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Tuesday, 05 June 2018 16:24

‘The Glitch’ leans in

There are few segments of our current society as ripe for satire as the world of Silicon Valley. There’s a lot to unpack in the high-tech realm – lots of precepts and personalities and perceptions that beg to be looked upon by the satirist’s eye.

The latest author to take a swing at that particular target is Elisabeth Cohen, whose debut novel is “The Glitch” (Doubleday, $26.95). It’s the story of Shelly Stone, a tech CEO whose life is turned upside down by a series of events involving her lost daughter, a product crisis and a mysterious young woman who may or may not be a younger version of Shelly herself.

It’s also an at-times biting look at the stark realities of corporate life and what it means to be a woman in a position of power in a male-dominated industry. It’s about the sacrifices necessary to achieve at that high level … and whether those sacrifices ultimately prove worthwhile.

Published in Buzz

There’s truth in the old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. However, I would argue that in some cases, you CAN judge a book by its title.

For instance, take Raymond A. Villareal’s new novel “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” (Mulholland, $27). That is one judgeable title – evocative and provocative at the same time, offering a tantalizing and crystal-clear description of what you’re about to experience.

This book is exactly what its title purports it to be – a complex and engaging sort of future history that follows the gradual appearance and assimilation of vampires into modern society. It follows a disparate cast of characters from both sides of the divide, offering first-person accounts from key players while also interspersing interview transcripts and news articles and other secondary and tertiary materials throughout.

What ultimately emerges is a thoughtful and finely-crafted work that reads as particularly insightful pop history – the title’s allusion to Howard Zinn’s seminal book isn’t an accident. It’s got a lot of Max Brooks’ “World War Z” in its DNA as well (though, it should be noted, not in a derivative way). It bears its influences proudly, but is very much its own beast.

Published in Buzz

Young adult fiction means different things to different people. The very label leaves loads of room for variance and interpretation. And while there are those who look down their nose at YA fiction, the reality is that there’s plenty of nuance and sophistication to the best work in the genre.

Maine author Gillian French’s work definitely demonstrates those qualities; her latest is “The Lies They Tell” (HarperTeen, $17.99), a thriller featuring a young woman trying to get to the bottom of a tragic mystery that haunts her small island town. Secrets and lies abound even as the dynamics between the town’s wealthy summer visitors and the year-round residents who serve them grow complicated.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 15:06

Radical chic and the right stuff

Even the most devoted of book lovers, the most loving of lexophiles has only so much room in their personal literary pantheon. No matter how deeply your adoration runs, space at the top of the heap is limited. We’ve all just a scant few true favorites.

Tom Wolfe was one of mine. He passed away on May 14 at the age of 88.

Wolfe was the author of nearly 20 books, both fiction and non. He was one of the progenitors of the paradigm-shifting New Journalism of the 1960s and 1970s, penning some of the greatest works of nonfiction of the 20th century. He pivoted to fiction a bit later in his career and produced four excellent novels. He was one of the most gifted literary stylists of his – or any – generation.

And he drastically shifted my personal understanding of what writing could be.

Published in Style

America’s master of transgressive literary satire is back at it again.

Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel – his first in four years – is “Adjustment Day” (W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95), a bleak look at the potential future implied by the logical (and not-so-logical) endpoints of our society’s current extremities. Filled with off-puttingly fascinating imagery, Palahniuk combines a belief in the power of the individual man with a nihilistic lack of faith in the judgment of mankind. It’s an anti-Randian treatise born of an extrapolation of Randian viewpoints, a libertarian fever dream of a dystopia populated by easily led men fueled by hatred and ignorance.

“Adjustment Day” also features Palahniuk’s standard well-honed prose and pitch-black humor, along with at least a few moments that’ll turn your stomach even as they force you to consider the heretofore unthinkable.

Published in Buzz

There are few things that I more eagerly anticipate as a reader than the imminent arrival of the latest installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series of books. These reimaginings of Shakespeare’s works by contemporary novelists have been among the most consistently innovative and engaging books of the past decade. My loves for both the Bard and for new fiction are sated simultaneously, thanks to Hogarth’s grand plan.

The latest offering – the seventh in the series – is “Macbeth” (Hogarth Shakespeare, $27), a take on the tragedy by Norwegian noir superstar Jo Nesbo and one more in a lengthy line of successes from the series.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 14:50

Hard-boiled hilarity – ‘Noir’

If you were to put together a short list of the consistently funniest authors currently working, Christopher Moore would be on it. Probably near the top. His books are smart and absurd, packed with dynamic characters and engaging storytelling. He has tackled the Bible and Shakespeare. He’s taken on the worlds of both art and science. Vampires and demons and Death, oh my.

With his latest book “Noir” (William Morrow, $27.99), Moore ventures into some new territory. Well, new in a chronological sense anyway. It’s the story of a guy tending bar in San Francisco during the post-WWII years. He’s just trying to get by when he’s swept up into a weird, wild, wide-ranging plot involving secret societies and flying saucers and mysterious government operatives and poisonous snakes and all sorts of strangeness. Oh, and there’s a dame.

There’s always a dame.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 14:40

Into the woods – ‘The Overstory’

Everyone has heard the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees,” but few have stopped and unpacked how bleak the repercussions of that outlook might be.

We view each tree on an individual level, a resource provided by the Earth for us to consume. To our mind, no single tree makes a difference – an attitude that results in rampant overharvesting that ultimately destroys the whole. And to many minds, the forest is far more than sum of its parts.

We can’t see the forest for the trees.

That truth is a foundational underpinning of “The Overstory” (W.W. Norton & Company, $27.95), the newest novel by National Book Award-winning writer Richard Powers. A group of seemingly disparate people are each drawn in their way to nature – to trees. Their paths are very different ones, though they find ways to connect – some thoroughly, others glancingly or tangentially. They are the trees that make up this forest.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 06 March 2018 16:28

The art of war - ‘Bring Out the Dog’

From every war comes art inspired by that war. The pressures and pains of conflict have proven fertile ground for creators since the days of ancient Greece and Homer’s “Iliad.” There’s loads of room for disparate feelings and emotions - hurt, heart, humor, hubris and much more – in tales from the battlefield.

America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are no different; some remarkable art has sprung from those fallow fields. Music, movies, literature – all have found ways to reflect the people, places and ideas of our country’s lengthy hitch in the Middle East.

With his debut collection “Bring Out the Dog” (Random House, $27), Will Mackin has produced something that holds up alongside the very best war literature of the 21st century. These remarkable stories – 11 in all – are inspired by Mackin’s time deployed with a special ops task force in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They began life as notes jotted down on torn-off flaps of cardboard boxes or even on his own forearm. From there, these thoughts and observations made their way into Mackin’s journals. And those journals served as the foundational material to build this book.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 11:54

After the end - ‘The Rending and the Nest’

Post-apocalyptic novel challenging and complex

Published in Buzz
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