The Short Nonfiction of Russian Emigre Writer Teffi

Book review: Rasputin and Other Ironies, by Teffi (Amazon / Book Depository) Many people find it surprising that I live somewhere so busy, right opposite Montparnasse station. But it’s what I like. I adore Paris. I like to hear it here beside me—knocking, honking, ringing and breathing. Sometimes, at dawn, a lorry rumbles past beneath my window so loud and so close that it seems to … Continue reading The Short Nonfiction of Russian Emigre Writer Teffi

Light Essays on Heavier Topics from Roxane Gay

Book review: Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay (Amazon / Book Depository) These essays are political and they are personal. They are, like feminism, flawed, but they come from a genuine place. I am just one woman trying to make sense of the world we live in. I’m raising my voice to show all the ways we have room to want more, to do better. Like most … Continue reading Light Essays on Heavier Topics from Roxane Gay

Harper Lee’s Abandoned Work: A Crime Spree and a Mysterious Reverend in the Deep South

Book review: Furious Hours, by Casey Cep (Amazon / Book Depository) Seventeen years had passed since she’d published To Kill a Mockingbird and twelve since she’d finished helping her friend Truman Capote report the crime story in Kansas that became In Cold Blood. Now, finally, she was ready to try again. Novelist Harper Lee, long beloved for To Kill a Mockingbird, has always seemed a somewhat bittersweet figure … Continue reading Harper Lee’s Abandoned Work: A Crime Spree and a Mysterious Reverend in the Deep South

Rhapsodizing Blue

Book review: Bluets, by Maggie Nelson (Amazon / Book Depository) Last night I wept in a way I haven’t wept for some time. I wept until I aged myself. I watched it happen in the mirror. I watched the lines arrive around my eyes like engraved sunbursts; it was like watching flowers open in time-lapse on a windowsill. I fell in love with Maggie Nelson … Continue reading Rhapsodizing Blue

Russian Literature’s Surprisingly Positive Life Lessons

Book review: The Anna Karenina Fix, by Viv Groskop Book Depository The Russian classics are, admittedly, not the most obvious place to look for tips for a happier life. Russian literature is full of gloomy people wondering how on earth they have ended up in the appalling predicament in which they find themselves, looking around desperately for someone else to blame and then realizing that, … Continue reading Russian Literature’s Surprisingly Positive Life Lessons

Hope in Historical Precedence

Book review: Lessons from a Dark Time, by Adam Hochschild Book Depository When times are dark, we need moral ancestors, and I hope the pieces here will be reminders that others have fought and won battles against injustice in the past, including some against racism, anti-immigrant hysteria, and more. The Trumps and Putins of those eras have gotten the ignominy they deserve. Journalist, public historian … Continue reading Hope in Historical Precedence

The Story Lolita Forgets, and Nabokov at Work

Book review: The Real Lolita, by Sarah Weinman Amazon Even casual readers of Lolita…should pay attention to the story of Sally Horner because it is the story of so many girls and women, not just in America, but everywhere. So many of these stories seem like everyday injustices – young women denied opportunity to advance, tethered to marriage and motherhood. Others are more horrific, girls … Continue reading The Story Lolita Forgets, and Nabokov at Work

A “Family Album” of Emotional, Complicated Relationships

Book review: True Crimes, by Kathryn Harrison Amazon I see the bravado required to be funny and beguiling when what you really are is old and aching and breathless from congestive heart failure, when what you really are is afraid. Kathryn Harrison is such a tricky author. A writer of quietly powerful, serious talents, her nonfiction can be uncomfortably confessional, and is deeply personal to … Continue reading A “Family Album” of Emotional, Complicated Relationships

Culinary Visits with Literary Mentors

Book review: The Traveling Feast, by Rick Bass (Amazon / Book Depository) I decided to take a break from writing and go on an extended pilgrimage. I set out traveling the country (and in one case Europe) to visit writers who were mostly a generation older than I am, the ones who helped me become a writer trained outside a university. Sometimes they helped me … Continue reading Culinary Visits with Literary Mentors

Arguing Against “Incomprehensible” When a Mother is Responsible

Book review: To the Bridge, by Nancy Rommelmann Book Depository Journalist and author Nancy Rommelmann found herself captivated by a disturbing news story. Young mother Amanda Stott-Smith had, in the early morning hours of May 23, 2009, driven to the Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Oregon and dropped her two young children into the Willamette River below. The elder of the two, seven-year-old Trinity, survived. Four-year-old … Continue reading Arguing Against “Incomprehensible” When a Mother is Responsible

America’s Dead Girl Fixation and Other Obsessions

Book review: Dead Girls, by Alice Bolin (Amazon / Book Depository) Alice Bolin’s debut essay collection opens with a strong and intriguing premise: what is this obsession America (and beyond) has with dead girls? The murdered or missing blonde white ones of media frenzies; the ones that get forgotten after serving as engines for outrage in programs like Serial; the innocent and martyred ones (or else … Continue reading America’s Dead Girl Fixation and Other Obsessions

Reflective Writing on Solitude and Creativity

Book review: The Art of the Wasted Day, by Patricia Hampl Amazon If you’re a “seeker” (and who, opening a book, is not?), isn’t the open road the only way, paradoxically, to find the lost life of daydream where all the rest – wisdom, decency, generosity, compassion, joy, and plain honesty – are sequestered? If life is a journey, has it just become a getaway to somewhere … Continue reading Reflective Writing on Solitude and Creativity