Long acclaimed as one of America’s greatest novelists during his prize-winning career, it’s hard to see how Jonathan Franzen could top himself. But his new novel, Crossroads, may be his best.
Lionel Shriver believes in tough love. Instead of embracing her readers she prods, pinches, pokes and provokes them by exploring incendiary social issues through novels that use unlikable characters to reveal harsh truths.
The title of Michael Griffith’s wonderful new nonfiction book – “The Speaking Stone: Stories Cemeteries Tell” – is misleading.
Cemeteries are silent. It takes a curious mind to find the glimmering pulse in the dusky dead past and a gifted writer to make it breathe and sing.
Griffith accomplishes all that and more as he explores the richness, the wonders and mysteries of life at his local graveyard.
Haitian writer and activist Jacques Roumain (1907-44) straddled, and fused, the worlds of politics and art during his relatively short life.
The grandson of a former president, he was raised in comfort and educated abroad, including in Switzerland, Spain (where he developed an interest in bullfighting), Germany and France.
But his youth was also shaped by Haiti’s subjugation during its long occupation by the United States (1915-34).
Can Jim Shepard tell the future?
How else to account for the fact he had nearly completed his novel about a global pandemic, Phase Six, before COVID-19 descended on the planet?
Although Shepard’s seventh novel is triggered by an epidemic that is killing millions around the world, it focuses on three people: the young boy from Greenland, Aleq, who became patient zero and the two female scientists, Jeannine and Danice, who try to identify the pathogen that kills about a 33% of those who contract it (COVID’s morality rate is less than 1%).
Many people have written books. Only a precious few delivered their signature subject matter with such pronounced and memorable style that their name became a word:
1: of, relating to, or characteristic of François Rabelais or his works
2: marked by gross robust humor, extravagance of caricature, or bold naturalism
Nowadays, many writers follow a straight line—an elite education, MFA degree and publication.
The German author Karl Phillip Moritz (1756-93) had plenty of schooling before literary success, but his life was a jagged line. Born poor, he received just a smidgen of formal education before he was apprenticed to a hatmaker at age 12. But he clearly had a sharp mind – and also a troubled one that would haunt his days - and so patrons financed his study of theology.
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis is widely considered Brazil’s Shakespeare. The critic Harold Bloom included him on his list of the 100 greatest literary geniuses – alongside Dante, Cervantes and, of course, the Sweet Swan of Avon.
Through innovative novels, poems, short stories and plays, the 19th century writer (1839-1908) spun compelling tales that pierced the veil between the imagination and objective reality. Some critics have described his work as Romantic Realism.
Allan Gurganus is good for the mind and the soul.
His brand new collection, The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus, offers nine smart and thoroughly entertaining tales that overflow with news of the spirit. His characters are far from perfect – but Gurganus loves them, warts and all, depicting them with a radical dignity. As they often make us laugh out loud, his stories show us how we ought to think and feel toward one another when guided by our better angels.