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Helen Dunmore (10/18)
Helen Dunmore was born in Yorkshire, England in 1952. In a career spanning three decades she published fifteen novels, three short story collections, prize-winning children's fiction and twelve collections of poetry. Her final novel, Birdcage Walk, was published in 2017, as was her last poetry collection, Inside the Wave. Dunmore ...
Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (09/18)
It would be hard to dispute that Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita mirrors the true story of Sally Horner. Nabokov's character Humbert Humbert is quite similar to Frank LaSalle, the real kidnapper, and Dolores 'Lolita' Haze bears similarities to Sally. Both men spirited the young girls away across the country. Yet Nabokov's fictional story has ...
Fairy Tales and Fiction (09/18)
I noted in my review of Joy Williams' Ninety-Nine Stories of God that it felt like a compilation of fairy tales. But then I began to wonder why I felt that way. On closer inspection, I perhaps learned why.

Warwick GobleFiction, of course, is not factual, even if the writer uses known facts in order to mirror reality. Writers make things up; they ...
Sometimes Fantasy is More Real Than Nonfiction (08/18)

Ask me with a gun to my head if I believe in them, all the gods and myths that I write about, and I'd have to say no. Not literally. Not in the daylight, nor in well-lit places, with people about. But I believe in the stories we can tell with them. I believe in the reflections that they show us when they are told. And forget it ...

Kafka and the Court Case (08/18)
While reading Nicole Krauss' novel Forest Dark, it occurred to me that although most lovers of literature know the name Franz Kafka, many might not realize that Kafka's rise to fame came mostly posthumously. Furthermore, even fewer people may know much about the court battle over his papers that finally reached its conclusion in 2016.

Love Story or Romance? (08/18)
Although the focus of George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl is their romantic relationship, I consider this novel to be a love story, not a romance. This distinction is arguably subjective and open for interpretation—perhaps rooted in literary snobbery—but as someone who appreciates both genres, this is how I discern the two.

Wise Women: Willfulness or Witchcraft? (07/18)
Whether talking about Rules of Magic or its predecessor, Practical Magic, Hoffman always makes one thing clear about the Owens sisters – there is something different about them. The town is not quite sure whether to revile or fear them, but that never stops the community from turning to the Owens' unorthodox problem-solving ...
Familial Co-Authors Writing Under One Pen Name (06/18)
According to their website, 'Liv Constantine is the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine.' Hearing this piqued my curiosity regarding, not simply literary collaborations (there are tons of those), but writers who collaborate and then publish their fictional works under a single pseudonym--and in particular writers...
The End of Eddy – A Publishing Phenomenon (05/18)
Édouard Louis' The End of Eddy was originally published in French in 2014, when the author was just 21. Since then it has sold 300,000 copies in France and has been translated into more than 20 languages.

The French title gives an extra dimension to the story: En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule translates more literally to Finishing ...
Shakespeare by Any Other Name (05/18)
According to Guinness World Records, William Shakespeare is the world's best-selling playwright, with in excess of four billion copies of his plays and poetry making it to press over the centuries. He is also history's most filmed author; his works have been adapted into 420 feature film and TV-movie versions (Hamlet alone has been ...
The World's First Cookbook (05/18)
In Crystal King's Feast of Sorrow, Apicius and his slave, Thrasius, develop their own cookbook. A quick search into Roman history reveals that Marcus Gavius Apicius actually did publish such a book (or rather a series of them), which most historians consider the first cookbook ever written. However, nowhere in the 450-500 recipes in this ...
A Veteran Writer's Ode to His Favorite Watering Hole (04/18)
There are two fairly common ways to memorialize someone: Raise a drink and propose a toast, or pick up a pen and write a tribute. But a handful of great writers have combined those two impulses and created memorable works that lionize their favorite drinking establishments. From Dickens' historic The George Inn in London to Hemingway's ...
José Martí - Havana's Poet Revolutionary (03/18)
Mark Kurlansky's Havana begins with this poetic snippet:

El corazón es un loco
Que no sabe de un color.

