Heller McAlpin http://apr.org en Sorry, Europe. 'Quebert Affair' Plot Thrills, But Prose Lacks Substance http://apr.org/post/sorry-europe-quebert-affair-plot-thrills-prose-lacks-substance Joel Dicker's breakneck thriller <em>The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair</em> lands stateside trumpeting international sales figures that are the stuff of a writer's wildest dreams: nearly a million copies in France alone. Naturally, our curiosity is roused. Could this be another surprise charmer like Muriel Barbery's quirky <em>The Elegance of the Hedgehog? Sat, 28 Jun 2014 21:20:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 54784 at http://apr.org Sorry, Europe. 'Quebert Affair' Plot Thrills, But Prose Lacks Substance 'Delicious!' ... Isn't http://apr.org/post/delicious-isnt The exclamation point in its title is a clear tipoff: <em>Delicious!, </em>Ruth Reichl's first novel, is about as subtle as a Ring Ding. It's an enthusiastic but cloyingly sentimental story about a 21-year-old who finds happiness by making peace with her past — namely, her crippling, self-deprecating hero-worship of her older sister. Tue, 27 May 2014 11:38:06 +0000 Heller McAlpin 52723 at http://apr.org 'Delicious!' ... Isn't Stories Of Loss, Brightened By Luminous Language http://apr.org/post/stories-loss-brightened-luminous-language Elizabeth McCracken is a former public librarian best known for her quirkily endearing 1996 novel, <em>The Giant's House</em>, about an unlikely romance kindled at the circulation desk between a petite librarian and a freakishly tall boy. Over time, her work — filled with misfits, giants, and oddballs — has become darker. Mon, 26 May 2014 10:59:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 52670 at http://apr.org Stories Of Loss, Brightened By Luminous Language Before She Was 'Girl, Interrupted' She Was A Girl From Cambridge http://apr.org/post/she-was-girl-interrupted-she-was-girl-cambridge Twenty years after the publication of <em>Girl, Interrupted</em>, Susanna Kaysen's excoriating memoir about the nearly two years she spent in a psychiatric institution at the end of her teens, she's written a sort of prequel. Cambridge, her unflinching, elegiac, quasi-autobiographical new novel, takes us back to the mid-to-late 1950s with a portrait of Susanna as a difficult, contrary 7-to-11-year-old miserably at odds with her family, her teachers and herself. Sat, 24 May 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 52594 at http://apr.org Before She Was 'Girl, Interrupted' She Was A Girl From Cambridge Full Of Warmth And Wisdom, 'Vacationers' Is A Frothy Beach Read http://apr.org/post/full-warmth-and-wisdom-vacationers-frothy-beach-read Meet the Posts — no relation to Emily and her rules of etiquette. The stressed family of New Yorkers in Emma Straub's breezy summer read,<em> The Vacationers,</em> are the kind of people who pack their troubles on top, for easiest access, when they head off on a trip together.<p>Sixty-year-old Jim Post has been kicked out of his beloved job editing <em>Gallant</em> magazine after an indiscretion with a 23-year-old editorial assistant whose father sits on the publication's board. Thu, 22 May 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 52446 at http://apr.org Full Of Warmth And Wisdom, 'Vacationers' Is A Frothy Beach Read 'Empathy Exams' Is A Virtuosic Manifesto Of Human Pain http://apr.org/post/empathy-exams-virtuosic-manifesto-human-pain A boyfriend once called Leslie Jamison "a wound dweller." This is one of many personal morsels she shares in her virtuosic book of essays, <em>The Empathy Exams,</em> in which she intrepidly probes sore spots to explore how our reactions to both our own pain and that of others define us as human beings. Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 49537 at http://apr.org 'Empathy Exams' Is A Virtuosic Manifesto Of Human Pain Comedian Ages With Humor — And Effort http://apr.org/post/comedian-ages-humor-and-effort What is it about comedians itching to get between the covers — book covers, that is? Annabelle Gurwitch's <em>I See You Made An Effort, </em> a seriously funny collection of essays about teetering over the edge of 50, makes it clear that the draw isn't strictly literary. Wed, 26 Feb 2014 01:29:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 47447 at http://apr.org Comedian Ages With Humor — And Effort 'One More Thing' Has A Few Too Many Things, But It's Still Funny http://apr.org/post/one-more-thing-has-few-too-many-things-its-still-funny How entertaining is B.J. Novak? With <em>One More Thing</em>, the standup comic, scriptwriter and actor (best known for his work on <em>The Office</em>), takes his talents to the page in 64 fresh, short, offbeat and often hilarious stories, many of which involve updating classics for satirical effect — whether with a rematch between the tortoise and the hare, or by replacing detective Encyclopedia Brown from children's literature with Wikipedia Brown, who is hopelessly distracted by tangential subjects. Tue, 11 Feb 2014 12:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 46587 at http://apr.org 'One More Thing' Has A Few Too Many Things, But It's Still Funny Anna Quindlen Is (Still) The Voice Of Her Generation http://apr.org/post/anna-quindlen-still-voice-her-generation Back in the 1980s, Anna Quindlen's <em>New York Times </em>column, "Life in the 30s," delineated — with humor and grace — what so many of her fellow newly liberated female Boomers were going through: the complications of using your maiden name after you have children. Check. The challenges of balancing a career with parenting. Check. Grocery shopping with small children in tow, "an event I hope to see included in the Olympics in the near future."