Alan Cheuse http://ktep.org en In 'Paradise,' Finding Understanding In The Ruins Of Horror http://ktep.org/post/paradise-finding-understanding-ruins-horror Over the course of his long and distinguished writing career, Peter Matthiessen — who died this past weekend at the age of 86 — chased numerous demons, from Florida outlaws to missionaries and mercenaries in South America. In his latest novel, which the ailing writer suggested would be his last, takes us back to a week-long conference held at Auschwitz in 1996. Tue, 08 Apr 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 38232 at http://ktep.org In 'Paradise,' Finding Understanding In The Ruins Of Horror 'Frog Music' Sounds A Barbaric (But Invigorating) Yawp http://ktep.org/post/frog-music-sounds-barbaric-invigorating-yawp San Francisco in the summer of the 1876, between the Gold Rush and the smallpox epidemic, is the setting for Emma Donoghue's boisterous new novel, <em>Frog Music.</em><p>There's real frog music in these pages, the riveting cries of the creatures hunted by Jenny Bonnet, one of the two main characters. She's a pistol-packing, pants-wearing gal in a town where pants on women are one of the few cardinal sins, and she scratches out a living catching frogs and selling them to local restaurants.<p>As the book opens, Jenny comes rolling along a busy San Francisco street on a stolen bicycle. Tue, 01 Apr 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 37779 at http://ktep.org 'Frog Music' Sounds A Barbaric (But Invigorating) Yawp A Lyrical Meditation On Grief In 'Falling Out Of Time' http://ktep.org/post/lyrical-meditation-grief-falling-out-time I am a mortal reader; I have my flaws. I don't usually enjoy prose poems or novels written in lines of poetry, and when I see character types with names in capital letters like the ones that appear in Israeli writer David Grossman's new <em>Falling Out of Time</em> — The Walking Man, the Net Mender, the Midwife, the Town Chronicler — I tend to prepare to pack up, close the book, and turn to something less allegorical.<p>But wow! Tue, 25 Mar 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 37327 at http://ktep.org A Lyrical Meditation On Grief In 'Falling Out Of Time' Book Review: 'The Divorce Papers' http://ktep.org/post/book-review-divorce-papers Transcript <p>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: <p>The woe that is marriage, the subject of the Wife of Bath's prologue in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" has long been a rich subject for stories. Susan Rieger has just published a novel on the matter called "The Divorce Papers."<p>ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Rieger's smart and wonderfully entertaining domestic comedy, with all its shifts of tone from the personal to the legal and a lot in between, takes up this old problem and makes it fresh and lively. The power and canniness of this bittersweet work of epistolary fiction, a first novel, really pulls you along. Thu, 20 Mar 2014 23:54:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 37091 at http://ktep.org Book Review: 'Falling Out Of Time' http://ktep.org/post/book-review-falling-out-time Transcript <p>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: <p>"Falling Out of Time" is the name of a new novel by Israeli writer David Grossman. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse calls it a dramatic meditation on grief, reminiscent of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." [POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: The book was translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen.]<p>ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: The book opens with an immediate dramatic gesture, as narrated for us by the seemingly unbiased town chronicler. As they sit eating dinner, he announces, the man's face suddenly turns. He thrusts his plate away. Knives and forks clang. Tue, 18 Mar 2014 20:25:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 36919 at http://ktep.org All Sides Of A Divorce, Told In Fresh, Lively 'Papers' http://ktep.org/post/all-sides-divorce-told-fresh-lively-papers The "woe that is in marriage," the subject of the Wife of Bath's Prologue in Chaucer's <em>Canterbury Tales</em>, is a great old subject. Susan Rieger's smart and wonderfully entertaining domestic comedy, with all its shifts of tone from the personal to the legal and a lot in between, takes up this old problem and makes it fresh and lively — and in some places so painful, because it has to do with a child torn between two parents, you don't want to go on. But you do. The power and canniness of this bittersweet work of epistolary fiction pulls you along. Tue, 18 Mar 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 36882 at http://ktep.org All Sides Of A Divorce, Told In Fresh, Lively 'Papers' American Jazzmen Swing Overseas In 'Shanghai' http://ktep.org/post/american-jazzmen-swing-overseas-shanghai The thing about historical novels is that above all else, they must stand as good fiction. If not, the reader's supposed trip back into the past isn't worth the time or the token. Thu, 13 Mar 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 36559 at http://ktep.org American Jazzmen Swing Overseas In 'Shanghai' Review: 'E.E. Cummings: A Life' http://ktep.org/post/review-ee-cummings-life Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>Spring 1958, the poet Edward Estlin Cummings, or E.E. Cummings as most of us know him, was a passenger in writer John Cheever's car. Cummings had just spoken at the school of Cheever's teenage daughter and she was sitting in the back seat. Well, that day kicked off a fascination that led to Susan Cheever's recent biography "E.E. Cummings: A Life." Alan Cheuse reviews the book and shares the origins of his own fascination with Cummings.