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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 ...

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 ...
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 ...
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (09/15)
All My Puny Sorrows takes its title from a line in a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834), who is considered by many to be the founder of the Romantic Movement in poetry. He is most famous for the poems Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Both his works and his literary criticism had huge influences on poets ...
Popular German Crime Writers (08/15)
Thanks to authors like Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum, and Henning Mankell, not to mention Stieg Larsson, American readers have become quite familiar with contemporary Scandinavian thrillers and novels of psychological suspense. As The Watcher demonstrates, however, the Nordic countries hardly have a monopoly on this genre, and in recent years ...
Martin Amis – Bad Boy of English Letters? (08/15)
The road to publication for Martin Amis' latest novel, The Zone of Interest, has been less smooth than might be imagined, given that Amis is one of the stars of the British literary firmament. The New York Times reported that in France and Germany, Amis' longtime publishers rejected it on the grounds, in France, that its humor is puzzling...
Brando Skyhorse's Unusual Name (07/15)
Brando Skyhorse, author of the memoir Take This Man, has been known by many names. A mistake in his first name meant that his birth certificate read 'Brandon Ulloa' (the last name was his real father's) — but his mother, Maria, had it officially changed three months later to 'Brando,' as she had always intended. Later he was known ...
Michel Faber (07/15)
Michel Faber is considered Dutch in the Netherlands, which is where he was born; Australian in Australia, because he lived there for so long; and Scottish in Scotland, where he emigrated with his wife and family in 2003. To say this award-winning writer is revered is an understatement.

Born in 1960 in The Hague, Faber studied Dutch, ...
Who Was Shakespeare's Dark Lady? (07/15)
Despite possibly being the most famous and applauded writer that has ever lived, very little about William Shakespeare is known for certain. There are few contemporary accounts and the portraits that are generally held to be of him were all painted long after his death. His name is spelled differently in the few copies of his signature ...
Tim Winton (07/15)
Tim Winton, the author of Eyrie, is that rare thing: a literary best-selling writer. While most American readers might still be getting to know this prolific author, he is as close to a national monument as person can get in his native Australia.

Born in 1960, Winton started work on his first novel at the age of just 19 when he was ...
A Big Year for Dystopias (06/15)
When Emily St. John Mandel was auctioning her novel, Station Eleven, in 2013, she was worried that the world was sick of dystopian fiction. 'When I started writing, there were a few literary post-apocalyptic novels, but not quite the incredible glut that there is now…I was afraid the market might be saturated.' Luckily for Mandel, ...
Novels Analyzing Musical Talent and Life (06/15)
The characters in Racculia's novel attempt to understand the nature of musical talent and the ways in which it emerges or disappears to impact happiness. The following novels investigate the interaction of musical gifts and the pursuit of a fulfilled life:

Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay
Kalotay's first novel was about ballet and ...
Multi-generational Portraits of Family (06/15)
The Blessings is a novel, but it's also a portrait —an ensemble in which assorted members of three generations reveal various complexities and challenges. Here is a handful of other books that also offer multi-generational stories about family.

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott won the National Book Award in 1998. It opens at ...
From Spy to Author (06/15)
Several men have worked for the British Intelligence services and have gone on to have successful writing careers.

John Michael Ward Bingham, 7th Baron Clanmorris (aka Michael Ward) (1908-1988) was the author of 17 thrillers, detective and spy novels between 1952 and 1982. He was born in Haywards Heath, Sussex, and educated at ...
Pastoral Works of Literature (06/15)
The Black Snow is advertised as Paul Lynch's take on the 'pastoral novel.' Such a characterization presumes some familiarity with the term, though given the fairly infrequent use of the pastoral mode in contemporary fiction, it's likely some readers might be unfamiliar with precisely what that means – and even literary critics can'...
Eddie Rickenbacker (05/15)
Ace pilot and race car driver, automotive designer and aviation pioneer, Eddie Rickenbacker was America's most successful aerial fighter in World War I. In addition to the official recognition and many awards he received for those achievements, he also wrote a comic strip, and enjoyed accolades from popular culture:

Ace Drummond was ...
The Literary Life of Edna O'Brien (05/15)
Edna O'Brien was born in 1930 in western Ireland, where her parents lived in a picturesque stone house called Drewsboro, built on the remains of a fancy country house her father had helped burn down so the British couldn't use it during the Irish War of Independence after World War I. Her father's family was wealthy, her mother's, poor. ...
Seek What Hides: The Shadow (04/15)
Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Daniel Levine's Hyde deal with the experience of fragmentation or alienation in our human experience. This is not a new insight, but one that has baffled humanity for millennia. Plato saw two worlds - one ideal, good, and true, and the other material, ...
Office Fiction (03/15)
People today seem to spend more time at work than ever before. So why is it that once we've gotten home, kicked off our uncomfortable shoes and loosened our ties, we relax by watching The Office, Mad Men, or cult classic Office Space, read books like Jonas Karlsson's The Room or even comics such as Dilbert?

