Category Archives: Reviews – Facing Out

Shirt Pocket Reviews: Best of 2015

Spending between 10 and 15 hours on public transportation a week isn’t good for much, but it’s been excellent for my reading life. The downside, of course, has been a lack of free time to write about it. I can usually juggle a book or iPad on a train sardine-packed with my fellow commuters; less […]

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Pocket Review: Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

Thirteen Ways of Looking Colum McCann HarperCollins, 2015 I can’t very well talk about my best books of the year until the year’s over, and I had one last book to finish up on the last day of 2015. So imagine my delight when I opened up Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking this afternoon […]

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An Unhaunting

It’s easy enough to get in. There are no locks; you can enter as you like. Once you’re inside, though, there’s something unsettling. Everything looks to be in order, but you get an uneasy sense of abandonment. Someone used this place, once, on a regular basis—loved it, even. But now there’s a pervasive pall of […]

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A Yankee Girl’s Thoughts on Reading Go Set a Watchman

As others have noted, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is very much a first draft of a first novel. When PBS aired an episode tag on the book’s publication one of the people interviewed said the manuscript was published “without changing a word.” This is wholly believable. The dialogue is choppy. The internal monologues […]

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A Novelist in the Poet’s Village: On Elizabeth Bishop by Colm Toíbín

On Elizabeth Bishop Colm Toíbín Princeton University Press, 2015 1. The critic David Kalstone said about Elizabeth Bishop in 1977 that “she is probably the most honored yet most elusive of contemporary poets.” How does one capture such an elusive prize? This is the challenge faced by Colm Toíbín. Bishop upped the ante as well […]

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Pocket Review: The Sunken Cathedral by Kate Walbert

The Sunken Cathedral Kate Walbert Scribner, 2015 Here is an interesting, almost Oulipean, challenge: How does one write a modern, urban novel without referencing technology? Maybe modern is the wrong word, with its connotations of sleekness and smooth surfaces. How does one write a contemporary novel, then, set in—say—New York City, without mentioning cell phones, […]

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Pocket Review: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories Hilary Mantel Henry Holt & Company, 2014 The worth of a book is in the reading, obviously, but there’s also a value to the conversation it creates. To the Lighthouse, Ulysses, On the Road—the aggregate comments they generated took on a life of its own. And a book doesn’t […]

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Pocket Review: How About Never—Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons by Bob Mankoff

How about Never—Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons Bob Mankoff Henry Holt & Company, 2014 As a geeky, funny, animal-loving, endlessly doodling little kid, I basically had two career choices in mind: Veterinarian or Cartoonist. Soon enough I realized that veterinary studies involved a lot more school than interested me, so I […]

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Pocket Review: Limber by Angela Pelster

Limber Angela Pelster Sarabande Books, 2014 “To the great tree-loving fraternity we belong. We love trees with universal and unfeigned love, and all things that do grow under them or around them – the whole leaf and root tribe.” ― Henry Ward Beecher When it comes to wide-ranging framing devices, it’s always practical to look […]

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Pocket Review: All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

All the Birds, Singing Evie Wyld Pantheon, 2014 One thing I’ve learned in my brief video editing career: Just because you can produce an effect doesn’t mean you should. And the same for PowerPoint—all those animations, slides spinning in and whooshing out, bouncing arrows and stars and callouts, need only be used once in a […]

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