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Originally published on December 18, 2014 11:12 am For this year's Best Books of the Year list, I reject the tyranny of the decimal system.
Brian Morton's superb novel Florence Gordon features a 75-year-old woman a€” an icon of the second wave women's movement a€” as its heroine. One of the reasons Dear Committee Members is such a mordant minor masterpiece is that Julie Schumacher had the brainstorm to structure it as an epistolary novel. It's been eight years since The Lay of the Land was published a€” the novel Richard Ford said would be the last in his Frank Bascombe trilogy. Originally published on December 18, 2014 12:12 pm For this year's Best Books of the Year list, I reject the tyranny of the decimal system. While youa€™re taking in all the extra sights and sounds of NCPR this summer, keep in mind that wea€™re here because you make it possible. Save the Children says the facility in rebel-held Idlib was hit by an apparent airstrike and that there were casualties. Russia denies that it was behind a hacking attack on the Democratic Party that led to embarrassing revelations ahead of this week's convention. But today Corrigan considers The Great Gatsby to be the greatest American novel a€” and it's the novel she loves more than any other.
Maureen Corrigan is a book critic for Fresh Air and a critic-in-residence and lecturer at Georgetown University.
Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR's Fresh Air, is a critic-in-residence and lecturer at Georgetown University. In 2004, Susan Faludi stepped off a plane in Budapest, Hungary, to visit her father, a sometimes violent man with whom she'd barely spoken in over 25 years. After two half sisters are separated, we follow their family lines over the course of two centuries through a series of short stories. Henry James famously said that "summer afternoon" were the two most beautiful words in the English language.
Pamela Erens' new novel, Eleven Hours, is what traditionally would be called a "small story." It's less than 200 pages, features only two main characters and focuses primarily on events that take place over the span of, well, 11 hours.
As America's population ages, we're going to be seeing a lot more of these kinds of books: I'm talking about memoirs, written by adult children, about the extreme adventures of caring for and reconnecting with their elderly parents. I'm about to rave about two audacious works of historical suspense fiction: I say "audacious" because you have to have some nerve to tackle the subject of whaling after Melville, or to structure your story around a painting, after so many other novelists — most recently, Tracy Chevalier and Donna Tartt — have kick-started their own tales with the same device. She's a self-described "difficult woman," in the intimidating Lillian Hellman, Susan Sontag, "Lioness in Winter" mode. This book of letters is composed of a year's worth of recommendations that our antihero a€” a weary professor of creative writing and literature a€” is called upon to write for junior colleagues, lackluster students and even former lovers. Bookended by two historic hurricanes that threatened New York City (Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy) 10:04 projects our narrator into plotlines that feature a dire medical diagnosis as well as the joy of impending fatherhood with a woman who's a close friend.
She's taking the helm after her predecessor resigned following a funding scandal, amid high-pressure preparations for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.She triumphed over two main rival candidates. Both clans are ingrown and smug, each, in their own way, disdainful of the American mainstream.
Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was displayed at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair in 2013. She's written a new book about it called So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures. And what that meant was that all of a sudden this novel that was basically nowhere, you couldn't get it in bookstores in the early 1940s, [but] by 1945 over 123,000 copies of The Great Gatsby were distributed.
She is an associate editor of and contributor to Mystery and Suspense Writers (Scribner) and the winner of the 1999 Edgar Award for Criticism, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors.
The reunion was prompted by an email she'd received from her then 76-year-old father announcing that "after years of impersonating a macho man" he, or rather, she, had undergone sex reassignment surgery.
Some of their descendants are in Africa, some are in America; some are free, some are enslaved.
With apologies to The Master, I'd tweak that sentiment to suggest that maybe "summer suspense" are two even more beautiful words.
It follows a young woman as she haltingly moves through marriage and motherhood in a Brooklyn apartment raddled by the urban blight of bedbugs and the maternal torment of colic. When a glowing review of Florence's latest book appears in the Sunday New York Times, she's showered with the popular acclaim that has eluded her most of her life. The gem of a law school recommendation letter professor Jason Fitger writes for a cutthroat undergrad whom he's known for all of "eleven minutes" is alone worth the price of Schumacher's book.Schumacher has a sharp ear for the self-pitying eloquence peculiar to academics like the fictional Fitger, who feel that their genius has never gotten its due. Lerner's dazzling writing connects and collapses these and other storylines into a rich and strange novel of ideas.

And while vote counting is still ongoing, Japanese state broadcaster NHK reports that she is "certain to win" based on exit polls.Koike's "biography is unusual for a Japanese politician, even apart from her gender," as The New York Times reported. I'd still steer clear of the Duck people, but Waldman, who is herself a hip young literary person living in Brooklyn, has written such a crisp, comic novel of manners and ideas about her own tribe that I was completely won over.