Perhaps it's because we can...
Crossing Into the Borderlands: The New YA Readers (03/15)
The True Tale Of The Monster Billy Dean, first published in the UK in 2011 by Penguin's adult imprint, Viking, was reviewed as David Almond's debut for adults, but it was simultaneously released as a young adult novel by Puffin, another Penguin imprint. It is one of a growing number of books that straddles the borderlands of adult, young-...
Here Come the Russians and East Europeans! (02/15)
Belarusian-born Boris Fishman is part of a group of outstanding American writers of Russian or East-European origin which includes Josip Novakovich, from Croatia; Aleksandar Hemon, from Bosnia; Olga Grushin, from Russia; and Gary Shteyngart, of Russian-Jewish origin (who is explored thoroughly in this review of Little Failure). With the ...
The Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship (01/15)
In Janet Frame's posthumously published novel In the Memorial Room, New Zealand writer Harry Gill is awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship, which affords him the opportunity to work and live for six months in Menton, France. This novel is based on Frame's own experiences in Menton as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow in 1974. One ...
The Living Breath: The Fluidity of Historical Fiction (01/15)
Sarah Johnson, editor/publisher of Historical Novels Review, speaks to the complicated nature of historical fiction: 'The obvious definition that comes to mind is that historical fiction is simply 'fiction set in the past.' But the reality is, however, that almost everyone - and this includes readers, authors, publishers, agents, and the...
Tie Ning
Short story writer, Chinese novelist and the youngest, first female President of the Chinese Writers Association (elected at age 49 in 2006), Tie Ning has long written about ordinary female protagonists who are often from rural backgrounds. From her 1982 story Oh, Xiangxue, which won an Excellent Short Story award and featured a ...
Six Authors and Alcohol (10/14)
Olivia Laing's second book, The Trip to Echo Spring explores the lives of six twentieth century American authors who all coped with alcoholism in their lives and careers. Some information about each of these troubled, talented men:

F. Scott Fitzerald (1896 - 1940)
Fitzgerald is best known as a novelist who portrayed, and indeed coined...
Dirty Realism (10/14)
David Vann fits into an American literary tradition that has been around since the 1960s, but was only given a name in 1983. Bill Buford, former editor of Granta literary magazine, coined the term 'dirty realism' to characterize two trends in American fiction: a tendency toward simplified language, largely free from adverbs or flowery ...
Mo Yan and the Nobel (10/14)
Mo Yan is the pen name of Guan Moye. Born 17 February 1955, Guan was the fourth child of farmers in Gaomi township in Shandong province in the northeast part of China. He says of his childhood:

'When I started forming memories, it was the most difficult time in China's history. Most people were starving at the time. People led a tough ...

Reading Wodehouse in Mumbai (09/14)
Growing up in an extremely cramped one-bedroom apartment on the bottom floor of a multi-rise building in Mumbai, I was looking for one thing — escape. And while India had been independent for just around 25-odd years at that time, the vestiges of colonialism remained. Try as we might, my friends and I could never bring ourselves to ...
The Enduring Legacy of Treasure Island (09/14)
In Zebra Forest, Annie and Rew love the book Treasure Island. Rich with symbols, the story allows the kids to create their own adventures in the woods behind their home.

Writer and critic Gilbert Keith Chesterton wrote of Robert Louis Stevenson in his 1902 publication Twelve Types: A Collection of Mini-Biographies:

'... he had to ...

An Interview with Author Ryan O'Neill (07/14)
Ryan O'Neill was born in Glasgow in 1975. He lived in Africa, Europe and Asia before settling in Newcastle, Australia, with his wife and two daughters. His fiction has appeared in The Best Australian Stories, The Sleepers Almanac, Meanjin, New Australian Stories, Wet Ink, Etchings, and Westerly. His work has won the Hal Porter and Roland ...
Writers and the Fine Art of Self-Promotion (07/14)
Irish writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir wrote in a blog for the Irish Writer's Centre:

The promotional end of things is not always fun for writers. We are often, by nature, solitary beings, preferring our own company – and that of our fictional friends – to that of real people. We are OK with being on our own, tapping out ...

