Michael Schaub http://wfae.org en A Dentist Confronts The Gaping Maw Of Life In 'To Rise Again' http://wfae.org/post/dentist-confronts-gaping-maw-life-rise-again "Pessimism, skepticism, complaint, and outrage," New York dentist Paul O'Rourke explains to his devoutly religious hygienist. "That's why we were put on earth."<p>You won't find that on a motivational poster, of course, but to be fair, O'Rourke — the world-weary protagonist of Joshua Ferris' third novel, <em>To Rise Again at a Decent Hour</em> — comes by his nihilism honestly. His dental practice is a success, but the rest of his life is a shambles. Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 53698 at http://wfae.org A Dentist Confronts The Gaping Maw Of Life In 'To Rise Again' A Thousand Stories, Brilliantly Collapsed In 'Bulletproof Vest' http://wfae.org/post/thousand-stories-brilliantly-collapsed-bulletproof-vest Maria Venegas' memoir <em>Bulletproof Vest</em> opens with the story of her father's near death at the hands of would-be assassins in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. He's shot while returning home from a bar, collapses near his house, losing blood, dying, until a neighbor happens upon him during a walk. When Maria's sister calls to tell her the news, the young writer doesn't even look up from her lunch menu. "Oh. So, is he dead?" she asks.<p>As it turns out, he's not — but his luck runs out eventually, and he dies on the same stretch of road years later. Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 53229 at http://wfae.org A Thousand Stories, Brilliantly Collapsed In 'Bulletproof Vest' 'Gottland': A Short Book About Stalin's Long Shadow http://wfae.org/post/gottland-short-book-about-stalins-long-shadow It was 50 feet high and 70 feet long, more than 37 million pounds of granite and concrete. It dominated Letná Park in Prague for the seven years it stood. But in 1962, the biggest monument to Josef Stalin in the world was destroyed, after the dictator fell out of ideological favor in Czechoslovakia.<p>"Not a single line about the monument's destruction appears in the [Czechoslovak] press," writes Mariusz Szczygieł. Wed, 28 May 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 51812 at http://wfae.org 'Gottland': A Short Book About Stalin's Long Shadow The 'Wayward And Defiant' Life Of Journalist Rebecca West http://wfae.org/post/wayward-and-defiant-life-journalist-rebecca-west "There is no such thing as conversation," wrote Rebecca West in her story "The Harsh Voice." "It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all." The same could be said for books, as well — even the best histories and biographies are necessarily filtered through the sensibilities of the author and reader, and some of the best literature is the result of those monologues, those stories, intersecting.<p>Lorna Gibb's excellent new biography of the legendary British writer Rebecca West is full of those moments. Sat, 17 May 2014 09:38:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 51115 at http://wfae.org The 'Wayward And Defiant' Life Of Journalist Rebecca West Mitterrand's Taste For 'Intrigue' And Contradiction http://wfae.org/post/mitterrands-taste-intrigue-and-contradiction It's probably a little too pat to say that all successful political careers are marked by contradiction and compromise, though you're not likely to hear many objections to that characterization. Politics is a game of survival, and with a few sadly notable exceptions, unyielding purists seldom make it to the top.<p>As Philip Short demonstrates in his new biography, <em>A Taste for Intrigue,</em> former French President Francois Mitterrand was not one of those exceptions — he was, in a way, the rule that proves the rule. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 49607 at http://wfae.org Mitterrand's Taste For 'Intrigue' And Contradiction When Love Is 'In The House' http://wfae.org/post/when-love-house "Love is not all," warned the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. "It is not meat nor drink / Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain." She was right, of course, but if there were ever any advice destined to fall on stubbornly deaf ears, this is it. Love is not all, but it always feels like it is, whether you're happily partnered or bereft.<p>That's also why it's a notoriously difficult subject for writers, though god knows it hasn't stopped them from trying, with very mixed results. Thu, 20 Jun 2013 11:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 29764 at http://wfae.org When Love Is 'In The House' Echoes Of Orwell In 'The Office Of Mercy' http://wfae.org/post/echoes-orwell-office-mercy It was no less than the master of dystopian fiction, George Orwell, who noted in a 1946 essay that "political language has to consist largely of euphemism. ... Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air ... Tue, 26 Feb 2013 13:31:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 22129 at http://wfae.org Echoes Of Orwell In 'The Office Of Mercy' 'Vampires' Isn't Sparkly — It's Magnificent http://wfae.org/post/vampires-isnt-sparkly-its-magnificent There's a popular misconception that literary fiction is supposed to be staid, boring, realistic to a fault. Like all stereotypes, it's deeply unfair, but it endures, perhaps because readers keep having traumatic flashbacks to novels, like <em>Sister Carrie</em>, that they were forced to read in high school.<p>But in her new short story collection, <em>Vampires in the Lemon Grove</em>, it takes Karen Russell only a few pages to put the lie to that idea. The book opens with the title story, the tale of an aging vampire couple falling out of love with each other. Tue, 12 Feb 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 21239 at http://wfae.org 'Vampires' Isn't Sparkly — It's Magnificent Here's To The Pleasures Of 'Drinking With Men' http://wfae.org/post/heres-pleasures-drinking-men "More than anywhere else," writes Rosie Schaap, "bars are where I've figured out how to relate to others and how to be myself." It's the same for a lot of us, though many won't admit it. Americans tend to have a weirdly puritanical view of drinking, and a lot of people see bars as nothing more than havens for lowlifes and alcoholics. But as Schaap points out in her new memoir, they're missing out. "You can drink at home. But a good bar? ... Wed, 23 Jan 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 19963 at http://wfae.org Here's To The Pleasures Of 'Drinking With Men' From George Saunders, A Dark 'December' http://wfae.org/post/george-saunders-dark-december Since the publication of George Saunders' 1996 debut story collection, <a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/138071317/civilwarland-in-bad-decline-stories-and-a-novella">Civilwarland in Bad Decline</a>, journalists and scholars have been trying to figure out how to describe his writing. Nobody has come very close. The short story writer and novelist has been repeatedly called "original," which is true as far as it goes — but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Saunders blends elements of science fiction, horror and humor writing into his trademark brand of literary fiction. Tue, 08 Jan 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 19032 at http://wfae.org From George Saunders, A Dark 'December'