Have Words–Will Write 'Em

On Books, Writers, Most Things Written, Including My Light Verse.

At Mere 900 pages, “Reader” is introduction to William Gass

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An adventurous postmodern fiction writer, Gass reveled in the power and magic of the written word. Gass writes of Ben Jonson’s play, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”

You can read my review of The William H. Gass Reader in the November 25, 2018, edition of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.

You can buy The William H. Gass Reader at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

November 26th, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Two of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Early Minor Masterpieces Reissued

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Neither book’s appeal depends on stereotypical technological gadgetry or time-travel dilemmas. Instead, Le Guin’s subtly rendered and multilayered stories reflect the age-old problems of a contemporary world.

You can read my review of Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel, The Beginning Place and The Eye of the Heron online edition in the September 2018, edition of The Oregonian by clicking the image below.

You can buy The Beginning Place and The Eye of the Heron at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

September 12th, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Braving Every Storm: Lauren Groff’s Florida

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Most of the stories in Florida, Lauren Groff’s new collection, are as fine and beautifully crafted as any fiction she has written.

You can read my review of Lauren Groff’s Florida in the July 19, 2018, edition of the Los Angeles Review of Books by clicking the image below.

Florida

You can buy Florida at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

July 19th, 2018 at 3:35 pm

“A Physicist Explains the ‘Greatest Remaining Mystery’: The nature of time.”

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Rovelli talks about time as a complex collection of layers and then strips away those layers, revealing “how the temporal structure of the world is different from our perception of it.” Rovelli is the sort of scientist who compares poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s “eternal current” to the idea of the “intrinsic difference between past and future.”

You can read my review of Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time in the June 24, 2018 edition of the Washington Post by clicking the image below.

The Order of Time

You can buy The Order of Time at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 23rd, 2018 at 12:09 pm

The Wit and Weight of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Last Book

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There is something mystic yet realistic in her essays, much like her science fiction. And Le Guin showed her pragmatic wit. She believed in the power of positive thinking and its placebo effect, especially when it comes to aging. But the realist in her writes, “If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.”

You can read my review of Ursula K. Le Guin’s last book No Time to Spare:Thinking about What Matters in the January 28, 2018 edition of the Houston Chronicle by clicking the image below.

No Time to Spare

You can buy No Time to Spare at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

January 24th, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Female Code Warriors Fought War of Secret Messages

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After the war, Elizebeth cracked the messages of organized gangsters. Her expert testimony as a cryptanalyst helped convict many bootleggers and rum runners. At that time, the FBI was in its infancy and remarkably inept, but that didn’t keep J. Edgar Hoover from trying to get headlines. For her part, Elizebeth preferred to remain anonymous, a spy of sorts. In July 1931, the Treasury Department cleared her to lead a codebreaking team of her own, which would break codes for all Treasury agencies. She was given a new office, funds to hire staff, and a new title: Cryptanalyst-in-Charge, U.S. Coast Guard, with a pay raise to $3,800 per year. It was the first unit of its kind and the only codebreaking unit in the United States ever to be run by a woman — “another pioneering moment for Elizebeth.”

You can read my piece on about The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone, and Code Girls, by Liza Mundy, in the Los Angeles Review Books by clicking the image below.

Smash & Code

You can buy The Woman Who Smashed Codes from Barnes and Noble here and Code Girls here.

Written by Joe Peschel

October 29th, 2017 at 1:27 pm

The Women Who Worked Undercover in World War II

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The penalty for breaking a signed secrecy oath was a $10,000 fine or 10 years in prison. So the women usually talked in “airy terms about [doing] clerical work.” One woman told a navy admiral who was covertly checking up on her, “I fill inkwells and sharpen pencils and give people what they need.”

You can read me my review of Code Girls, by Liza Mundy, in the October 15, 2017, edition of the Houston Chronicle by clicking the image below.

Code Girls

You can buy Code Girls at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

October 13th, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Novel Captures Fear, Fellowship – Even Humor – of Soldiers in Baghdad

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The men loved Sgt. Morgan – most of them, anyway. After a suicide bomber kills Morgan, only the lieutenant, the company commander and a few other men in the platoon are allowed to attend the memorial service. But Arrow and his soldiers don’t let a little thing like orders prevent them from attending Morgan’s memorial service. The guys decide to steal a Humvee from the motor pool, so the squad can drive to the service anyway. What could possibly go wrong?

