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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Books Read Lately

Basic Bech by John Updike

Updike created his alter-ego, Henry Bech, and let him loose on society back in the 1960s (last century!). One overriding characteristic of Bech is that he has writer’s block; he’s had it for several years. He lives off the largess of those who remember him (colleges, societies, institutions) and hire him for weekend talks, foreign tours, etc. … Bech is a libidinous mo-fo, as are so many of Updike’s characters (men); but Bech intellectualizes his sexual excesses. These are great cause for laughter. Ultimately, the Bech stories stand up to time, although we can see the decades from which they spring (for those of us who remember those decades). This minor blip matters little to these stories, which are fun, smart, ribald, and very human.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Eight years ago I read this novel, and sort of understood its meandering time-space-continuum theme. This second reading made more connections for me. Six stories played out by the same characters, re-living their lives in identical, or new, ways, as the Earth moves forward. But does humanity ever move forward? That’s the question the author asks. And, if you’re a student of history and socio-political interconnectivity, the answer is easily graspable. Essentially a morality play, Mitchell writes in six genres, from the Victorian epistolary to science fiction, to futuristic demi-fantasy. Have fun. Pay attention. BTW… a major motion picture is scheduled to open this month.

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

The pinnacle of American political novels, the story of Willie Stark, small-town bumpkin done-good by his own Lincolnesqe studies and work against corruption, this novel is more about the Stark’s “men” … a la “Humpty Dumpty” who fell off the wall and couldn’t be put back together again. This is, in fact, the real story of the American Dream: there is no dream, period. The novel is told by Jack Burden, one of Stark’s men and a one-time historian, one-time newsman, whose family’s closet has more skeletons than the town cemetery. The writing is lush, beautiful, imaginative and heavy with so many memorial images. A book you should read before you die.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

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