Silverberg, Robert. Dying Inside.

NY: Ballantine, 1972.

Robert Silverberg has been one of science fiction’s most active authors and editors for most of the past fifty-odd years and his work falls largely on the “intellectual” end of the SF spectrum. He’s done fantasy and space opera, but his most important books are those that investigate the human mind and condition, and often with only a relatively thin science-fictional skin. This one began with the title, originally a New York-Jewish idiom, and the author decided it referred in his case to a character with something literally dying inside him. Not an organ but an unusual mental ability, like telepathy.

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Published in: on 6 March 2018 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Zarr, Sara & Tara Altebrando. Roomies.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

Lauren Cole of New Jersey has just graduated from high school and is headed for UC-Berkeley in a couple of months. She’s an only child, living with her neurotic mother, her father having left them years before when he discovered he was gay. She can’t wait to escape to the West Coast. Elizabeth Logan of San Francisco is also headed for Cal, which is only twenty-five miles away for her, but it’s still an escape. She’s one of six kids, the other five all being very young, so that she’s more or less an assistant parent. She loves her family but she can’t wait to get away, too.

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Published in: on 28 February 2018 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Spufford, Francis. Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York.

NY: Scribner, 2017.

It’s the fall of 1746 and Richard Smith has just arrived in the colony of New York from London, bearing with him a note of exchange for £1,000 which he intends to convert into cash at the London mercantile firm’s New York associate, Lovell & Co. That’s a lot of money — there isn’t that much in specie in the whole of the town of New York — and Lovell insists on waiting until the confirming letters arrive, so he can be sure he isn’t being scammed.

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Bagieu, Penelope. California Dreamin’.

NY: First Second, 2017.

This is one of those books that’s going to mean quite different things to you depending on how old you are. I grew up in Texas in the ’50s, a much bigger fan of Jerry Lee than of Elvis, and I had no use at all for those floppy-haired guys from England with all their “yeah, yeah, yeah.” And then I went to Northern California for a couple of years in the early ’60s just as beach-rock and folk music was being invented. I saw Baez in concert. PP&M came and played on campus for free, just for laughs.

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Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

NY: Random House, 2000.

I have no excuse for the fact that this marvelous Pulitzer-winning epic sat on my “To Read” shelf for most of a decade before I got around to it. Once I started it, though, I found it difficult to put down. I’m ordinarily a fast reader (I never skim, I just take large mouthfuls of text), but this one is more than 630 pages of dense narrative, so it took awhile. You’ll want to read slowly and savor Chabon’s use of the language as well as the immense amount of social history and artistic detail he packs into every scene.

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Wolitzer, Meg. The Interestings.

NY: Penguin, 2013.

Wolitzer has published close to a dozen novels but her record has been somewhat uneven. This may be one of her best, though, especially to those of us born before 1960. It’s the story of six kids who first come together one evening, aged fifteen and sixteen, in the summer of 1974 at Spirit-in-the-Woods, a determinedly artsy summer camp in the Adirondacks run by a couple of aging Greenwich Villagers.

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Published in: on 16 December 2017 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kleid, Neil & Nicolas Cinquegrani. The Big Kahn.

NY: NBM Publishing, 2009.

The author and artist of this graphic novel are both new to me, though they seem to have a body of work already on the market. It’s kind of a strange one, too. The story opens with the funeral of Rabbi David Kahn, who helped establish New York’s Congregation Beth Shemesh, served as its leader for many years, and was a noted figure in the community. And his eldest son, Avi, presently his father’s assistant, is the obvious choice for the job.

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Published in: on 24 November 2017 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Eisner, Will. Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories.

NY: Norton, 2007.

Eisner is very much the godfather of the modern graphic novel. There’s a reason the field’s most important award is named for him. This fat compilation volume brings together five previously published pieces, two of them quite long, which are drawn from his own life and ancestry — and if not entirely in a factual sense, then in tone and in general approach.

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Hammett, Dashiell. The Thin Man.

NY: Knopf, 1934.

Hammett, one of the fathers of the modern detective story, only wrote five novels, of which this was his last, about the wealthy and sophisticated Nick and Nora Charles. It’s difficult to read about Hammett’s other famous detective, Sam Spade, without imagining Bogie, who made the character his own but who also played the hardboiled Spade pretty much the way the author wrote him. When Nick and Nora came to the silver screen, though, William Powell and Myrna Loy mostly just played themselves, and they mostly played the Charleses for laughs. And that’s not at all fair to the book, which certainly wasn’t written as light comedy.

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Hill, Reginald. Recalled to Life.

NY: Delacorte, 1992.

The previous episode in the detecting and crime-solving adventures of Superintendent Andy Dalziel and DCI Peter Pascoe of Mid-Yorkshire CID was a little shaky, in my opinion, but Hill redeems himself with this thirteenth book in the series. It may be the best yet; it’s certainly the most psychologically complex.

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