The Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson

Who knew Robert Louis Stevenson was so funny. The Beach at Falesa  is funny, but funny in the same way that Nicolai Gogol is funny.  You have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate the humor.  And you have to be willing to overlook, or at least look past,  some things that modern readers aren’t so willing to overlook so much anymore. … Continue reading The Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg by Mark Twain

I’m till trying to decide just how mean this book is. Or does the little town of Hadleyburg get what it deserves? Hadleyburg, a small town in small town America, prides itself on its honesty.  So much so that the town’s residents have begun teaching children in the cradle that above all else, they must be honest. Until one day…. A strange package arrives at … Continue reading The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg by Mark Twain

Carmen by Prosper Merimee

Notorious highwayman Don Jose Navarro is in prison, awaiting his execution.  He spends the final hours of his life telling a stranger the story of Carmen, the wild gypsy woman he met in Seville who led him into a life of crime before the fateful day when he shot her in a fit of jealousy. Prosper Merimee’s novella is probably the first time a gypsy … Continue reading Carmen by Prosper Merimee

How the Two Ivans Quarrelled by Nikolai Gogol

 Nikolai Gogol cracks me up.  Our senses of humor are so in-tuned that I think we’re kindred spirits.  Maybe we’re even related somehow.  It could be true. I’ve heard it argued that comedy once came from those on the lower rungs of the social ladder looking upwards at the antics of their social betters.  You can see this in Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, even … Continue reading How the Two Ivans Quarrelled by Nikolai Gogol

The Poor Clare by Elizabeth Gaskell

If you’re wondering whether or not Elizabeth Gaskell had the chops to pull of a truly Gothic novel, and I know you are, I am pleased to say, yes, she did. Ms. Gaskell dabbled in the Gothic for publication in Charles Dickens’ Household Words in 1856.  She was a regular contributor to Household Words where her masterpiece Cranford first appeared. I must admit, I had my doubts with The … Continue reading The Poor Clare by Elizabeth Gaskell

Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather

I think Willa Cather gets men. During her life, and in the critical response to her work after her death, she took her fair share of heat for not writing often enough from a woman’s point of view.  Even when the book was about women, like My Antonia, her narrator had a male voice.  I think it’s fair to ask  why she made this choice, it may … Continue reading Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather

The Duel by Alexander Kuprin Translated by Josh Billings

Russian writer Alexander Kuprin (1870-1938) based his 1905 novel The Duel on his experience in the Russian infantry where he spent four years in a provincial outpost in the Ukraine. I’m guessing he didn’t have a very good time. Kuprin was drummed out of the infantry after an altercation with a local police officer over an insult.  He then turned full-time to writing.  Living in Kiev … Continue reading The Duel by Alexander Kuprin Translated by Josh Billings

The Distracted Preacher by Thomas Hardy

Most people, even people who know Thomas Hardy, aren’t aware of just how much he wrote.  While he was no Anthony Trollope, Hardy really cranked them out in his day.  18 novels and over 50 “short stories” according to Wikipedia’s list.  I say “short stories” because The Distracted Preacher  comes in at 98 pages in my edition making it a novella in my book.  Add his … Continue reading The Distracted Preacher by Thomas Hardy

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

If you love books, then this is the book for you. I’ve long held that there should be an official genre for novels about books–there are so many stories about bookshops, publishers, collectors, particular books and their power. They deserve a category. Bibliophilliac Fiction maybe. Christopher Morley’s first novel, Parnassus on Wheels,  should be at the top of anyone’s canonical list of bibliophilliac fiction. It’s wonderful. … Continue reading Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

Mean Streets by Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson and Thomas E. Sniegoski

Do you like your detective fiction hard-boiled? Does your fantasy reading tend towards the Gothic? Combine the two and you have Mean Streets, a collection of four novellas by Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson and Thomas Sniegoski. Urban fantasy, a new genre with a growing audience, takes fantasy elements and places them in real life, contemporary settings. From what I’ve read of it … Continue reading Mean Streets by Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson and Thomas E. Sniegoski

The Worst Book I’ve Read in a Long Time or The Lemur by Benjamin Black

Benjamin Black, Booker Prize winning author who is really John Banville, started strong with his first detective novel Christine Falls.  I think we all had high hopes for him, those of us who enjoy detective novels.  His second book, The Silver Swan, didn’t quite measure up to the high standard Christine Falls set but we were willing to forgive– a sophomore slump is not an uncommon thing.  But The Lemur … Continue reading The Worst Book I’ve Read in a Long Time or The Lemur by Benjamin Black

Fanfarlo by Charles Baudelaire

Samuel Cramer, a “passionate atheist” circa 1820 Paris, meets a kindred spirit who happens to be a married woman.  She tells him of her husband’s affair with a popular dancer, Fanfarlo.  As a favor to her, Cramer begins to pan the popular actress/dancer in his daily newspaper column.  After several months he finally meets Fanfarlo who insists he explain himself. After he tells her that … Continue reading Fanfarlo by Charles Baudelaire