Vietnam Era Shows its Age

This novel about America after the Vietnam War must have seemed more profound and insightful in the late 70’s. Now it seems worn and clichéd. Converse, a hard-bitten foreign reporter in Saigon buys three keys of heroin and attempts to … Continue reading

Holden Caulfield’s Evil Twin

Charles Bukowski is a name that often comes up in conversations among and about writers, so I decided to sample him. Ham on Rye is his quasi-autobiographical tale of a young man in Los Angeles, from abusive childhood to alienated … Continue reading

Emma Bovary: Airhead?

I read Madame Bovary in high school, in French, which is to say, I didn’t read it. What I did was spend many hours with a French-to-English dictionary. I was eager to read it as an adult, this time in … Continue reading

Gratuitous Poetry

Margaret Atwood cut her writing teeth on poetry and it shows in her novel, The Blind Assassin, perhaps too much. Her phrases are carefully constructed, a virtue in any writer, but Atwood’s choices often stand out as slightly too clever, … Continue reading

Haunted House!

This short haunted house tale is celebrated as a classic of the genre, a top-seller since its publication in 1959, although I don’t normally read haunted house stories so I can’t judge that.  Nevertheless, it accomplishes the goal of presenting … Continue reading

Being Your Resume

The Orphan Master’s Son is a grim book with a high gross-out factor, so if you don’t tolerate torture and gore well, it wouldn’t be for you. But if you enjoy the creativity of trying to depict sheer horror, it’s … Continue reading

Stegner’s Curmudgeon

In Wallace Stegner’s The Spectator Bird, Joe Allston, ex-New York literary agent, has retired to a quiet suburban life in Palo Alto in the 1970’s. One day he gets an innocuous postcard from an acquaintance Denmark he and his wife met … Continue reading

Hard-Boiled Entertainment

This is my second Murakami experience and it was a good one. I read Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and found it relentlessly inventive but not much else. Hard-Boiled, however, has plenty of chewy meat beneath the author’s famous razzle-dazzle style. The … Continue reading

Woolf in the Lighthouse!

To the Lighthouse is a novelistic exploration of individual consciousness and of relationships in the interwar period in Britain. Woolf uses a stream of consciousness technique to tell us what characters are thinking and feeling. The narrator promiscuously jumps from … Continue reading

Southern Gothic Thriller

This mid-century, noirish psychological thriller has something in common with The Maltese Falcon. Both stories feature a classic “MacGuffin,” an arbitrary object of desire that all parties seek, pursuit of which drives the action of the story. The tale also … Continue reading