Have Words–Will Write 'Em

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

In Roddy Doyle’s “Love,” Sharing Beers — and Memories While Visiting the Pubs of Dublin, Two Men Look Back on Life”

without comments

It takes the two men a while and a few pints for them to open up to each other. “There is a reason why men don’t talk about their feelings. It’s not just that it’s difficult, or embarrassing. It’s almost impossible. The words aren’t really there.” Ah, but in wine there is truth and in beer there is ‘drunken sense’ and the two manage to do a lot of storytelling. Joe reveals that he’s left his wife, Trish, for another woman, Jessica, whom Joe and Davy were each infatuated with more than 30 years ago.

You can read my review of Roddy Doyle’s Love in the Boston Globe by clicking the image below.

You can buy Roddy’s Doyle’s Love at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 20th, 2020 at 3:13 pm

Posted in News

“Shakespeare in a Divided America” Considers the Tug-of-War Over the Bard

without comments

In his introduction, Shapiro, who teaches at Columbia University, writes that it was the election of Donald Trump as president that led him to write the book. The author wrestles with the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and he even visits red states in the South, to talk with audiences about Shakespeare and “grapple with what, from inside my blue state bubble, I had failed to understand about where the country was heading.” He succeeds, however, in presenting an even-handed account of Shakespeare and American politics, though his observations, comments, and conclusions convey an unmistakably liberal viewpoint.

You can read my review of James Shapiro’s Shakespeare in a Divided America in the Christian Science Monitor by clicking the image below.

You can buy Shakespeare in a Divided America at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 20th, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Heathcliff Redux: A Novella and Stories, by Lily Tuck

without comments

The narrator asks Cliff if he’s ever read Wuthering Heights. Cliff says no. She, of course, has read it, and is re-reading it. As Wuthering Heights incorporates elements of Gothic and Romance fiction told in two stories, Heathcliff Redux embraces an interior story of a sort, too. ‘Redux’ is told in short chapters, sometimes as brief as a single sentence with a footnote, but ‘Redux’s’ interior ‘story’ consists of excerpts from Wuthering Heights, some of Brontë’s poems, criticism of Brontë, and it integrates elements of modern fiction with culinary elements borrowed from cozy mysteries and chic lit. Not only is there a recipe for boeuf bourguignon, but there’s the reminder to use a Bordeaux or a Burgundy for the three cups of red wine. What’s more, there’s a pithy recipe for spaghetti: boil a lot of water and add spaghetti. Isn’t that why we read fiction?

You can read my review of Lily Tuck’s Heathcliff Redux: A Novella and Other Stories by clicking the image below.

 

Written by Joe Peschel

June 6th, 2020 at 4:17 pm

“The Life and Times of Galileo,” Galileo and the Science Deniers, by Mario Livio

without comments

“Disputes about the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic offer another parallel. In an email interview with America, Livio was as frank as I believe Galileo would have been. He wrote:”

There is no question that the initial dismissive response of the administration to the scientists’ warnings concerning the coronavirus has had disastrous consequences…. One of the most important lessons from the Galileo affair has been: Believe in science! To bet against science when human life is at stake is insane.

You can read my review of Mario Livio’s Galileo and the Science Deniers by clicking the image below.

You can buy Galileo and the Science Deniers at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

May 5th, 2020 at 5:44 pm

Paul Yoon’s “Run Me to Earth”

without comments

In Yoon’s work—Snow Hunters, Once the Shore (2009), and a few of the stories in The Mountain (2017)—war, with all of its attendant obscenity and evil, shapes Yoon’s characters, while the characters attempt to shape their patch of war. In a sense, Yoon presents war as something of a major character that influences nearly everything from life in all its forms: human, plant, animal, to nature itself. The obscenity—the killing, torture, and bombings—are mostly accomplished off-page or as half scenes, yet the revenge-killing of an interrogator is rather graphic.

 

 

You can read my review of Paul Yoon’s novel, Run Me to Earth, at The Brooklyn Rail by clicking the image below.

You can buy Run Me to Earth at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 6th, 2020 at 3:27 pm

E.B. White Spoke to His Time – and Ours

without comments

Today’s divisive, clamorous politics and President Trump himself offer abundant reason to read these essays, some more than 75 years old, today. In his introduction to the book, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jon Meacham calls President Trump an “opportunistic real estate and reality TV showman.”

You can read my review of On Democracy in the Portland Press Herald by clicking the image below.

 

You can buy On Democracy at Barnes &Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

January 26th, 2020 at 3:38 pm

“MacTrump” Turns Donald Trump’s First Two Years as President into a Shakespearean Satire

without comments

If thou art a fan of the current president, thou wilt not care for this story. The authors insist that “MacTrump” is full of alternate facts and fake characters and “if any of our characters sound smarter, stupider, similar, or dissimilar to any celebrity or public figure, alive or dead, there’s a reason: this book is a parody.”

You can read my review of MacTrump in The Oregonian by clicking the image below.

You can buy MacTrump at Barnes &Noble

Written by Joe Peschel

October 4th, 2019 at 11:59 am

T.C. Boyle’s “Outside Looking In”

without comments

As you might imagine, Boyle’s story is a page-turner. It would take an absolute hack to write a dull a novel about sex and drugs. That’s not to slight Boyle who captures the period perfectly. He’s done his research on drug research, and he doesn’t fill his characters mouths with a lot of the slang of the day. Sure, there’s the occasional taste of the Beat “hepcat,” “squares,” and “downer,” for verisimilitude, but Boyle nearly apologizes for the vernacular by saying it’s “another descriptor he [Charlie] dug out of his Beat dictionary.”

