fiction

NWPR Books
10:53 am
Tue January 27, 2015

'Mr. Mac' Paints Flowers In A Darkening World

Reading Esther Freud's eighth novel — about an English boy's unlikely but life-expanding friendship with Scottish architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh — is a bit like watching a watercolor painting take shape. Mr. Mac and Me begins with delicate dabs of color, as 13-year-old Thomas Maggs, the only surviving son of an abusive alcoholic pub proprietor and his long-suffering wife, paints a plaintive picture of life at the aptly named Blue Anchor, in the Sussex village of Walberswick.

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NWPR Books
12:01 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

For A Taste Of Grimdark, Visit The 'Land Fit For Heroes'

"Well, irony really does better unelaborated, but if you insist."

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NWPR Books
10:17 am
Mon January 26, 2015

These 13 'Almost Famous Women' Stirred Up Trouble, Or Trouble Found Them

One of Megan Mayhew Bergman's short stories is based on the life of dancer and actress Butterfly McQueen.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 11:17 am

Almost Famous Women is the kind of "high concept" short-story collection that invites skepticism. These stories are about 13 historical women whose names you mostly might sort-of recognize. Beryl Markham, Butterfly McQueen and Shirley Jackson are slam-dunks, but Romaine Brooks and Joe Carstairs are a bit blurrier. While the family names of Allegra Byron, Dolly Wilde and Norma Millay betray their relation to important figures, we don't know what they did. And who the heck was Hazel Eaton or Tiny Davis?

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NWPR Books
8:35 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Do You Have To Read 'Frog'? No, But You Might Want To

Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2012.
Yin Li

There are books you read because you want to read them and there are books you read because you have to read them. The former category can include anything that tickles your particular fancies — teenage wizards, goopy aliens, hunky Scotsmen, shark attack survivors, the history of Vladislav's Wallachia, whatever Malcolms your Cowley.

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NWPR Books
11:06 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Delicious Short Stories, Ripe On The Vine In 'Honeydew'

Prize-winning short story writer Edith Pearlman has just come out with a new collection of short fiction, called Honeydew. And the first thing I wanted to do after finishing my initial reading of these 20 stories was, well, I wanted to go right back again and start from the beginning.

But instead, I've put my own rereading on pause so I can tug at your sleeve about this marvelous talent who moves among us. Here is one of our best living short story writers, and with Honeydew, her fifth volume, her reputation is gaining serious velocity.

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NWPR Books
10:57 am
Thu January 22, 2015

The Vastness Of Violent Loss In 'See How Small'

Author Scott Blackwood based See How Small on a real incident, a multiple murder at an Austin, Texas, frozen yogurt shop in 1991.
Brian Cox

On a chilly autumn night in Austin, Texas, three teenage girls are finishing up their shift at an ice cream shop. Two men walk in, and when they leave, the store is on fire, the three girls still in there, naked, bound with their own underwear, murdered. The slayings and the arson take just minutes, but the families and friends of the girls take years to get over it — or to try to get over it; of course, they never do.

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NWPR Books
12:06 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

Dark, Disturbing And Playful, 'Seventh Day' Takes On Modern China

In a previous collection of short stories, Boy in The Twilight, Yu Hua describes a simpleton (some might call him dim-witted) who cannot even remember his own name: His parents are dead, he has no wife and child — nor even the prospect of any — and at one point, he wonders who is going to bury him when he dies.

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NWPR Books
2:52 am
Sun January 18, 2015

It's A Chump's Life In 'Amnesia'

"I worked as a journalist in a country where the flow of information was controlled by three corporations. Their ability to manipulate the truth made the right to vote largely meaningless, but I was a journalist ... I was overweight and out of breath but I was proud to be sued, reviled, scorned, to be called a loser by the rewriters of press releases."

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NWPR Books
7:03 am
Thu January 15, 2015

The Consolations (And Controversies) Of Philosophy In 'The Just City'

A friend recently insisted I read her favorite book in the world: The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault. It's a gorgeous book, one that utterly immerses you in a worldview that's simultaneously alien and formative to so much of our modern life. I enjoyed it tremendously, and am doubly glad I read it since it gave me a fascinating window through which to view Jo Walton's The Just City: If Renault's project is immersive, Walton's is explosive, deliberately troubling and provocative as the gadfly-Socrates who appears in both.

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Thu January 15, 2015

'Binary Star' Is A Hard, Harrowing Look Into Inner Space

In 2012 Sarah Gerard wrote a powerful essay for The New York Times about her experiences with bulimia, anorexia, and addiction. It's a harrowing read, but only half as much so as her debut novel, Binary Star. In it, Gerard's unnamed, semi-autobiographical protagonist takes a road trip with her boyfriend John. He's an alcoholic whose behavior becomes increasingly erratic; she's succumbing to an eating disorder that's wasting her away.

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