Towles – Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility is perfection in world-building, the art of constructing a believable and engrossing fictional world for the characters to inhabit.  Nineteen-thirties Manhattan is long gone but Towles brings it back to glittering life and that is the main … Continue reading

Smile – Roddy Doyle

You must be a fan of fine writing to persevere with Smile, Roddy Doyle’s latest, because no genuine drama is apparent, except for the closing scene, which is deus ex machina hogwash.  Actually, not even that. At least that classic ending … Continue reading

The Vegetarian

I usually have good luck with Man-Booker Prize-winners, but not this time. The Vegetarian is a story of a woman who goes insane.  At the current time, medical science does not, for the most part, understand insanity, its causes or cures. … Continue reading

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