My Life by Anton Chekov

Sometimes it can really help to have a professor guide your reading. This was one of those times.  I was well over halfway through Anton Chekhov’s novella My Life translated by Constance Garnett before I could decide just how satirical it was. To be honest before I could decide if it satirical or not. There is a lot of Russian literature from Mr. Chekhov’s day dealing with the … Continue reading My Life by Anton Chekov

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle is a good time. If I say that it’s just a good read, does that do it a disservice? Do you think I mean to say that it’s not really a great book with something to say? Is calling a book simply a good read marking it down a bit in your estimation? In mine? I don’t mean … Continue reading The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

Arrival by Ted Chiang

  There is some damn fine writing in Ted Chiang’s volume of short stories Arrival originally published as Stories of Your Life and Others. So much than the next time you hear someone say that fantasy and science fiction tend to be badly written, you should direct them to any of Ted Chiang’s stories. They may not be your cup of tea, but they are all very well … Continue reading Arrival by Ted Chiang

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

I realize my sample size is basically two, but what is it about Japanese writers and cats? If you’re a fan of Haruki Murakami, then you know his interest in cats. They are such a strong presence in his novel The Wind-up Bird that they cast something of a shadow on the rest of his writing.  Do all his books feature a cat? No? The Guest … Continue reading The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

No Blade of Grass by John Christopher

There world has been coming to an end since 1956. There has been an explosion of dystopian futures of late.  If you wandered around any Scholastic Book Faire this year, you saw that just about one out of ever four titles in the fiction section featured some kind of horrific future. It’s oddly comforting to realize that this is really nothing new. The end of … Continue reading No Blade of Grass by John Christopher

The Death of the Author by Gilbert Adair

In the mid-twentieth century the author died.  At least as far as many university English departments were concerned. After critic/scholar Roland Barthes published his essay “The Death of the Author,”  whatever the author intended ceased to be of interest to a critical establishment determined to study the text and how it worked devoid of any reference to the author who created it. I’m oversimplifying an … Continue reading The Death of the Author by Gilbert Adair

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Sometimes it’s very hard to pin down why you love a book. Denis Johnson’s very short novella, I found it on a list of brilliant books you can read in a day, tells the story of an abbreviated life.  Robert Grainier is a day laborer in the American West circa 1910.  He never amounts to much.  There isn’t much to tell about his life.  He … Continue reading Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

The Devil’s Disciple by Shiro Hamao

Two very entertaining thriller/mysteries by an author you’ve probably never heard of translated here by J. Keith Vincent. Both stories, “The Devil’s Disciple” and the novella length “Did He Kill Them” are really psychological studies as much as noir detective thrillers. In both, the “killer” has already been caught so there’s not that much of investigating to be done.  However, in each the confession is … Continue reading The Devil’s Disciple by Shiro Hamao

Of Flesh and Fur by Duncan Barlow

It’s not easy to find these books.  Small, very small, independent press books each of them clearly a labor of love at every step of the way. I found The Cupboard Press at a writer’s and writing conference in Los Angeles last year, two young people sitting at a table in the vast exhibition hall.  I liked their little books, each small enough to fit … Continue reading Of Flesh and Fur by Duncan Barlow

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan and The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

It’s just happenstance.  Pure random phenomena that led me to read Karan Mahajan’s highly praised novel The Association of Small Bombs right after reading Rudyard Kipling’s classic novella The Man Who Would Be King.  I didn’t mean to do it.  I didn’t even know Mr. Mahajan’s novel took place in India. I did know about Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King from the very entertaining John Huston film … Continue reading The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan and The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Long into the night Marco Polo sits in Kublai Kahn’s palace telling him about all the cities he has visited, cities the Kahn will never get the chance to see. This is the premise for Italo Calvino’s wonderful novella Invisible Cities translated from the Italian by William Weaver. Each of the short chapters describes one city.  After a few chapters, the dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublia Kahn … Continue reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

The Square by Marguerite Duras

All Paris parks are the Luxembourg Gardens as far as I’m concerned. C.J. and I arrived early for the matinee.  (Everything David Sedaris says about going to the movies in Paris is true.) Time to kill and no money to spend, the Luxembourg Gardens just up the street. Thirty minutes later and both of us are tempted to skip the movie in exchange for an … Continue reading The Square by Marguerite Duras