Have Words–Will Write 'Em

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

Where Have All The Quote Marks Gone?

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Where have all the quote marks gone,
Long time passing?
Where have all the quote marks gone,
Long time ago.

Where have all the quote marks gone?
Post-modernists cut them everyone.
How will readers e’er discern?
How will they ever discern?

–Joe “Seeger” Peschel

Written by Joe Peschel

August 24th, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Light Verse

I Review Paulo’s Coelho’s “Adultery”

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Coelho’s latest novel, Adultery, the act itself the subject of countless stories of varying value, perpetuates quite a few more such clichés. But unlike Manuscript Found in Accra, this volume has a storyline. This time we’re in Geneva, Switzerland. Linda, who claims she’s “a highly regarded journalist,” narrates the story of a happy but boring marriage. Linda commits adultery, despite, by her own admission, being married to a loving and unbelievably understanding but unnamed husband.

You can read my review of Coelho’s Adultery by clicking on the image below.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 24th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I Review William T. Vollmann’s “Last Stories and Other Stories”

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With this big collection of ghost stories, Vollmann haunts the literary territory Henry James explored in The Turn of the Screw,  Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol and, more recently, the prolific Joyce Carol Oates in “More Tales Than I Care to Count.” Don’t let my mention of James, Dickens or Oates fool you – Vollmann is Franz Kafka. He’s William Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon skinny-dipping in a post-postmodern Vollmannesque ectoplasm.

You can read my review of William T. Vollmann’s Last Stories and Other Stories in the edition of the San Francisco Chronicle by clicking on the image below.

You can buy Vollmann’s Last Stories and Other Stories at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 1st, 2014 at 10:35 am

This Is Just To Say

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This Is Just To Say

I picked a
couple of cucumbers
that were in my garden
the other day

and which
I probably
should have saved
till they were bigger

Forgive me,
they were really green & good,
but I forgot to photograph them and
put them on Facebook.

Written by Joe Peschel

July 30th, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Light Verse

I Review David Guterson’s “Problems With People”

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Some of the 10 tales collected here involve burdensome family members; others a new lover or the possibility of one; one has a racial theme. Painfully humorous, ironic, and satiric, each story is realistic, bordering on surrealistic; they’re well-written and well crafted, with one exception. That story aside, Guterson’s stinginess with names for his most important characters gets confusing and annoying in an otherwise first-rate collection.

You can read my review of David Guterson’s Problems With People in the June 24 edition of the Boston Globe by clicking on the image below.

You can buy Guterson’s Problems With People at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 24th, 2014 at 4:35 pm

I Review Adam Begley’s “Updike,” a Biography

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By the time “Rabbit” hit the bookstores Updike was “falling in love, away from marriage.” After Rabbit, Run, sexual elements became stronger in his fiction, and if the Brewer of “Rabbit” was really Reading, Ipswich was really Tarbox, despite Updike’s denials — especially his denials after Couples appeared in 1968. Updike wasn’t the first in his Ipswich crowd to commit adultery, and possibly not the first in his marriage, according to Begley. Mary liked to flirt at parties, and she took a lover in the early ’60s. “With one or two exceptions there was no actual wife-swapping,” no key parties or orgies, but Updike admits in his memoirs he was a “stag of sorts.”

You can read my review of Adam Begley’s Updike in the April 13 edition of the Chicago Tribune’s Printer’s Row by clicking the image below.

You can buy Begley’s Updike at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

April 11th, 2014 at 11:57 am

I Review Gina Frangello’s “A Life in Men”

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Frangello’s characters read James Michener, John Updike, Anaïs Nin and Joyce Carol Oates, especially Oates, whose famous open-ended short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is referred to in nearly every other chapter’s title: “Where Are We Going, Where Have We Been?” Like the reader of the Oates story who wonders what really happens to Connie after Arnold Friend picks her up, you wonder what really happened to Nix in Greece. The story of the Greek adventure unfolds in separate chapters throughout the book.

Click on the image below to read my review in the Sunday, April 6, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Written by Joe Peschel

April 5th, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I Review Greg Baxter’s First Novel, “The Apartment”

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Baxter has published his debut, “The Apartment,” in which an unnamed narrator reflects on his life as he walks the streets of an unnamed European city seeking an apartment. Not much happens here, which takes place over a single day, and I hope I don’t give away too much by revealing that he does buy a better winter coat than the one he had. But plenty takes place in short flashbacks.

