Books & Fiction

Paying Homage to a Literary Master and His Garden in ‘Orwell’s Roses’

Lee Polevoi

Orwell wrote not one, but two century-defining works, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four—novels that speak directly to readers today, more than 50 years later. He dedicated his life to writing about and warning of the dangers of totalitarian politics and, most presciently, the breakdown of language when it comes to previously clear distinctions between truth and falsehood. The life story of this brilliant writer underpins the free-flowing structure of Rebecca Solnit’s new book, Orwell’s Roses.

A Father’s Quest to Save His Son in Trevor J. Houser’s New Book

Trevor J. Houser

Later my father put on a gray sweater. We ate chili by a fire. We talked about baseball. My father smiled. He was growing a beard. One day he would be smiling in the Denver Airport of Death, but today he was smiling under normal non-death conditions; breathing without making fearful choking faces, with his bowl of chili, and his facial hair, that together signified peerless health and stability or something like stability.

New Graphic Novel Pays Homage to a Kurt Vonnegut Classic

Garrett Hartman

The adaptation translates this perfectly, instead of treating us to panels showing the things Vonnegut describes, the authors instead do what Vonnegut did and tell us a bit about the creation of the original work. Part of what makes the execution of this graphic novel so brilliant is that the authors do not pretend to write as Vonnegut, but narrate this portion as themselves, similarly to how Vonnegut narrates Billy Pilgrim’s story.

Snakes, Arm Wrestling, and Childhood Adventures in Padgett Powell’s ‘Indigo’

Lee Polevoi

And now Powell’s fans get a different view of the stubbornly individualistic author. The essays in Indigo encompass, among other things, a profile of Cleve Dean, a one-time arm-wrestling champion who has “ballooned to nearly seven hundred pounds”; memories of an eventful childhood in Florida; a quirky tour of the French Quarter in New Orleans; and insightful (though frustratingly brief) assessments of writers like Flannery O’Connor, Donald Barthelme, and William Trevor.

The Best Books of 2021

Lee Polevoi

. In Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead makes the creation of uptown Manhattan in the late 1950s and early 1960s—as well as a series of heists in which Carney becomes enmeshed—look easy to do, when of course it’s not. Whitehead’s prose is smart, jumpy, and pleasingly digressive. The storytelling seems effortless, and yet I can’t recall another work of fiction in 2021 that offered such high entertainment value.  

Murder Comes to the Holler in Chris Offutt’s ‘Killing Hills’

Lee Polevoi

Mick Hardin, a military homicide investigator on leave from government service, has come home to try and salvage a failing marriage. He agrees to take part in the murder investigation led by his sister Linda, recently promoted to sheriff of Rocksalt. From there, the body count quickly escalates. Is the killer Curtis Tanner, arrested by an FBI agent on a tip called in by a local politician?

A Chronicle of the Never-Ending Virus in Lawrence Wright’s ‘Plague Year’

Lee Polevoi

As months passed, that reading grew more problematic. Too many people were still becoming infected and far too many were still dying. Cynical, opportunistic politicians jumped on an anti-vaccine bandwagon, while the voters they claimed to represent were succumbing to the terrible disease. People were (and still are) inexplicably rejecting science, clinging to a demagogue-inspired belief that somehow, in some way, vaccines against this deadly disease threaten their “individual freedom.”

A Doctor Slowly Unravels at the Height of the Vietnam War in ‘All Bleeding Stops’

Michael J. Collins

His war begins with a quiet palette of turquoise and green; soft, shaded layers of blue and white layered like quicklime over all the darkness to follow. The plane banks left. Their shadow, a hundred yards behind them, flits over the shimmering surface of the South China Sea. Ahead, blue waters lap against brilliant white sand. A canopy of jungle fronting the beach glows green in the slanting rays of the late-afternoon sun.

Love, Friendship Are Forged Amidst Conflict in ‘War With No Name’

Adam Gravano

The final installment of the series that is on the shelf, D'Arc, resumes Sebastian and Sheba’s story, just after Mort(e) has come to its dramatic end. The friends are pressed into service once more, for a more developed society that has resurfaced after the close of the main events of the War With No Name. Our friend, Sebastian, at this stage, would like to be left alone, but trouble finds him – and Sheba, too.

A Soul-Searching Mystery Unravels in Eyal Danon’s New Book

Eyal Danon

Harley peered up at the bridge. She had to continue her journey but lacked the strength to move. A small monkey was curiously looking at her, hanging on a tree branch. When she saw the monkey, she instinctively touched the pouch that her mother had given her back in New York. Taking a deep breath, she turned toward the flowing river. After a while she felt her body begin to calm. The current crashed against the smooth white rocks and her thoughts wandered to a time a few months back, to that fateful morning at faraway Columbia University in New York.

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