NWPR Books

NWPR Books
10:04 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Accepting The Strange Brilliance Of 'Acceptance'

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We have to backtrack a little here, right at the start.

Acceptance, book three in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, is hitting the shelves soon, and I want very badly to talk about it. But before I can do that, I have to talk about the first two books. To set the scene, as it were. To make any of this make any kind of sense, because Southern Reach is not the kind of series where you can just drop in at book two or three and have any idea what's happening. VanderMeer doesn't coddle dilettantes. He rewards the dedicated.

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Sun August 31, 2014

Rescuing Science From The Military ... With Comics?

Pouty lips, flowing hair and ... oligonucleotide synthesizers? Two of these things don't seem to belong — at least, not in a comic that seeks to expose high-level Defense Department research to the critical light of day. Human physicality seems somehow out of place in the sterile confines of a government lab.

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NWPR Books
5:40 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

'Kill My Mother' Is A Darkly Drawn Confection

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer — now in his mid-80s— has been in the business for more than 60 years. So his first graphic novel, a darkly drawn confection in the noir tradition, called Kill My Mother, comes late in his career. I feel a certain kinship with him, because as a reader I'm a latecomer to the genre myself. Call me a dinosaur, but his book, so deliciously inviting to scan (if a bit convoluted in its plot), is one of the first of its kind that I've read cover to cover.

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NWPR Books
4:53 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Teen Drama? Occult Thriller? Gritty War Epic? 'Bone Clocks' Is All Three

A clock at the Amsterdam train station reads quarter to 12.
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"There are three rules for writing a novel," Somerset Maugham supposedly once said. But then he went on to add, "Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."

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NWPR Books
4:03 am
Wed August 27, 2014

'Lock In': A Cop Story For Robot Lovers, A Robot Story For Cop Lovers

When I'm reading for fun and not sitting up in my ivory tower reviewing books for NPR, I generally gravitate toward two kinds of stories: science fiction and procedurals. In both cases, I like my books grimy and lived-in. I have no love for utopias, shiny spaceships where nothing is ever broken, or Teflon detectives who don't come with baggage. If there isn't a bullet hole in someone or something before the story starts, there'd better be one put there within the first couple of pages.

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NWPR Books
7:37 am
Tue August 26, 2014

'Land And Sea' Is An Unceasingly Bleak Story

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Not long after we're introduced to John, the protagonist of Katy Simpson Smith's The Story of Land and Sea, he's reflecting on the loss of his wife, who died in childbirth several years ago. John is a former sailor on pirate ships who gave up the privateer's life to take care of his daughter, Tabitha. "The grief, besides, has waned to washes of melancholy," Smith writes, "impressions connected to no specific hurt but to the awareness of a constant. He is in no pain but the pain of the living."

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NWPR Books
3:17 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

As Summer Winds Down, Wistful Dreams Of A 'Lost Estate'

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 5:23 pm

The summer before I went to college my grandfather died. I spent that season clearing out the shelves in his bedroom. And since he was a compulsive rereader, I kept the books that looked the most tattered. I thought he must have loved those the most.

One of them was The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes), by Henri Alain-Fournier. I couldn't have known when I picked it up that it would be such an appropriate last book for someone just days away from becoming a college student. In the late August heat I sat on my grandmother's balcony and read it in two days.

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NWPR Books
8:23 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Songs Of Innocence And Bitter Experience In 'Dreamless Dead'

First Second

British army troops once kicked a soccer ball around as they went into battle. True story! In fact, it's one of the first and best anecdotes in Paul Fussell's classic study of World War I, The Great War and Modern Memory. That astonishing image illustrates just how naive the recruits were about modern war's potential for unprecedented destruction — and it sets the stage for their devastating shock and disillusionment.

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NWPR Books
2:31 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

'F' Is For Fraudster In A Family Novel For Our Modern Times

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 6:30 am

A father takes his three sons to a hypnotist's show. Called onto the stage, the father's cool self-possession and confidence seem to prevail, and he walks away, claiming no effect. They leave the show, he drops his sons off and drives away. We learn later that he has taken his passport and emptied the family bank account. The boys will not see him again until they are adults.

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NWPR Books
9:34 am
Wed August 20, 2014

The Depths Of Memory And Pain In 'Ancient Oceans'

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Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 9:52 am

Even for those of us who despise the heat and are well past school age, it's always kind of sad when summer vacation comes to a close. It feels like the end of an era, every year — goodbye to the swimming pools and water parks, the long days, the late evenings with friends. Those "back to school" sales are a kind of low-grade torment, even for those of us who kind of liked school.

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