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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 ...
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...
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, ...
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 ...
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 ...
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'...
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 ...
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. ...
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 ...
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 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...
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 ...
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 ...
(10/14)
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...
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