(The heart is a fool
that knows no color.)

The composer is the highly regarded José Martí, a significant figure in the pantheon of Latino writers, and more especially, in the small but distinguished group of ...

Arlie Russell Hochschild (02/18)
Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild's eleventh book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, was a 2016 National Book Award finalist. She has also written several magazine and newspaper articles and essays, all focusing on how 20th Century changes in roles, relationships and responsibilities affect the...
My Thoughts About Fredrik Backman's Books (02/18)
As I noted in my review of Beartown, I've read all of Fredrik Backman's works that have English translations. In fact, I was lucky enough to be one of the first early readers of his debut novel, A Man Called Ove. I realized then that I was witnessing the birth of an amazing talent and, to date, he hasn't ever let me down. Unfortunately, ...
An Interview with Maxine Beneba Clarke (10/17)
Maxine Beneba Clarke came to fiction through poetry, both written and spoken word. She was born in Australia to a Jamaican father and Guyanese mother. Her parents immigrated to the UK before settling in Australia. Her books include a memoir, The Hate Race; a children's book, The Patchwork Bike; and the poetry collections Carrying the ...
The Roots of the True Crime Genre (10/17)
As evidenced in her novel, Little Deaths, author Emma Flint is an aficionado of true crime. These books that chronicle the grim details of actual murders are written with a sensitive ear to readers' morbid curiosity about sensational crimes. The genre has been popular for centuries – people have long been willing to shell out cash to...
From Facebook Dabbler to Memoirist (10/17)
Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Love Warrior, started her writing career in 2009. Badly needing a break one day, the stay-at-home mother of three turned to Facebook, where she noticed several of her friends were participating in a series of posts called '25 Things About Me.' She immediately began sharing incredibly honest and personal ...
The Arduous Process of Writing (05/17)
John Hart took five years to produce his fifth novel, which he has said is surprising, given that his previous four books only took him approximately a year apiece to write. In the case of Redemption Road, Hart penned 300 pages, practically a whole novel, before deciding that he had chosen the wrong person to be his main character. It ...
Beowulf (05/17)
Grendel's Guide to Love and War is a contemporary retelling of the epic poem Beowulf. In the author's note at the end of the novel, A.E. Kaplan says that when she first read Beowulf, she remembers feeling sorry for Grendel. 'The poor fellow is minding his own business, living in his lake with his mother, when Hrothgar and company show up ...
Ann Patchett (05/17)
Ann Patchett has said that her book Commonwealth, more than any of her others, is autobiographical. It seems close given what we know about her life from various sources.

The bare bones information is that she was born on December 2, 1963 in Los Angeles to nurse-turned novelist Jeanne Ray and Los Angeles police officer Frank Patchett....
A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General (05/17)
Louise Penny often includes poetry in her books, and A Great Reckoning is no exception. Throughout the novel, A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General by Jonathan Swift is quoted.

His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!

A Selection of Literary Prizes (04/17)
Lucy Wood, the author of Weathering, won a Somerset Maugham Award, named after the famous author.

What does it take to get a literary prize named after you? Some amount of money and/or influence in the literary world, to be sure, but also a personal connection to the prize being offered and its specific criteria. Here are a few ...
The Odyssey (03/17)
The New Odyssey brings to mind the original epic with which this book has many parallels. Literary works don't come much more venerable or influential than The Odyssey, a 12,000-line poem written in ancient Greek and composed sometime in the eighth century B.C.E. Granted, it's likely not every contemporary reader's favorite work (although...
Early African American Authors (02/17)
In Ginny Gall, the main character is an avid reader who aspires to be much like the black authors he admires. A few early African Americans writers are listed below.

