Michael Schaub http://krwg.org en A Dentist Confronts The Gaping Maw Of Life In 'To Rise Again' http://krwg.org/post/dentist-confronts-gaping-maw-life-rise-again "Pessimism, skepticism, complaint, and outrage," New York dentist Paul O'Rourke explains to his devoutly religious hygienist. "That's why we were put on earth."<p>You won't find that on a motivational poster, of course, but to be fair, O'Rourke — the world-weary protagonist of Joshua Ferris' third novel, <em>To Rise Again at a Decent Hour</em> — comes by his nihilism honestly. His dental practice is a success, but the rest of his life is a shambles. Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 69182 at http://krwg.org A Dentist Confronts The Gaping Maw Of Life In 'To Rise Again' A Thousand Stories, Brilliantly Collapsed In 'Bulletproof Vest' http://krwg.org/post/thousand-stories-brilliantly-collapsed-bulletproof-vest Maria Venegas' memoir <em>Bulletproof Vest</em> opens with the story of her father's near death at the hands of would-be assassins in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. He's shot while returning home from a bar, collapses near his house, losing blood, dying, until a neighbor happens upon him during a walk. When Maria's sister calls to tell her the news, the young writer doesn't even look up from her lunch menu. "Oh. So, is he dead?" she asks.<p>As it turns out, he's not — but his luck runs out eventually, and he dies on the same stretch of road years later. Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 68662 at http://krwg.org A Thousand Stories, Brilliantly Collapsed In 'Bulletproof Vest' 'Gottland': A Short Book About Stalin's Long Shadow http://krwg.org/post/gottland-short-book-about-stalins-long-shadow It was 50 feet high and 70 feet long, more than 37 million pounds of granite and concrete. It dominated Letná Park in Prague for the seven years it stood. But in 1962, the biggest monument to Josef Stalin in the world was destroyed, after the dictator fell out of ideological favor in Czechoslovakia.<p>"Not a single line about the monument's destruction appears in the [Czechoslovak] press," writes Mariusz Szczygieł. Wed, 28 May 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 67062 at http://krwg.org 'Gottland': A Short Book About Stalin's Long Shadow The 'Wayward And Defiant' Life Of Journalist Rebecca West http://krwg.org/post/wayward-and-defiant-life-journalist-rebecca-west "There is no such thing as conversation," wrote Rebecca West in her story "The Harsh Voice." "It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all." The same could be said for books, as well — even the best histories and biographies are necessarily filtered through the sensibilities of the author and reader, and some of the best literature is the result of those monologues, those stories, intersecting.<p>Lorna Gibb's excellent new biography of the legendary British writer Rebecca West is full of those moments. Sat, 17 May 2014 09:38:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 66301 at http://krwg.org The 'Wayward And Defiant' Life Of Journalist Rebecca West Mitterrand's Taste For 'Intrigue' And Contradiction http://krwg.org/post/mitterrands-taste-intrigue-and-contradiction It's probably a little too pat to say that all successful political careers are marked by contradiction and compromise, though you're not likely to hear many objections to that characterization. Politics is a game of survival, and with a few sadly notable exceptions, unyielding purists seldom make it to the top.<p>As Philip Short demonstrates in his new biography, <em>A Taste for Intrigue,</em> former French President Francois Mitterrand was not one of those exceptions — he was, in a way, the rule that proves the rule. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 64706 at http://krwg.org Mitterrand's Taste For 'Intrigue' And Contradiction When Love Is 'In The House' http://krwg.org/post/when-love-house "Love is not all," warned the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. "It is not meat nor drink / Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain." She was right, of course, but if there were ever any advice destined to fall on stubbornly deaf ears, this is it. Love is not all, but it always feels like it is, whether you're happily partnered or bereft.<p>That's also why it's a notoriously difficult subject for writers, though god knows it hasn't stopped them from trying, with very mixed results. Thu, 20 Jun 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 43731 at http://krwg.org When Love Is 'In The House' Echoes Of Orwell In 'The Office Of Mercy' http://krwg.org/post/echoes-orwell-office-mercy It was no less than the master of dystopian fiction, George Orwell, who noted in a 1946 essay that "political language has to consist largely of euphemism. ... Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air ... Tue, 26 Feb 2013 13:31:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 35866 at http://krwg.org Echoes Of Orwell In 'The Office Of Mercy' 'Vampires' Isn't Sparkly — It's Magnificent http://krwg.org/post/vampires-isnt-sparkly-its-magnificent There's a popular misconception that literary fiction is supposed to be staid, boring, realistic to a fault. Like all stereotypes, it's deeply unfair, but it endures, perhaps because readers keep having traumatic flashbacks to novels, like <em>Sister Carrie</em>, that they were forced to read in high school.