Category Archives: Reading

Huck Finn’s Identity

I know it’s foolish to try to nominate a single work of art (or anything else for that matter) as quintessentially American (or anything else for that matter).  It’s a parlor game akin to desert isle choices and the favorite … Continue reading

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Detectives Without Borders

Reading genre fiction offers a host of pleasures.  There’s a certain predictability—in the case of detective fiction these days, often a quirky character who inner life or family life can provide continuity across a series of novels.  Plots can surprise … Continue reading

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Highway 61, Revisited

Many months ago I wrote a review of Vidar Sundstøl’s Land of Dreams, the first volume in his Minnesota Trilogy.  In it, a vacationing Norwegian tourist is found bludgeoned to death on Highway 61 along the northern shore of Lake … Continue reading

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To the Lighthouse, Again

As an undergraduate English major, dedicated to early twentieth century British literature, I read all the great: Hardy, Conrad, Lawrence, Forster, Joyce, Woolf, Beckett.  And quite a few of the minor leaguers as well. In the decades since then, I … Continue reading

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Tragedy, in Theory

As a student in both undergraduate and graduate programs in Comparative Literature, I was not only unable to avoid Aristotle, I encountered him repeatedly.  I had a trying relationship with the old boy at best.  No matter how many times … Continue reading

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Lives of the Soldiers

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, the war in Vietnam was a throbbing pulse that I tried unsuccessfully to keep buried beneath layers of defiance and hedonism.  But the newspapers kept reporting the body counts and … Continue reading

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James Does Jane

There weren’t many books in my home when I was a youngster.  Mom believed that books attracted dust, cost money, and most importantly, could be had for free at the public library. From the moment that I left home for … Continue reading

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Fictions of Malaise

A few years ago, thanks to a Facebook ad, I stumbled on The Morning News Tournament of Books.  Since March Madness is an all-consuming rite of spring in this town and given a choice, I will opt for books over … Continue reading

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Love and Death, or History and Mystery

Echoes of the Great War are heard around the world these days, but 2015 holds a special resonance in Australia, marking as it does the centenary of the battle of Gallipoli.  For most of 1915 the Australian forces joined their … Continue reading

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Twentieth Century Man

A sort of half-title page reads: Any Human Heart: The Intimate Journals of Logan Mountstuart.  This is part of the subterfuge. The title page, in contrast, reads: Any Human Heart: a novel by William Boyd (Knopf, 2003).  This is part … Continue reading

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