Author Archives: mkevane

About mkevane

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

Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark

An interesting novella. Her typical sharp sentences. A complex theme. A disastrous ending. Africa? My question reading it: Apparently she wrote this aged 82…. so, is it just confused, slapdash, but it comes across (the repetition) as profound? Did her … Continue reading

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Burn-In, by P.W. Singer and August Cole

Over the last few days I read Burn-In, by P.W. Singer and August Cole. The pretension is a “realistic”-likely sci-fi thriller of the U.S. around 2040, with lots of AI automation, and the social reaction to that displacement. The prose … Continue reading

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Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs

I read about half of Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs and then stopped. As usual, the writing is witty and insightful. But the story, of an undergraduate working as nanny for a flamboyant college-town chef with a handsome, … Continue reading

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The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt’s The Virgin in the Garden is an involved, minute look at the lives of several characters in an English town on the eve of the coronation of the queen in 1953. The characters are connected, directly and indirectly, … Continue reading

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On the Black Hill, by Bruce Chatwin

Another novel I could not finish. I had wanted to read some novels set in Wales, and this was first on many lists. To me, it started out interesting and complex, but then when the twins take over, with a … Continue reading

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Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe by George Eliot

Got about halfway through this and for some reason had a hard time continuing. The realism and alienation of Silas Marner’s early life was bracing, but the interaction between Godrey and Dunstan Cass I found clumsy. I think Trollope and … Continue reading

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Did The Day After change anything?

Listening to an 80,000 Hours podcast with Bear Braumoeller, a political scientist speaking about war and conflict. Braumoeller dropped an aside in the podcast, mentioning that there are many ways to reduce the probability of war, and especially of escalation, … Continue reading

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On the Steel Breeze, by Alastair Reynolds

Sometimes I have a small craving for science fiction, and it kicks in especially when reading regular fiction drama (in this case Lorrie Moore, in one of her slightly more serious novels, which I am 3/4 way through and was … Continue reading

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Un échec de Maigret, by Georges Simenon

Another nice police procedural. This one a bit more psychological as Maigret confronts someone from his childhood. As usual, great insights into 1950s France, at least one perspective. The descriptions of Paris in rainy/foggy weather, with everyone in the Palais … Continue reading

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The Female American: Unca Eliza Winkfield

The Female American: Unca Eliza Winkfield, is a re-edition of an anonymous proto-novel published in 1767, in a new edition edited by Michele Burnham. Super interesting novel about a “mixed” early American, daughter of native American princess and son of … Continue reading

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La colère de Maigret, by Georges Simenon

La colère de Maigret, by Georges Simenon. Great cinematic descriptions of Montmartre strip clubs of the 1950s, and their denizens. Spoiler: The corrupt defense attorney picked easy cases, but told clients he needed a very large bribe to seal the … Continue reading

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Stefan Zweig’s short novella The Burning Secret

Stefan Zweig’s short novella, The Burning Secret. A powerful literary experiment in point of view (from 1913!). Zweig slowly swings from the Baron to Edgar, the 12-year-old who desperately wants to know the secret. Set in an Austrian hotel over … Continue reading

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The Peripheral, by William Gibson

A friend loaned me The Peripheral, by William Gibson, a couple weeks ago. I started it, and within 50 pages the adjective “propulsive” came to mind, because I had this feeling the author was propelling me along and it was … Continue reading

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

My book club, the 200 club (because we only read books under 200 pages), suggested Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote from 1958. Wow. The casual racializing is somewhat breathtaking. Here on full display is unreflective presumption. Capote wrote this … Continue reading

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Beyond Heaven’s River, by Greg Bear

I liked on the the goodreads reviews: “nearly a complete failure by any literary standard.” Indeed. Science fiction often gets a pass if it has a clever or compelling vision of the future, but this was a mash-up of stereotypes, … Continue reading

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Infinite Detail, by Tim Maughan

Dystopian novel set in Bristol. Uses a parallel before/after structure. A computer virus permanently destroys all the connected software of the near future, global supply chains quickly collapse, social order breaks down. Ten years later a community in Bristol turns … Continue reading

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Vladimir, by Julia May Jonas

My sister passed on to me this novel, Vladimir, by Julia May Jonas. As an extremely literary novel whose central character is a professor of literature at a small rural liberal arts college, it hits a nerve of recognition. The … Continue reading

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A House Between Earth and the Moon, by Rebecca Scherm

I am beginning to feel that the algorithms are indeed writing fiction and making art. This novel, A House Between Earth and the Moon, by Rebecca Scherm, was enjoyable to read for awhile, until it starting feeling like a paint … Continue reading

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Matrix, by Lauren Groff

Really enjoyed Matrix, by Lauren Groff, but found myself unable to finish, for some reason? I got within 30 pages of the ending and put it down one night last week, and each time I tried to finish I said … Continue reading

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Fugitive Telemetry, novella in the series The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells

Fugitive Telemetry, novella in the series The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells. breezy but philosophical sci-fi, with a realistic portrayal of bots having a range of consciousness and sentience. Perfect relaxing reading for a couple of nights. This novella is … Continue reading

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