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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

One could argue that the idea of a world where magic works has been done to death in the realm of fantasy fiction. Whether you’re talking about urban fantasy set in the present day or fiction with a more historical bent, it’s a creative vein that has been pretty thoroughly mined.

And yet, when it works, it REALLY works. And Tom Miller’s “The Philosopher’s Flight” (Simon & Schuster, $26) REALLY works.

Published in Buzz

The best short fiction embraces the limitations of the form and turns them into foundational strengths. There’s a power in brevity that many writers can never fully harness, their work coming off as either overwritten or clumsily truncated.

But when someone displays a true mastery, literary brilliance often follows.

And so it is with “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden” (Random House, $27), a quintet of stories from the late Denis Johnson that explore the writer’s longstanding fascination with the freaks and fakes that exist on the fringes of society. Each one of these five tales can be held up as a masterpiece and a masterclass, powerfully evocative and poetically emotive even as the unsavory seediness and/or deliberate disconnect displayed by the characters bubbles and oozes to the surface.

Published in Buzz

We all want to get the most out of the lives we live. But how might your life’s path change if someone told you the day on which it would end?

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 06 December 2017 12:05

‘The Forever Ship’ a fitting ending

Novel marks finale of excellent speculative trilogy

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