The purpose of art is to delight us; certain men and women (no smarter than you or I) whose art can delight us have been given dispensation from going out and fetching water and carrying wood. It's no more elaborate than that. — David Mamet

by Robin Sloan

Second reading of this charming romp about an unemployed, RISD-trained graphic designer who lands a night-shift job at an all-night North Beach bookstore that is, of course, more than what it seems. So, too, is the craft of this novel, for beneath the genre pastiche lies some lovely lyricism, surprising insight into the magic of technology, and a flair for drawing character or, more precisely, for depicting the narrator’s emotional response on encountering that character.

The perfect antidote to a bad case of the slums.

Oct 17 1 2017


by Teddy

A psychopath goes to Harvard, and finds himself perfectly at home: this is a strange and unsettling reply to Love Story, Goodbye Columbus, and Portnoy’s Complaint. The Loner follows David Federman, a colorless grind, to Harvard. A good deal of the local detail is good, but Federmans, lacking much color or vast money, seldom get to Harvard these days. David’s physics-loving roommate belongs at MIT, and his intellectual girlfriend probably got into Brown but might well have gone to Smith or Williams. Then again, Federman’s beloved, his own private Daisy Buchanan, really does belong at Harvard. So do her friends. They probably deserve each other.

by Herman Wouk

I wanted to revisit this classic in part because I have Wouk’s memoir, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author, on my stack. In addition, I’ve been struggling all summer (along with Morgan Macri) against the problems of telling a story that requires a large cast, and of course this was Wouk’s specialty.

I remember my surprise on my first reading how the book is much larger than the (wonderful) movie, and how it is far more interested in Ensign Keith than was the film. Queeg, of course, is wonderfully drawn, and it’s interesting that Wouk did not return to that theme in The Winds Of War or The Hope.

I walked out of my office yesterday to find a sign, advertising a reading that very night at the Watertown Free Public Library. It’s a nice library. It has Harriet Homer’s sculpting tools, and some nice wood panelling in the old part of the building. They have public meeting rooms.

Tonight, the library was featuring a Nazi.

That’s not just my opinion. The Forward has an essay specifically about him: “The Jewish Left Needs To Call Out Real Anti-Semites.” The Daily Beast headlined him as “ Jew-Hater.” Medium has an entire guide for organizations like my library: “Oops: Your Guest Is A Nazi,” showing this fellow posing with his new book on the platform of Berlin-Wannsee — the suburb where, you will recall, his predecessors had a pleasant weekend retreat where they finally solved the Jewish Problem.

I could go on.

Somehow, this is now acceptable in the US. It’s just an opinion. Yes, it’s an opinion that I ought to be boiled down into soap — but hey! Free speech!

The trustees of the Watertown Free Public Library should be ashamed of themselves. The director should resign.

by Helene Tursten

A Diane Greco recommendation, in honor of Women In Translation Month. At a small private hospital in Goteborg, the power is suddenly cut and the emergency generator disabled. A nurse is found to have been strangled, a patient dies during the power outage, and one of the senior nurses is certain that she saw the hospital ghost, a nurse who committed suicide in the attic in 1945. This highly-competent police procedural focuses on a puzzling crime but is at its best when it spares a moment for its protagonist’s family problems.

by Maomi Novik

Her Majesty’s Dragon Temeraire, having concluded his diplomacy in China, is dispatched to the Ottoman Court in order to pick up some extremely important dragon eggs. Inevitably, troubles (and Napoleon’s forces) interfere.