Alan Cheuse

Alan Cheuse has been reviewing books on All Things Considered since the 1980s. His challenge is to make each two-minute review as fresh and interesting as possible while focusing on the essence of the book itself.

Formally trained as a literary scholar, Cheuse writes fiction and novels and publishes short stories. He is the author of five novels, five collections of short stories and novellas, and the memoir Fall Out of Heaven. His prize-winning novel To Catch the Lightning is an exploration of the intertwined plights of real-life frontier photographer Edward Curtis and the American Indian. His latest work of book-length fiction is the novel Song of Slaves in the Desert, which tells the story of a Jewish rice plantation-owning family in South Carolina and the Africans they enslave. His latest collection of short fiction is An Authentic Captain Marvel Ring and Other Stories. With Caroline Marshall, he has edited two volumes of short stories. A new version of his 1986 novel The Grandmothers' Club will appear in March, 2015 as Prayers for the Living.

With novelist Nicholas Delbanco, Cheuse wrote Literature: Craft & Voice, a major new introduction to literary study. Cheuse's short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The Antioch Review, Ploughshares, and The Southern Review. His essay collection, Listening to the Page, appeared in 2001.

Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University, spends his summers in Santa Cruz, California, and leads fiction workshops at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. He earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature with a focus on Latin American literature from Rutgers University.

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Book Reviews
3:22 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

'Crescent Moon' Counts Down To Political Mayhem

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 10:40 am

The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is American-educated Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto's first novel, but she already has three books to her credit: One volume of poetry, another a memoir (Songs of Blood and Sword, a title that seems apt, since she's the granddaughter of the executed Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, niece of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto and daughter of the murdered Murtaza Bhutto), and a compilation of survivors' accounts of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu March 12, 2015

In Vargas Llosa's Latest, Dickens Meets Soap Opera

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 10:27 am

The Discreet Hero is set in two Peruvian cities, the provincial desert town of Piura and the metropolis of Lima, and tells of two aging businessmen, each of whom we meet on the verge of life-changing situations.

A transportation company owner from Piura, Felicito Yanaque, has spent most of his adult years in a bloodless marriage. He has two sons, a young mistress, and has recently become the apparent target of an extortion threat against his transit enterprise, a threat that, he vows heroically, to fight against, with or without the help of the police.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Montana's Almost Crowded Now, Thanks To The Colorful Characters Of 'Crow Fair'

I recall with a certain fondness a summer evening long ago at the Bennington Summer Writing Workshops, when Montana resident Richard Ford opened a reading from the work of Montana writer William Kittredge by saying, "Well, it's Montana Night at the workshops, and it's just like Montana. Hours will go by, and all you will see are two people."

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Book Reviews
2:44 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Book Review: 'Satin Island' By Tom McCarthy

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 6:13 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Now, "Satin Island." It's the title of the new book by Tom McCarthy, the acclaimed experimental novelist. It is a novel, but our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it might be more apt to call it a critique of modern life, dressed in a novel's clothing.

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Book Reviews
2:00 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Book Review: 'The Evening Chorus'

Originally published on Mon February 16, 2015 5:35 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If you like dark and lyrical love stories, Alan Cheuse has a suggestion for you. It's a novel by the Canadian writer Helen Humphreys, set during World War II and its aftermath. It's called "The Evening Chorus."

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Book Reviews
10:03 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Delicious Short Stories, Ripe On The Vine In 'Honeydew'

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 12:06 pm

Prize-winning short story writer Edith Pearlman has just come out with a new collection of short fiction, called Honeydew. And the first thing I wanted to do after finishing my initial reading of these 20 stories was, well, I wanted to go right back again and start from the beginning.

But instead, I've put my own rereading on pause so I can tug at your sleeve about this marvelous talent who moves among us. Here is one of our best living short story writers, and with Honeydew, her fifth volume, her reputation is gaining serious velocity.

