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Category Archive for 'United States'

Great fun to read, the primary purpose of the novel is to entertain while considering the role of plot in the success of any fiction. Because the plot within this novel, which is responsible for Jake’s astounding success, is the same story which makes this book by Jean Hanff Korelitz so successful, any attempt to summarize that plot would spoil the whole reason for reading it. It is a meticulously constructed novel which has a love story, several murders, intense relationships, shifts of focus among various characters and generations, and changes of location, and it is hard to imagine any reader becoming bored or tired of the action. The author is careful to keep the two plot lines from becoming confused. The story of Jake Bonner, nervous author of the bestseller “CRIB,” and the story within the story which originated with Evan Parker, will, of course, eventually merge, but that merger happens gradually and with plenty of foreshadowing. Fun to read and filled with real surprises, this is a pop novel which well deserves its popularity.

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In the opening sentence from the approximately three hundred words of the first episode of this 1968 classic, author Alfred Hayes, reveals his immense talents in creating characters and dramatic scenes in as few words as possible. A successful screenwriter, TV writer, novelist, and poet throughout the mid-twentieth century, Hayes establishes the current life circumstances of Asher, the as-yet-unnamed main character, going straight to the point regarding the state of the man’s marriage, his refusal to recognize that reality, his feelings of failure at work, and his fears of getting old, upon which he blames all his problems. Spying on his wife through the window of their house outside of Hollywood late at night, the man realizes, “I was finished.” The next day, when his wife is gone, he goes to the house, packs up everything he thinks he will need in New York, and leaves. There he reconnects with an aunt, who refers to him as Asher, and meets a young relative, Michael, who wants to be a writer, along with his girlfriend, Aurora, who is also attracted to Asher. He has had little experience dealing with devious people; screenwriting and filming being predictable protocols., but real life with two ambitious young people providing your “entertainment” is something else. Neither of them is who Asher thinks s/he is. Each quarrels with Asher at times and each plays games – both real and psychological. Ultimately, as Asher describes for the reader the exact nature of his breakup with his wife, the reader sees him still trying desperately to connect with Michael and Aurora. Ultimately, Asher belatedly reaches conclusions about himself – as does the reader of this dark and dramatic novel of a very late coming-of-age.

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In the alternative universe of Christine Coulson’s collection of stories from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, inanimate paintings and sculptures can think, feel, and speak. These “speakers,” their conflicts, and their points of view vary widely – and surprisingly – from a robust man who speaks as the invisible charcoal underdrawing on a 1545 canvas by Venetian painter Tintoretto, to an insightful chair which describes its memories of a sobbing of little eight-year-old in the Ducal Palace of Parma in 1749. Paintings and sculptures from all time periods reveal their own thoughts as they vie to be chosen the Perfect Muse, the lucky winner of which will accompany Michel Larousse, the Director of the Museum, to an important meeting. A variety of human characters reveal their jobs and their special commitments to the Met and their favorite artworks. The scale and scope are limited only by the museum’s artwork itself, and its settings include all the galleries, many of which are created to resemble the original settings of the work displayed in them.

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With a first chapter set at the Stork Club, where Oona O’Neill, then a sixteen-year-old “voluptuous child,” sits at Walter Winchell’s Table 50, author Jerome Charyn creates a mood of wild nights and war-fueled abandon in New York shortly after the recent Pearl Harbor attack. Oona, young daughter of Nobel-Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill, is waiting for her beau, J. D. Salinger (Sonny) and an evening of fun and dance. That night Salinger receives his draft notice to appear immediately at Fort Dix for counterintelligence work for the US. He spends the next three years at war in Europe, and everything changes. Those whose familiarity with the life of J. D. Salinger focuses primarily on his hermit-like existence later in life, will find his early activities from 1942 – 1946, detailed in the opening chapters at the Stork and in the crises he faces throughout the war, particularly insightful of his life and personality. Author Jerome Charyn is particularly careful to connect the events in ways which allow the reader to feel the traumas and horrors and to gain some understanding of the dramatic changes in his personality after the war.

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Debut author Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle adds a whole new element to the Native American novels published in recent years. Her main character, Cowney Sequoyah, in his late teens, has recognized an opportunity improve his life beyond what he experiences on the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina, by working for the summer at the Grove Park Inn, an elegant hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, several hours’ ride from Cherokee. Cowney dreams of completing his college education, but he is in desperate need of funds if he is to do that. Author Clapsaddle moves back and forth in time and place creating vivid pictures of daily life on the reservation and the contrasts to Asheville, establishing some of the pleasant, even important, memories Cowney has brought with him. At the inn, he learns that some German and Japanese diplomats are being held there as “guest” prisoners until they can eventually be deported. His job is working on the grounds, helping to maintain the barbed wire around the property to prevent escapes, while Essie, a young Cherokee girl, whom he has transported with him from the reservation to the inn to work, has a job inside the inn. Foreshadowing plays a large part in much of the action here, as does the use of flashbacks to connect sections from Asheville (and Essie) with other sections, often involving the greatness of nature which Cowney notes when he returns to Cherokee, occasionally, on weekends. Suddenly, Cowney finds himself the subject of an investigation into the disappearance of a young girl, and his life and viewpoint change.

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