You can read my review of Brave Deeds, by David Abrams, in the July 30, 2017, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Brave Deeds

You can buy Brave Deeds at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

July 29th, 2017 at 12:19 pm

“Story of a Boy and Goatherd a Tale of Violence with an Odd Beauty”

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The story is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel “The Road,” where a boy and his father trudge across a vast wasteland. But Carrasco’s central characters are a young boy and an old man who herds goats. They journey across an arid land, destroyed by a terrible drought, not the unnamed disaster of “The Road.” The drought seems to have devastated the entire world, not just the boy’s village. Carrasco’s story is full of violence and religious references like McCarthy’s work, but the archaic or biblical vocabulary and cadence of McCarthy’s prose is absent here. The evil of Carrasco’s bailiff nearly matches McCarthy’s Judge Holden in Blood Meridian.

You can read my review of Out in the Open in the July 23, 2017, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.
Out in the Open

You can buy Out in the Open at at Barnes & Noble

Written by Joe Peschel

July 22nd, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Why? “An Inquisitive Physicist Delves into the Psychology and Neuroscience of Human Curiosity”

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Livio has a way of indulging his readers, inviting them to draw parallels between their own inquisitive tendencies and those of history’s geniuses. Who wouldn’t want to compare themselves to Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman, whom Livio believes possessed the most curious minds that ever existed?

You can read my review of Why?: What Makes Us Curious in the July 7, 2017, edition of Science by clicking the image below.

Why

You can buy Why? at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

July 7th, 2017 at 2:00 pm

“The Graybar Hotel”: Writer serving life sentence offers short stories from behind bars”

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Can loneliness and boredom cause delusion? In “A Human Number,” an unnamed inmate in the county jail is so bored and lonely that he uses the jail’s automated phone system to make calls to strangers. Not everyone would know someone with this prisoner’s name, but everyone knows a “me,” so he records his name as “Heyitsme.” He discovers that retired men are the most willing to accept the charges and talk; they’re followed by elderly widows and former inmates.

You can read my review of The Graybar Hotel in July 2, 2017, edition of The Houston Chronicleby clicking the image below.

The graybar Hotel

You can buy The Graybar Hotel at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

July 2nd, 2017 at 10:43 pm

Time Traveling to Meet Jane Austen; Fun Novel is Fantasy of Manners

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Liam pretends to be a doctor, because you cannot be a female and a doctor in England in 1815. What’s more, it was difficult for a woman to work and be taken seriously in almost any capacity; even Austen published her novels using a pen name, though many of her friends and relatives knew her as a writer. That difficulty will especially affect Rachel, who is an independent and outspoken woman. Like Austen, Rachel will have trouble being an “intelligent woman in a world that had no real use for them.” Rachel also likes to have sex as often as possible, which can present a problem in stuffy old England. Later in the story, Rachel will explain to Jane: “Our age does not place such limits on the freedom of women as yours does.”

You can read my review of The Jane Austen Project in the News & Observer by clicking clicking on the below.

The Jane Austen Project

Or you can read it at the Charlotte Observer by clicking here:

Kathleen Flynn

You buy The Jane Austen Project at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 18th, 2017 at 5:35 pm

“‘Othello’ Moves to Middle School and Loses Nothing in Tracy Chevalier’s Re-telling”

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Ian is, of course, Chevalier’s Iago. He is shrewd and calculating, the ruler of the playground, his kingdom. So, ’tis “by wit, and not by witchcraft” that this sixth-grade bully causes, without regard of any harm to himself or anyone else, the destruction of Osei and of Dee

You can read my review of Tracy Chevalier’s New Boy, in the May 14 edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

New Boy

You can buy Chevalier’s New Boy at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

May 15th, 2017 at 11:55 pm

“SC Author Takes on Border Crossings”

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The story begins when Héctor tells Lilia that he’s seen a man in the village who may be a link to their missing daughter. The man, Emanuel, had arranged for an uncle to take Lilia and Alejandra into Texas. Alejandra had been left with a female coyote – as those who smuggle humans across the border are known – who was supposed to meet up with Lilia. She never did.

