Forty-Eight Ways of Looking at Amy Hempel
By Dave May 2, 2006
Amy Hempel has been called a miniaturist—fair enough—but if her stories tend to be small in scale, they drill as deep as fiction goes. Emotionally charged, fantastically precise, an Amy Hempel story is a miracle of efficiency. Upon the publication of her Collected Stories, she talked about creating those immaculate sentences, being not quite so famous as Judy Blume, teaching, fear, and, of course, dogs.
Unlocking Jonathan Safran Foer
By Dave April 18, 2006
Pick your favorite line from Everything Is Illuminated, a funny one, or magical, or perhaps something sad or profound. You might have a hard time choosing. "Comedy and pathos are braided together with extraordinary skill," one reviewer raved. The author's follow-up, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (featuring one of the most captivating kids in recent fiction), tackles themes and structures every bit as ambitious. As the paperback edition arrived in stores, Foer spoke about writing, the Internet, family, and terrific failures.
Daniel Gilbert Stumbles onto Something Big
By Dave March 21, 2006
No one knows better than Daniel Gilbert that when Stumbling on Happiness achieves bestseller status across the country, he won't feel quite as ecstatic as he might have hoped. Ironically, Gilbert will take real pleasure from his own lackluster response. The Harvard psychologist has pioneered a field of research he calls "affective forecasting," which is a fancy way of saying that he wants to know why people consistently overestimate the emotional impact of events. When it comes to predicting how an experience will make us feel, studies show, we hardly know ourselves from the stranger next door.
Melissa Bank Sounds Nothing like the White Stripes
By Dave March 6, 2006
In her second novel, Melissa Bank returns to familiar territory: after college, a young woman from the suburbs moves to New York City and finds a job in publishing. But in The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing career advancement drove Jane; in The Wonder Spot, Sophie directs her attention to brothers and parents. "I was interested in how a family grows up, and how it reconfigures as each person's life changes," Bank explains. The Chicago Sun-Times raved, "Forget sophomore slump, this book proves that the second time's a charm."
Julian and Arthur and George
By Georgie February 21, 2006
The usual Julian Barnes novel is a slim and elegant gem, containing provocative and illuminating perspectives on the human condition. From the linguistically playful, formally sophisticated Flaubert's Parrot to the compelling meditation on obsessive jealousy in Before She Met Me, to amusing...
Ross King's Lasting Impression
By Dave February 7, 2006
After the incredible success of Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, who'd have thought Ross King's next book would be his most compelling? Rich with period detail and populated at every turn by notable characters, The Judgment of Paris delivers a riveting portrait of nineteenth-century Paris as it tracks the tumultuous decade when a new movement of painters challenged three hundred years of steadfast tradition to bring the world Impressionism.
The Epistolary Marilynne Robinson
By Jill Owens January 24, 2006
Marilynne Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping, was immediately described as a modern classic and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Twenty-four years later, her second novel, Gilead, won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Critics' Circle Award, and has received almost universal praise. Ron Charles of the Christian Science Monitor marvels, "There are passages here of such profound, hard-won wisdom and spiritual insight that they make your own life seem richer....Gilead [is] a quiet, deep celebration of life that you must not miss."
Staying after School with Frank McCourt
By Dave January 10, 2006
"People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version," Frank McCourt famously noted in his debut. The follow-up, 'Tis, picks up where Angela's Ashes left off, and stands as one of the great immigrant stories of our times. "After it was published," however, as McCourt explains, "I had the nagging feeling I'd given teaching short shrift." Now, in Teacher Man, he focuses on his thirty years in the classroom.
Reading Along to the Paul Beatty Shuffle
By Dave December 13, 2005
Editor Paul Beatty describes Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor as "a mix-tape narrative...a sampler of underground classics, rare grooves, and timeless summer jams." The California-born author's own poetry and prose—satirical, dark, gymnastic, and very funny throughout—surely qualifies him for the gig. Indeed, Publishers Weekly confirms, "The volume's general tenor is wild, winking and explosive....A Norton anthology this is not."
From Florence to Pluto with Dava Sobel
By Dave November 29, 2005
In 1995, when Dava Sobel published Longitude, science geeks and neophytes alike devoured the story of John Harrison's assault on one of the greatest scientific problems of modern times. Four years later, she returned with Galileo's Daughter, an equally engrossing but altogether different kind of history. Now, in The Planets, Sobel serves up something of a love letter to the solar system, a lyrical portrait of the human race, century after century, gazing into nighttime skies.