Category Archives: Book and film reviews

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

Read Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas. It is a light, almost stand-uppy commentary on childhood as Iranian-American during the late 1970s and 1980s, and then vignettes from marriage (to a Frenchman). Not quite Thurberesque. People my age will recognize … Continue reading

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Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer. Unless you really, really, liked Annihilation, I would avoid this novel. It has similar elements: rambling, disjointed narrative, foggy-thinking main character, ambiguous setting, lurking menace, muddy philosophizing, eco-themed naturalism…. But, in my opinion is comes … Continue reading

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The Overstory by Richard Powers was a great read in the beginning, partly because I was under the impression that it was a somewhat sci-fi novel, and would transition from the human characters to a more complex novel that treated … Continue reading

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Hitler and I, by Otto Strasser

I saw this mentioned in Marc Bloch, so I got a copy through interlibrary loan. Hitler and I, by Otto Strasser was published in 1940, and is a hurriedly written account (one-sided, if that word applies to people in Hitler’s … Continue reading

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Martha Wells All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries

Martha Wells short novella All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries is really more like a comic. I cannot be the first to point this out. Lots of action, centered on a trained killer who has “grown” a conscience. And because … Continue reading

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Alexander Todorov’s book Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions

Enjoyed reading Alexander Todorov’s book, Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions, and discussing in my Friday morning (early!) book group. Coincidentally, in my class on the economics of gender in developing countries, I had touched on evolutionary psychology … Continue reading

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Premier amour by Ivan Tourgueniev

Premier amour by Ivan Tourgueniev is an enjoyable novella. The modern reader finds it a bit overwrought… we can tell that the “other lover” is the young man’s father almost immediately. If the skill of the novel is portraying how … Continue reading

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The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

I wish that The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin had been a better novel, but unfortunately it is juvenile and humdrum. I love her later work, and the Earthsea novels. My cover calls this novel “an astonishing tale of … Continue reading

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Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

My neighborhood book club read and discussed Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner. We’re an odd mix, and it is always interesting to see who “likes” and who doesn’t. Leaving the Atocha Station is about as high literary-meta as … Continue reading

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Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K. le Guin in French translation by Philippe Hupp

I really enjoyed reading Earthsea by Ursula K. le Guin in French translation by Philippe Hupp. I had previously only read the first volume in English. Maybe reading in translation lends gravity to what might be, in native language, an … Continue reading

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Katie Mack, The End of Everything

Very enjoyable, very readable, Katie Mack’s The End of Everything is good cosmology overview of where the field is at on the question of what happens when the universe winds down. Obviously the math is way beyond me, but Mack … Continue reading

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Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

Finished Eifelheim by Michael Flynn… a bit exhausting, but the “everyone is going to die” reader anticipation of plague novels is pretty compelling nevertheless. The frame story doesn’t work very well, but the Krenken-Dietrich-Manfred main story is very moving. I’d … Continue reading

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Blushes, by Graham Swift, in The New Yorker, January 18 2021

I thought this short story, “Blushes,” by Graham Swift, in The New Yorker, January 18 2021, was tremendous as a statement of quiet competence in writing, on a well-trodden theme: towards the end of life, looking back and having a … Continue reading

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“Good-Looking” by Souvankham Thammavongsa

The story “Good-Looking” by Souvankham Thammavongsa in the March 1, 2021 issue of The New Yorker. Quite enjoyable read, for the craft. About as concise as possible as a portrayal of how the child remembers something, knows a bit of … Continue reading

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A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Reading this sci-fi “empire” novel A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (the new labeling for what used to be called space opera, I guess) was enjoyable. Very good characterization of the two central characters. A decent science-fi idea, though … Continue reading

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Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

A fine moody, noir-ish, crime novel where the crime is really quite tangential and left for the very end. The focus is on a washed-out ex-punk photographer. Lots of interesting discussion of photography, landscape (desolate parts of Maine, that I … Continue reading

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“The Wind” by Lauren Groff

“The Wind” by Lauren Groff, in The New Yorker, was a straightforward, powerful story of domestic violence. I confess it is a genre that no reader, let alone me, enjoys, told, as it is, from the eyes of a child. … Continue reading

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New Yorker fiction: “A Wrinkle in the Realm” by Ben Okri

A very short allegory, “A Wrinkle in the Realm” by Ben Okri. Okri had a whole volume of short allegories some time ago, that I found difficult to read. Here the idea is straightforward, but it is a wrinkle. I … Continue reading

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Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I really enjoyed Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. It is a short novel, an allegory, really. But she deftly works in the “real” world, and the writing is extremely satisfying: I lingered over her choices of words and sentences, and definitely … Continue reading

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The Traitor Baru Cormorant

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson was a good “close to alt-history” novel. In a world similar to the world in 1500, an imperial power uses a variety of techniques to divide, conquer, rule, exploit, extract, and “develop” the … Continue reading

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