Lundgren’s Lounge: “Stop Here, This is the Place,” by Susan Conley and Winky Lewis

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence

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Susan Conley and Winky

Words and images on the page have a variety of purposes: to instruct, to persuade, to ediify, to entertain, to evoke… and it is this last that comes to mind while reading and looking at Stop Here: This is the Place, A Year in Motherhood, a unique collaboration between photographer Winky Lewis and writer Susan Conley.  Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Innocents and Others,” by Dana Spiotta

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence

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dana-spiotta-innocents-others

The tumultuous ’60s and their aftermath were occasion for a seismic cultural shift, a ‘subversion of the dominant paradigm,’ in the parlance of the times. Few novels have come close to capturing the mercurial complexity and staying power of this period.  Roth’s American Pastoral nibbled at the edges, while Susan Choi’s American Woman offered a fascinating glimpse of the radical left… and then there was Eat the Document, a haunting National Book Award nominee by Dana Spiotta, a tale of two radical survivors of the chaos of those times whose lives intersect again, years later, after they have re-assimilated into mainstream culture… as though that were possible. Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge: “The Ancient Minstrel,” by Jim Harrison

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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ca. 2004 --- Jim Harrison --- Image by © R¸dy Waks /Corbis Outline

During a lifetime of obsessive reading, there are certain authors whose new work merits an immediate trip to the bookstore for a hardcover copy… Jim Harrison is on that short list and now graces us with a new collection, The Ancient Minstrel. The trilogy of novellas is deeply, richly satisfying in a manner that only Harrison can conjure.

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Lundgren’s Lounge: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Many years ago, as I was dipping my toes into the teaching profession, I wrote the following: “Between the campus where I attended graduate school classes and the school where I was student teaching was a large city park. I would sometimes mention my walks through the park to my students (who were all brown or black), describing the welcome sight of the spring’s first crocuses or the sense of wonder that came while watching birds gather material for their nests. One day James, one of my students, interrupted me: ‘Why do you keep talking about that park? Don’t you know that park’s not for us? We’re not welcome there. That’s a park for white people.‘ “ Excerpted from Becoming (Other)Wise, “Notes From a New Teacher.” Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge: “City on Fire,” by Garth Risk Hallberg

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Hallberg

During the 3 or 4 days that I was immersed in this novel it was like an appendage, a siren that summoned me from the depths of sleep at 3 a.m: ‘Oh, yes, the book.’  And reach over to turn on the reading light, dive back into the tumultuous world of New York City during a few months in 1976-1977.

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“At Sea,” an excerpt from SUPERSTORM, by Kathryn Miles

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy, by Kathryn Miles

Superstorm Sandy began its genesis as a typical late season tropical storm. However, as the hurricane marched up the east coast of the United States, it collided with a powerful nor’easter and morphed into a monstrous hybrid. The storm charged across open ocean, picking up strength with every step, baffling meteorologists and scientists, officials and emergency managers, even the traditional maritime wisdom of sailors and seamen: What exactly was this thing? Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge: This is Your Life, Harriet Chance, by Jonathan Evison

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Evison

Harriet Chance is a true mensch. Mensch as in, “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.” And though some might question the characterization of Harriet as being worthy of emulation, there can be no dispute that she is of noble character. Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge: “The Narrow Road,” by Richard Flanagan

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Richard-Flanagan

I have been a fan of Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan ever since reading Gould’s Book of Fish (Stuart Gersen’s all-time favorite novel). Flanagan’s work might at first seem preoccupied with man’s abject cruelty to his fellows, as many of the stories take place in wretched prison settings. But if one looks more closely, there is a discernible thread weaving itself through through each narrative, examining the nature and limitations of human love and man’s capacity to endure the most dire circumstances.

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Lundgren’s Lounge: “How to Cook a Moose,” by Kate Christensen

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Kate-Christensen_curtrichter

Early in her career author Kate Christensen consistently published some of the smartest, cleverest and most entertaining works in contemporary fiction (The Astral, The Epicure’s Lament and The Great Man. among others). Then she turned her extraordinary talents to memoir with Blue Plate Special; An Autobiography of My Appetites. Now she offers a love affair to her newly adopted home of Maine and the unique culinary culture flourishing there, in How to Cook a Moose: A Culinary Memoir (Islandport Press). Continue reading →

Guy at the Bar: Vince Passaro on Harold Brodkey, Gordon Lish, and Pat Towers, Middle of the Night

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Guy at the Bar / Reading Under the Influence

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gordon-lish-580

Lish

Up tonight, knee shaking, foot shaking. I think Trader Joe spiked my decaf. So it’s 1:00 a.m. when I start thinking about Harold Brodkey — does anyone think about Harold Brodkey anymore? All artistic talent of the first order is incomprehensible but certain talents strike us as more familiar and approachable than others. George Orwell, for instance, whose prose’s muscle and clarity — clarity above all — affected me strongly, does not mystify me. I have a solid sense of where he came from, where his language came from, his general mode of thinking.  Brodkey’s particular genius remains ungraspable. The language is Jewish, it’s American, it’s baroque, it’s beautiful and divine. Divine I mean as in suffused with a spiritual force and a spiritual necessity above that mustered by mere mortals.  It is miraculous and harrowing: to look into his work is like watching a great surgeon, a world class surgeon, magically operate on himself, remove his own organs, examine them in bloodied hands, drop them in a pan. Continue reading →