Top, from left to right: James Weldon Johnson, Harriet Wilson, William Wells Brown
Bottom, from left to right: Jessie Fauset,W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar


One True Thing (02/17)
Each of the chapters in Leslie Pietrzyk's short story collection features a young widow. The emotions the author expresses made me wonder what the author may have experienced herself – that is, which experiences were 'true.' In researching that question, I came across an article she'd written for Psychology Today, reprinted below, ...
Michel Houellebecq in Profile (11/16)
Michel Houellebecq (pronounced mish-elle wellbeck) is nothing if not an autobiographical writer. He has, in fact, become the poster child for a movement, prevalent in contemporary French literature, known as 'auto-fiction' which sees authors unashamedly use fictionalized versions of their own lives in their novels. Autobiographical ...
Shakespearean Insults (10/16)
'You taught me language. And my profit on't is, I know how to curse.' That's the lament of Caliban, the resident savage of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but it's also the the savvy modern reader's takeaway of Shakespeare's plays. Among the linguistic legacies of Shakespeare, eloquent and eclectic cursing and insults must certainly be ...
What Defines a Novel? (10/16)
Many of the reviews of Strout's latest novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, have called it a 'slim volume.' Some might even say that its length of just over 200 pages makes it a novella not a novel. This raises the question, what page/word count defines a novel?

Opinions on this differ widely. For example, Writer's Digest suggests to ...
Struwwelpeter (10/16)
In The Gustav Sonata, Gustav and Anton share a love of the German children's book, Struwwelpeter, which was written by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann in 1844. NPR noted that Struwwelpeter 'set the stage for children's book classics like Where the Wild Things Are and the beloved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.'

There have been countless ...
Novelist as Method Writer (09/16)
The Novelist by W.H. Auden

Encased in talent like a uniform,
The rank of every poet is well known;
They can amaze us like a thunderstorm,
Or die so young, or live for years alone.

They can dash forward like hussars: but he
Must struggle out of his boyish gift and learn
How to be plain and awkward, how to be
One after whom none...

The Flannery O'Connor Award and Bread Loaf Conference (08/16)
Most of us are familiar with high-profile book recognitions such as the Man Booker Prize or the National Book Award. There are many lesser known writing awards and programs that are prestigious and well known in literary circles. Lori Ostlund, author of After the Parade, can include two such recognitions as part of her biography: The ...
Gothic Literature and the Influence of Dracula (06/16)
Dracula by Irish author Bram (Abraham) Stoker is widely considered to be a classic of Gothic horror literature. With the possible exception of Frankenstein, it is perhaps the most recognizable and influential of all such novels. Stoker's most famous work was not, however, at the vanguard in the development of the genre; at the time of its...
Emily Brontë (06/16)
In The Lost Child, Caryl Phillips takes up elements from the life of Emily Brontë and her masterpiece novel of 1847, Wuthering Heights. Brontë's life and works are often read in tandem. Perhaps because her life was so brief and her oeuvre so small, both the biography and the work are needed to get a grip on what she was thinking...
Charles Dickens' Illustrators (06/16)
Illustrations were crucial to Victorian novels – a fact that is difficult to absorb nowadays, when the only books for adults with drawings are graphic novels. Charles Dickens was known for showing obsessive interest in his novels' illustrations, always making sure that artists adhered closely to his written descriptions. All but...
Gerald and Sara Murphy & Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night (06/16)
Gerald and Sara Murphy are widely believed to be the inspiration for Dick and Nicole Diver, the central couple in F. Scott Fitzgerald's last novel, Tender Is the Night (1934), not just for their physical resemblance, but also for their habit of hosting lavish parties at Cap d'Antibes in the south of France. Indeed, Fitzgerald dedicated ...
Oh the Horror of It All! - Stephen King on Writing What You Know in Thrillers (05/16)
The consensus across a wide swath of authors and writing teachers is 'write what you know.' This advice may be even more important when writing a horror story. Sure, horror stories characteristically feature things that are not known, not normal, unfamiliar in the extreme. That's why they exist. People like to be scared by things out...
A Comparison Between "The Yellow Wallpaper" and The Beautiful Bureaucrat (05/16)
Because I was not familiar with Helen Phillips, I did a little research. One review of The Beautiful Bureaucrat pointed me to the Huffington Post's 18 Brilliant Books You Won't Want To Miss This Summer. The early review there said 'A little bit of Kafka, a little bit of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' – intriguing.' I didn't know 'The Yellow ...
Edna St. Vincent Millay (04/16)
In Spinster, Kate Bolick leans on the examples of women who have come before her, as a source of solace and encouragement for her own life choice to remain single. She found herself looking to the examples of five 'awakeners,' all talented women whose creativity and professional success were independent of their marital status.

