The Fourth Turning

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Until a few years ago, I was only really interested in reading fiction. (I liked to read the Chuck Klosterman books, but I really thought of those more as extended New York Times Magazine or Book Review pieces than “non-fiction”.) Recently, however, I have found that non-fiction books have tended to have a bigger impact on me than novels. I …

The Recognitions

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I hate William Gaddis. As a would-be writer, Gaddis has had no direct influence on me. And yet, pretty much everything I have done, or planned to do, or started to do, as a writer, which I genuinely thought to be fresh or innovative, I have come to discover has pretty much already been done by him. The invasion or …

Winter’s Tale

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If someone had told me what Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale was about, I don’t think I would have read it. Written in 1983, the plot is three parts Gangs of New York, two parts Age of Innocence, with a dash of Dickens and a pinch of Lord of the Rings. A turn-of-century “period piece” set in and around the city …

American Pastoral

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I love the last sentence. “What on earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs?” I love the Swede Levov character. I don’t know if I have ever identified with a fictional character (or even another real person) in the same way I identified with Levov. (Who, whether coincidentally or by design, is a literary alter ego of …

Infinite Jest

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From: Steve Herman To: Bill Chisholm Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 12:36 AM Subject: Book of Last Ten Years What was “the” book of the last 10 years I am supposed to read? ————————————– From: Bill Chisholm Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 11:12 AM infinite jest by david foster wallace ————————————– From: Steve Herman To: Bill Chisholm Sent: Sunday, March …

The Castle (with a touch of Michael Chabon and a lot of James Frey)

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The Castle is one of those books that is sitting on a shelf which I have been meaning to read for years. It really wasn’t as Kafkaesque as I would have expected. Why didn’t the guy just leave? But the book did have those great passages. The Castle, whose contours were already beginning to dissolve, lay silent as ever; never …

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Is John Updike the Shakespeare of Our Time? (The Centaur) (and a touch of Seinfeld)

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It seems like every piece of literary criticism I read lately uses Updike’s work as some sort of benchmark for great literature in the 20th Century. (X is the new Updike…; as Updike and X replaced Faulkner and Joyce…; there isn’t a clear figure from the latter part of the century whom you can point to like you could point …