Book Review: The Facts, by Philip Roth

The Facts is the autobiography of novelist Philip Roth.  If you’ve never read Roth, you should.  He’s famous for writing semi-autobiographical novels that are outrageously candid and extremely funny.  He has an ease and confidence about writing that allows him to create people and places that are simply aliveso alive, in fact,  that readers are often left wondering where fiction ends and reality begins. In The Facts, Roth attempts to lay out the real facts of his life as he seems them. But, as the book’s last chapter underscores, autobiography can never reveal the truth as candidly or interestingly as fiction can. Continue reading


Bad Blogger’s Repost: The Pyramid, by Ismail Kadare

This week I am furiously analyzing data and revising study’s for peer-review and publication.  I don’t have time to tell you about the books I’ve read recently (although it’s been a string a good ones), so I’m reposting this review of a book I read last year and really enjoyed, The Pyramid by Ismail Kadare.  As I wrote last year, this is basically one of best novels you’ve never read, written by one of the best novelists you’ve never heard of.  And it’s short and sweet, too.  If you get a chance, comb through a book store for this novel or look for it on paperbackswap.  Claire will keep up the posting while I’m gone to MBL.  — Kelly
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A Strange Book: Car, by Harry Crews

Car is a strange novel.  I mean “strange” in a way that is neither good nor bad but . . . strange.   It is the story of a man who is so in love with cars that he tries to eat one, a red 1971 Ford Maverick. I had to search hard to find this novel. It’s out of print and the price of existing copies has skyrocketed since Crews died last March.  But after months of searching, I finally found a copy.  And the book is good — real good.  But strange.  Even so, I ate it all in a single bite. Continue reading

Do not accept candy from this man!

Humbert Humbert from Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

In case you didn’t know, you should never accept candy from strangers — especially this stranger, Humbert Humbert.  At his site The Composites, Brian Joseph Davis has taken descriptions of famous fictional characters and plugged them into the composite sketch software police agencies use to create profiles of wanted criminals.  Although the images are all black and white (just like the descriptions), the results are often surprising and sometimes appropriate, like this one of Vladimir Nabokov’s manipulative pedophile. More favorites below. Continue reading

Writing is Hard

I am writing this week.  A large part of scientific work is actually writing — writing grants or results or simply writing protocols — but I am also dealing with fiction, too.  And when I’m left staring at a blank page for this many projects, I can only think of one thing:

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Book Review: The Pyramid, by Ismail Kadare

I am not usually a fan of historical  fiction, but I do like novels that use the past to illuminate events in the present — especially when those novels use ancient or biblical history.  Some of my favorites include Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (which I’ve written about before) and Stefan Heym’s The King David Report.  Now I have a third novel to add to that list: Ismail Kadare‘s The Pyramid. Kadare is an Albanian writer that uses stories from Albanian and ancient history to illustrate oppression under a communist dictatorship.  The Pyramid is short and has a biting sense of irony and humor.  This is basically one of best novels you’ve never read, written by one of the best novelists you’ve never heard of. Continue reading

Book Review: The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

Last week I finished reading The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie.  The book is Rushdie’s fourth novel, and largely deals with the issues of isolation and integration among Indian-born immigrants in England.  However, the book also includes two sections that depict the prophet Muhammad.  Some considered Rushdie’s depiction of Muhammad blasphemous, and as a result,  in 1989 the Supreme Leader of Iran issued a death sentence against him.  If you pick up this book hoping to learn more about this controversy, you’re bound to be disappointed.   But you should pick it up anyway, because this is an amazing — albeit daunting — read. Continue reading