Category: Books – Contemporary

  • Infinite Jest: is this about me, or the characters?

    I spent much of the summer reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and regardless of my final thoughts or critical appraisal, the book itself was an experience that succeeded in challenging me as a reader. Along the way, I constantly consulted the web site Infinite Summer, just to measure my reactions against the multitude of […]

  • 15 Views of Orlando – RELEASE PARTY!!!

    The above subject heading uses three total exclamation points, which–in the words of my old mentor Jeanne Leiby–is the lifetime total allowed to a writer. And man, I used them all at once. But the subject certainly calls for some exclamation points. If you didn’t know (i.e. you don’t ever talk to me, or you […]

  • Bridge of Sighs

    Richard Russo again explores the decay of small-town life in America, and although he’s done this brilliantly before (Empire Falls, obviously, went over pretty well, right?), I don’t think he’s ever hit us over the head with his ideas on why small towns have failed as he does in Bridge of Sighs. And I still […]

  • The Wettest County in the World

    A year or two ago, I published a piece of fiction in The Saranac Review which alternated between traditional text and illustrated comic page. You can actually find a link on my “links” page to my post-publication interview with the editors, where I discuss some of my thoughts on mixed-media literature. The Fiction Editor of […]

  • I Just Want My Pants Back

    I didn’t have high hopes for David J. Rosen’s I Just Want My Pants Back. I remember putting it on my Amazon wish list several years back, when I was first reading about “fratire” and searching through Amazon’s unending hyperlinked recommendations, one after the next. This was 2007 or 2008, maybe, and I had the […]

  • Reading Philip Roth

    The following are a series of short reviews/commentaries I wrote after reading various Philip Roth novels. I’ll come back to update and revise the page from time to time. Just note that each short commentary was written directly after reading the novel, and that–while I’ve arranged them in order by date of publication–I wasn’t always […]

  • The Border Trilogy

    I actually read McCarthy’s “Border Trilogy” over the course of three years, and I wrote short commentaries and observations after I finished each of them. Here, I’ve collected the mostly unedited Shelfari postings I wrote, which show my up-and-down, fascinated-then-bored, happy-then-depressed, rewarded-then-aggravated journey through the 1,000-plus pages of prose that compose Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy […]

  • Rabbit Redux

    “Rabbit Redux,” I think, is the perfect “generational conflict” novel, a book that pits a blue-collar, gritty, salt-of-the-Earth American man in his late 30s (a bigot, also, to be precise), against the social upheaval of the late 1960s. Rabbit, a decade older since we last saw him in “Rabbit, Run” (which I found to be […]

  • How Fiction Works

    There are moments in James Wood’s “How Fiction Works” that are truly impressive displays of scholarly synthesis, as Wood brings two seemingly different texts into conversation with another, pointing out not just the similarities in structure or technique, but also the evolution of that structure/technique over many decades (or even centuries). One reviewer notes in […]

  • PEN/ O Henry Prize Stories 2010

    Before I checked out the O Henry Prize Stories 2010 edition, I really had no previous experience with the collection. I’ve always been a “Best American Short Stories” guy, but I wanted something a little different. After all, there are thousands of short stories published each year, and the “Best American” series cannot possibly lay […]