<em> </em>Check again.<p><em>Still Life with Bread Crumbs</em>, Quindlen's seventh novel, offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. Wed, 29 Jan 2014 12:02:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 45813 at http://apr.org Anna Quindlen Is (Still) The Voice Of Her Generation Music And Chemistry Are An Explosive Combination In 'Orfeo' http://apr.org/post/music-and-chemistry-are-explosive-combination-orfeo Richard Powers, whose novels combine the wonders of science with the marvels of art, astonishes us in different ways with each new book. His 11th, <em>Orfeo</em>, is about a 70-year-old avant-garde composer who has sacrificed family and fortune to his relentless pursuit of immortal, transcendent music.<p>Retired from teaching, Peter Els finally takes his esoteric monomania too far when he attempts to combine his twin obsessions — music and chemistry — in homegrown genetic engineering experiments aimed at instilling music into bacterial cells by altering DNA. Wed, 22 Jan 2014 12:02:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 45389 at http://apr.org Music And Chemistry Are An Explosive Combination In 'Orfeo' E.L. Doctorow's New Novel 'Puzzling And Ultimately Disappointing' http://apr.org/post/you-might-need-be-scientist-understand-andrews-brain E.L. Doctorow's 19th book, <em>Andrew's Brain</em>, is a real head-scratcher. This short, perplexing but occasionally potent novel presents particular challenges to a critic, as it's difficult to discuss its enigmas without giving away its odd twists. What I can say is that what starts out as a tale of lost love ends up taking a baffling political turn into rather biting commentary on post-Sept. 11 America.<p>This is hardly Doctorow's first book with a political slant. A recurrent theme in his remarkable fiction has been the way public historical events resonate in private lives. Fri, 17 Jan 2014 12:02:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 45154 at http://apr.org E.L. Doctorow's New Novel 'Puzzling And Ultimately Disappointing' 'Boy Detective' Walks Down Memory Lane, But Doesn't Get Anywhere http://apr.org/post/boy-detective-walks-down-memory-lane-doesnt-get-anywhere There's a difference between ruminating and rambling, and Roger Rosenblatt crosses the line in <em>The Boy Detective,</em> his dilatory, meandering new memoir about his New York boyhood. I was a big fan of <em>Kayak Morning</em>, Rosenblatt's meditation on the tenaciousness of grief published in early 2012, four years after the sudden death of his 38-year-old daughter, a pediatrician and mother of three small children. Tue, 05 Nov 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 41005 at http://apr.org 'Boy Detective' Walks Down Memory Lane, But Doesn't Get Anywhere An Exhaustive Survey From Columbus To Nemesis In 'Roth Unbound' http://apr.org/post/exhaustive-survey-columbus-nemesis-roth-unbound <em>Roth Unbound</em>, Claudia Roth Pierpont's aptly titled study of Philip Roth's evolution as a writer, unleashes a slew of memories — including my eye-opening first encounter with <em>Portnoy's Complaint </em>as a naive 14-year-old. It also stokes a strong desire to re-read his books, which I suspect will be the case for many.<p>About that early memory: My father was an avid fan, who connected with Roth's exuberant, subversive take on sex and what it meant to be both a secular Jew and an American in the years following WorId War II. Wed, 23 Oct 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 40257 at http://apr.org An Exhaustive Survey From Columbus To Nemesis In 'Roth Unbound' 'The Rosie Project' Will Charm You With Science http://apr.org/post/rosie-project-will-charm-you-science He's a socially inept scientist who's tone deaf to irony. She's an edgy young woman whose fallback mode is sarcasm. Put them together, and hilarity ensues in Australian IT consultant Graeme Simsion's first novel, <em>The Rosie Project</em>. It's an utterly winning screwball comedy about a brilliant, emotionally challenged geneticist who's determined to find a suitable wife with the help of a carefully designed questionnaire, and the patently unsuitable woman who keeps distracting him from his search. Thu, 03 Oct 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 39057 at http://apr.org 'The Rosie Project' Will Charm You With Science Julian Barnes 'Levels' With Us On Love, Loss And Ballooning http://apr.org/post/julian-barnes-levels-us-love-loss-and-ballooning "Every love story is a potential grief story," Julian Barnes writes in <em>Levels of Life</em>, a quirky but ultimately powerful meditation on things that uplift us — literally, as in hot air balloons, and emotionally, as in love — and things that bring us crashing to earth: to wit, that great leveler, the death of a loved one.<p>In this slim, tripartite book, Barnes tenuously attempts to juxtapose several disparate subjects: 19th century French portrait photographer Nadar, who first succeeded in photographing the earth from above, allowing us "to look at ourselves from afar, to make the subje Thu, 26 Sep 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 38602 at http://apr.org Julian Barnes 'Levels' With Us On Love, Loss And Ballooning