Fresh Air: Book Reviews
Nostalgic For Noir? Feiffer's 'Kill My Mother' Is A...08/21/14
In his first graphic novel, Jules Feiffer, 85, has returned to the seedy comic strips, hard boiled novels and B movies of his youth. Maureen Corrigan says it's "a mulligan stew of murder and desire."
In A Funny New Novel, A Weary Professor Writes To 'Dear Committee...
Julie Schumacher's anti-hero pens recommendations for junior colleagues, lackluster students and former lovers. The novel deftly mixes comedy with social criticism and righteous outrage.
'Ride Around Shining' Reimagines Gatsby's Nouveau-Riche Excess
Chris Leslie-Hynan's debut novel follows a white grad student who's a chauffeur to a black basketball player. It references The Great Gatsby often with fresh takes on race, manhood and meritocracy.
'Panic In A Suitcase' Puts A Fresh Spin On A Coming-To-America Story
Yelena Akhtiorskaya's debut novel is about a family that emigrates from Odessa to the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, N.Y. It's a funny tale full of insider knowledge and offbeat words.
'Mockingbird Next Door': A Genteel Peek Into Harper Lee's Quiet Life
After Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, she became a recluse and lived with her sister, Alice, in Alabama. Reporter Marja Mills uses rich detail to provides glimpses into their twilight years.
10 Years Later, Mystery Heroine 'Maisie Dobbs' Gains New Life
Jacqueline Winspear's debut mystery, Maisie Dobbs, set in England around World War I, came out in paperback a decade ago. A new edition testifies to the enduring allure of the traditional mystery.
'Friendship': A Startlingly Nice Novel By A Tough-Girl Blogger
Emily Gould's first novel stars 30-something single women in New York City who are figuring out what's important in life. It's worth picking up for its sharp social observations and inspired wordplay.
'Most Dangerous Book': A Rich Treasury Charting James Joyce's 'Ulysses'
There are many heroes in Kevin Birmingham's new book about the novel that sparked a revolution, but James Joyce isn't one of them. The strength of The Most Dangerous Book lies in its subtle details.
'Rise And Fall' Carries On Vagabond Adventure Tale Tradition
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers — the latest from Imperfectionists author Tom Rachman — follows the travels of a young bookstore proprietor. It's a "strange" book that requires a bit of patience.
A Second Posthumous Collection From Rock Critic Ellen Willis
The Essential Ellen Willis focuses on the writer's explicitly feminist culture criticism. It was edited by Willis' daughter, who published an earlier collection of her mother's essays in 2011.
'Chameleon' Has Cabaret, Spies And A Plot Fit For Lifetime
Francine Prose's latest novel was inspired by a 1932 photo of two lesbians, one of whom was in the Gestapo. Critic Maureen Corrigan says it's an ingenious excursion into the Parisian demimonde.
In 'Hotel Florida,' Three Couples Chronicle The Spanish Civil War
Biographer Amanda Vaill's new book delves deeply into the lives of journalists like Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, whose documenting of the war helped shape public perception.
'Bintel Brief' And 'Hellfighters': American Stories, Powerfully...
Critic Maureen Corrigan recommends two graphic novels — one about a Yiddish advice column in the early 1900s and another about a regiment of African-American soldiers who fought during World War I.
This Tightly Choreographed Tale Of Ambition And Ballet Will 'Astonish'
Maggie Shipstead tells the story of a disciplined dancer who can't make it into the spotlight. Critic Maureen Corrigan says Shipstead is "Edith Wharton with a millennial generation edge."
'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction Of Life In Lagos
Teju Cole's latest book describes a young New York doctor's visit back to his Nigerian hometown, where he encounters a Clockwork Orange world of misery and corruption.
What U.S. Learned From 'Heathen School' Wasn't Part Of The Lesson Plan
The 19th century, Connecticut school sought to convert young men from Hawaii, China, India and the Native American nations and then send them home as Christian missionaries. It did not go as planned.
'Schmuck' Revisits The Golden Age Of Radio, And A Bygone Manhattan
Ross Klavan's novel follows two radio sidekicks in midcentury New York: golden-voiced straight man Ted Fox, who has an eye for a good-looking dame, and funnyman Jerry Elkin, a veteran of World War II.
These Stories Consider Solitude, With Echoes Of Emily Dickinson
It's been 15 years since acclaimed writer Lorrie Moore has brought out a new short story collection. Bark has some clunkers and some keepers, but critic Maureen Corrigan says it was worth the wait.
Don't Know What To Do With Your Life? Neither Did Thoreau
A new biography reveals that young Thoreau took quite a few detours on his path to Walden. A gossipy young man who loved eating popcorn, ice skating and listening to his music box, schoolmates and neighbors found him standoffish and regarded his...
Triumph Of The Bookworms: Two Novels To Cure Your Winter Blues
Alena, a reworking of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca, takes place in the contemporary art world, while The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles is a "delicious French romp." Critic Maureen Corrigan says both novels are "exquisite vehicles of escape fiction."
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