literature

Ann Beattie Returns With New Collection of Compelling Short Stories

Lee Polevoi

Ann Beattie, secure within this elite pantheon, returns after a decade’s absence with a new book, The State We’re In: Maine Stories. Those familiar with her work will immediately recognize the wry perspective, the closely observed details, and the smooth texture of her prose. As the title announces, these stories revolve, directly and indirectly, around people living in the Pine Tree State. 

On the Water With a Surfing Memoir and History of the North Sea

Lee Polevoi

Water is the element through which two new books flow, though everything else about them is different. In his surfing memoir Barbarian Days, William Finnegan chronicles a life of more than half a century spent in pursuit of waves in Hawaii, California, Australia, Fiji and elsewhere. A staff writer for The New Yorker, Finnegan has supplemented his reporting from global hot spots—apartheid-era South Africa, Central America, and Sudan—with whatever opportunities he could find for surfing in (oftentimes) uncharted waters. 

Erik Larson’s ‘Dead Wake’ Chronicles Horrific Sinking of ‘Lusitania’

Lee Polevoi

On the first page of his masterful account of the sinking of the Lusitania, Erik Larson notes that while researching the book, he realized that “buried in the muddled details of the [Lusitania] affair … was something simple and satisfying: a very good story.” It’s one of those occasions when an author doth protest too much. How a deluxe ocean liner, among the fastest ships on the sea at the time, came to be torpedoed off the Irish Coast remains a powerful episode of history, no matter how many times it’s retold.

Author David Downie Unravels the Mysteries of Paris

Gabriella Tutino

Ask anyone about the most romantic cities to visit, and Paris will undoubtedly be on the list. The city seems to be in everyone’s subconscious; Paris screams ‘romantic.’ But what is it about the City of Light--with its turbulent yet mesmerizing history of politics, violence, art and sex--that attracts thousands of visitors? What is that special essence of Paris that deems it so romantic? These are a few of the questions David Downie sets out to answer in his latest book A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light.

Taming 30 Ounces of Death in Helen Macdonald’s ‘H is for Hawk’

Lee Polevoi

When her father died unexpectedly several years ago, the British naturalist, historian and academic Helen Macdonald was devastated. Unhinged by grief, she sought relief in an unusual activity--training a captive-bred goshawk from infancy to maturity. The result is H is for Hawk, one of the most striking memoirs to appear in recent years. Macdonald, an experienced falconer, had never before taken on training a goshawk. 

 

Ian McEwan’s Lackluster ‘The Children Act’ Focuses on Intense Legal Complexities

Lee Polevoi

For all the potential drama presaged in the opening pages, The Children Act stubbornly refuses for the longest time to engage the reader. McEwan demonstrates his ample knowledge of the British legal system, no surprise since he’s done such a similarly impressive job with cardiovascular medicine, environmental science, World War II, etc. But laying the groundwork to establish such credibility takes up many of the early pages, undercutting the dramatic premise and robbing the novel of forward motion.

Sandip Roy’s Debut Novel Delves into Inner Turmoils of South Asian Family

Regina Bediako

In this unassuming way, through the lens of life-altering events that, as in the real world, just seem to happen, Sandip Roy’s debut novel Don’t Let Him Know gradually explores the arc of one South Asian family’s experience through a collection of sparkling vignettes. There’s Avinash, the man in that dusty Calcutta room who got married instead of getting away; Romola, his wife, who knows about Avinash’s ill-fated romance and hides one of her own; and Amit, their son, in the dark about his parents’ secrets and struggling to find his place between India, where he was born, and America, where he has chosen to build his life. 

Life by the Pen: Portrayals and Perceptions of Writers in American and British Pop Culture

Sophia Dorval

Unlike Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, an exploration of a literary figure as flawed as Twain is a tough sell to both social media-centric, smartphone-owning Millenials and Baby Boomers brought up during the Civil Rights era.   On both sides of the spectrum, there will be Americans who could care less about his groundbreaking use of American vernacular in literature, who would wince at his minstrel-style portrayal of slaves,  who need to believe that the words and thoughts of Twain belong to an America that is no more.   

Joshua Ferris Examines the Life of a Cyberstalking Victim in New Book

Lee Polevoi

The plot, such as it is, kicks in when Paul discovers that someone, perhaps a former patient, has begun to impersonate him online. First, a new company website appears (not of Paul’s doing), with more or less accurate staff bios for everyone but him (which instead of facts about his life promulgates strange notions about religion). Then there’s a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a Wikipedia entry—every upsetting development reported to Paul by Connie or Mrs. Convoy while he’s hard at work deep inside the mouths of his patients.

The Story of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses: From Contraband to Masterpiece

Lee Polevoi

Modern-day readers of a novel published in 1922 and banned as “obscene” in Europe and America might legitimately wonder what all the fuss was about. Almost a century later, in a culture saturated by explicit references to sex, masturbation and everything in between, the international uproar over references to sex and bodily functions in James Joyce’s Ulysses seems hard to imagine. But, as Kevin Birmingham illustrates in his engagingly written “biography of a book,” the 720-page, epoch-defining work changed both the way novels are written and the way novels are read. 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - literature