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Reviews and Ratings
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reviewed Cry, the Beloved Country. September 23, 2010
Cry, the Beloved Country
Alan Paton was a very great man. In addition to being an author, he spent many years managing a large reformatory, bringing to the inmates some amazingly humane ways of doing things. If prison is intended …
reviewed Cutter and Bone. September 10, 2010
Cutter and Bone (Midnight Classics)
This book is many things, but it is not a murder mystery, despite the attempts of its first reviewers to stuff it into that format. In a murder mystery, someone (usually for a fee) learns who killed the …
reviewed Through the Trees. September 04, 2010
Through the Trees
Rennie and Brett Sparks, the core of The Handsome Family, have what looks to be a terrific marriage. They've been together for about twenty years, they're into the same things and they have jobs that …
reviewed Libra (Contemporary American Fiction). August 05, 2010
Libra (Contemporary American Fiction)
Fictionalized accounts of historic events, particularly recent ones, make me suspicious. Any author might write a book set during an actual event, of course, but authors who set out to tell a tale about …
Life and Times of Michael K: A Novel
When it comes to artists in South Africa during racial segregation, I assume that lots of them found ways to work without mentioning apartheid, but it's hard to imagine how. Like the work of artists in …
Buddha's Little Finger
Bottom line, guys - trying to describe this novel is an exercise in futility. For starters, it has at least three titles, "Buddha's Little Finger" in the U.S., "The Clay Machine Gun" in England, and "Chapaev …
The Sea, The Sea (Penguin Twentieth-Century
You want to assume that a narrator of the novel you're reading is trustworthy, but that isn't always the case. Especially in more recent fiction, the storyteller may be a liar, may have secrets to conceal, …
If Not Now, When? (Penguin Twentieth-Century
I can hear what you're thinking - "Great, another book about the Holocaust!" I can understand your impatience, actually. Books and plays and movies have dealt with the Holocaust since only a few years …
reviewed House of Leaves. June 09, 2010
House of Leaves
Wikipedia categorizes "House of Leaves" as "ergodic literature", placing it in a class of stories that require people to put in "non-trivial" effort in reading them. Sounds like all this really means …
reviewed Slaughterhouse-Five. May 13, 2010
Slaughterhouse-Five
Unlike most novels, "Slaughterhouse-Five" begins with an introduction that you have to read. That is to say, most introductions are interesting and informative, but if you skip them you haven't really …
reviewed Dixie Chicken. May 06, 2010
Dixie Chicken
My millions of fans have surely noticed by this time that I'm working through a few "best of" lists, specifically the "Mojo Collection" from the English music magazine and "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before …
reviewed Keeping the Faith (2000). May 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Keeping the Faith (2000)
When this movie came out, some expressed surprise at Edward Norton's involvement. This, remember, was the same guy who had taken and would continue to take the most outrageous, most provocative, nastiest …
reviewed Can You Fly. May 03, 2010
Can You Fly
A lot of reviewers agree that "Can You Fly" is a major piece of work in popular music. I, too, say that. What irritates me is the fact that so many people make such a big deal about the record's first …
reviewed The Leopard: A Novel. April 30, 2010
The Leopard: A Novel
Giuseppe di Lampedusa died when he was sixty years old. "The Leopard," his only novel, had been roundly rejected by every major publisher in Italy by then, and he never saw it in print. There's something …
reviewed The Butcher Boy. April 28, 2010
The Butcher Boy
Commentators on the jacket of this book refer to Francie Brady as a psychopath or an abuse victim or something like that. Fortunately, "The Butcher Boy" is no such disease-of-the-week television special. …
reviewed Jurgen. April 20, 2010
Jurgen
It wasn't all that long ago that James Branch Cabell attracted a huge audience for this kind of satire. He's not much read these days, and I can sort of understand why - much of what he pokes fun at here …
reviewed Galaxy Quest. April 14, 2010
Galaxy Quest (1999)
I wonder whether a non-Trekker would enjoy this movie as much as we Star Trek fans do. The answer is, probably not quite so much or in quite the same way, but I'm pretty sure they'd like it. That's part …
reviewed Doctor Zhivago. April 07, 2010
Doctor Zhivago
Certain books give rise to the speculation that they are more famous than read. Everybody knows that they changed literature for good, or took part in some great historical movement as if they were human …
reviewed Abbey Road (Remastered). April 01, 2010
Abbey Road (Remastered)
One thing no one has said about this album is how damn weird it is. Although they were famous for their eclecticism - they played in pretty nearly every style they could get their hands on - the Beatles …
reviewed Who's Next. March 31, 2010
Who's Next
There's an old saying that advises us to aim for the stars at all times. The idea is that by doing so, even a failure might land you on the moon, at least. Here's an example of that idea in action - "Who's …
