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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Critics' Lists: Summer 2013
5:03 am
Fri June 7, 2013

5 Books Of Poetry To Get You Through The Summer

Andrew Bannecker

A sad tale's best for winter, Shakespeare tells us. I'm wondering if perhaps poetry, both lyrical and narrative, isn't best for summer. I'm thinking of how Keats, in "Ode to a Nightingale," describes that wonderfully musical bird as singing "of summer in full-throated ease"; and how, say, in three-time Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky's poem "Ralegh's Prizes," summer "turns her head with its dark tangle / All the way toward us" and however drowsy-making the weather, we pay attention.

All this wonderful poetry, it's filled up my throat as well:

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu May 16, 2013

How To Put This 'Delicate'-ly ... Not Le Carre's Best Work

Some novelists interest us because they turn the light of a style we enjoy on whatever subject they take up. Some novelists we enjoy because they have found a great subject and work it well and lovingly. John le Carre seems to belong to the latter group, having found his vein of fiction gold in the world of Cold War espionage.

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Book Reviews
3:45 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Book Review: 'A Nearly Perfect Copy'

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 5:23 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Allison Amend is out with her third book. It's a novel called "A Nearly Perfect Copy." It features richly detailed characters, including an art dealer gone bad, and it's set in both Paris and New York. Our review Alan Cheuse found it all quite delectable.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed April 3, 2013

Real Writing, Real Life In Salter's 'All That Is'

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 5:41 am

"There comes a time," James Salter writes in the epigraph for his new novel, All That Is, "when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real."

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed March 20, 2013

Tigers, Scholars And Smugglers, All 'At Home' In Sprawling Novel

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 11:04 am

It's difficult to predict the reception Where Tigers Are at Home will receive in the United States. The winner of France's Prix Medicis in 2008, this big, sprawling novel (in a translation by Mike Mitchell) comes to us from Algerian-born writer, philosopher and world traveler Jean-Marie Blas de Robles, author of more than a dozen works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction. This book — the first of his to appear in the U.S. in English — stands as a challenge to readers who want their fiction to offer a quick pay-off.

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Book Reviews
3:39 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Book Review: 'Where Tigers Are At Home'

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 11:05 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Our book reviewer, Alan Cheuse, has just traveled to Brazil and back in an 800-page novel. The book is called "Where Tigers Are At Home." It's by a French novelist named Jean-Marie Blas de Robles and it's just out in English. Here's Alan's review.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed February 27, 2013

Hamid's How-To for Success, 'Filthy Rich' In Irony

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 4:20 pm

Novelist Mohsin Hamid lives in Lahore, Pakistan, quite some distance from the Long Island of Jay Gatsby. But his new novel — his third and, I think, best so far — reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's quintessential American work. As I read this novel about the dark and light of success in a world of social instability, I kept asking myself how much I might be inflating the value of Hamid's novel by rating it so highly. After all, this story takes the form of a gimmick, and gimmicks usually work against real quality.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Lost In Everett's Hall Of Metafictional Mirrors

A friend of mine, with more than half a lifetime in the business of writing and a following of devoted fans, some years ago nailed a sign on the wall above his writing desk.

TELL THE [Expletive] STORY!

How I wish Percival Everett looked up every now and then from his keyboard to see a sign like this.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed February 6, 2013

Brutality, Balkan Style In A Satiric 'Stone City'

Grove Atlantic

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 8:26 am

From Swift to Orwell, political satire has played a major role in the history of European fiction. Much of it takes on an allegorical cast, but not all. The Fall of the Stone City, an incisive, biting work by Ismail Kadare — one of Europe's reigning fiction masters — refines our understanding of satire's nature. Kadare's instructive and delightful book takes us from the 1943 Nazi occupation of a provincial Albanian town, the ancient stone city of Gjirokaster, to the consolidation of communist rule there a decade later.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed January 30, 2013

Under Ogawa's Macabre, Metafictional Spell

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 5:23 pm

It used to be a truism among critics of British poetry that Keats and most of his fellow Romantic poets worked in the shadow of John Milton. I'm not making a perfect analogy when I suggest that most contemporary Japanese writers seem to be working under the shadow of Haruki Murakami, but I hope it highlights the spirit of the situation.

