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“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

There’s an undeniable magic to the city of Paris. And while there has always been a romanticism attached to it – particularly by folks from this side of the pond – one could argue that one of the peaks of that magic came in the 1920s. The arts were alive and thriving, with expatriated folks from all over the world finding their way to the fabled City of Lights.

In his new book “The Paris Hours” (Flatiron Books, $26.99), author Alex George offers a look at the magic of the city through the perspectives of four people who live there. Over the course of a single day in 1927, he shows us some of the ways that a city such as this one can shine, but also recognizes that a place with so many lights casts a multitude of shadows.

Through the eyes of this quartet, we get a sense of the place in terms both general and specific. We get to know them and the challenges they face even as they cross paths – fleetingly or otherwise – with some of the preeminent figures of the era, luminaries like Proust and Stein and Baker and Hemingway. And yet, titans though those luminaries may be, they serve as supporting characters here, moving in service to the stories of our central foursome as they live their relatively everyday lives.

Published in Style

Writing is hard. Writing WELL is even harder. There are some writers who devote their lives to honing their specific craft, to finding ways to excel in their chosen niche. Some write fiction, some write nonfiction. Some lean toward the literary, while others revel in genre. Some are reporters and journalists. Some write essays or memoirs or comic book arcs. A person who is able to do any one of those things well is worthy of celebration.

Ta-Nehisi Coates does ALL OF IT.

The National Book Award winner and Macarthur Genius Grant recipient has made his first foray into the realm of fiction (leaving aside his magnificent Marvel turns on Black Panther and Captain America books); his newest work is “The Water Dancer” (One World, $28), a heartbreakingly powerful work of historical fiction and magical realism. It’s a fictionalized exploration of one young man’s struggle with (and against) the peculiar institution that remains our country’s greatest shame.

It’s also a story about the magic of memory and the power of stories, a look at how our pasts can shape our futures and how words can change the world. It’s a tale of love lost and rediscovered, all under the looming shadow of slavery. Freedom – real freedom – comes with costs both expected and surprising, but there are many who are willing to pay all that and more.

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We all have times when all we want is to be alone, times when the presence of others is just too much for us to deal with. But even the most misanthropic among us has the occasional desire to see a face, to hear a voice, to interact with another person in some manner. How long could you go without that simple interpersonal contact?

And what would happen to you if you tried to find out?

Alix Nathan’s “The Warlow Experiment” (Doubleday, $26.95) tells the story of one such effort. It’s an evocative and atmospheric work of historical fiction featuring strong Gothic undercurrents and a relentless bleakness; a dark book packed with shadows both literal and figurative. The pull of the narrative is steady and strong, inviting readers into a world that will haunt their imaginations long after the final page is turned.

Inspired by a contextless advertisement from a real-life source, Nathan has imagined a vivid and unsettling place, one where the wealthy can indulge their whims without accountability and the poverty-stricken are willing to sacrifice everything for the perceived comfort money can bring. It is a tale of the power of isolation, the necessity of physical and emotional contact to the well-being of the social animal that is man.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 08:50

Life during wartime – ‘Manhattan Beach’

Latest from Jennifer Egan a masterful, powerful work

Published in Style
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 11:36

‘The Stars Are Fire’ burns bright

Historical fiction follows one woman’s tragedies and triumphs

Published in Style
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 11:42

The mystery of faith - 'The Wonder'

Historical novel taut, thoughtfuland terrific

There will always be those who believe in miracles. So too will there always be skeptics. And sometimes, there are skeptics who are charged with decrying (or verifying) those miracles.

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