You can read my Brooklyn Rail review of Boyle’s Outside Looking In by clicking the image below.

You can buy Boyle’s Outside Looking In at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

September 5th, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys”

without comments

You can read my Brooklyn Rail review of Colson Whitehead’s Nickel Boys  by clicking the image below.

Violence, racism, and ways to confront them are the themes of the book, a hot-button topic, considering the current state of the country: a racist president whose words influence, directly or indirectly, violence and mass-murders by domestic terrorists, unnecessary killings by bigoted cops, and national news commentators who insist that white supremacy is a hoax.

You can buy Whitehead’s Nickle Boys at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

September 5th, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Karen Russell’s “Orange World and Other Stories”

without comments

In Russell’s World stories possess the strangeness that the critic Harold Bloom values as one criterion for inclusion in his Western Canon. Russell’s stories concern love and lost love, friendship, and fear; greed, abandonment, and guilt. Her tales may derive from Shakespeare as Bloom might insist, but they definitely owe a debt to ancient mythology, Americana, and classic European literature.

You can read my Brooklyn Rail review of Karen Russell’s Orange World and Other Stories by clicking the image below.

You can buy Russell’s Orange World at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

September 5th, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Chuck Klosterman’s New Short Story Collection Ranges from Topical Tidbits to Questionable Gimmicks

without comments

Ranging from a few pages to no more than 10, they’re the sort of fiction that I’d typically call vignettes, a word too highfalutin to describe these pieces. Most of them are light-hearted, zany and crazy bordering on comic-sociopathic, which makes them fun to read, almost like watching squirrels fighting over their walnut treasures. Or not — depending on your temperament.

You can read my review of Chuck Kloststerman’s story collection by clicking on the image below.

You can buy Chuck Kloststerman’s story collection from Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

July 30th, 2019 at 11:41 am

Oscar Cásares’s new novel, “Where We Come From,”

without comments

A former school teacher, Nina is always doing favors for everyone: first checking in on her ailing mother, then taking her to doctor’s appointments, and finally selling her own house, so she could live with and help Mamá Meche. But after doing a favor for a friend, her maid Rumalda, Nina finds herself entangled in human trafficking. Rumalda begs Nina to shelter her daughter and granddaughter after they are smuggled across the border. She lets them stay in the pink house while they wait to be taken farther into the U. S. The woman Nina deals with at first seems innocuous enough, but her associates El Kobe and Rigo are dangerous. After Nina does the favor for Rumalda, El Kobe and Rigo bring more Central American immigrants across the border to the pink house. El Kobe pays Nina $50 a day for the house, the food she makes, and to keep quiet. In a few days, Nina collects more money from El Kobe than Mamá Meche collected for a month’s rent.

You can read my review of Oscar Cásares’s novel Where We Come From, in the June 2019, edition of The Brooklyn Rail by clicking on the image below.

 

You can buy Oscar Cásares’s Where We Come From at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 5th, 2019 at 4:53 pm

Ian Frisch’s “Magic is Dead: My Journey into the World’s Most Secretive Society of Magicians”

without comments

Like a George Plimpton or a Hunter S. Thompson, Frisch becomes so involved in the story that he becomes part of it—in this case, a magician—which is probably less risky than being tackled by a bunch of huge football players or getting beaten up by bikers.

You can read my review of Ian Frisch’s Magic Is Dead in the April 3, 2019,  edition of The Brooklyn Rail by clicking on the image below. <p>

 

You can buy Ian Frisch’s Magic is Dead at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

April 4th, 2019 at 11:59 am

St. Louis Provides Novel’s Setting for Dysfunctional Altruists

without comments

It was practically the Alter family credo, an anti-Hippocratic oath: “First, Do No Good.”

In keeping with that possible credo, Arthur has a girlfriend 30 years his junior whom he was seeing even when Francine was dying. The offspring suspect that Arthur has ulterior motives for inviting them home, but, optimistically, they fly to St. Louis anyway.

You can read my review of Andrew Ridker’s Altruists in March 17, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking on the image below.

You can buy Andrew Ridker’s first novel, The Alchemists, at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

March 16th, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Jonathan Lethem’s Latest, ‘The Feral Detective,’ is More than the Usual Whodunit.

without comments

Like any good detective story, there’s plenty of adventure, violence, some sex, and there’s that opossum, too. Everyone loves opossums, don’t they? But this allegory disguised as a detective story portrays political division in America – between rural and city folk, men and women, old and young.

You can read my review of Jonathan’s Feral Detective, by Jonathan Lethem by clicking the picture below.

 

You can buy The Feral Detective, Jonathan Lethem at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

March 3rd, 2019 at 8:55 pm

Demolition Night, a First Novel by Ross Barkan

without comments

The story jumps to the near-future, near enough that some characters from 1979 still live. In the future, the capitalists, not the workers, have united, and economic prosperity is the be-all and end-all of civilization. America has been led by a president, more of a dictator, named Octavio Velez who’s encouraged maniacal economics so much that “corporatism has run amok.” Intelligence is valued only to the extent that its fruits can be monetized. You could say that our corporations have already run amok and that intellectualism is disdained. But in this future America, the population is even more divisive than it is now and is trifurcated into Ents (entrepreneurs), premiums (the workers), and zeros (anyone without a job). Companies like Velocity Ventures, McKing, and Gaggle, which makes a device also called a Gaggle that keeps everyone physically and mentally connected, run people’s lives.

You can read my review of Ross Barkan’s first novel,  Demolition Night, in the Brooklyn Rail by clicking the image below.

 

You buy Ross Barkan’s Demolition Night at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 7th, 2019 at 2:48 pm

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

without comments

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

without comments

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

without comments

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.”

without comments

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