Book Review: When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke: A Novel by Hillary Jordan (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2011. 368 pp) Hillary Jordan earned her B.A. in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. She worked as an advertising copywriter for 15 years before she became a full-time author. Jordan has received the Bellwether Prize and an Alex Award from the American Library Association. The Scarlet Letter When I was a wee boy learning the ways of the six string, I would attempt to write a new guitar riff every day. Most of these musical progressions stunk like durian fruit. Occasionally, I would write something adequate. These moments excite. Something I could share with the world! Maybe?… Read More →

Book Review: Swamplandia!

Swamplandia! by Karen Rusell

Swamplandia!: A Novel by Karen Russell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 336 pp) Karen Russell is an American novelist and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” She received her B.A. in Spanish from Northwestern University and earned her M.F.A. from Columbia University. Needless Danger Do you recall the needless danger of your youth? Did you run away from home only to make it as far as your tree house in the backyard? Did you decide to make a cross-country trip over summer break with your friends without a dollar in your pocket? I’m sure most of us did something stupid when we were younger. Do you remember why? There seems to be an aura of youth where decisions… Read More →

Book Review: State of Wonder

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder: A Novel by Ann Patchett (New York: First Harper Perennial Olive Edition, 2014; originally published in 2012. 448 pp) Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. Notably, she has won the Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books. The Power of Story Classically, the power of story resides in its ability to present a character that overcomes the odds. It might be the lowly knight that slays the dragon, the outcast in high school that gets the girl, the hard-working genius that pulls herself out of the standard stereotypes to be a… Read More →

Book Review: A Dance with Dragons

A Dance with Dragons

A Dance with Dragons: Book Five of a Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (New York: Bantam Books, 2011. 1152 pp) George R. R. Martin is an American author and screenwriter of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Born in New Jersey, Martin earned a B.S. and M.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University. He began writing fiction in the early 1970s with his first works earning him a Hugo and Nebula award. In the 1980s, he began writing in Hollywood for the Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast. Martin is best known for his critically acclaimed epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which was developed into Game of Thrones, an HBO television series…. Read More →

Television Show Review: Getting On: Season 2

Getting On

Getting On: Season 2 created by Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine, and Joanna Scanlan (BBC Worldwide Productions, Home Box Office, Anima Sola Productions) Starring Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash, Mel Rodriguez. Death and Taxes All that’s guaranteed in life is death and taxes, neither of which are funny. Yes, this statement rings true. You can count on receiving a paycheck much smaller than you expected once the government gleans its share. And long term, you should expect your life to degrade into the sweet sleep of eternity. Both of these aspects of life flat-out suck. So why joke about it? Well, Getting On suggests we joke about death because it can actually be funny. Death Profits Season 2 of Getting… Read More →

Book Review: Leaving the Sea

Leaving the Sea: Stories by Ben Marcus (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. 271 pp) Ben Marcus is the author of The Age of Wire and String and Notable American Women. His stories have appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, and Conjunctions. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and awards from the Creative Capital Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York, where he is on the faculty at Columbia University. Anxiety I expected Ben Marcus’ newest collection of stories to me much of the same. Marcus has made himself known as somewhat of an experimental writer, using unique narratives to portray outlandish stories. However, Marcus begins his collection of short stories with quite the… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Walking Dead: Season 4

the walking dead season 4

The Walking Dead: Season 4 created by Frank Darabont (American Movie Classics, Circle of Confusion, Valhalla Motion Pictures) Starring Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Emily Kinney, Scott Wilson, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Chad L. Coleman, David Morrissey, and Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. *Spoiler Alert for Previous Seasons* Characters Wanted In previous reviews on The Walking Dead, I’ve worried about the fine line between compelling television and “death pornography”—the tendency for the writers to navigate the show from death to death where the only thing in between that matters is building the tension before the next kill. The inherent danger in such a strategy is its desensitization of the characters. What’s the point in pulling… Read More →

Book Review: Love In The Time Of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. 422 pp) Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, in 1927. He attended the University of Bogotá and went on to become a reporter for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. He later served as a foreign correspondent in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Caracas, and New York. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, he is the author of several novels and collections, including No One Writes to the Colonel: and Other Stories, The Autumn of the Patriarch, Innocent Erendira and Other Stories, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and most recently, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, as well as the autobiography Living to Tell the Tale. A Love Story Love in the… Read More →

Book Review: The Emperor of all Maladies

The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (London: Fourth Estate, 2011. 608 pp) Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center. Mukherjee is a Rhodes Scholar and he graduated from Stanford University, the University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. His book, The Emperor of all Maladies won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. Flunking Pre-Med Since the day I learned about cancer—I mean really learned about cancer—I’ve never been the same. It was an introductory class into physiology as an undergrad. I signed up for classes late and wasn’t able to enroll in… Read More →

Book Review: Collected Poems

Collected Poems by Dylan Thomas

Collected Poems by Dylan Thomas (New York: New Directions, 2010; originally published in 1953. 240 pp) The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) compiled his Collected Poems as the capstone of his career to date, but died tragically before its publication. The collection has become the standard volume of the poet’s work. Thomas influenced countless artists such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Annie Clark (her stage name, St. Vincent, is the name of the hospital where Thomas died). Taking Time to Experience the Known Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I feel as if I know Mt. Si. An iconic rock formation in the Cascade foothills, it is an easily identified landmark signifying entrance into the mountains through Interstate 90…. Read More →