Michael Schaub

Michael Schaub is a writer, book critic and regular contributor to NPR Books. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Portland Mercury and The Austin Chronicle, among other publications. A native of Texas, he now lives in Portland, Ore.

NWPR Books
4:03 am
Thu June 26, 2014

A Dentist Confronts The Gaping Maw Of Life In 'To Rise Again'

"Pessimism, skepticism, complaint, and outrage," New York dentist Paul O'Rourke explains to his devoutly religious hygienist. "That's why we were put on earth."

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NWPR Books
8:38 am
Sat May 17, 2014

The 'Wayward And Defiant' Life Of Journalist Rebecca West

"There is no such thing as conversation," wrote Rebecca West in her story "The Harsh Voice." "It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all." The same could be said for books, as well — even the best histories and biographies are necessarily filtered through the sensibilities of the author and reader, and some of the best literature is the result of those monologues, those stories, intersecting.

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Mitterrand's Taste For 'Intrigue' And Contradiction

It's probably a little too pat to say that all successful political careers are marked by contradiction and compromise, though you're not likely to hear many objections to that characterization. Politics is a game of survival, and with a few sadly notable exceptions, unyielding purists seldom make it to the top.

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Thu June 20, 2013

When Love Is 'In The House'

Wessel Du Plooy iStockphoto.com

"Love is not all," warned the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. "It is not meat nor drink / Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain." She was right, of course, but if there were ever any advice destined to fall on stubbornly deaf ears, this is it. Love is not all, but it always feels like it is, whether you're happily partnered or bereft.

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NWPR Books
7:17 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Sons, Guns And The Sins Of The Father In Meyer's Texas Epic

Cover of The Son

"Texas yesterday is unbelievable, but no more incredible than Texas today," wrote Edna Ferber, author of the iconic Lone Star State novel Giant. She continues, in what's as good a description of America's 28th state as you're likely to encounter, "Today's Texas is exhilarating, exasperating, violent, charming, horrible, delightful, alive." A huge contradiction of a place, Texas is as friendly as it can be frightening, with a history as vast and as variegated as the United States itself.

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NWPR Books
5:31 am
Tue February 26, 2013

Echoes Of Orwell In 'The Office Of Mercy'

It was no less than the master of dystopian fiction, George Orwell, who noted in a 1946 essay that "political language has to consist largely of euphemism. ... Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air ...

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Here's To The Pleasures Of 'Drinking With Men'

iStockphoto.com

"More than anywhere else," writes Rosie Schaap, "bars are where I've figured out how to relate to others and how to be myself." It's the same for a lot of us, though many won't admit it. Americans tend to have a weirdly puritanical view of drinking, and a lot of people see bars as nothing more than havens for lowlifes and alcoholics. But as Schaap points out in her new memoir, they're missing out. "You can drink at home. But a good bar? ... It's more like a community center, for people — men and women — who happen to drink."

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Tue January 8, 2013

From George Saunders, A Dark 'December'

Flickr user Anja Jonsson

Since the publication of George Saunders' 1996 debut story collection, Civilwarland in Bad Decline, journalists and scholars have been trying to figure out how to describe his writing. Nobody has come very close. The short story writer and novelist has been repeatedly called "original," which is true as far as it goes — but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Saunders blends elements of science fiction, horror and humor writing into his trademark brand of literary fiction.

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Mon December 17, 2012

True Originals: Biographies That Defy Expectations

Nishant Choksi

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 3:26 pm

It's probably not true that truth is stranger than fiction, but in the hands of a great biographer, it can be just as compelling. Novelists can create unique and unforgettable characters — there's never been anyone quite like Jane Eyre or Ignatius J. Reilly — but there's no shortage of fascinating literary protagonists who just happened to exist in real life.

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NWPR Books
5:07 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

'Elsewhere' Has Beauty, But No Happy Ending

Knopf

Richard Russo sits in his elderly mother's home, holding her hand. She's just been diagnosed with dementia, one more illness to add to the long list of ailments she's been battling for years. She wonders aloud whether she'll ever be able to read again, plainly scared at the prospect of a life without her favorite hobby. She takes a look around her small apartment, and tells her son that she hates it.

"I just wish you could be happy, Mom," he says, heartbroken. "I used to be," she responds. "I know you don't believe that, but I was."

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