Nosey Pokes’ll Peek

Miss Julia Stirs up Trouble
Ann B. Ross

Here’s a recipe for a literary car wreck: a book rooted in a regional setting and culture; an author who holds a PhD in English; and a heroine who is among the most unlikable characters I’ve ever encountered.

At times like these I really wish I’d been born with the Continue reading

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He’s Obsessed with Order

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon

We readers spend an awful lot of time inside our own heads, don’tcha think? At least that seems to be the case for me, although I have long been loath to admit it.

When I’ve taken those typology batteries, you know, the ones like Myers-Briggs, the results almost always suggest that I prefer solitude. This book, now 15 years old, which Continue reading

Life is In a Spin

Passing
Nella Larsen

Fifteen or so years ago I found myself on Main Street in downtown Flushing, NY at midday. The sidewalks were filled with crowds, some jostling their way between errands, some in search of lunch.

It’s an experience I can recommend because Flushing, which in my childhood had Jewish and Italian enclaves, is nowadays more than 50% Asian. To be in a crowd and be Continue reading

These are the Fables

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
J.K. Rowling

Sometimes the commercial aspects of publishing are more apparent than others. Take the book shown at right. In many ways it’s Exhibit A in making the case that publishers–and authors–will do whatever they can to extract every ounce of profit from a property.

It’s a classic marketing problem. With a successful franchise, people want more of the same. Publishers Continue reading

Every Cell in Chile Will Tell

Maya’s Notebook
Isabel Allende

At the height of the War on Drugs a dramatic television commercial appeared. Perhaps you’ve seen it.

A young woman held a frying pan and spoke about your brain on drugs . Then suddenly, with no warning, she started swinging the pan, destroying everything in the kitchen as she recited a litany of all the destruction drug use would bring.

You might take away any number of messages from the Continue reading

In Your Head, They’re Still Fighting

The Dead Republic
Roddy Doyle

My mother, encouraging my verbal side, stored my first grade writing assignments in the box my school uniform came in.  They’re in my basement now, but one’s missing.

Focusing on the core culture our family was built upon, it Continue reading

Goin’ Up the Country

How Right You Are, Jeeves
P.G. Wodehouse

Applesauce. Until now it hadn’t occurred to me that this seasonal comestible could function as a curse word.

That’s why Wodehouse can fill a couple of library shelves and I…well, you can figure that next bit out for yourself. It helps, of course, that he has the perfect delivery Continue reading