Review of “The Oath” by Jeffrey Toobin.

My review of Jeffrey Toobin’s The Oath is now online at the Lincoln Journal-Star. I probably could have written a few thousand words on this book, but the review contains the gist of what my thoughts were—an interesting read, if not as interesting as it might have been. Toobin of course writes well, and sums up […]

I Know I Will Die, But I Will Live Forever: Stephen Cave’s “Immortality.”

We all know we will die, yet we cannot possibly comprehend it: an inevitability that cannot possibly be inevitable. This is the “Mortality Paradox,” and, according to Stephen Cave’s fantastic short book, Immortality, it underlies everything—from art to biology to civilization itself. Cave, a PhD in metaphysics and a former diplomat for the British Foreign Service, structures […]

Review of “The World Without You.”

My review of Joshua Henkin’s The World Without You is now live at the Lincoln Journal Star: This is a rare novel: It could have been longer and, probably, better for it. As a traditional realist take on the family, it shares several similar features to Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 masterpiece “The Corrections.” And like Franzen’s, […]

On Writing Bad Reviews.

As I find myself writing several book reviews these days, I always struggle with how to be critical when necessary. My general approach has been simply not to write a review of a book I despise. (I suppose this is a prototypically Midwestern approach to the subject.) Others—more experienced, professional ones—such as J. Robert Lennon, have different ideas. […]

“The Neruda Case” by Roberto Ampuero.

My review of Roberto Ampuero’s The Neruda Case is now live at the Ploughshares Blog: The Cayetano novels splice literary fiction with noirish detective yarns—but what makes The Neruda Case particularly interesting is its nuanced portrait of the Nobel laureate poet. Many thanks to Ploughshares for publishing (and for the excellent edits). Bonus link: The “View From Your […]

Audacity as a Right: Michael Lewis’ “Boomerang.”

Partway through Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, Michael Lewis’ latest book, he quotes Isocrates, the Greek orator: Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches it citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress. It […]

Review of “A Hologram For the King” in the Lincoln Journal-Star

My review of Dave Eggers’ excellent A Hologram for the King appears in today’s Lincoln Journal-Star. You can read it online right here. I liked Hologram a lot, actually. The 300 words or so that the review comprises aren’t, obviously, enough to talk about all of the book’s strengths, and some of its faults. The […]

Whose House is This?: Toni Morrison’s Home.

“The crazy part is our last name,” the protagonist of Home states. “Money. Of which we had none.” His name is Frank, Frank Money, and the book opens with him waking in a mental hospital—without any knowledge of how he checked in. Frank, as it turns out, still doesn’t have any money; he served in the […]