The Family Pen (06/14)
Talent seems to flow through families. Bach's sons became important composers in their own right, and one, Johann Christian, was considered by Mozart to be one of his musical fathers. Twice Nobel laureate Marie Curie was the mother of Irene Joliot-Curie, who herself won the Nobel in chemistry in 1935. Philosopher and novelist Mary ...
In Vino Veritas…? (06/14)
The list is long: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Marcel Proust, Charles Baudelaire, Jack London, F Scott Fitzgerald, Philip K. Dick, Edna St. Vincent Millay, O. Henry, William Burroughs, Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac, Dorothy Parker, Tennessee Williams…and many more. American writers Eugene O'Neill, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway,...
Five Things You Might Not Know About Neil Gaiman (06/14)
  1. Before he began to write novels that would earn him public recognition, Gaiman wrote comic books and graphic novels. The Sandman graphic novels (1989-1996), initially published by D C Comics and later by Vertigo, were particularly...
Forough Farrokhzad, An Icon In The History Of Persian Literature (06/14)
One of the most compelling and tragic characters in And The Mountains Echoed is a beautiful, intelligent woman named Nila. She's modern and independent, and feels trapped by Afghani society but eventually moves to Paris where she becomes a poet of some renown. This made me curious about other women poets from similar backgrounds, in ...
Javier Marías (05/14)
'A veces escribo para averiguar qué escribo' (Sometimes I write to discover what I write). So says Javier Marías—native of Madrid, and highly acclaimed novelist who has been widely tipped as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Marías is a translator (to Spanish) of authors such as Faulkner, Yeats,...
Jules Verne: A Man Ahead of His Time (03/14)
February 8, 2013 would have been Jules Verne's 185th birthday. The acclaimed author is considered the father of science fiction and wrote many novels, some of the most well-known being Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, and, of course, Around the World in Eighty Days ...
American Expat Writers in Paris (03/14)
The period between the two World Wars was one of thriving creativity for many artists, and Paris with its bohemian lifestyle, its recognition of artists, and vibrant social life offered plenty of enticements to American writers. The fact that the United States passed Prohibition laws in 1920, banning the sale of alcohol, didn't hurt the ...
Famous Literary Spats (03/14)
When famous figures spar, their words become part of the public record, particularly when those quarrelling are popular writers.

Ernest Hemingway, for example, was notorious for his antagonistic relationship with many of his contemporaries. While once close, he had a disagreement with his mentor Gertrude Stein over their differing ...
Ibsen's A Doll's House (02/14)
It was the door slam that reverberated around the world. In 1879, Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, published the famous play A Doll's House. The play, in three acts, revolves around Nora Elman, who balances a delicate secret while trying to save her marriage. Eventually the secret is revealed as is the nastiness of her husband. Sick of...
An Early Career as a Geophysical Engineer (02/14)
George Saunders is well known for his inventive use of language; perhaps his willingness to explore and exploit the forms and function of language derives in part from his earlier career, as a geophysical engineer. Saunders credits his early exposure to the works of Ayn Rand (some of the first fiction he recalls reading) with his decision...
L. Jagi Lamplighter (01/14)
L. Jagi Lamplighter spent 15 years writing, re-writing, and revising her Prospero's Daughter trilogy before the first volume was published in 2009. In an article entitled 'A Writer's Odyssey,' she describes her journey from hopeful writer to published author. Another article, 'All About the Wonder,' explains why Ms. Lamplighter writes ...
Who Speaks For Me? (01/14)
Hamlet says, at the opening of Shakespeare's play:

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!

By the final act, he says:


Fiction as Social Catalyst (01/14)
In 2012, Susan Nussbaum won the PEN/Bellwether for Socially Engaged Fiction. This award, which was established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver, was created to 'promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships.' The award is given to an author of a not yet published novel ...
Alice Munro's Canada (12/13)
Alice Munro was born in Wingham, Ontario, a small town that is close to the shores of Lake Huron. This region of southern Ontario is west of Toronto and east of Michigan, and includes the industrial cities of London and Windsor, though much of the land is countryside. While Munro did occasionally live in Vancouver, most of her life has ...
Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea (12/13)
Anne Morrow Lindbergh is, of course, the aviator's wife in the new novel of the same name by Melanie Benjamin. She is also the author of the widely acclaimed book, Gift from the Sea, which was first published in 1955. Anne Lindbergh wrote it while in Florida, on Captiva Island, and she used the shells on the beach – as a metaphor ...
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