<p>ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: It started with a poem. Mon, 10 Mar 2014 20:22:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 36356 at http://ktep.org Book Review: 'Night in Shanghai' http://ktep.org/post/book-review-night-shanghai Transcript <p>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: <p>Shanghai in 1936 was on the verge of Japanese occupation. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it makes a terrific setting for new novel by Nicole Mones. Thu, 27 Feb 2014 21:40:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 35661 at http://ktep.org Lorrie Moore's New 'Bark' Is Half Of A Good Book http://ktep.org/post/lorrie-moores-new-bark-half-good-book There are eight stories in Lorrie Moore's new collection, but only two of them really stand out. Moore's one of the country's most admired writers – and maybe I was so dazzled by the brilliance and power of the two longest stories in these pages that I couldn't read the other pieces — which I found either a little off-kilter or too subtly played — without feeling a certain amount of loss. But my possibly cock-eyed view of <em>Bark</em> is that it's a book, or at least half a book, that anyone who loves contemporary fiction should have a go at. Wed, 26 Feb 2014 12:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 35536 at http://ktep.org Lorrie Moore's New 'Bark' Is Half Of A Good Book Book Review: 'Bark' http://ktep.org/post/book-review-bark Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>Writer Lorrie Moore is known for her clever word play and incisive wit. Now, she's out with a new collection of short stories, her first in 16 years. It's called "Bark." Alan Cheuse has our review.<p>ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Maybe I was so dazzled by the brilliance and power of the two longest stories in this collection that I couldn't read the other pieces, which I found a little off-kilter or too subtly played, without feeling a certain amount of loss. Tue, 25 Feb 2014 21:35:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 35500 at http://ktep.org Book Review: 'Trieste,' by Dasa Drndic http://ktep.org/post/book-review-trieste-dasa-drndic Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>It's been nearly 70 years since the end of World War II, but Croatian writer Dasa Drndic makes the war and its countless horrors feel fresh and urgent in her latest novel "Trieste." Ellen Elias-Bursac translated the book into English.<p>Alan Cheuse with our review.<p>ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: I guess we can call this an experimental novel. What else can you say about a book of which nearly 45 pages are nothing but a list of names, nearly 9,000 names? Thu, 06 Feb 2014 22:55:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 34295 at http://ktep.org Historical Trauma Makes For Thrilling Fiction In 'Officer And A Spy' http://ktep.org/post/historical-trauma-makes-thrilling-fiction-officer-and-spy For the historical novelist, the past sometimes seems like one great filing cabinet of material that may lend itself to successful novelization. And in the case of France's so-called "Belle Epoque," the gifted English writer Robert Harris seems to have opened the right drawer. His latest novel, <em>An Officer and a Spy</em>, is set during this period of peace and prosperity between the end of the Franco-Prussian war and the lead-up to the First World War. Thu, 30 Jan 2014 17:02:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 33806 at http://ktep.org Historical Trauma Makes For Thrilling Fiction In 'Officer And A Spy' Book Review: 'The Guts,' By Roddy Doyle http://ktep.org/post/book-review-guts-roddy-doyle Transcript <p>ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: <p>"The Commitments" was the first novel from Irish writer Roddy Doyle. The story introduced us to a young Dubliner named Jimmy Rabbitte, the founder of a neighborhood soul band. Subsequent books stayed with the Rabbitte family, detailing life's trials as they've aged. Well, now a new novel and we have the story of a middle aged Jimmy Rabbitte recovering from cancer surgery.<p>Alan Cheuse has our review.