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Book Reviews
2:28 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

'The Jaguar's Children' Is Ripped From Heartbreaking Headlines

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 11:09 am

In an extraordinary feat of literary ventriloquism, the widely praised Canadian nonfiction writer John Vaillant has produced a novel that seems to have leapt from the headlines. Called The Jaguar's Children, it's about the terrible dangers of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and the lives of those who dare to try it.

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Book Reviews
2:16 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Book Review: 'Sympathy For The Devil' By Michael Mewshaw

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 4:45 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Book Reviews
2:54 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Book Review: 'Descent' By Tim Johnson

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 4:36 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The premise of "Descent," a new novel by Tim Johnston, is a familiar one. A teenaged girl disappears; her family agonizes over her fate. But reviewer Alan Cheuse says this is much more than your typical thriller.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Tue January 6, 2015

'Descent' Is A Twisty Thriller-Plus

The premise of Descent may sound pretty straight-forward: One summer morning while vacationing with her family in the foothills of the Rockies, a young girl, a high-school athlete in her senior year, goes out for a run in the higher altitudes — and disappears.

And Moby-Dick's about the whaling industry.

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Book Reviews
2:26 pm
Fri December 26, 2014

Joyce Carol Oates Wades Into Troubled Waters With 'The Sacrifice'

Originally published on Sat January 31, 2015 11:23 am

With great energy and a cold eye for contemporary American race relations, here comes Joyce Carol Oates with a new novel that shows off her muck-raking credentials. The Sacrifice faces squarely an incident that took place in upstate New York nearly thirty years ago in which a young black girl named Tawana Brawley claimed that a group of white males, mostly police officers, kidnapped her and gang-raped her over a number of days.

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Books
2:42 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

The Perfect Family Book List

Originally published on Sat December 27, 2014 1:51 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to do some last-minute shopping with our book critic Alan Cheuse. Needless to say, his friends and family can guess what they'll get from him. And this year he says he's proud of his selections.

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Book Reviews
2:26 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Book Review: 'The Convert's Song' By Sebastian Rotella

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 4:16 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Watch Your Head When Checking Out Murakami's Strange 'Library'

cover
Knopf

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 8:41 am

As if the work of Japanese fiction master Haruki Murakami weren't strangely beautiful by itself, his American publisher has just put out a stand-alone edition of his 2008 novella The Strange Library, in a new trade paperback designed by the legendary Chip Kidd.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Sun November 23, 2014

These Tales Of Transformation Are Both 'Rich And Strange'

Originally published on Mon November 24, 2014 12:28 pm

Ron Rash is a Southern-born novelist and short story writer with a reputation on the rise; you might know him as the author of the novel Serena (a PEN/Faulkner fiction prize nominee a few years back), which is about to become a movie with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. I have just finished reading his newly issued collection: 34 pieces of short fiction, previously published from 1998 to 2014, all of them under the title Something Rich and Strange, and I have to say that "rich" and "strange" are two words that aptly apply to this book.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Sun November 2, 2014

Rebuilding A Broken Family 'In Plain Sight'

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 4:23 pm

When Nuruddin Farah was a young writer, he published a satirical novel about Somalia, his native country. On his way home from a trip he called his brother, to ask for a ride from the airport. His brother told him not to come home: His novel had caused a stir, and authorities were looking for him.

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Book News & Features
2:24 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

'Lila' Sets The Stage For Marilynn Robinson's Earlier Works

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 4:03 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Book Reviews
2:35 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Two Dead Writers Come Alive In New Collections

Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 11:09 am

This month sees the publication of posthumous collections of short fiction by two 20th century literary giants, the Italian fantasist Italo Calvino, and the American science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Reading these two books is like partaking in one of those fabled banquets of desserts. I seized the opportunity to read as many of the stories as I could in one sitting.

