Have Words–Will Write 'Em

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

Archive for the ‘Book Reviews & Articles’ Category

I Review “Sweetgirl,” by Travis Mulhauser

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Portis tells Percy, “Your mother’s just off somewhere stoned. Like always.” And he’s none too happy about the baby. He assures Percy that Shelton and his lunatic friends will come for the child. Meantime, Shelton lies to his friends, each a nitwit in his own right, and claims his uncle promises a $5,000 reward for the baby’s return. Still looking for Carletta, Percy, Jenna and Portis, who carries a rifle, take off and skirmish with Shelton and his ilk, each armed with pistols, shotguns and explosives.

You can read my review of Sweetgirl, by Travis Mulhauser, in the Sunday, January 31 edition of the News & Observer by clicking the image below.

Sweetgirl

You can buy Sweetgirl from Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 23rd, 2016 at 5:15 pm

I Review Idra Novey’s “Ways to Disappear”

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How many novels have you read in which the missing person, in this case a female novelist in her 60s carrying a suitcase and smoking a cigar, was last seen climbing up an almond tree?

You can read my review of Ways to Disappear, by Idra Novey in the Sunday, February 14 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.

>Ways to disappear

You can buy Ways to Disappear from Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 13th, 2016 at 12:17 pm

I Review Charles Lambert’s “Children’s Home”

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Soon, children mysteriously show up. Engel finds the first child, an infant they call Moira, in a basket on the kitchen steps. Then other children arrive, including 5-year-old David, who walks in one day, and Melissa, who emerges “when a square of air above the lawn seemed to ripple as though it were silk and a knife had been drawn across it.”

You can read my review of The Children’s Home, by Charles Lambert in the Sunday, January 10 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.

the Children's Home

You can buy The Children’s Home from Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

January 9th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

I Review “100 Years of the Best American Short Stories”

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Edna Ferber’s story from 1917, “The Gay Old Dog,” begins a showcase of 40 stories. Stories by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald hang on the pages of this book like Mona Lisas of early 20th-century American literature, and, with the inclusion of a stingingly funny story by Stanley Elkin, who taught at Washington University, Lisa grins. Stories by Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever, Raymond Carver and Joyce Carol Oates constitute just a few more exhibits from the first part of book.

You can read my review of 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor in the Sunday, December 27 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.

100 Years of the Best

You can buy 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories from Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 27th, 2015 at 1:07 pm

I Review “The Relic Master,” by Christopher Buckley

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Buckley’s story begins with a kind of preface: a news story from Aug. 28, 2017, reporting that an artifact resembling the famed Shroud of Turin, thought to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, had been mysteriously found in the tomb of Pope Leo X. It seems 500 years ago, plenty of shrouds, among other faked artifacts, crowded the market.

You can read my review of Christopher Buckley’s Relic Master in the Sunday, December 15 edition of the Boston Globe by clicking the image below.

The Relic Master

You can buy The Relic Master from Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 14th, 2015 at 3:56 pm

I Review Jean-Philippe Blondel’s “6:41 to Paris”

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It’s one of those situations common enough — you see an old acquaintance or maybe a one-time dear friend and neither of you know how to shatter the silence or begin a conversation. But the reason for this couple’s silence is anything but ordinary — a shocker, really — that’s slowly revealed through the narration and interior monologues by each character.

You can read my review of Jean-Philippe Blondel’s 6:41 to Paris in the Sunday, November 22 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.

The 6-41 to Paris

You can buy The 6:41 to Paris from Barnes & Noble.

 

Written by Joe Peschel

November 26th, 2015 at 4:13 pm

I Review John Irving ‘s “Avenue of Mysteries”

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Only 54, Juan Diego walks with a limp and looks at least a decade older. He suffers from heart trouble and erectile dysfunction, for which he takes beta-blockers and Viagra. Their side effects are bad enough, but he often fiddles with the correct dosage and even skips taking his pills. What writer wants his dreams partly censored or blocked? And does a fellow really know when he’ll need a helpful little blue pill, especially if he meets a particularly randy pair of female fans, which Juan Diego does.

You can read my review of John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries in the Sunday, November 8 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.

Avenue of Mysteries

You can buy Avenue of Mysteries from Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

November 9th, 2015 at 9:12 pm

I Review Lauren Groff’s “Fates and Furies”

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Groff writes with an exuberance, intelligence, and wit that few of her contemporaries possess. Her prose is frank and graceful, but behind her genius lingers a certain darkness in her characters and her plot.

You can read my review of Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies in the September 20 edition of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch by clicking the image below.
Fates & Furies

You can buy Groff’s Fates and Furies at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

September 19th, 2015 at 2:29 pm

I Review Per Petterson’s “I Refuse”

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I Refuse is a distressing and moving story involving attempted suicide and child abuse by a despot of a father. Its collateral subjects include despair and, to lesser extent, Christianity versus Socialism. References to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House help explain the abuse in Tommy Berggren’s family that drove Tya to leave; similarly, allusions to John Steinbeck’s novel The Moon Is Down help explain the Christianity-Socialism theme. Despite the inherent bumpiness of reading multiple viewpoint narratives, this story moves along at a nice and captivating pace, but a few narrative chinks and clunks muck up the surface.

