Book Review: A Manual for Cleaning Women

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. 432 pp) Lucia Berlin (1936-2004) worked brilliantly but sporadically throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Her stories are inspired by her early childhood in various Western mining towns; her glamorous teenage years in Santiago, Chile; three failed marriages; a lifelong problem with alcoholism; her years spent in Berkeley, New Mexico, and Mexico City; and the various jobs she later held to support her writing and her four sons. Sober and writing steadily by the 1990s, she took a visiting writer’s post at the University of Colorado Boulder in 1994 and was soon promoted to associate professor. In 2001, in failing health, she moved to… Read More →

Film Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen (Annapurna Pictures, Mike Zoss Productions, Netflix, R, 133 min) Starring Tim Blake Nelson, David Krumholtz, James Franco, Stephen Root, Liam Neeson, Harry Melling, Tom Waits, Sam Dillon, Bill Heck, Zoe Kazan, Brendan Gleeson, and Tyne Daly. The Next Great American Author Ever since Mark Twain, the literary-minded in the United States have been clamoring for the next Great American author. Well, maybe arguing more than clamoring. However, as I explore the many genres of the written word, I’m starting to believe the argument for or against a specific author is fruitless. Instead, I’m coming to believe there’s a Great American genre, the short story. About a year… Read More →

Book Review: The World to Come

The World to Come by Jim Shepard

The World to Come: Stories by Jim Shepard (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. 272 pp) Jim Shepard is the author of four previous collections, including Like You’d Understand, Anyway, which won The Story Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award, and his short fiction has often been selected for Best American Short Stories and The Pen/O Henry Prize Stories. The most recent of his seven novels, The Book of Aron, won the PEN/New England Award and the Sophie Brody Medal for Excellence in Jewish Literature. He lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with his wife and three children and three beagles, and he teaches at Williams College. Who Needs Pay? A hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s… Read More →

Book Review: Tenth of December

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders (New York: Random House, 2013. 288 pp) MacArthur “Genuis Grant” fellow George Saunders is the acclaimed author of several collections of short stories, including Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, a collection of essays, a book for children, and a new novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University. From Long-Form Narrative to Short Story Over the years, my previously devoted followers—”the devoted few,” might have noticed a trend to my reviewing habits. My reading consumption skews toward the novel. I review a book of poetry here and there, but largely my mental capacity focuses on long-form narrative. Certainly, elements of this focus coincide with my… Read More →

Book Review: One More Thing

One More Thing by B.J. Novak

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B. J. Novak (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. 288 pp) B.J. Novak is a writer and actor widely known for his work on the acclaimed comedy series, The Office, as an actor, writer, and executive producer. He is also known for his performances as a standup comedian and for his roles in films such as Inglorious Basterds and Saving Mr. Banks. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, Zoetrope, and other publications. One More Thing is his first book. Funny Things B.J. Novak is a comic. He does funny things. One hilarious aspect about One More Thing is that B.J. Novak provided questions at the end of his book…. 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 →

Book Review: Great House

Great House by Nicole Krauss

Great House: A Novel by Nicole Krauss (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. 289 pp) Nicole Krauss is an American novelist whose works include, Great House, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Orange Prize, and The History of Love, which won the Saroyan Prize for International Literature and France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger. Krauss was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists and was chosen by The New Yorker for their “Twenty Under Forty” list. Burning Down and Building Up “And he burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 2 Kings 25:9” The history of Israel repeats… Read More →

Book Review: Battleborn

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

Battleborn: Stories by Claire Vaye Watkins (New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. 304 pp) Born in California, Claire Vaye Watkins is an author, co-director of the Mojave School, and a visiting assistant professor at Princeton University. She graduate from the University of Nevada Reno and earned her MFA from Ohio State University. Battleborn, her collection of short stories won the Story Prize, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. Practicing Practicum During my graduate years at Seattle Pacific University, I had the opportunity to choose a practicum which applied the topics of our courses… Read More →

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. 243 pp) Karen Russell is an American novelist. Her debut novel, Swamplandia!, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. No prize for fiction was awarded that year.  Please, No More Vampires! Against my better judgement, I bought this book. It was recommended by one of my favorite new authors, Karen Thompson Walker, author of the widely acclaimed Age of Miracles. Because I too loved Karen Thompson Walker’s work, I thought her recommendation of her former classmate from Columbia was worthwhile. Luckily for me, the short story collection contains no sparkly vampires infatuated with each other while wallowing in teen angst. But, in all honesty, not all stories in… Read More →