Book Review: John Henry Days

John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead

John Henry Days: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (New York: Doubleday, 2001. 400 pp) Colson Whitehead was born in 1969 and raised in Manhattan. He attended Harvard College and afterward he began working as a reviewer for The Village Voice. Out of the gate, Whitehead’s fiction gained acclaim when his first novel, The Intuitionist, won the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award. His work has earned him the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. Also, Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. The Legend The legend of John Henry remains resonant after all these years. A man, at the peak of his occupational powers faces the risk and uncertainty of the… Read More →

Book Review: There There

There There by Tommy Orange

There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 300 pp) Tommy Orange is a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow and a 2016 Writing By Writers Fellow. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he was born and raised in Oakland, California, and currently lives in Angels Camp, California. Birthday Expeditions Recently on a birthday expedition, my wife and I played tourist for a day and ventured to the Seattle waterfront. A changing city, the waterfront operates at the front edges of its own transformation, a tunnel underneath burrowing to replace the dangers of a viaduct highway. A… Read More →

Book Review: Out in the Open

Out in the Open by Jesus Carrasco

Out in the Open: A Novel by Jesús Carrasco, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (New York: Riverhead Books, 2015, originally published in 2013. 240 pp) Jesús Carrasco was born in Badajoz, Spain, and now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. He received the European Union Prize for Literature in 2016. Out in the Open, his debut novel, was a bestseller in Spain, has been published in twenty-five languages, and is the winner of many international awards, including an English PEN award. Margaret Jull Costa has been translating Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American fiction—including authors like Javier Marías—for more than twenty years. Every Story Needs Salt and Pepper The motifs sitting just underneath the surface of a story tell us how to feel…. Read More →

Book Review: Blood Meridian

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (New York: Vintage, 2010, originally published in 1985. 368 pp) Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in 1933. One of six children, Cormac’s family moved multiple times in his childhood as his father accepted different occupations. In 1951, McCarthy attended the University of Tennessee majoring in Liberal Arts. Midway through his studies, McCarthy served in the Air Force for four years. After his service, McCarthy returned to college, writing his first short stories. In 1959 and 1960, he won the Ingram-Merrill Award for Creative Writing. Mccarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1965. Several years, grants, and fellowships later, McCarthy published Suttree, Blood Meridian, and All… Read More →

Book Review: Arabian Nights & Days

Arabian Nights and Days by Naguib Mahfouz

Arabian Nights & Days: A Novel by Naguib Mahfouz; translated by Denys Johnson-Davies (New York: Anchor Books, 1995; originally published in 1982. 240 pp) Naguib Mahfouz was an author of Arabic fiction. He was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. A student of philosophy, he was influenced by many Western writers including Flaubert, Balzac, Zola, Camus, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Proust. He has more than thirty novels to his credit and in 1988, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 2006. Denys Johnson-Davies studied Arabic at the School of Oriental Studies, London University, and later at Cambridge. He has been described as “the leading Arabic-English translator of our time,” and has… Read More →

Book Review: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel by Anthony Marra (New York: Hogarth, 2013. 384 pp). Anthony Marra is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest, and the Narrative Prize, and his work was anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and now resides in Oakland, CA. Born of War and Whimsy Some of the most powerful stories are those born out of conflict and war. Stories like Fiddler on the Roof or Schindler’s List based on the novel Schindler’s Ark have told the terrible tale of the holocaust… Read More →

Film Review: Django Unchained

Django Unchained directed and written by Quentin Tarantino (The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures, and Brown 26 Productions, R, 165 minutes) Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson. Revisionist History Don’t we all have the desire to rewrite history? To take back something said? Something done? Something that hurt others? What steps would you tack to right the wrongs either personally or globally? With Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino certainly enjoys using the medium of film to fulfill these grand retribution schemes, but I contend that his stylistic tendencies will keep this film from winning Best Picture. Bounty Hunting The film’s eponymous character, Django (Jamie Foxx,) is a bounty hunter. He earned his freedom working with… Read More →

Book Review: Me and the Devil

Me and the Devil: A Novel by Nick Tosches (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012. 400 pp) An American journalist, novelist, and poet, Nick Tosches lives in New York City and is uniquely acquainted with the half-lit world in which Me and the Devil is set. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Little, Brown and Company. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”. That Uniquely Human Trait Addiction—a uniquely human trait. It arrives in many forms; it burrows deeply into… Read More →

Book Review: Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox: A Novel by Helen Oyeyemi (New York: Riverhead Books, 2011. 336 pp) Helen Oyeyemi is the author of The Icarus Girl; The Opposite House, which was a nominee for the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; and White Is for Witching, which won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Riverhead Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”. Occam’s Razor In general, I recommend living under the Occam’s razor principle. It urges its followers to submit… Read More →