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Wednesday, 24 December 2014 00:00

A renewed appreciation for ‘The Great Gatsby’

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In 1977 I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. That was a year of deep reading…
Wednesday, 17 December 2014 15:50

Country noir masterpiece gets its due — again

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One of the things that I admire about the New York Review of Books is a special honor that they…
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 15:38

Start your holiday shopping at the bookstore

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For all of you who haven’t started your holiday shopping yet, for you who scorn Black Friday, who keep telling…
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 16:01

Tolle Lege: Reading that changed my Life

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When I was 6 years old, I entered the first grade at Boonville Elementary School. For months, various adults had…
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 16:22

Is democracy bad for the country?

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The story goes that as Benjamin Franklin was leaving the final session of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a Mrs.…
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 16:00

Teen horror sequel is a wild ride

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About three years ago, I reviewed a bloody little horror tale filled with black humor called Breed. It was a…
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 16:26

Book explores clash between religion and science

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In Lauren Grodstein’s novel The Explanation For Everything (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013, 336 pages, $24.95), we meet Andrew…
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 16:10

Celebrating the ever-popular essay

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This week it’s time to break out the champagne, pop that cork, and raise a flute of bubbly to the…
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 15:01

Being manipulated by a book not all bad

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Gone Girl is currently the most popular novel in America and it has been around since 2012; it is also…
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 14:49

Complicated, confusing and utterly fascinating

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I am intimidated by this book. In fact, this is one of the most challenging reviews that I have ever undertaken.…
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 14:52

Learning how to organize information overload

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Twenty-five years ago, while under a good deal of pressure and stress, I began noticing I was forgetting things. I…
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 16:09

The end is near — now what?

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When the novel, The Leftovers came out several years ago, it was an immediate success. (Oprah gave it a significant boost…
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 15:24

A realist writer examines uncomfortable topics

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“Evil is no more at an end than History, and so long as there are men there will be no…
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 14:54

Collective guilt permeates novel’s characters

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A little over one year ago, Mark Powell published The Dark Corner, a novel that was set in the northwest…
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 20:34

Time to clear the desk of books waiting for review

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For many reasons, this summer in particular afforded many opportunities for reading. During a 60-hour stay at Figure Eight Island,…
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 15:02

A dark world explored by a gifted writer

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In case you haven’t noticed, let me call your attention to a disturbing fact regarding current Appalachian literature: some critics have been…
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 04:07

Book challenges me to critique the critic

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In Why Read?, University of Virginia professor Mark Edmundson discusses the practice of student reviews of a teacher, then writes:…
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 14:26

Poems to honor the insatiable mystery of cats

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By Michael Beadle • Contributing writer Anyone who’s spent serious time with a cat knows there are a myriad of ways…
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 14:06

Novel explores life in Chairman Mao’s China

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After running into numerous critical references to this little novel, which has won a series of international awards and has…
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 14:19

A critic’s guide to literary genres renamed

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Not so long ago, a neighbor in the building where I love in Montford, a budding comedian in her early…
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 13:35

Stephen King’s newest is more noir than horror

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Each time Stephen King is interviewed, he finds himself responding to the same question: “Where do you get your ideas?”…
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 13:26

Summer reading always takes a different tack

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For whatever reason — the leisurely pace of days, the break in my work routine, the annual trip to the…
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 14:52

Harlem Hellfighters deserve their due

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I have always been something of a fanatic about graphic novels and my collection includes Maus (which depicts the holocaust…
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 03:32

Give thanks to Burroughs for telling us ‘how’

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This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More, For Young and…
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 13:03

A story of Jackson County’s Hooper-Watson feud

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Since I happen to love folklore and storytelling, I have always felt blessed to be a resident of Jackson County.…
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 13:59

Book examines alcohol and the writer’s life

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Let’s begin by noting the continuing biographical interest in writers and drinking. In my own collection are Tom Dardis’s The…
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 13:58

Old West comes alive in Enger novel

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If you love epic tales that celebrate the American West; if you treasure novels like Trail of the Lonesome Dove,…
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 14:15

Trio of quality books explore facets of faith

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Back in the day when the “culture wars” focused more on literature, music and movies — Tipper Gore, for example,…
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 00:00

Dark story explores love, retribution

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I have always been drawn to authors who can seize your attention in the first paragraph and like a pit…
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 14:45

A frank look at monogamy through the ages

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In our tell-all age of talk shows and reality television, of Facebook and Twitter, the idea that restraint and repression…
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:18

Social media gone awry in this compelling novel

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In recent years, I have developed a growing discomfort with the Internet. Services like Facebook, Amazon, Linked-in have become increasingly…
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 14:25

The excitement in a bag full of books

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Recently I returned from a trip to the library with a bagful of books. When handling these books in the…
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 14:39

The Jane Goodall of sea turtles

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As I write this, I am wondering if I should disqualify myself from writing a review about a book written…
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00

A story in which nothing is as it seems

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Early in this novel, an old retired teacher with Alzheimer’s, mistaking a visitor for his son, gives the young man…
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 13:55

Curmudgeon offers words of wisdom

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May is fast approaching, and with May comes the season of graduations. Daughters and sons, nephews and nieces, young people…
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 14:37

Bleak story has far-reaching implications

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Russell Banks knows how to hook the reader’s interest. In the opening pages of Lost Memory of Skin, the book’s…
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:17

A well-written, lively look through history

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In the first half of the fifteenth century, decades before Columbus set sail, the great Chinese admiral Zheng He commanded…
Wednesday, 02 April 2014 14:42

Disappearances, nightmares and a sense of terror

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Some 30 years ago, a science-fiction writer named Whitney Striber wrote a novel called Wolfen, and it frightened me badly. The…
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

Finding elusive love in the modern world of dating

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“Chick-lit” is, of course, the slang expression for those books appealing especially to women. Though not politically correct, most men…
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 13:17

Wading into a few of my favorite ‘dipper’ books

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Some books — novels, certain histories and biographies — deserve full immersion. We dive into them, plummet into their depths,…
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 02:38

Distilling the life of blues legend Robert Johnson

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I have always been fascinated by the folklore attending the too-short life of Robert Johnson, “King of the Delta Blues…
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:49

Of rhyme and reason, for better or worse

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Poetry. Po-e-tree. A word with a lovely sound, but with bleak connotations.
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 15:47

A poetic description of a savage time

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It took me almost a year to read this book. I kept losing it, leaving it in restaurants and other…
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 18:03

Mailer — a man of his time and shaper of it

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In the Prologue to Norman Mailer: A Double Life (978-1-4391-5019-1, 2013, $40), biographer J. Michael Lennon writes that “Mailer’s desire…
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 15:40

‘Night Film’ is a tiring yet mesmerizing read

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I did not like this book. My first response on finishing it was that I would not review it, but there…
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 16:20

Raising youth in the digital age

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Four years ago in November, a schoolteacher in Knoxville asked her English class to write a composition on family dinner…
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 15:21

Slave narratives an insightful collection

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This remarkable collection of interviews with African-Americans in North Carolina who were once slaves is a fascinating discovery. Conducted by the…
In Voyage To Alpha Centauri (Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-1-58617-832-1), Michael O’Brien, Canadian writer and painter, gives us a grand tale…
Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00

The remaking of a learned writer

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The new year is a time when many people, dissatisfied with some condition of their lives, resolve to make changes.…