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

A Good Book: Clea & Zeus Divorce, by Emily Prager

When I was a kid, I always felt sad after finishing a good book. I worried that I might have read the last good book on Earth and that I’d never find another one again. Fortunately, I’ve overcome that fear. One reason is that writers continue to produce amazing novels each year.  But another is that so many good books already exist, just waiting to be discovered.  Last week, I finished one of those good books, Emily Prager’s Clea & Zeus Divorce. Published in 1987, Clea & Zeus Divorce is the story of a one of a kind marriage — and the end of the world. Continue reading

I met author Richard Ford!

If you didn’t already know, Richard Ford is my favorite living writer.  I read his story collection Rock Springs  when I was 18 and those stories literally shook me — I had never read anything so frank and funny and simple.  And when I read his novel The Sportswriter, I thought it could make a great sequel to The Catcher in the RyeI imagined Ford’s balding Frank Bascombe looked just like Holden Caulfield would if he were a thirty-something divorcee.  I even own a first edition of Ford’s fourth novel, Wildlife.  Without Ford, I never would have discovered other great writers like Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver and the wondrous Barry Hannah, so I owe a lot of my reading life to him.  So imagine my surprise when I learned that Richard Ford would be visiting a bookstore near me! Continue reading

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