Tag Archives: fiction

The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters!

Our book today is Robert Lewis Taylor’s 1958 historical novel The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, which made as much of a splash as any book could reasonably be expected to make. It sold briskly (thanks to an innovatively energetic ad campaign); it garnered an enviable collection of critical praise (The New York Times called it […]

This Thing of Darkness!

Our book today is This Thing of Darkness, a whopping-long 2005 historical novel by Harry Thompson about the fateful voyage of the HMS Beagle to Tierra del Fuego in 1828. The ship was captained by 23-year-old Robert FitzRoy, and of course its most famous passenger was the young amateur naturalist Charles Darwin. But Thompson’s novel […]

Mystery Monday: Red Dragon!

Our book today is Thomas Harris’s ultra-famous 1981 novel Red Dragon, the perfect shard of falling crystal that triggered an avalanche of such proportions that most novelists don’t even dare to dream that anything like it will happen to them. The book was a moderate seller for Bantam in its modest original printing despite near-universal […]

Best books of 2013: Fiction Debuts!

Theres a certain pleasing fluidity to these annual lists, reflecting the fluidity of the publishing landscape. One year there’s an abundance of excellent nature books or books about Venice, and the next year the abundance has shifted to other subjects. A year-end list that held mechanically to all its previous iterations would be a morbid […]

An Arrow’s Flight!

Our book today is the fantastic 1998 novel An Arrow’s Flight by Mark Merlis, a volume I’ve recommended and gifted countless times since it first appeared, even more times than its predecessor, Merlis’ stunning 1994 debut American Studies (and would be happy to gift again, should any of you want a copy), mainly for two […]

The View from Pompey’s Head!

Our book today is Hamilton Basso’s 1954 runaway bestseller The View from Pompey’s Head, which brought its fifty-year-old author the one thing he’d once upon a time wanted more than anything from the world, the one thing he’d slowly, gradually convinced himself he’d never have: renown. The book was a huge hit. It spent close […]

Penguins on Parade: Sigrid Undset!

Some Penguin Classics get the royal treatment – whether they deserve it or not. By ‘royal treatment’ I of course mean not only induction into the Classics line itself, honor enough though it is for one lifetime, but the bestowal of one of Penguin’s gorgeous “Deluxe” volumes, extra-sized, deckle-edged, supremely aesthetic re-packagings that not every […]

Penguins on Parade: Appointment in Samarra!

Some Penguin Classics – the vast majority of them, in fact – make their appearance too late to console their authors. Our case-in-point today involves an author who needed more consoling than most: the novelist and short story writer John O’Hara, who flourished in the 1930s and ‘40s, in the heady first heyday of The […]

Penguins on Parade: Wives and Daughters!

  Some Penguin Classics make their courtroom cases with the blunt force of a bulldog trial lawyer, flatly asserting that their client deserves a better deal. Of course this is what all reprint editions should do, ideally: no book should assume a second life in print – books cost money to make and time to read, after […]

A Tired Pilgrim in the Penny Press!

Novelist Ian McEwan writes a deliberately provocative little squib for the newly-redesigned New Republic (disastrously redesigned as well – it disappears on the newsstand, especially this current issue, which for no particular reason has no cover illustration, just the boring new logo on a field of white), something called “The God That Fails” and sub-titled […]


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