Consultation No. 3 – With John Steinbeck

Here we are up to our ankles in yet another imagined conversation with an American writer whose work has been, and continues to be, acclaimed for the passion of his characters, even when he leaves them subject on occasion to a side-splitting, acerbic humor. Charley, Steinbeck’s dog,  has been dead some forty years on the…

Good Prose, No Win Satire

The Sellout, by Paul Beatty You might be in the den with some pals waiting for the Super Bowl to begin, and someone cracks a joke, then another. Then another. And you think, “Jokes and satire can’t be all that hard; maybe I could do a stand-up act, or write a satirical book.” So weeks…

Kid Lit, My Friend, Kid Lit

How do you read? What? What I mean is – and I mean this indirectly – what do you intend to get out of what you read? That’s a pretty general question, Bob. All right, I’m still not being clear enough. Do you read to get the gist of the story? Do you read to…

Dreams of a Better World

Most Blessed of the Patriarchs – Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, by Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf   I’ve been fascinated for years by Jefferson, and have read most of what’s out there on this sometimes eccentric man. But this book takes a new tack. Rather than focus on his politics,…

Irony and Complexity

The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson As is my case with most books, I warmed up to this one slowly. My warming, however, became only tepid with The Orphan Master’s Son. I like stories, you see, and defined characters within such stories. That makes me an odd fit for postmodern literature, something I’ve posted…

A Familiar Fate For The Brave Outsider

The Black Count, by Tom Reiss     By sixth grade all of us, I imagine, have read The Count of Monte Cristo, and perhaps know a little about Alexandre Dumas, the book’s author. Tom Reiss’ gift to readers, then, in this 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, is to draw connections between Dumas’ book, Dumas the…

Old Hickory Stands Tall as a Wily Mediator

American Lion – Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham Jackson was never a favorite of mine, but there are things in this Pulitzer Prize-winning book of Jon Meacham’s that has me a bit more respectful of his presidency. Yes, he did break treaties and banish the Creek, Chickasaw, and Choctaw tribes to…