Author Archives: mkevane

About mkevane

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

Wyandotté by James Fenimore Cooper

Wyandotté by James Fenimore Cooper was published in 1843. I cannot recall how I stumbled on it. I read about 2/3 and then skimmed the rest. For a modern reader, the narrative techniques are a bit fusty. But from the … Continue reading

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Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower

Light, compelling, and deep at same time, Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower explores, cleverly, political strategies of gods and humans as they make their way through complex social world (that will eventually provoke you to think, wait a second… I … Continue reading

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The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed

I read very little ultra-contemporary fiction, but this was a gift. I started with some trepidation, but a personal connection to the Cardiff Jewish community (part of my extended family ended up in Wales in the 1880s) kept me going, … Continue reading

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Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel

Got this last week, and immediately devoured it in two nights. Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel is a clever, minimal sci-fi novel. it leverages the same characters as The Glass Hotel (I was glad I had read … Continue reading

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No Longer Human, by Osamu Dazai

Somehow I stumbled across a reference to No Longer Human, by Osamu Dazai so I ordered it from the library. Interesting novel from 1948 Japan. The narrator has lost interest in humans, but still must make his way through the … Continue reading

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“Annunciation” by Lauren Groff in The New Yorker

Not exactly sure why, but “Annunciation” by Lauren Groff in the February 2022 The New Yorker may be currently up there as my most-appreciated short story in a couple years. The story is ultra-real, but the reader is simultaneously aware … Continue reading

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A couple of The New Yorker short stories (Cynthia Ozick and Tessa Hadley)

I have been catching up on reading short stories in The New Yorker, one of my favorite past-times. Cynthia Ozick’s story, “The Biographer’s Hat,” is a Broolyn-esque Singer-esque story about lonely lives in the urban penumbra. An interesting window into … Continue reading

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The Genome Odyssey, by Euan Angus Ashley

If you are interested in a nice book-length but very readable anecdotal explainer of where we humans are in 2022 in terms of applying genomics to medicine, this is the book for you. Ashley effectively communicates the amazing advances in … Continue reading

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Enchanted Night, by Stephen Millhauser

A short, lyrical novel, about an enchanted night. My kids remember him as the clever narrator of his The New Yorker story, “The Maker of Miniatures.” This is, likewise, a miniature, full of feeling for the warm summer nights of … Continue reading

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Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I had read this decades ago, and largely forgotten how interesting the narrator’s voice is, and how refreshing is the style. Worth a re-read if it has been awhile.

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Several recent excellent The New Yorker stories

The New Yorker seems back to form, after what seemed like (to me) a string of stories I was not that keen on. I really liked “The Ukraine” by Artem Chapeye (it just gives a feeling of warmth and love, … Continue reading

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The year’s best science fiction, 2018, edited by Gardner Dozois

I am a big fan of science fiction short story anthologies. But this edition, The year’s best science fiction, 2018, edited by Gardner Dozois, proved disappointing. I did not read all of the stories (almost 670 pages), but started with … Continue reading

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When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut starts as the best Wikipedia entry you ever read, circling and linking, and as a reader you are compelled to just keep going. Then abruptly the pace slows, because the … Continue reading

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Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss is a very short novel, heartbreaking to read. Beautiful prose, with narrator a young high school student Silvie who has joined her parents and some university students as they “recreate” living as the ancient Britons … Continue reading

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Hell In A Very Small Place by Bernard Fall

Hell In A Very Small Place by Bernard Fall is an account of the battle of Battle of Dien Bien Phu which if you want to read a metaphor for Ukraine in 2022, with all the attendant military, diplomatic, and … Continue reading

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The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel was quite a disappointment after Station Eleven (which I realize I read almost two years ago). She is an excellent writer, but the whole novel my mind kept saying, “ok, ok, enough … Continue reading

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Short story: Arthur Krystal, What’s the Deal, Hummingbird?

The short story by Arthur Krystal, What’s the Deal, Hummingbird?, in The New Yorker, is a huge advance over the 1920s stream of consciousness modernist innovations, for the 2022 audience of people like me. it is perfectly done. Short. Resonant. … Continue reading

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The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah

The Hundred Wells of Salaga, by Ayesha Harruna Attah, is a short novel of two young women in Ghana during the pre-colonial era, as slave-raiders and Europeans jockey for power with traditional chiefs and their kingdoms confronting new weapons and … Continue reading

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After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh

I’ll confess sensitive and carefully written character studies of people stuck in near-future zombie dystopias is not really my genre, but McHugh is masterful at it. After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh. “Special Economics,” about production organization in a near-future … Continue reading

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Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks

Unless you happen to be traveling to Oaxaca, I would avoid this light and self-indulgent book, Oaxaca Journal, by Oliver Sacks. Not much here other than travel diary with sketch portrayals of companions and very amateurish anthropological observations.

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