Click on the image below to read my review of Greg Baxter’s first novel, The Apartment in the the December 21 edition of the Boston Globe.

You can buy The Apartment at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 21st, 2013 at 10:03 am

I Review Jayne Anne Phillips’s “Quiet Dell”

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Jayne Anne Phillips’s poetic voice lends resonance to her stories of family life, which, as in her previous novel, Lark and Termite, often include horrible violence.

While Lark and Termite depicted the love between sister and brother juxtaposed against a massacre that took place in the Korean War, Phillips’s new novel, Quiet Dell, fictionalizes the actual murder of a family decades ago.

Click on the image below to read my review of Quiet Dell in the November 24, 2013, edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

You can buy Quiet Dell at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

November 24th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I Review New Story Collections by Richard Burgin and Allan Gurganus

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In Burgin’s stories, no matter how despairing or desperate the character, there’s always a sense of life’s tragic-comic absurdity. As for Gurganus, the author of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, says he’s “tried to write the funniest books possible about the worst things that can happen to people.”

Click one of the images below to read my combination review in the October 6, 2013, edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

You can buy Hide Island and Local Souls at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

October 6th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I Review Rick Bass’s “All the Land to Hold Us.”

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There, men lust for and consume the desert’s treasures: salt, oil, water. Stones whisper secrets, elephants cry and dance, children cremate puppets in a funeral pyre, and sentinel-like skeletons hear music and possess a longing that hasn’t perished with their bodies. That harsh and lonely landscape, brilliant and searing, draws toward it treasure hunters, oilmen, and two pairs of lovers from different generations “as the eye of the needle of heaven is said to draw human souls.” Each searches for riches: oil, salt, fresh water, or romance; gold, glittering silica, human relics, or love. But no matter the treasure, no one seems fully satisfied; instead they hunger and consume.

Click the image below to read my review in the August 26 edition of the Boston Globe.

You can buy All the Land to Hold Us at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 25th, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I Review Peter Orner’s “Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge” in The Daily Beast

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Characters, or their relatives, from Orner’s previous stories drop by; other stories portray the personal reminiscences of new characters. Orner is a devotee of the short story and writes the column “The Lonely Voice,” named after Frank O’Connor’s book, over at The Rumpus. In this book, Orner pays literary props and shout-outs to writers he admires and shares writerly bonds with like Isaac Babel, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and John Cheever; although Eudora Welty, whom Orner considers America’s greatest, most bad ass short story writer, can’t fight her way into these stories. The stories here are plenty bad ass.

Click the image below to read my review in The Daily Beast.


You can buy Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge at Barnes & Noble

Written by Joe Peschel

August 13th, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I Review Paul Yoon’s First Novel, “Snow Hunters”

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Yohan’s quiet life becomes a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder: depression and anxiety caused by his prison time and the death of his blind friend, Peng. Yoon portrays Yohan’s recollections as subtle, but nightmarish exposition. Details are minimal. Yohan and other POWs would “carry the bodies of men who had been captured and who had not survived.”

Click the image below to read my review in the August, 2013, edition of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

You can buy Snow Hunters at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 4th, 2013 at 9:06 am

I Review Allison Amend’s Novel, “A Nearly Perfect Copy”

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Her second novel binds together a metaphorical story of human genetic engineering and art forgery. Though the book might sound like science fiction or pulp mystery, Amend’s A Nearly Perfect Copy is a realistic and very human tale, filled with guilt, ethical dilemma and desperation.

Click the image below to read my review in the June 16, 2013, edition of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

You can buy A Nearly Perfect Copy at Barnes & Noble

Written by Joe Peschel

June 16th, 2013 at 11:17 am

Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading & Maybe Reviewing

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Here are some books I’m looking forward to reading and possible reviewing. What upcoming books are you eager to read?

