Category Archives: Book and film reviews

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.

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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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Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore

I want to write a lot more about this short novel, but for here I’ll just say I loved it, and appreciated all the word play. I mentioned in our book group discussion, that for me, one of the neat … Continue reading

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Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories

Our book club is reading these. The writing is fine. The ideas are less to my liking. Let me just say that reading them during a pandemic when your are socially distant, and where you and by nature quite introverted, … Continue reading

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War Year by Joe Haldemen, from 1972

War Year by Joe Haldeman, published in 1972, is a tremendous short little novel loosely based, apparently, on Haldeman’s year in Vietnam. I got it from the library, and oddly it seems to have been classified in the Juvenile Literature … Continue reading

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“Night Swim” by Anne Enright in The New Yorker

Enjoyed the very short “Night Swim” by Anne Enright in The New Yorker. I listened to her reading the story, so I may have missed something, but it seemed a nice illustration of Hemingway’s omission approach…. the story is so … Continue reading

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Melancholy science fiction: Joe Haldeman’s “For White Hill”

Reading some earlier novellas from the mid-1990s. Joe Haldeman’s “For White Hill” was a nice piece of “end of life” melancholy… when you are practically immortal but space is really big, it means there are still chances it will all … Continue reading

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Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan is a nicely written adventure novel of ideas about how to understand the history of slavery, the human stain, through examining the lives of particular people involved in the peculiar institution. Some horrific descriptions, and … Continue reading

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Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is a fine “American” novel in that it is: (1) set in New York around the time of financial collapse, (2) the theme is basically about characters finding meaning in a consumerist culture without … Continue reading

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Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear is billed as a “space opera” and indeed it seems written with adaptation to Netflix in mind. Hard to explain otherwise the gratuitous “sexy space pirate” character (yes, that is what she is called in … Continue reading

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Semiosis by Sue Burke

Semiosis by Sue Burke is a decent sci-fi novel of ideas: Earth colonists land on an Earth-like planet where there is little animal life but some plants have evolved sentience and have domesticated some animals….Writing is clear, story moves along … Continue reading

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Tom Sweterlitsch, “The Gone World”

The blurb on this novel by Tom Sweterlitsch, The Gone World, “Inception meets True Detective” says it all. You can almost feel the writing hurrying to meet some Netflix deadline for an original series. It’s a mess. Lots of great … Continue reading

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Robert Reed, “Down the Bright Way”

This book Down the Bright Way appeared in 1990. Reed’s Greatship series is one of my favorites, but I was disappointed in this book (which is not a Greatship story). The writing almost seems juvenile, rather than his more mature … Continue reading

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