One of ...
50-Year Writing Career: A Look at Anne Tyler (04/16)
In March 2013, Anne Tyler announced the title of her upcoming novel in an interview with the BBC. She also noted that she didn't want to finish another novel - not even this one. She described the book as a 'sprawling family saga,' which starts with the present generation and then moves back, one generation at a time. Fortunately, she ...
Impressionism in Literature (04/16)
Kate Walbert's The Sunken Cathedral is an impressionistic novel. But what does that mean?

When we hear the word impressionism, the first things that come to mind are the names Monet, Degas, Cezanne and other artists who were part of this movement of painting and sculpture during the late 19th century. Their unique use of color and ...
Mario Vargas Llosa, Writer and Citizen (03/16)
When Peruvian-born writer Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010, the committee praised 'his cartography of structures of power, and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat.' Indeed, these themes have been present in his work from his first novel, The Time of the Hero (1963) ...
John Gower: Separating Fact from Fiction (03/16)
Even though Geoffrey Chaucer, medieval England's most colorful and best-known writer is a character in The Invention of Fire, the author Bruce Holsinger chooses the lesser-known poet, John Gower, as his protagonist, relegating the mighty Chaucer to a supporting role.

Compared to our knowledge of Chaucer, of Gower we know relatively ...
Tolstoy's Death (02/16)
In the story 'The Jester of Astapovo,' from The American Lover, a simple stationmaster's life is turned upside down when the world-famous author Count Leo Tolstoy, arrives, near death. The elderly and ailing Tolstoy really did die at the remote train station after fleeing his wife weeks earlier. His obituary in The New York Times began: ...
The First Person Plural - Why We Use It (02/16)
As noted in my review, one unique aspect of Judith Claire Mitchell's A Reunion of Ghosts is her use of the first person plural literary voice. According to most sources, this point of view dates back to ancient Greece and its famous Greek choruses, which spoke in unison as a group. With such a rich history, you might think more authors ...
The Shakespeare Authorship Question (01/16)
Christopher Marlowe, Renaissance playwright and poet – and protagonist of Phillip DePoy's A Prisoner in Malta – produced a handful of dramatic masterpieces in his relatively short life. That is, if you believe he died at age 29 in a bar fight at a public house in Deptford, in southeast London. But some believe his death was ...
The Bloomsbury Group (01/16)
While Vanessa And Her Sister focuses on artist Vanessa Bell and her writer sister, Virginia Woolf, it also places them in the larger context of the famous Bloomsbury Group, which was a set of intellectuals who debated radical ideas about society, ethics and a host of other issues. Founding members included Virginia Woolf and her siblings ...
Conrad Wesselhoeft (10/15)

BookBrowse's Tamara Smith Interviews Conrad Wesselhoeft, Author of Dirt Bikes, Drones and Other Ways to Fly

Conrad Wesselhoeft worked as a tugboat hand in Singapore and Peace Corps Volunteer in Polynesia before embarking on a career in journalism. He has served on the editorial staffs of five newspapers, including The New York Times. He ...

Sarah Waters' Literary Influences (10/15)
Sarah Waters' The Paying Guests belongs to an unusual mixture of genres. Here is a partial pedigree of the literary influences on its style and content:

First Half
  • Postwar novels
    As in the novels of Elizabeth Bowen and Elizabeth Taylor, Waters shows how the interwar period was a crossroads for women, with barriers of sex and class ...
Baltimore's Literary History (10/15)
'Baltimore is warm but pleasant...I belong here, where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite.'― F. Scott Fitzgerald

When one thinks of literature and American cities, Baltimore may not immediately come to mind. While 'Charm City' might not have the apparent prestige of San Francisco or New York, Baltimore's ...
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