Rawi Hage
Carnival: A novel
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (June 17, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0393072428
ISBN-13: 978-0393072426

Mark Slouka
Brewster: A novel
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 5, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0393239756
ISBN-13: 978-0393239751

Robert Pinsky
Singing School : Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 5, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0393050688
ISBN-13: 978-0393050684

Alexander Maksik
A Marker To Measure Drift: A novel
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Knopf (July 30, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0307962571
ISBN-13: 978-0307962577

Peter Orner,
Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge: Short stories
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (August 6, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0316224642
ISBN-13: 978-0316224642

Carolyn Cooke
Amor and Psycho: Stories
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Knopf (August 6, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0307594742
ISBN-13: 978-0307594747

Paul Yoon
Snow Hunters: A novel
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 6, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1476714819
ISBN-13: 978-1476714813

Patricia Engle
It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris: A novel
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (August 6, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0802121519
ISBN-13: 978-0802121516

Rick Bass
All the Land to Hold Us: A novel
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (August 13, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0547687125
ISBN-13: 978-0547687124

Steve Yarbrough
The Realm of Last Chances: A novel
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Knopf (August 13, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0385349505
ISBN-13: 978-0385349505

Andrea Barrett
Archangel: Short stories
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 19, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0393240002
ISBN-13: 978-0393240009

Larry Watson
Let Him Go: A novel
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Milkweed Editions (September 3, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1571311025
ISBN-13: 978-1571311023

Margaret Atwood
MaddAddam: A novel
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Nan A. Talese (September 3, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0385528787
ISBN-13: 978-0385528788

J. M. Coetzee
The Childhood of Jesus: A novel
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (September 3, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0670014656
ISBN-13: 978-0670014651

Daniel Woodrell
The Maid’s Version: A novel
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 3, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0316205850
ISBN-13: 978-0316205856

Kathryn Davis
Duplex: A novel
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Graywolf Press (September 3, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1555976530
ISBN-13: 978-1555976538

Paul Harding
Enon: A novel
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Random House (September 10, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1400069432
ISBN-13: 978-1400069439

Norman Rush
Subtle Bodies: A novel
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Knopf (September 10, 2013)
ISBN-10: 140004250X
ISBN-13: 978-1400042500

Jonathon Lethem
Dissident Gardens: A novel
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (September 10, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0385534930
ISBN-13: 978-0385534932

David Vann
Goat Mountain: A novel
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Harper (September 10, 2013)
ISBN-10: 006212109X
ISBN-13: 978-0062121097

Laura Furman
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013: The Best Stories of the Year
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Anchor Books; Original edition (September 10, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0345803256
ISBN-13: 978-0345803252

Robert Bly
Stealing Sugar from the Castle: Selected and New Poems, 1950-2013
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (September 16, 2013)
ISBN-10: 039324007X
ISBN-13: 978-0393240078

Nicholson Baker
Traveling Sprinkler: A novel
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Blue Rider Press (September 17, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0399160965
ISBN-13: 978-0399160967

Thomas Pynchon
Bleeding Edge: A novel
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (September 17, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1594204233
ISBN-13: 978-1594204234

Allan Gurganus
Local Souls (Three novellas)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Liveright (September 23, 2013)
ISBN-10: 087140379X
ISBN-13: 978-0871403797

Jhumpa Lahiri
The Lowland : A novel
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Knopf (September 24, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0307265749
ISBN-13: 978-0307265746

Julian Barnes
Levels of Life –A memoir
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Knopf (September 24, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0385350775
ISBN-13: 978-0385350778

Kevin Barry
Dark Lies the Island: Short stories
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Graywolf Press; First Edition (September 24, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1555976514
ISBN-13: 978-1555976514

Bill Bryson
One Summer: America 1927
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (October 1, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0767919408
ISBN-13: 978-0767919401

Margaret Drabble
The Pure Gold Baby
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 1, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0544158903
ISBN-13: 978-0544158900

T. C. Boyle
Stories II: The Collected Stories of T. Coraghessan Boyle, Volume II:
Hardcover: 944 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (October 3, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0670026255
ISBN-13: 978-0670026258

Andre Dubus
Dirty Love: A novel
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 7, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0393064654
ISBN-13: 978-0393064650

John Freeman
How to Read a Novelist
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: FSG Originals (October 8, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0374173265
ISBN-13: 978-0374173265

Cormac McCarthy
The Counselor: A Screenplay
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Vintage (October 8, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0345803590
ISBN-13: 978-0345803597

Chuck Palahniuk
Doomed
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (October 8, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0385533039
ISBN-13: 978-0385533034

Elizabeth Strout & Heidi Pitlor
Best American Short Stories 2013
Hardcover: 356 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 8, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0547554826
ISBN-13: 978-0547554822