The Lost Language of Cranes: A Novel
Perhaps I shouldn't review this book. "The Lost Language of Cranes" is both a work of fiction and an important document in the history of gay life and literature - its concerns don't touch my life directly. …
reviewed Kokoro. March 22, 2010
Kokoro
This is a novel in fragments. The narrator, whose name we never learn, tells us nothing about his history. His friend, whom he refers to as "Sensei", has almost nothing besides history, but does not want …
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy,
At the end of Volume 6 of this work, Mr. Shandy as the teller of his own life story provides a drawing of his narrative line over the previous volumes. Each one is twisted beyond all recognition, of course, …
reviewed La's. March 11, 2010
La's
Eccentricity in rock is nothing new. Ambivalence toward the rock audience is nothing new, either. I'm trying to think if there was anyone who combined those characteristics before Lee Mavers, the leader …
reviewed Starship Troopers. February 23, 2010
Starship Troopers
Now, boys and girls, a little lesson on fiction. A novel is a long story in which a developing series of events happens to a character or group of characters, in such a way that when it's over something …
reviewed The Doors. February 23, 2010
The Doors
The name of this group comes from one of at least two sources, both of which Jim Morrison referenced during his lifetime. One source is Aldous Huxley, who in the course of his investigations of human …
The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics)
Everyone knows what the word "passion" means in ordinary usage; it's a strong feeling, often of sexual desire, and generally considered to be the opposite of reason. It means something quite different …
reviewed The House of Doctor Dee. February 21, 2010
The House of Doctor Dee
It's a regular trick among postmodernist authors to interrupt their own work by inserting themselves into the prose as a narrator or a character. You find this in John Fowles, Martin Amis, B.J. Johnson, …
reviewed 36 Arguments for the Existence of God.... February 20, 2010
36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of
Confession time - when I started reading "36 Arguments for the Existence of God" I made an assumption that turned out to be wrong. There are actually two stories here and I thought that one of them was …
Everything That Rises Must Converge
According to most critical opinion, Flannery O'Connor was one of the greatest writers of fiction that America has ever produced. When it comes to Southern writers, they say, she's right up there with …
reviewed Dangerous Visions. January 31, 2010
Dangerous Visions
Good Lord, it's been forty years or more since "Dangerous Visions" hit the stores. Hardly seems possible, especially for a book that was specifically designed to bring science fiction current with the …
Tom Jones (Oxford World's Classics)
My question is, how is one to encounter an early novel like "Tom Jones"? When Fielding wrote it, there wasn't much in the way of standards for prose fiction of its kind; in fact, one of the fun things …
Of Human Bondage (Modern Library Classics)
I suspect that anyone who's heard of this novel but has not read it assumes, as I did, that it's about a young man named Philip Carey who falls in love with a waitress named Mildred and wishes he hadn't. …
reviewed Catch-22 (book). January 20, 2010
Catch-22
By this time everyone knows what a Catch-22 is - we're inundated with them every day - but in case you're not sure, it's a circumstance in which the very thing you need in order to get you what you want …
reviewed The Glass Castle: A Memoir. January 11, 2010
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This is one of those stories that no one could possibly make up. By now everybody knows that Jeannette Walls and her siblings spent their childhoods traveling all over the country from flop to flop, living …
Fanny Hill: Memoirs Of A Woman of Pleasure
Well, here it is - maybe the most famous dirty book in the history of the English language. And it's dirty, all right, but what it mostly is, is hilarious.    Mind you, in some respects …
reviewed White Teeth: A Novel. December 30, 2009
White Teeth: A Novel
This book is about 450 pages long, give or take. It should have been either 600 pages or 300 pages, I'm not sure which.    That's not really a criticism as such. On the contrary, the …
reviewed Delta of Venus. December 29, 2009
Delta of Venus
With other kinds of literature, we might say that a story is successful if it entertains, if it strikes us as realistic, if we recognize ourselves and our lives in the characters and events, or any number …
The Hour I First Believed
If you'll excuse me for being too clever by half, I think that hand on the cover of "The Hour I First Believed" (the hardcover edition, that is) may belong to the author, Wally Lamb. It holds a candle …
reviewed The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven.... December 22, 2009
The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount
First of all, I have no idea why these two short novels are published together and "The Baron in the Trees" is published separately, except possibly that "Baron" is a little bit longer. Other than purely …
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