Book critic Maureen Corrigan a€” who calls the cover "striking" a€” says she likes to think that if it landed on her porch today among the more than 200 books she receives a week, she would read it. It's a story in which you get bootlegging, crime, explicit sexuality a€” and remember this is 1925 when it was published, so it's pretty racy for its time. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium.
Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla. In the end, the two separate family sagas merge into one, back in the place where it all began.
Surely, on a sunny summer day, few pleasures can be greater than reading outside in the shade cast by a first-rate thriller. The book is fierce and vivid in its depiction of the exhaustion of the spirit and the rending of the flesh during childbirth.
All of the disparate books on my list contain characters, scenes or voices that linger long past the last page of their stories.
Suddenly, Florence is embarking on her first-ever book tour, dealing brusquely with fawning female fans of a certain age, parrying with some patronizing younger feminists and, along the way, sensing the chill of mortality on her skin. His resentment seeps out between the lines of the recommendation letters he relentlessly writes a€” or ineptly fills out on computerized questionnaires a€” urging RV parks and paintball emporiums to hire his graduating English majors for entry-level management positions.
The four stories herein all take place in the early winter of 2012, soon after Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Jersey Shore. Her book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures was published by Little, Brown in September 2014 (paperback forthcoming May 2015). So much so, that it makes that boy adventure aboard Herman Melville's Pequod almost seem like a Carnival cruise. In fact, The Empire of Necessity by Greg Grandin, which is my pick for Book of the Year, came out in January and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Offill's departures from traditional narrative form make this age-old story feel painfully fresh again: Fragmented chapters and looping monologues accord with our heroine's shell-shocked frame of mind.
Dear Committee Members serves up the traditional satisfactions of classic academic farces like David Lodge's Small World and Kingsley Amis' immortal Lucky Jim, but it also updates the genre to include newer forms of indignity within the halls of academe. The cover of Let Me Be Frank With You features a photo of the Seaside Heights roller coaster that was washed out into the Atlantic Ocean. He looked at some of the challenges ahead:"It's the second time in a handful of years that Tokyo's voters have elected a new governor after a scandal a€” Koike's two most immediate predecessors both resigned in disgrace over misuse of public funds.
You'd expect that Nate and his smarty-arty friends a€” who casually quote George Eliot and French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard, who busy themselves writing essays on topics like "Yoga as the New Orientalism," and who flirt in emails citing Charles Dickens' campaigns against child labor a€” might be "better" people somehow. It's the most iconic image of Sandy's wrath, and it's also an iconic image for Ford's achievement throughout his Frank Bascombe books a€” books that chart the whole wild roller coaster ride of life. Eisenhower's staff made sure that every guy stepping onto a landing craft in the south of England right on the eve of D-Day would have an Armed Services Edition in his pocket.
As Reuters reports, this angered the ruling party and it "drafted [rival candidate Hiroya] Matsuda, 64, who once served as governor of a rural prefecture" to run against her.Opposition candidate Shuntaro Torigoe, a journalist, also contested the election. One of Waldman's great achievements is the way she so thoroughly sublets Nate's head so that we see situations, and especially the women, in his life through Nate's own narrow window, curtained by self-regard.The story here mostly takes place in the months that Nate is awaiting the imminent publication of his first novel. As the Times reported, "Koike was widely seen as the most right-leaning of the three leading candidates."The role of Tokyo's governor "roughly combines duties of an American mayor and a state governor," according to the Times. In addition to serving on the advisory panel of The American Heritage Dictionary, she has chaired the Mystery and Suspense judges' panel of the Los Angeles TimesBook Prize. The city has "a population of more than 13 million and an annual budget bigger than Sweden's," as The Associated Press reported.During her campaign, Koike pledged to "promote urban development while giving consideration to the environment," as NHK reported. He tells Nate, "If smart people only mated with smart people, class structures would ossify. The doomed beauty of trying a€” that's what this novel is about." While Corrigan is hardly alone in her evaluation of The Great Gatsby, she's perhaps unique in her ability to write in such a lively and engaging way about the book, Fitzgerald's life and the era in which it's set a€” the 1920s.
So we know that there's infidelity a€” a lot of innuendo about people having sex outside of marriage and a lot of drinking.
According to the Wall Street Journal, while she served as environment minister in 2005, Koike was behind a successful environmental program called "cool biz."That's when "government officials were told to shed their ties and often their jackets during the summer months so that thermostats could be set at a higher level," as the newspaper reported. MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BYLINE: For this year's best books of the year list, I reject the tyranny of the decimal system. Remaindered copies of the second printing of The Great Gatsby were moldering away in [publisher] Scribner's warehouse.

