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

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence

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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 →

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Cloudsplitter,” by Russell Banks

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

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Russell Banks

Russell Banks

Upon recently finishing Cloudsplitter, by Russell Banks, I began to think about who are the best living American novelists. My reflections led to the Internet where, surprise, surprise, there were endless and varied lists. There was unanimity only regarding the upper echelon: Pynchon, Roth, and Morrison.  Russell Bankswas nowhere to be found on any of these lists, an egregious and inexplicable omission.

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Table For Two: An Interview with T.C. Boyle

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence / Table For Two: Interviews

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TC Boyle

Debora Black: You always seem to be having a really good time writing your characters and their situations—even when the subject matter wouldn’t suggest a good time. But you like to toy with things, amp up a situation and play it out. In your latest novel, The Harder They Come, you transform sunny California, its middle-class inhabitants, and their American ideals into a war zone. What compelled you to write this story?

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Guy at the Bar: Vince Passaro on the Passing of E. L. Doctorow

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

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Doctorow

E. L. Doctorow

 

E.L. Doctorow departed from us this week, succumbing to lung cancer complications at the age of 84. It was my good fortune to meet him in the early 1990s and share a few brief conversations with him in the years that followed. There was an expression used among the elders on my Italian side: mal’ a visage, mal’ di cuore, buon’ a visage, buon’ di cuore, which means basically that the heart shows on the face. Doctorow – Ed to his friends – had that kind of expressive face; a moment’s engagement with him and you knew you were dealing with a thoughtful, polite, supremely gentle human being. A tall man, he never loomed, always stooped a little for those of us who couldn’t breathe the air up there where he was.

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Lundgren’s Lounge: “The Brothers: The Road To An American Tragedy,” by Masha Gessen

categories: Cocktail Hour / Don't Talk About Politics / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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gessen book

The universal response to the Boston Marathon bombings was revulsion, horror and incomprehension. The media’s talking heads incessantly characterized the Tsarnev brothers as Islamic terrorists/jihadists. In her account of the circumstances leading up to and the emotional aftermath of the bombing, journalist Masha Gessen offers up a more thoughtful and nuanced perspective on the causes of the tragedy and its broader implications in, The Brothers: The Road To An American Tragedy.   Continue reading →