David Leavitt
The Two Hotel Francforts: A novel
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (October 15, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1596910429
ISBN-13: 978-1596910423

Jayne Anne Phillips
Quiet Dell: A novel
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Scribner (October 15, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1439172536
ISBN-13: 978-1439172537

Lee Smith
Guests on Earth
: A novel
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: A Shannon Ravenel Book (October 15, 2013)
ISBN-10: 161620253X
ISBN-13: 978-1616202538

J. C. Hallman
The Story About the Story Vol. II
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Tin House Books (October 15, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1935639684
ISBN-13: 978-1935639688

Daniel Alarcon
At Night We Walk in Circles: A novel
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (October 31, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1594631719
ISBN-13: 978-1594631719

Bill Henderson
The Pushcart Prize 2014
Hardcover: 600 pages
Publisher: Pushcart Press; 1 edition (November 6, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1888889705
ISBN-13: 978-188888970

Robert Stone
Death of the Black-Haired Girl
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 12, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0618386238
ISBN-13: 978-0618386239

Daniel Menaker
My Mistake – A memoir
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 19, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0547794231
ISBN-13: 978-0547794235

Tolstoy (Peter Carson, translator)
The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Confession
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Liveright (November 25, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0871404265
ISBN-13: 978-0871404268

Frederick Busch
The Selected Stories of Frederick Busch
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (December 2, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0393239543
ISBN-13: 978-0393239546

E. L. Doctorow
Andrew’s Brain: A novel
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Random House (January 28, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1400068819
ISBN-13: 978-1400068814

Written by Joe Peschel

June 10th, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Ian Frazier’s first novel, “The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days”

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Like her columns, Mommy’s yearlong daybook chronicles her hopes, dreams, and frustrations with some aspect of daily life usually causing her to flip out, curse, break things, or give people the finger.

Click the image below to read my review in the October 10, 2012, edition of the Boston Globe.

You can listen to Cynthia Nixon read from “The Cursing Mommy” on the clip below.

You can buy The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days at Barnes & Noble

Written by Joe Peschel

October 11th, 2012 at 11:20 am

Davy Rothbart Regales with Tales of Drinking and Heartbreak

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I review Davy Rothbart’s My Heart is an Idiot

Rothbart, a short story writer and creator of Found magazine, is funny enough to keep you laughing, and he occasionally shares an especially sad moment. I really felt for Davy as he searched for his soul mate. And I hoped some of his adventures might work out. But sometimes I wanted to hit Davy upside his head and knock some sense into him.

Click the image below to read my review in the September 26, 2012, edition of the Boston Globe.

You can buy Rothbart’s My Heart Is An Idiot from Barnes & Noble

Written by Joe Peschel

September 28th, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I Review David Abrams’s First Novel “Fobbit”

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Like Joseph Heller’s classic book, David Abrams’ first novel is a satire that lampoons the stupidity, terror and futility of war. Rather than World War II Italy, however, “Fobbit” takes place in modern Iraq, with satire as scathing and funny as “Catch-22.”

Click the image below to read my St. Louis Post-Dispatch review of Fobbit.

You can buy Fobbit at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

September 8th, 2012 at 11:18 am

I Review “The Scent of Scandal”

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Pittman portrays Kovach, the Adventurer, Selby’s staff and others as backstabbers who out of greed, jealousy, fear or egotism take sides and turn against each other. Two of the principals even planned to do reality TV shows about orchids. There’s also courtroom drama and a mysterious death that may have been suicide, accident or murder. What more could you ask for?

Click the image below to read my review of The Scent of Scandal in the August 26 edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

You can buy The Scent of Scandal at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 26th, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Nicholson Baker’s “The Way the World Works”

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The essays in “Life” are mini-meditations on Baker’s life. In the allegorical “String,” Baker recalls the joy and challenge of flying a kite as a child and always wanting more from the kite, for it to fly higher. Baker plugs his phone-sex novel “Vox,” (1992) in a tiny and droll reminiscence on his fascination for the telephone; in another piece he makes treasure hunting at the dump sound thrilling.

Click the image below to read my review of Baker’s The Way the World Works in the August 19 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

You can buy Nicholson Baker’s The Way the World Works at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 19th, 2012 at 12:00 pm