<p>ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: "The Guts" brings Jimmy Rabbitte's story up to date. Mon, 27 Jan 2014 22:01:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 33601 at http://ktep.org Doyle's New 'Guts' Has Plenty Of Soul http://ktep.org/post/doyles-new-guts-has-plenty-soul Restless and determined young Dubliner Jimmy Rabbitte put together a neighborhood soul band in 1987. Jimmy rounded up his pal Outspan and Declan and some other folks, including soul veteran Joey The Lips on trumpet, pretty Imelda and Natalie — the Commitment-ettes — as backup, and the rest was history. Sun, 26 Jan 2014 14:43:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 33521 at http://ktep.org Doyle's New 'Guts' Has Plenty Of Soul All The Varieties Of Love And Madness, On Display In 'Carthage' http://ktep.org/post/all-varieties-love-and-madness-display-carthage On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Joyce Carol Oates has outdone herself. This year she will have brought out <em>three</em> books of fiction — a new volume of novellas this past autumn, a new book of stories coming out this spring, and just now a new novel, a feat that testifies to the prodigious nature of her imagination and the unstoppable force of her writing powers.<p>"Stop me before I write again," wrote the waggish critic James Wolcott more than 30 years ago, assailing Oates' work in <em>Harper's</em>. Thu, 23 Jan 2014 12:02:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 33320 at http://ktep.org All The Varieties Of Love And Madness, On Display In 'Carthage' Book Review: 'Starting Over,' By Elizabeth Spencer http://ktep.org/post/book-review-starting-over-elizabeth-spencer Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>The Mississippi-born novelist and storywriter Elizabeth Spencer turned 92 last summer. Best known for her novella turned musical drama "The Light in the Piazza," Spencer has just published her 15th work of fiction. Mon, 20 Jan 2014 22:25:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 33157 at http://ktep.org Never Again: 'Trieste' Is A Harrowing Mix Of Memory And Memorial http://ktep.org/post/never-again-trieste-harrowing-mix-memory-and-memorial From Croatia comes a novel titled <em>Trieste</em>, by Dasa Drndic, originally published in Croatian in 2007 and now translated into English by Ellen Elias-Bursac. We might call the novel experimental because of some of the techniques the writer employs. But the story — a mother in search of a child, torn from her in the midst of monstrous warfare — feels ancient.<p>The experimental element? <em>Trieste</em> is a book 368 pages long, 45 of which are nothing but a list of names – around<em> 9,000 </em>names. Thu, 16 Jan 2014 12:02:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 32884 at http://ktep.org Never Again: 'Trieste' Is A Harrowing Mix Of Memory And Memorial Written In Secret Behind The Iron Curtain, 'Corpse' Is Revived http://ktep.org/post/written-secret-behind-iron-curtain-corpse-revived Transcript <p>ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: <p>The fiction work of Soviet era writer Zigizmund Krzhizhanovsky never saw the light of day in his own time. He was known mostly as a theater, music and literally critic, but he also wrote fables and fiction for more than 20 years, none of which appeared in print until 1989. Well, a new volume of that work called "Autobiography of a Corpse" has just come out here in the U.S. Wed, 25 Dec 2013 22:27:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 31600 at http://ktep.org A Travel Writer, Lost In An Undiscovered Country In 'Land Across' http://ktep.org/post/travel-writer-lost-undiscovered-country-land-across Imaginary countries, from Swift's Laputa to the far lands in the works of Borges and Ursula K. Le Guin, countries we'd do better to just enjoy than try to find on a map — these strike us as mostly places it's better to visit than to live in.<p>In <em>The Land Across,</em> veteran science fiction master Gene Wolfe comes down to earth and gives us the story of a travel writer stuck in limbo in just such a strange land. Wed, 27 Nov 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 29806 at http://ktep.org A Travel Writer, Lost In An Undiscovered Country In 'Land Across' Norman Mailer, Warts And All, In 'A Double Life' http://ktep.org/post/norman-mailer-warts-and-all-double-life When Norman Mailer spoke, you paid attention. Whether he was standing on a stage and speaking for an hour — without notes — on writing, or art, or politics, or in a manic monologue around a dinner table, or in a chance encounter on the sidewalks of New York or in an airport, you listened. Sat, 26 Oct 2013 09:07:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 27780 at http://ktep.org Norman Mailer, Warts And All, In 'A Double Life' Anne Rice's Wolves Are Worth Catching Up To http://ktep.org/post/anne-rices-wolves-are-worth-catching The phrase "previously on..." has become quite familiar to American TV audiences. Whether you're devoted to <em>Battlestar Galactica</em>, to <em>Game of Thrones</em> or <em>Breaking Bad</em>, you need to be able to catch up to a narrative when you've missed an installment or two. Tue, 15 Oct 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 27048 at http://ktep.org Anne Rice's Wolves Are Worth Catching Up To A Coming Of Age Story For The (Ice) Ages http://ktep.org/post/coming-age-story-ice-ages Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.<p>ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: <p>And I'm Robert Siegel. A new novel explores life on Earth tens of thousands of years ago. It's called "Shaman" by science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, says it's worthy of a spot on the bookshelf between "The Inheritors" and "The Clan Of The Cave Bear."