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Tag: fiction

Review: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”

I first read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov about a decade ago, and shortly thereafter forgot almost everything about it. Upon revisiting this long and strange book, the reasons I found it so forgettable are more obvious, as are the fine qualities that make it an indisputable classic. This story of three brothers––of their flaws, torments, and moments [...]

Review: Richard Powers’s “The Overstory”

I grew up and still reside in Humboldt County, California. My body-mind came of age amidst giant Redwoods and Douglas Firs, many of which grace my family’s six-acre parcel. It’s no exaggeration to say that these majestic beings were my companions and castles, brimming with all the mysterious life-energy a boy’s imagination could ever need. [...]

Review: Sayaka Murata’s “Convenience Store Woman”

Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is a diminutive and disturbing novel. The story is conveyed through the first person observations of Keiko Furukura, a woman in her mid-thirties who works in a convenience store in Tokyo. During her disconnected and occasionally violent childhood, Keiko concludes that “keeping my mouth shut was the most sensible approach to getting by [...]

My Year of Bookish Wisdom: 2019

My Year of Bookish Wisdom 2019: War is Present and Peace is Possible As 2019 comes to a close, people around the world will be using the arbitrary milestone of a new decade to reflect on the last ten years and plan for the next ten. I wish I could say that either of these [...]

Review: Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”

After a captivating but ultimately bitter encounter with Anna Karenina last year, I was worried that Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace would produce similar results. To my surprise and delight, however, War and Peace helped me finally understand why Tolstoy’s work occupies such an important position in literary history. Those determined enough to commit to this epic novel will discover a [...]

Review: Joan Cohen’s “Land of Last Chances”

Joan Cohen’s Land of Last Chances is not the kind of novel that typically interests me, but when JKS Communications offered to send me an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review, I took them up on it. The book has some positive features, but my overall reading experience was dominated by boredom and increasing [...]

Review: Elena Ferrante’s “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay”

For three summers running, I have welcomed one of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels into my life. Each has helped me rediscover the beautiful and complex ways in which emotional experience becomes simultaneously trapped and liberated by the act of articulation. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the penultimate installment in this narrative quartet, breaks new ground [...]

Review: George Eliot’s “Middlemarch”

“The right word is always a power, and communicates its definiteness to our action.” From time to time, I stumble across a novel that invites me to completely rediscover the inexhaustible elegance of the English language. George Eliot’s Middlemarch is one of those rare works. This exceptional story made me laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously, and rejuvenated [...]

Review: Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”

“All successful books are alike; each failed book fails in its own way.” So reads my ungainly rehashing of one of literature’s most famous opening lines. It takes a fair bit of temerity and not a little arrogance to posit that one of the great works of literary history is a failure, but that is [...]

Review: Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”

It’s been a long time since I read anything by Ernest Hemingway, and even longer since I first read The Old Man and the Sea in my teens. This time around, the book proved both more and less impressive than I remember. Hemingway’s prose, although clean and efficient, rings somewhat hollow for me now. I think this [...]