You can read my review of Michel Stone’s Border Child, in the April 16 edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Border Child

You can buy Michel Stone’s Border Child at Barnes & Noble

Written by Joe Peschel

April 12th, 2017 at 2:25 pm

“In Story Collection, Characters Endure ‘Weather of the World’”

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As exciting as Bausch’s stories can be, there’s plenty of psychological meat in them. In “Still Here, Still There,” Bausch follows up on the life of Robert Marson, the World War II soldier from his prize-winning 2008 novel Peace. Marson and former German soldier Eugene Schmidt reunite in a media event arranged by Schmidt’s grandson, Hans. During the war, Schmidt saved Marson’s life in Italy. Both men suffer health problems and share little in common other than the war, where ‘grief was the weather all the time.”

You can read my review of Richard Bausch’s Living in the Weather of the World in the April 2 edition of the Houston Chronicle by clicking the image below.

Living in the Weather of the world

You can buy Richard Bausch’s Living in the Weather of the World at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Retelling of Medea and Jason a Brutal, Graphic Read

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As for the truncated sentences, fragments without a verb – those may appeal to the “doing something new with language” crowd. But Vann, who’s translated Beowulf, says he patterned the sounds after Old English meter. The Germanic component “seemed like a good language for brutality.

You can read my review of David Vann’s novel Bright Air Black in the Sunday, March 12, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Bright Air Black

You can buy David Vann’s novel Bright Air Black at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

March 11th, 2017 at 2:29 pm

“In the ‘Underworld’: Gritty Life and Death in a Mining Town”

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It’s February 1972. Silverton is full of hard-drinking redneck miners. When they’re not in the bar drinking and fighting, they’re at the local whorehouse, or they’re sleeping. If the town had a credo, it would be, “Live for now, live directly, let the future take care of itself.

You can read my review of Kevin Canty’s novel The Underworld in the Sunday, March 5, edition of the Houston Chronicle, by clicking the image below.

The Underworld

You can buy Kevin Canty’s novel The Underworld at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

March 4th, 2017 at 1:53 pm

“Short Stories That Entertain and Teach.”

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This collection’s title story, “The World to Come,” selected for “Best American Short Stories 2013,” is told in diary form by Nellie, a housewife in rural New York in 1856. She records life with her near-stoic husband, their neighbors, and especially with her friend Tallie, revealing “emotions or fears, our greatest joys or most piercing sorrows.” Her diary begins in January. There’s deep snow and bitter cold, with ice even inside the farmhouse. Their daughter, also named Nellie, died at 2 1/2. Nellie, the mother, has heard reports that men have been killing their wives, so she becomes suspicious when Tallie leaves unexpectedly.

You can read my review of Jim shepard’s collection The World to Come in the Sunday, February 26, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

The World to Come

You can buy Jim Shepard’s collection The World to Come at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 26th, 2017 at 7:19 pm

“A Time Machine, a Likable Dimwit and a Future Gone Awry”

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Mastai places Tom in 2016. But it’s another timeline, a utopian world where the inventions promised to us in old movies, sci-fi magazines and on “The Jetsons” actually exist. Or as Tom says: “You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Flying cars, robot maids, food pills, teleportation, jet packs, moving sidewalks, ray guns, hover boards, space vacations, and moon bases. All that dazzling, transformative technology our grandparents were certain was right around the corner.”

You can read my review of Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays in the Sunday, February 5, edition of the Houston Chronicle, by clicking the image below.

All Our wrong Todays

You can buy Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 3rd, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Meditation on Physics Deep and Eloquent

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Oddly enough, the seemingly opposite assumptions that are the cornerstones of general relativity and quantum mechanics contradict each other. But each theory enables physicists to make remarkably accurate predictions of how the universe and the tiniest things in it work.

You can read my review of Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems in the Sunday, January 29, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Reality is not what it seems

You can buy Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

January 28th, 2017 at 7:36 pm