<p>But in her new short story collection, <em>Vampires in the Lemon Grove</em>, it takes Karen Russell only a few pages to put the lie to that idea. The book opens with the title story, the tale of an aging vampire couple falling out of love with each other. Tue, 12 Feb 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 34957 at http://krwg.org 'Vampires' Isn't Sparkly — It's Magnificent Here's To The Pleasures Of 'Drinking With Men' http://krwg.org/post/heres-pleasures-drinking-men "More than anywhere else," writes Rosie Schaap, "bars are where I've figured out how to relate to others and how to be myself." It's the same for a lot of us, though many won't admit it. Americans tend to have a weirdly puritanical view of drinking, and a lot of people see bars as nothing more than havens for lowlifes and alcoholics. But as Schaap points out in her new memoir, they're missing out. "You can drink at home. But a good bar? ... Wed, 23 Jan 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 33721 at http://krwg.org Here's To The Pleasures Of 'Drinking With Men' From George Saunders, A Dark 'December' http://krwg.org/post/george-saunders-dark-december Since the publication of George Saunders' 1996 debut story collection, <a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/138071317/civilwarland-in-bad-decline-stories-and-a-novella">Civilwarland in Bad Decline</a>, journalists and scholars have been trying to figure out how to describe his writing. Nobody has come very close. The short story writer and novelist has been repeatedly called "original," which is true as far as it goes — but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Saunders blends elements of science fiction, horror and humor writing into his trademark brand of literary fiction. Tue, 08 Jan 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 32844 at http://krwg.org From George Saunders, A Dark 'December' True Originals: Biographies That Defy Expectations http://krwg.org/post/true-originals-biographies-defy-expectations It's probably not true that truth is stranger than fiction, but in the hands of a great biographer, it can be just as compelling. Novelists can create unique and unforgettable characters — there's never been anyone quite like Jane Eyre or Ignatius J. Reilly — but there's no shortage of fascinating literary protagonists who just happened to exist in real life.<p>This year brought us some brilliant biographies of world-famous leaders like Lyndon B. Mon, 17 Dec 2012 12:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 31616 at http://krwg.org True Originals: Biographies That Defy Expectations 'Brain On Fire' Details An Out-Of-Mind Experience http://krwg.org/post/brain-fire-details-out-mind-experience It's a cold March night in New York, and journalist Susannah Cahalan is watching PBS with her boyfriend, trying to relax after a difficult day at work. He falls asleep, and wakes up moments later to find her having a seizure straight out of <em>The Exorcist</em>. "My arms suddenly whipped straight out in front of me, like a mummy, as my eyes rolled back and my body stiffened," Cahalan writes. "I inhaled repeatedly, with no exhale. Wed, 14 Nov 2012 12:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 29664 at http://krwg.org 'Brain On Fire' Details An Out-Of-Mind Experience 'Elsewhere' Has Beauty, But No Happy Ending http://krwg.org/post/elsewhere-has-beauty-no-happy-ending Richard Russo sits in his elderly mother's home, holding her hand. She's just been diagnosed with dementia, one more illness to add to the long list of ailments she's been battling for years. She wonders aloud whether she'll ever be able to read again, plainly scared at the prospect of a life without her favorite hobby. She takes a look around her small apartment, and tells her son that she hates it.<p>"I just wish you could be happy, Mom," he says, heartbroken. "I used to be," she responds. Thu, 01 Nov 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 28917 at http://krwg.org 'Elsewhere' Has Beauty, But No Happy Ending Assaying The Legacy Of 'The Big Screen' http://krwg.org/post/assaying-legacy-big-screen "The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie," admits Binx Bolling, the hero of Walker Percy's 1961 novel <em>The Moviegoer</em>. It's the same for a lot of us — cinema affects us in ways we don't always understand, and even the worst films appeal to our nostalgia and sense memories in manners that defy the normal rules of taste and logic. (Currently, on my DVR: <em>La Dolce Vita</em>, a classic I know I <em>should</em> see at some point, and <em>Gymkata</em>, a truly terrible 1985 martial-arts flick I've watched a dozen times. Thu, 18 Oct 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 28103 at http://krwg.org Assaying The Legacy Of 'The Big Screen' Page And Screen Make Peace In 'Mr. Penumbra' http://krwg.org/post/page-and-screen-make-peace-mr-penumbra It's been five years since the Amazon Kindle started one of the most enduring literary controversies of recent times: the fight between e-books and printed books. If you're a devoted reader, you're probably already sick of the back and forth between the excitable technophiles and the stubborn Luddites. The proponents of e-books rave about the unexplored avenues, the hypertext, the entire world of literature accessible with just one click. The rest of us — well, we like the way books feel and smell, OK? It might seem sentimental, but that's falling in love for you. Wed, 03 Oct 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 27246 at http://krwg.org Page And Screen Make Peace In 'Mr. Penumbra' 'May We Be Forgiven' Blames The Online World http://krwg.org/post/may-we-be-forgiven-blames-online-world "I am guilty," admits Harold Silver, the protagonist of A.M. Homes' new novel, <em>May We Be Forgiven</em>. "I am guilty of even more than I realized I could be guilty of."