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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel

There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
  1. $18.19 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445


Customer Comments

W S Krauss has commented on (56) products.

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta
Stone Arabia

W S Krauss, March 8, 2014

This book tells the story of Denise, a forty-something divorced woman, and her older brother Nik, a musician and artist. Denise takes care of her mother, whose memory is declining. She also watches out for her brother, who hasn't really made much money, but who has put out a string of albums, most of which are heard only by close family and friends. He records every nuance of his life as a musician in The Chronicles, a series of books that detail every move in his career, some of it fake. For example, there are fake record reviews that Nik has written included in the books. There are many themes in the novel including relationships with family, memories, our reactions to world events and the meaning of art. It begs the question whether one is an artist if the art is not shared with the world. This novel doesn't answer many of its questions. It does, however, get you thinking about these issues. The structure of the book is as unconventional as its characters. I came to care about the people in the book, but did not really understand them. I found this frustrating; but, at the same time I found it impossible to put down. I wanted to see where the story went and if there was any resolution for Denise and Nik.
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The Round House (P.S.) by Louise Erdrich
The Round House (P.S.)

W S Krauss, February 28, 2014

An amazing coming-of-age story! The central character is a thirteen-year-old Native American boy, living in North Dakota on the reservation. A terrible crime is committed against his mother. Joe and his father, a tribal judge, struggle to help her survive the ordeal and seek justice for her. Woven in the narrative are stories and myths of the Ojibwe Indians. Joe and his friends, Cappy, Angus and Zack try to investigate the crime on their own, having become frustrated with the official investigation. They find some possible clues near the Round House, a place of worship for those on the reservations. There is some uncertainty whether the crime was committed on the reservation and who would prosecute the case. As a result of this crime, Joe faces difficult situations and choices that demand he begin to see things with a more adult perspective. The characters in this novel were completely real to me, especially Joe with his inner thoughts brought to light by the author. Erdrich excels at bringing the experiences of living on the reservation to her novels and exposing some of the problems that exist between Native Americans and whites living nearby. The novel is really Joe's story, how he deals with tragedy and sorrow and how he learns to deal with the uneven application of justice in his world.
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Telegraph Avenue (P.S.) by Michael Chabon
Telegraph Avenue (P.S.)

W S Krauss, January 4, 2014

Having some familiarity with Telegraph Avenue and the Berkeley/Oakland area, I could definitely picture in my mind Brokeland Records and its diverse and eccentric customer base. The owners, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, are longtime partners in the venture, as well as close friends. Their business is threatened by the impending opening of Dogpile Records, a large chain of successful stores started by ex-football player and celebrity Gibson Goode. Goode even has a zeppelin bearing the name Minnie Ripperton that flies over the Bay area advertising the stores. But, Goode's success in opening the store lies with the City Council and there are members who must be convinced that Dogpile will be good for the community. Goode tries to convince Archy to close Brokeland and come to work for him. Meanwhile, Archy and Nat's wives, Gwen and Aviva, who are midwives in practice together, are in hot water at the hospital where they have privileges. This is not so much because there was a problem during a home birth where the mother had to be transferred to the hospital, but rather because Gwen was angry that they were not allowed in the delivery room once they arrived at the hospital. Gwen spoke "disrespectfully" to the OB in charge after he insulted the midwives. We also follow the story of Nat's son Julius, or Julie, who is in love with another boy, Tutus, he meets at a film class. We also meet Archy's father, Luther Stallings and his partner Valletta Moore.

There is so much to this book, both in terms of characters and story. It is comical and full of family drama. Yet also has some seroius points to make about life. Chabon's writing is dazzling at times and carries you along on his many plot twists. In one part of the book, we follow a parrot from place to place as it flies over Oakland, and over scenes inhabited by the book's characters. It's quirky and brilliant. Telegraph Avenue comes to life on the page with color and humor and a sweetness to it that can't be denied.
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Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Night Film

W S Krauss, January 2, 2014

This book is an unconventional literary mystery, a masterpiece of a plot, with wonderfully crafted characters. Despite the dark subject matter, I enjoyed spending time with these characters. Scott McGrath, a discredited journalist, is investigating the apparent suicide of Ashley Cordova, the daughter of a famous cult film director. It was this director that was the subject of Scott's writing that caused the destruction of his reputation. It's five years later and Scott sees the opportunity to try to revive his career by finding out more about Cordova and why his daughter would want to kill herself. Along the way, he teams up with Nora, a coat checker from Florida who was the last person to see Ashley alive, and Hopper, who Scott found at the scene of Ashley's death. All three are caught up in the strange and frightening world of Cordova's mind-bending films. The investigation leads to dangerous and mysterious places, where all is not as it seems. Pessl will have you in her spell until the end. I highly recommend this book.
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And Sons by David Gilbert
And Sons

W S Krauss, December 28, 2013

David Gilbert is an amazing writing; his prose is brilliant. I felt that characters were real. While sometimes I tire of novels about men and their sons, and this is a familiar story, the device he uses to narrate the book is clever. Phillip Topping, our narrator, is the son of Charles Topping, who has just died as the book opens. Charles Topping was the best friend of Andrew Dyer since they were boys. Andrew Dyer is a famous writer in the same vein as J.D. Salinger. A.N. Dyer, as he is know as a writer, is a somewhat reclusive and gruff old man, with a teenage son who supposedly is the result of an affair with a woman other than his wife. Dyer and his wife are divorced because of the affair and Andrew Dyer is raising the boy, Andy Dyer. Andrew has two other grown sons, Richard, a recovering drug addict and playwright, with a wife and two kids living in California, and Jamie who is single and a filmaker of unusual films. Andrew summons his sons to his New York home for a reason as yet unknown to them. What follows is a series of events that comprise the bulk of the novel. It is interesting to see how Gilbert uses the narrator Phillip, who has always envied the Dyers and wants to be a part of them, to get inside the heads of the characters and follow the events that occur. He is an unreliable narrator exactly because the story is colored by his point of view. One of A.N. Dyer's books, Ampersand, is integral to the story because it is essentially about Phillip Topping's late father Charles. The Dyers' and the Toppings' lives have always been intertwined, but it is clearly the Dyers that have shined in the world because of Andrew's success.

There are many themes in this book- memory, time passing, mistakes made, the desire to pass your traits on to your progeny, the meaning of a life lived, the accumulation of life's work, and what it means to have fame. It is a very rich book, full of ideas, and though there are some unusual parts of the story, it all adds up to an incredibly rewarding read.
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