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Brad Allen

Get Lost at Sea with Jon Ronson

When I find myself highly distracted and struggling to dig in to a big old novel, I reach for short stories and essays. During a recent struggle to find the next great novel, I learned that Jon Ronson had published a new collection of essays. This made me happy. Jon Ronson’s latest collection of essays, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries is an achievement that equals his previous stuff. Read More..

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Stoner by John Williams

In 1999, the New York Review of Books quietly embarked on what has become a blessing to readers of great literature, its Classics reprint series. If you’ve not seen these books, they have a very distinctive, uniform look. In fact, the imprint’s blog often links to photos fans have taken of the distinctive spines of these books their bookshelves. I’ve been a sucker for this series for years. Read More..

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Go Read Some Short Stories

Here’s a broad generalization: people don’t read enough short stories. I’ve done no real research to back this claim, but my own natural inclination to avoid the short story serves as evidence. Perhaps I read so many annoyingly banal postmodern short stories as a college student that they soured me on the entire genre. Recently I’ve worked hard to cure my aversion to the short story. It’s helped me to imagine the short story as something akin to meeting a really interesting person at a dinner party. You don’t really have know the person well–or at all maybe–but you get to hear this really great story, and it can be quite engaging and meaningful. Read More..

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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Jess Walter’s new novel, Beautiful Ruins, is wonderful. What seems at first to be a story moving back and forth between 1962 Italy and present day Hollywood slowly telescopes outward, encompassing more and more characters whose lives intersect with the central story, often in unexpected ways. At its core, this is the story of an American actress, an Italian innkeeper, and a summer they shared. Jess Walter takes that short summer friendship and elaborates it into a saga that weaves together the overlapping stories of the many lives of seemingly everyone affected by its chance occurrence. Read More..