It's just such an amazing testament to what books can mean to people at critical times in their lives.
As I was reading it, I frequently thought of another New York novel written by a woman, about intellectuals behaving badly: Tess Slesinger's 1934 novel, The Unpossessed. That car crash in which Myrtle Wilson is killed, Tom's mistress, there are two other car crashes that preceded that car crash.
Slesinger's big claim to fame was that she wrote the screenplays for Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Pearl S. It follows a young woman as she haltingly moves through marriage and a motherhood rattled by colic, only to be slammed to a full stop by her husband's infidelity.
They printed over 1,000 titles of different books, and they sent over a million copies of these books to sailors and soldiers serving overseas and also to [prisoners of war] in prison camps in Japan and Germany through an arrangement with the Red Cross. But before she moved to Hollywood, Slesinger lived in the artsy, left-wing enclave of Greenwich Village where she observed people a€” mostly men a€” of high principles, undermining each other and the women in their lives. For instance, a chapter entitled "How Are You" is followed by these two words repeated by our betrayed heroine for page and a half - so scared, so scared, so scared.
Brian Morton also experiments with form in his witty and affecting short novel "Florence Gordon," about a 75-year-old icon of the second-wave women's movement who's cranky enough to walk out on her own surprise birthday party just because she wants to get back to writing her memoirs.
When you put both of these New York literati novels side by side, it's hard not to think of the inevitable cliche: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Humor is also a big selling point of Julie Schumacher's "Dear Committee Members." This epistolary novel is composed of a year's worth of recommendation letters written by a weary professor. The gem of a law school recommendation letter this professor writes for a cut-throat undergrad whom he's known for all of 11 minutes is alone worth the price of Schumacher's smart and ultimately moving book. One more novel that upends conventional form is Ben Lerner's "10:04," a language drunk tale of a young writer in New York which he calls the sinking city. I think if I had opened the book and began reading, that [narrator] Nick [Carraway's] voice would've grabbed me.
That's because "10:04" is book-ended by two historic hurricanes that threaten New York - Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy.
I want to think that I would've kept on reading." Interview Highlights On The Great Gatsby's similarities to film noir Gatsby almost has the form of a film noir, where you have this voiceover, with Nick Carraway remembering things that have taken place in the past, things that can't be changed, events that can't be changed. I think you get that sense in Fitzgerald of someone who remade himself but was also aware at times in his life that he was pretending to be someone he was not. Sandy also looms large in the four wry and melancholy stories in Richard Ford's "Let Me Be Frank With You," which marked the return of his New Jersey everyman hero, Frank Bascombe. Ron Rash's beautiful short story collection "Something Rich And Strange" focuses on everyman and everywoman figures in Appalachia.
These stories roam from the Civil War through the Great Depression and into a present where moonshine stills have been replaced by home-grown meth labs. Even though it takes place in France and Germany during the harsh rigors of World War II, Anthony Doerr's magical adventure novel "All The Light We Cannot See" is far, far away from the stripped-down realities of Rash's world.
A blind French girl and her father become the hapless custodians of the Sea of Flames, a rare diamond that Hitler desires for his treasure trove. Doerr refers to the work of Jules Vern and Alexandre Dumas, and his own sweeping plot and sumptuous language place Doerr in the same category as those master storytellers. Sarah Waters spins a pretty wild yarn herself in "The Paying Guests," an eerie tale of a genteel mother and daughter forced to take in lodgers after World War I. Eerie is also the word for Tana French's mystery "The Secret Place," the fifth in her superb Dublin murder squad series.
Now onto nonfiction - Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" is a brilliant graphic memoir of Chast's own adventures in caring for her two elderly parents. Chast captures the whole megillah of elder care, from the exhaustion and looniness of clearing out her parents Brooklyn apartment, stuffed with old bank books and toasters, to the final moments of their lives. Hector Tobar's triumph of a tale of extreme endurance "Deep Down Dark" recounts the ordeal of the 33 Chilean miners buried alive for 69 days under a mountain of fallen rock. Greg Grandin's "The Empire Of Necessity" describes the real-life slave revolt in 1805 on a ship called the Trial, anchored off the coast of Chile.
That revolt inspired Herman Melville's 1855 floating Gothic masterpiece of a short novel "Benito Cereno." In Grandin's previous book, the much-acclaimed Fordlandia, he chronicled how Henry Ford tried to establish a utopian version of small-town America in the middle of the Brazilian rainforest. In "The Empire Of Necessity," Grandin takes readers on a tour of the hell of the slave trade in the Americas. In fact, all of these disparate books on my best of the year list contain characters, scenes or voices that linger long past the last page of their stories.

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