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jksquires has commented on (56) products.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
A Spool of Blue Thread

jksquires, February 20, 2015

What an incredible pleasure it is to read a new Anne Tyler novel. I've been reading her books for at least three decades and she never disappoints. "A Spool of Blue Thread" is remarkable and it continues to amaze me how Tyler can take the most mundane lives and make them fascinating. The Whitshank family of Baltimore become so real to readers; from the patriarch--a country boy who came to the city during the Depression to fulfill his dream as a master home builder, to the current generation and their connection to the family home that serves as a metaphor for both success and struggle across a span of a century. The prodigal son of the family ties the story together with his unlikely departure and return. He's recognizable as the family member we all have who is an integral part of us, yet never quite is able to fit in.
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West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan
West of Sunset

jksquires, February 11, 2015

A beautifully written novel about F. Scott Fitzgerald's "last act" when he came to Hollywood to make enough money to pay off his debts and make the money to provide for the care of the mentally ill Zelda, and to ensure his beloved daughter Scottie was provided with a fine education. Scott's struggle to stay sober, his fascinating experience as a screenwriter, his social life with the Bogarts, Dorothy Parker and Nathaniel West are vividly described. His love affair with the remarkable Sheila Graham, and his efforts to finish The Last Tycoon with the assistance of his dedicated young secretary, Frances Kroll are wonderfully told. As a longtime Fitzgerald fan, I was deeply moved by this chronicle of his time in Hollywood, with the world on the verge of the second World War and Scott nearing his untimely end. Fitzgerald never stopped trying, even when the deck was stacked against him.
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Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities by Chad Broughton
Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities

jksquires, January 27, 2015

If anyone is interesting in a fascinating, heartfelt rendering of the erosion of American manufacturing and the dreadful effects of globalization, this is the book to read. Chad Broughton discussed what happened to two communities, one in west central Illinois, and another just across the border in Mexico, when corporate powers-that-be decided to close American plants and leave for cheap and exploitable labor. They did so, of course, giving little thought to how their decisions would actually effect the human capital involved. He examines the effects to workers in both places and one cannot help but be drawn into the lives of everyone from the CEO whose actions resulted in shuttering a plant that has supported thousands of workers and got a 20 million dollar parachute for his efforts, and a desperate Mexican mother trying to raise a family while living in a shack and barely feeding her family despite putting in 60 hour weeks. I'm a native of the Illinois town, Galesburg, and for a actually labored on the assembly line at that factory many years ago.
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Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh

jksquires, December 29, 2014

John Lahr is a miracle worker to pull off this feat of magic: creating a wonderfully readable account of one of the most complicated and talented men of the Twentieth Century. It becomes clear that Tennessee Williams wouldn't have had the goldmine of dramatic material if his life had not been so dogged by family misery and his inability to find truly lasting love or self-acceptance. The artistic partnership between Williams and the brilliant director Elia Kazan is also exquisitely revealed. The author has detailed it all here and it has to be a herculean task to pull it off. This book was my favorite Christmas gift this year and the friend who sent it to me is also reading it--we are conducting a long-distance, two person "book club" discussing the revelations contained in "Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh."
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The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing
The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking

jksquires, December 22, 2014

This wonderful book is perhaps the most hard to classify one I've ever read. Part travel narrative, part memoir, and part literacy criticism and a dissection of what makes anyone to drown themselves in the bottle might begin to describe it, but that is insufficient. The British author covers the effects of alcoholism on the lives of six brilliant authors and visits locations throughout the United States that were among the most familiar to them. Olivia Laing's prose is sparkling and her effort to understand these famous men is so intense that you can feel it jump off the page. I can't offer enough praise for this incredible work.
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