<p>ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Robinson has chosen a broad and effective means for including everything that he knows and everything he imagines about the world of 30,000 B.C. Wed, 09 Oct 2013 21:37:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 26726 at http://ktep.org Remembering Tom Clancy, 'Faulkner In A Flak Jacket' http://ktep.org/post/remembering-tom-clancy-faulkner-flak-jacket The Army rejected him because of his bad eyes — he was nearsighted — but Tom Clancy, who went into the family insurance business instead of the military, turned out to have the greatest vision of modern warfare of any writer of our time. Thu, 03 Oct 2013 16:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 26297 at http://ktep.org Remembering Tom Clancy, 'Faulkner In A Flak Jacket' Here's Danny! 'Doctor Sleep' Picks Up Where 'Shining' Left Off http://ktep.org/post/heres-danny-doctor-sleep-picks-where-shining-left If you're a dutiful fan of Stephen King's work — myself, I'm an off again, on again follower — you will have read <em>The Shining</em>, King's hit 1977 novel about a haunted resort in the Colorado Rockies. Depending on how recently you immersed yourself in that story, you'll have a sharp or vague recollection of a young child with the power of "shining," or mind-reading mixed with telekinesis. Wed, 18 Sep 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 25275 at http://ktep.org Here's Danny! 'Doctor Sleep' Picks Up Where 'Shining' Left Off A Dying Man's Memory-Laden Search For Revenge In 'The Return' http://ktep.org/post/dying-mans-memory-laden-search-revenge-return Michael Gruber began his fiction career as a ghostwriter for a well-known American judge. A former federal civil servant, chef, environmentalist, and speechwriter, Gruber had a varied career before he took up writing his own novels, and it shows in his work, in the broad and capacious subject matter and cast of thousands.<p>Technically, I suppose, you have to call his books genre novels, because they are driven more by plot than character, and in one way or another focus on crime and its effects on people and society. Wed, 04 Sep 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 24332 at http://ktep.org A Dying Man's Memory-Laden Search For Revenge In 'The Return' 'Shaman' Takes Readers Back To The Dawn Of Humankind http://ktep.org/post/shaman-takes-readers-back-dawn-humankind Big questions about the origins of consciousness and culture may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if these are things you find yourself thinking about, there's nothing like a seriously composed and compelling novel about prehistoric life — both for illumination, and<em> </em>for some of the most intelligent entertainment you can find.<p>In the past half-century or so, we readers have been treated to a handful (well, maybe two hands full) of novel-length fictions that focus on these fascinating problems: William Golding's <em>The Inheritors</em>; the Finnish paleontologist Bjorn Kurten's <em>T Wed, 28 Aug 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 23906 at http://ktep.org 'Shaman' Takes Readers Back To The Dawn Of Humankind Stripe-Torn Tigers, Fake Nazis And Magic Cake In 'The Color Master' http://ktep.org/post/stripe-torn-tigers-fake-nazis-and-magic-cake-color-master Aimee Bender is no longer the whiz kid of the American short story. <em>The Color Master</em> is her fifth work of fiction, and along with the idiosyncratic George Saunders she now stands as one of the reigning masters of the eccentric American short story. Fortunately, she's showing no signs of growing up. Sat, 24 Aug 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 23672 at http://ktep.org Stripe-Torn Tigers, Fake Nazis And Magic Cake In 'The Color Master' Book Review: 'Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish' http://ktep.org/post/book-review-love-dishonor-marry-die-cherish-perish Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>The writer and humorist David Rakoff died last year at the age of 47 of cancer. He left behind his final work: a brief novel in verse with the long title "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish." It was published today, and Alan Cheuse has this review.<p>ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: This short but abundantly populated novel in verse had quite an effect on me. It's all I can do to write a novel in prose, but a novel in rhyming couplets with a story that keeps my attention and exudes beauty and the suffering attendant upon a human predicament? Wed, 17 Jul 2013 00:00:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 21134 at http://ktep.org Rhetoric Drowns Out The Thrills In Huston's 'Skinner' http://ktep.org/post/rhetoric-drowns-out-thrills-hustons-skinner Charlie Huston's 2010 novel, <em>Sleepless</em>, bowled me over. What a powerful combination of combustible plot and fiery language! At the center of that book, an insomnia plague spreads across Southern California (and the rest of the country). The illness keeps you awake all night, quite fuzzy-minded during the day, and then after a couple of months it kills you. Wed, 10 Jul 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 20635 at http://ktep.org Rhetoric Drowns Out The Thrills In Huston's 'Skinner'