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Books
5:03 am
Sat January 12, 2013

Evan S. Connell: A Master Of Fact And Fiction

Evan S. Connell, whose literary explorations ranged from Depression-era Kansas City in the twin novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge to Custer's last stand in Son of the Morning Star, died Thursday in Santa Fe, N.M.
AP

Mrs. Bridge and Gen. Custer: one an invented character, the other a historical figure. You know their names, you can see their faces, even hear their voices as they move across the landscapes in your mind. One in a dining room, in a house in a Kansas City neighborhood, the other riding across the rolling plains of Montana. Mrs. India Bridge and Gen. Custer are some of the most memorable creations of Evan S. Connell, who died this week at the age of 88.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Harrison's New Novellas Present Men In Full

Courtesy of Grove/Atlantic

Two years have gone by since I first suggested to President Obama that he create a new Cabinet post, and appoint distinguished fiction writer Jim Harrison as secretary for quality of life. The president still has not responded to my suggestion, and meanwhile Harrison has gone on to publish his latest book of novellas, which deepens and broadens his already openhearted and smart-minded sense of the way we live now, and what we might do to improve it.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed December 26, 2012

Revisiting A Sad Yet Hopeful Winter's Tale In 'The Snow Child'

A sad tale's best for winter, as Shakespeare wrote. The Snow Child, a first novel by a native Alaskan journalist and bookseller named Eowyn Ivey, suggests that if you face winter head-on — as do the childless homesteaders, Mabel and Jack, in this story about life on our northernmost frontier in the 1920s — you may find more hope after sadness than you had ever imagined.

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Best Books Of 2012
5:00 am
Thu November 29, 2012

A Wintry Mix: Alan Cheuse Selects The Season's Best

Nishant Choksi

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 9:50 pm

It's that time of year again — the leaves have fallen, the dark comes early, the air brings with it a certain chill — and I've been piling up books on my reading table, books I've culled from the offerings of the past few months, which because of their essential lyric beauty and power stand as special gifts for you and yours.

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Book Reviews
10:56 am
Thu November 15, 2012

Munro Weighs The Twists And Turns Of This 'Dear Life'

Alice Munro is a Canadian writer and the winner of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work.
Derek Shapton Courtesy of Knopf

More than a dozen short-story collections since Canada's Alice Munro published her first book, and she now seems as much an institution as any living writer. We count on her for a particular variety of short story, the sort that gives us so much life within the bounds of a single tale that it nourishes us almost as much as a novel does.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Comic Struggles Of A Frustrated Writer In 'Zoo Time'

Courtesy of Bloomsbury

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 9:01 am

"My aim," writes English novelist Guy Ableman to his agent, "is to write a transgressive novel that explores the limits of the morally permissible in our times."

Sounds quite serious, even brow-wrinkling, doesn't it? A dangerous act of experimental writing, perhaps something Norman Mailer might have tried, or Henry Miller before him?

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Books
5:03 am
Tue October 16, 2012

'Round House' Is One Of Erdrich's Best

Louise Erdrich's debut novel, Love Medicine, won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984. Her other books include The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and The Plague of Doves.
Paul Emmel Harper

I've devoted many hours in my life to reading, and among these hours many of them belong to the creations of novelist Louise Erdrich. In more than a dozen books of fiction — mostly novel length — that make up a large part of her already large body of work, Erdrich has given us a multitude of narrative voices and stories. Never before has she given us a novel with a single narrative voice so smart, rich and full of surprises as she has in The Round House. It's her latest novel, and, I would argue, her best so far.

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Book Reviews
2:16 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

A Midcentury Romance, With 'Sunlight' And 'Shadow'

John Craven Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 3:54 pm

New York, New York, it's a wonderful town! And Mark Helprin's new near-epic novel makes it all the more marvelous. It's got great polarized motifs — war and peace, heroism and cowardice, crime and civility, pleasure and business, love and hate, bias and acceptance — which the gifted novelist weaves into a grand, old-fashioned romance, a New York love story that begins with a Hollywoodish meet-cute on the Staten Island Ferry.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu September 20, 2012

A Leap Of The Imagination Across The 'River Of Bees'

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 9:09 am

Ursula Le Guin comes immediately to mind when you turn the pages of Kij Johnson's first book of short stories, her debut collection is that impressive. The title piece has that wonderful power we hope for in all fiction we read, the surprising imaginative leap that takes us to recognize the marvelous in the everyday.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Tue September 18, 2012

'The People Of Forever' Are Frank But Flawed

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 9:33 am

Nothing like a novel by a young recruit to tell you the truths about an army, as in, say, From Here to Eternity and The Naked and the Dead. In this case it's a book called The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, by Shani Boianjiu, a young female veteran of the Israel Defense Forces. And though it may not be the first of its kind — Moshe Dayan's daughter Yael published some fiction about the Israeli army decades ago — Boianjiu's debut novel has some virtues all its own, and some flaws.

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Book Reviews
3:36 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Book Review: 'God Carlos'

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 7:57 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Now to the 16th Century and the Spanish port of Cadiz. It's the setting for "God Carlos," a new novel by Jamaican-born writer Anthony Winkler, who takes us on a voyage to the New World. Alan Cheuse has this review.

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Book Reviews
5:18 am
Tue July 24, 2012

Experimental Fiction At Its Finest — And Funniest

Experimental fiction in North America began with a genius of a doyen in Paris: Gertrude Stein, whose aesthetic assertion that writers shape and form and reform the medium of language the way sculptors work with stone, painters work with light and shape and composers work with sound, changed Hemingway forever and, thus, changed the nature of the American short story — or the American art story, at least.

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