trevor Laurence Jockims

Kathryn Harrison's latest novel, Enchantments, is interested again in fathers and daughters, but this time through the lens of history -- specifically, Tsarist Russia, the fall of the Romanovs, and the life of Rasputin’s daughter, Masha.  Masha serves as the narrator of the novel, and she is positioned as both historical personage—Rasputin’s actual daughter—as well as the book’s embedded raconteur. 

Peter Behrens’ New Book Traces a Family Saga That Spans Generations and Countries

Lee Polevoi

Peter Behrens’ first novel, The Law of Dreams, received the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, and he has also published Night Driving, a collection of short stories. His prose is clear and lyrical, and he demonstrates a deep empathy for all of his characters. If the intensity of the early chapters of The O'Briens gives way to a less focused, more rambling account of the lives of the O’Brien clan, this may be as much a function of this type of novel as his conception and execution. But throughout, Behrens’ affinity for landscape and family shine through. 

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