Author Archives: mkevane

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.

China Dream, by Ma Jian

Short novel by Ma Jian, China Dream is a poignant allegory. I am sure it is far richer in original Chinese, but I enjoyed and appreciated the deft characterizations and set pieces. Every person, to varying degrees, has to confront … Continue reading

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The Algebraist by Iain Banks

I read the sprawling science-fiction novel The Algebraist by Iain Banks some years ago. I got it as a gift for Christmas, had forgotten I had read it, started reading it, started to think it was familiar, couldn’t recall much. … Continue reading

Posted in Burkina Faso

New working paper: “The Effects of an “Urban Village” Planning and Zoning Strategy in San Jose, California” with C.J. Gabbe and William Sundstrom

Posted in United States

Kazuo Ishiguro’s A View of Pale Hills

Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills was a tremendous read. The cover says “elliptical” and that was exactly right. It is very quiet, and not that much happens, but the juxtaposition of intense inner life with empty meaninglessness was… … Continue reading

Posted in Burkina Faso

1776 by David McCullough

I enjoyed 1776 by David McCullough and would encourage any reader to pick it up. It is a narrative of the fateful year when the rebellion against the authority of the British Crown was gathering steam and blew out into … Continue reading

Posted in Book and film reviews

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

We read Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell for my neighborhood book club. I loved it, though admit it did get a tiny bit tedious. Plotless, kind of a “road” report (presumably mostly non-fiction). Very interested … Continue reading

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The Chemistry of Tears, by Peter Carey

The Chemistry of Tears, by Peter Carey, is a very literary novel: most readers, I think, will be annoyed by the sudden shifts in narrative structure as Carey jumps back and forth between two first-person narrators, one the grieving horologist … Continue reading

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Kate Morton’s The Lake House

Kate Morton’s The Lake House is a reasonably enjoyable gothic-style mystery set in Cornwall with a death, mysterious semi-aristocrats, beautiful garden, tortured police officer, some other unhappy people… engrossing for the setup, it runs out of steam halfway through, and … Continue reading

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“Children of Ruin” by Adrian Tchaikovsky

“Children of Ruin” by Adrian Tchaikovsky was a long sequel to Children of Time. The first was enjoyable due to the accelerated social evolution of the spiders. This one has similar features: a genuine concern for social evolution (octopi, and … Continue reading

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Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt

Kim Stanley Robinson’s, The Years of Rice and Salt is an enjoyable big picture alt-history: what if Europeans had been wiped out by a virulent plague around 1200 AD or so (I was never clear about the exact timing). Of … Continue reading

Posted in Burkina Faso

Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter

The three novellas that comprise Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter were the perfect read after the two longer pandemic novels (Severance and Station Eleven). They go back to Willa Cather subject matter: the hardscrabble ordinary lives of … Continue reading

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Severance by Ling Ma

If you are looking for a pandemic novel that explores precocious post-college five years in New York City (think how many novels there are that do that!) that culminate in pandemic, this is the one for you. Excellent writing, lots … Continue reading

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A challenging, brilliant novel to read during COVID19 pandemic. The opening chapter so uncanny in May 2020. Lots of technique and a good solid story. Maybe a few quibbles about consistency in some of the characters (Clark, for me, was … Continue reading

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Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

I enjoy Ursula LeGuin-Doris Lessing-style “anthropologist science fiction” and Ammonite by Nicola Griffith fit the bill very nicely. Sharp anthropology about slowly understanding important relationships and concepts. A nice female-only world, and good discussion of reproduction. The soldier Danner character … Continue reading

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Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood, a perfect pandemic novel

I would definitely recommend Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood. Towards the end of the book, as the pandemic is recalled by Snowman, in two pages she summarize the current global experience.  Atwood’s a little heavy-handed, and you don’t go … Continue reading

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Reading Los Cuatro Viajes Del Almirante Y Su Testamento: Cristóbal Colón

Reading a few dozen pages every day of Los Cuatro Viajes Del Almirante Y Su Testamento: Cristóbal Colón. Lots of Leste, noreste, sudoeste, but in between the thrilling story of a about 90 sailors spending months at sea, then trying … Continue reading

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George Saunders “Love Letter” in The New Yorker

George Saunders “Love Letter” in The New Yorker.  At three pages, one of the best pieces of topical writing I have seen. Great craft, perfect tone. A letter from a grandparent to a grandson. Harking back to a long tradition. … Continue reading

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Relato de un naúfrago by Gabriel García Márquez

Relato de un naúfrago by Gabriel García Márquez is beautiful poetic piece of writing, that fills you with rage: a corrupt government callously led the sailors to die. The survivor’s account of the suffering of his eleven days at sea … Continue reading

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The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman (don’t bother)

Desperate times call for desperate fiction reads. The blurb on the back cover says she is a “beloved” writer. A smirch on Toni Morrison. This was just awful. After 50 pages I started skimming, after 100 I just stopped.

Posted in Book and film reviews

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Enjoyed this graphic novel of a child of Vietnamese refugees eventually settling in California. As an adult, she finally begins to “connect” with her parents and their lives, as so many of us do. Lovely illustrations, important history, nice lessons … Continue reading

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