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Book Reviews
4:40 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Martin Amis' 'Zone Of Interest' Is An Electrically Powerful Holocaust Novel

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 4:48 pm

When I picked up Martin Amis' new novel, The Zone of Interest, it felt as though I had touched a third rail, so powerful and electric is the experience of reading it. After years of playing the snide card and giving his great store of talents to the business of giving other people the business, Amis has turned again to the matter of Nazi horrors (he tried to deal with it in a gimmicky way in his 1991 novel Time's Arrow), and the result is a book that may stand for years as the triumph of his career.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Oates' Latest Story Collection Is 'Dark, Deep' And Marvelous

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 11:09 am

Norman Mailer, one of the most prolific American writers of the 20th century, may have compared himself to some of the heavyweights of modern literature. But Joyce Carol Oates is an entire sports complex, including the Olympic-sized pools and the locker rooms.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu August 28, 2014

'Kill My Mother' Is A Darkly Drawn Confection

Originally published on Fri August 29, 2014 6:40 pm

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer — now in his mid-80s— has been in the business for more than 60 years. So his first graphic novel, a darkly drawn confection in the noir tradition, called Kill My Mother, comes late in his career. I feel a certain kinship with him, because as a reader I'm a latecomer to the genre myself. Call me a dinosaur, but his book, so deliciously inviting to scan (if a bit convoluted in its plot), is one of the first of its kind that I've read cover to cover.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Sun August 17, 2014

A Tumultuous Journey Along This 'Narrow Road'

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 5:14 pm

Tasmanian-born novelist Richard Flanagan named his latest book after a spiritually intense travel journal by the 17th century Japanese poet Basho, but this extraordinary new novel presents us with a story much more tumultuous than the great haiku writer's account of his wanderings. Flanagan has written a sort of Australian War and Peace, centered on the extraordinary Dorrigo Evans (also Tasmanian-born), a heroic yet philandering doctor.

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Book Reviews
2:33 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

The Dangerous Private Lives Of Spies In 'A Colder War'

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 4:43 pm

With half a dozen novels to his credit, British spy writer Charles Cumming has a growing reputation as the heir to the John Le Carre tradition in British fiction. His latest, A Colder War, shows us why.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed August 6, 2014

An Heir To E.M. Forster's Vision In 'Every Stone'

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 5:38 pm

Every literate nation should have the epics it deserves. The Indian subcontinent already has Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (among a few others), and now we can add to that illuminating company Kamila Shamsie's new novel, A God in Every Stone. Stretching from the ancient Persian Empire to the waning days of the British Empire, the novel has an enormous wingspan that catches a wonderful storyteller's wind.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed July 30, 2014

An Unconventional Family On The Road To Happiness In 'Lucky Us'

Originally published on Mon August 4, 2014 5:09 pm

Amy Bloom's new novel Lucky Us takes readers across America in the 1940s, that special decade of wartime dislocation and post-war disruption — with side-trips to England and Germany — in the company of a pair of half-sisters as endearing and comically annoying as any you'll find in contemporary fiction.

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Book Reviews
2:09 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Book Review: 'A Replacement Life'

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 5:40 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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Book Reviews
4:18 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Book Review: 'Angels Make Their Hope Here'

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 6:17 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDRED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Now to 19th-century New Jersey and a new novel. It set among unusually tolerant people. A racially mixed community that offers refuge to independent souls. Alan Cheuse has this review of the novel "Angels Make Their Hope Here" by Breena Clarke.

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Book Reviews
2:13 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Book Review: 'Shooting Star'

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 4:13 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A 30-year-old novel has just been translated to English but keeps its Spanish name, "Muerte En Una Estrella." The author is Sergio Elizondo, and the translators are Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it crackles.

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Book Reviews
2:17 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Book Review: 'The Expedition To The Boabab Tree'

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 5:01 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The journey of a girl sold into slavery is the topic of a compelling piece of fiction out of South Africa. It's called "The Expedition To The Boabab Tree." The author is poet Wilma Stockenstrom. She originally published it back in 1981, and now it has been translated from the Africaans by Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee and published in the United States. Allen Cheuse has our review.

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Book Reviews
2:30 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

'Warburg' Struggles For Love And Justice In Wartime Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
AP

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 2:26 pm

James Carroll, who served as a Catholic priest before his literary ambitions led him to go secular, has gathered together his knowledge of church history and his mature powers as a novelist to create Warburg in Rome, his most splendid work of fiction to date.

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