<p>In 2012, it's an extraordinary statement. Two generations have passed since <em>I'm OK, You're OK</em> went from pop-psychology book title to a national feel-good catchphrase, and self-help books have convinced Americans that high self-esteem is a more noble trait than altruism and moral good. Thu, 27 Sep 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 26918 at http://krwg.org 'May We Be Forgiven' Blames The Online World 'Wilderness Of Error' Indicts U.S. Justice System http://krwg.org/post/wilderness-error-indicts-us-justice-system On Feb. 17, 1970, physician Jeffrey MacDonald called the police to his Fort Bragg, N.C., home. He told the responding officers that he had been assaulted by a group of "hippie" intruders, who had also bludgeoned and stabbed his wife and two young daughters — ages 2 and 5 — to death. MacDonald suffered a concussion and collapsed lung but survived.<p>The police didn't believe him. Weeks later, Army investigators named him the chief suspect in the murders of his family, despite a lack of any evidence beyond the extremely circumstantial. Tue, 04 Sep 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 25481 at http://krwg.org 'Wilderness Of Error' Indicts U.S. Justice System Divine Beings And Socially Awkward New Yorkers http://krwg.org/post/divine-beings-and-socially-awkward-new-yorkers Meet God, according to Simon Rich. He's a mostly nice dude — compassionate, though he gave up on listening to prayers and intervening in the lives of humans years ago. ("[H]e's really more of an ideas guy, you know?" explains an angel.) He loves golf and the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and he's not averse to enjoying a beer or two during the workday. Wed, 08 Aug 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 23750 at http://krwg.org Divine Beings And Socially Awkward New Yorkers Inside America's 30-Year Conflict with Iran http://krwg.org/post/inside-americas-30-year-conflict-iran <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=156425659" target="_blank">Iran Says It Has Plan To Close Strait Of Hormuz</a>. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/07/03/156175318/iran-reports-long-range-missile-launch-exercise" target="_blank">Iran Reports Long-Range Missile Launch Exercise</a>. <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=155972004" target="_blank">New Sanctions Targeting Iranian Oil</a>. All these headlines appeared on NPR.org over the past month, but if they give you a sense of deja vu, there's a reason. Wed, 18 Jul 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 22380 at http://krwg.org Inside America's 30-Year Conflict with Iran Aretha, Einstein And Knowing 'Too Much' http://krwg.org/post/aretha-einstein-and-knowing-too-much America is a nation of fans. And though you might not know it by whichever forgettable pop singers are currently shooting up the Top 40 chart, we're serious about our music. "You can dispute folks' politics or theology and still drink with them," as Anthony Heilbut writes in his entertaining new essay collection, <em>The Fan Who Knew Too Much</em>. "But [tell me], for example ... that Bob Dylan's music is 'worthless' and, well, you're on your own." This is true. Tue, 26 Jun 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 20951 at http://krwg.org Aretha, Einstein And Knowing 'Too Much' A Question Unanswered: 'How Should A Person Be?' http://krwg.org/post/question-unanswered-how-should-person-be The unexamined life isn't worth living, according to Socrates, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a writer who disagrees. Few, though, have taken it to the extreme that Toronto author Sheila Heti does with <em>How Should a Person Be?</em> The relentlessly introspective "novel from life" earned critical raves when it was released in Canada in 2010. The book chronicles Heti's struggle — sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking — to answer the seemingly simple questions: "What was the right way to react to people? Who was I to talk to at parties? Wed, 20 Jun 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 20577 at http://krwg.org A Question Unanswered: 'How Should A Person Be?' Literary Look Ahead: 13 Great Books On The Horizon http://krwg.org/post/literary-look-ahead-13-great-books-horizon Despite what the book section of your local supermarket would have you believe, publishers don't really expect you to turn off your brain for the summer. Thu, 24 May 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 18837 at http://krwg.org Literary Look Ahead: 13 Great Books On The Horizon 'Bodies': 'Wolf Hall' Sequel Outshines Original http://krwg.org/post/bodies-wolf-hall-sequel-outshines-original <em>Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. </em>If you grew up in England, or just had a world history teacher who was weirdly obsessed with Henry VIII, you've probably heard the rhyme explaining the fates of each of the king's wives. Wed, 23 May 2012 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 18752 at http://krwg.org 'Bodies': 'Wolf Hall' Sequel Outshines Original