You can read my review of Per Petterson’s I Refuse in the August 20 edition of The Daily Beast by clicking the image below.

You can buy Petterson’s I Refuse at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 29th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

I Review “Dylan Goes Electric!,” by Elijah Wald

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He got people singing and inspired younger performers, including Dylan, to do the same. “For Dylan, as for Pete Seeger,” Wald writes, “the attraction of folk music was that it was steeped in reality, in history, in profound experiences, ancient myths, and enduring dreams. It was not a particular sound or genre; it was a way of understanding the world and rooting the present in the past.”

You can read my review of  Dylan Goes Electric!, by Elijah Wald in the July 24 edition of the Boston Globe by clicking the image below.

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You can buy Dylan Goes Electric! at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

July 24th, 2015 at 9:05 pm

I Review “How Sweet It Is!,” by Thane Rosenbaum

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He’s in the hospital because it turns out the Surgeon General was right about smoking four packs of cigarettes a day. Sophie Posner, a Jewish gangster and a survivor of the Nazis, resides on the same floor. The fat man’s equal and confidante, she’s a hilarious and pitiable character who’s so tough that when the doctor tells her she has cancer, she says, “You think this is the worst news I’ve ever heard?”

You can read my review of Thane Rosenbaum’s How Sweet It Is! in the June 7 edition of the Washington Post by clicking the image below.

You can buy Rosenbaum’s How Sweet It Is!” at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 5th, 2015 at 1:52 pm

I Review Jane Hirshfield’s “Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World”

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Hirshfield defines a good poem as “a through-passage, words that leave poet, reader, and themselves ineradicably changed.” They transform in innumerable ways, as Hirshfield ably demonstrates through the book’s many examples. Some transformations are wrought in sound, others in connotation. A bit more complicated, though, is her idea that the poem’s transformation on the page is retained, at least in part by the reader, so that the reader is transformed.

You can read my review of Jane Hirshfield’s Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World in the May 25 edition of The Daily Beast by clicking the image below.

Ten windows image and link

You can buy Hirshfield’s Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

May 26th, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I Review J. C. Hallman’s “B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal”

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Hallman finds these agreements, these literary echoes of himself, in Baker’s Paul Chowder, an anthologist like Hallman, and Baker’s thoughts on libraries and book dumping echoed Hallman’s. More importantly, though, Hallman and Baker each write with unabashed enthusiasm and wit about living with a deep relationship with books.

You can read my review of J. C. Hallman’s B & Me in the Sunday, March 28 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle by clicking the image below.

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You can buy Hallman’s B & Me at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

March 26th, 2015 at 5:06 am

I Review Quan’s Barry’s first novel “She Weeps Each Time You’re Born”

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If ever a novel could be said to possess a dramatic arc, this one does, but think Buddhist not Aristotelian, as the story conveys, in its structure, the idea of the wheel of life. That “life is a wheel” is not only stated explicitly several times throughout the novel, it is the title of the last chapter. The story begins with an epilogue in 2001, moves intermittently from present to future to past, and ends at about the same point as it began. And if life is a wheel, it also inescapably guarantees suffering.

You can read my review of Quan Barry’s She Weeps Each Time You’re Born in the February 20 edition of the Boston Globe by clicking the image below.

You can buy She Weeps Each Time You’re Born at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 19th, 2015 at 7:26 pm

I Review “The World of Raymond Chandler”

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I Review The “World of Raymond Chandler”

In this biography, Day portrays a gifted, but troubled, alcoholic writer who cared more about words than other pulp writers. Day exposes the softboiled man in Chandler’s love for his wife, Cissy, and his cat Taki. Chandler the writer, though, had a gift for writing tough-guy dialogue and for concocting the simile that’s sometimes “crazy as a pair of waltzing mice.”

You can read my review of The World of Raymond Chandler in the December 22 edition of the Boston Globe by clicking the image below.

You can buy The World of Raymond Chandler at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 23rd, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I Review Murakami’s “Strange Library”

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“The Strange Library” is kin to Salman Rushdie’s “Luka and the Fire of Life,” although it’s considerably shorter with far less mythology. Murakami’s plot might seem a gross-out, but the story is amusing enough for 10-to-13-year-olds and sufficiently resonant to appeal to adults with an affinity for fantasy.

You can read my review Haruki Murakami’s Strange Library in the December 17 edition of the Washington Post by clicking the image below.

You can buy Murakami’s Strange Library at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 17th, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I Review “Before, During, After,” by Richard Bausch

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In his new novel, the lovers are Southerners Michael Faulk, a 48-year-old former Episcopalian priest, and the 32-year-old Natasha Barrett, an assistant to Mississippi Sen. Tom Norland. At his fundraiser, Norland introduces the two as fellow Memphis residents. After a brief but robust romance, the couple decide to marry. But before the wedding, Natasha goes off to Jamaica with her friend Constance Waverly, and Faulk heads to New York to attend the wedding of a family friend. They take those trips before Sept. 11, 2001.

Then begins their tragicomedy.

You can read my review of Richard Busch’s Before, During, After in the November 16 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle by clicking the image below.

You can buy Bausch’s Before, During, After at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

November 15th, 2014 at 8:34 am

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

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