Little Big Man by Thomas Berger

“Little Big Man changed the way I see the world.”  If you were around in the 1970’s, after the Dustin Hoffman film version of Thomas Berger’s novel Little Big Man hit the screen, you probably heard someone say this.  Maybe you said it yourself.   I was too young for R-rated movies in 1970, back then no one would have dreamed of taking a seven-year-old … Continue reading Little Big Man by Thomas Berger

Mamaw by Susan Dodd

Pretend it’s not a western.  Pretend it’s historical fiction. Imagine this story takes place in Ireland or South Africa instead of western Missouri.  A young woman marries a religious man who takes her away from home to start a new life.  The two raise several children on a hard-scrabble farm.  When he dies,  she re-marries, this time to a doctor.  More children are born.   Unable … Continue reading Mamaw by Susan Dodd

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

This is a tough story. The title character and narrator tells us right-off-the-bat that she will disappear in a week.  She lets us know that this is the story of the week before she vanished forever.  This grabbed my attention immediately; then she hinted that there would be a crime before she goes. This kept me reading long into the novel. Reading pages and pages … Continue reading Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

I guess I just have a hard time reading pictures. I’m too focused on the words when I read a graphic novel.  And the words usually are not very good.  This has long been my main complaint with the form–it needs better writing. The writing in Scott McCloud’s graphic novel The Sculptor isn’t bad, but the story suffers from what has become a trite cliché.  (Yes, that … Continue reading The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

I wonder if we should judge writers not by their best work, but by their mediocre work.  Great books stand on their own, whether or not they were written by a great writer.  Sometimes, things just align themselves in such a way that you hit the ball out of the park, even if you’re just an average batter.  It’s how many hits you still get on an … Continue reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Tournament of Short Stories: Kelly Link vs. Raymond Carver

I hope Kelly Link won’t be mad at me. Kelly Link has had several stories featured on my favorite short story podcast, Podcastle.  If you’re a fan of fantasy/science fiction or just a fan of good, entertaining stories, you should be subscribing to Podcastle.  I loved her featured zombie stories “The Hortlak” and “Some Zombie Contingencies Plans” neither of which is really about zombies. So when I … Continue reading Tournament of Short Stories: Kelly Link vs. Raymond Carver

Tournament of Short Stories II–Murakami vs. Hardwick or “Goodbye, Haruki!”

I never thought it would come to this. It’s not like I don’t still love Haruki Murakami.  I do. Maybe not like I once did– maybe the honeymoon is finally over, though it lasted many years. Many, many terrific writers essentially write the same story over and over again.  Some put the same narrator into slightly different situations but basically repeat themselves each time they … Continue reading Tournament of Short Stories II–Murakami vs. Hardwick or “Goodbye, Haruki!”

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I can’t quite determine exactly where the narrative tension in Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall comes from, but it’s certainly there–I found the book very hard to put down, even when it was hard to figure out if anything was really happening. While there are multiple stories in Before the Fall, one back-story for each of the passengers on a small, private jet that crashes into the water … Continue reading Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

The World Below by Sue Miller

Good intentions can change another person’s life, but this change may not always be welcome.   When the mother of two girls dies, their grandmother arrives to take them back to her rural home.  Their father refuses the offer; privately, the girls laugh at the notion of living with their backwoods relative.  But she was right. Caring for their widowed father would prove to be … Continue reading The World Below by Sue Miller

A Short Story Omnibus: Raymond Chandler and Samantha Henderson

The detective arrives in a small seaside California town looking for a missing girl.  Her mother is very concerned.  Concerned enough to hire him.  He is soon over his head; caught in a crime syndicate that includes the beat cops, the local police chief, a psychiatric hospital, an offshore gambling boat, and a pair of bank robbers. Chandler country in other words. I kept thinking of … Continue reading A Short Story Omnibus: Raymond Chandler and Samantha Henderson

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

I know this won’t win me many friends in some quarters but my main problem with graphic novels is that they are typically so much better as graphics than they are as novels. Even when I look at the graphic novels I’ve loved and admired, I have to admit that I like the artwork much more than I do the writing.   Most graphics novelists–in … Continue reading Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Travel Team by Mike Lupica

A few weeks ago I brought in an assortment of sports novels for my 7th graders.  Among the titles were several by Mike Lupica and Tim Green.  I’ve never been a sports fan, though I did enjoy Friday Night Lights in all its forms, so I asked those who read them which one I would like better, Tim Green or Mike Lupica.  They suggested Mike … Continue reading Travel Team by Mike Lupica