Bel Canto

Fifteen international world-travelers attend a gala party in the presidential palace of a  South American country to hear a famous American opera singer perform. The palace is stormed by armed terrorists who hold the party-goers hostage while they negotiate with … Continue reading

Degrees of Invisibility

The first-person Invisible Man is an unnamed young black man in the 1950s who recounts his journey from the fog of unknowing to self-awareness. The story is framed in opening and closing scenes by the mature narrator, who lives in an … Continue reading

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