Michael D. O’Brien, Canadian novelist and painter, essayist and lecturer, is the author of what I call “door-stop” books. His works of fiction, most of which I have read and all of which I enjoyed immensely, are hefty tomes which, if one so wished, could double as dumbbells, weapons of defense, and as I say, door stoppers.
A number of Mark Helprin’s works — Winter’s Tale, Memoir From Antproof Case, and more — have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List. Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War, his story of an Italian army officer and his struggles for survival during the First World War, is a thick novel which I have read twice and to which I return on a regular basis, rereading favorite scenes, always astonished by the beauty of writing and touched again and again by certain passages. His Freddy and Fredericka, a story whose characters are loosely modeled on Prince Charles and Princess Diana, stands alongside John Kennedy Toole’s New Orleans novel, A Confederacy Of Dunces, as perhaps the two funniest novels I have ever read.
Recently I came across an online article on Powerline regarding French president Emmanuel Macron. I knew little of President Macron, only that as a youth he married his high school teacher, 24 years his senior, and that during his first three months in office he spent $31,000 paying his make-up artist. To call him a fop might serve as a prime example of litotes.
Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch In Paris: A Love Story, With Recipes (Little, Brown and Company, 2010, 324 pages) offers readers both literary and culinary treats.
Bard — what a wonderful name for a writer — whisks us off to the City of Light where she has fallen in love with a Frenchman, Gwendal. (Pronounced Gwen-DAL). Living in England, Bard meets Gwendal at a Digital Resources Conference in Paris, and they are soon emailing each other across the Channel. Eventually, Bard visits Paris and Gwendal again, and then many times, before she finally takes up full-time residency in the city to be with the man who has become her lover. He introduces her to his family, who live in Saint-Malo, a French port city, and the two of them fly to New York to meet her own parents and kin. Eventually, they marry.
This past summer, I reviewed The Leader’s Bookshelf for The Smoky Mountain News. After seven years of interviewing many of the nation’s top military leaders, Retired Admiral James Stavridis and R. Manning Ancell put together a list, with reviews and other information, of the top 50 books recommended by their military comrades. They included reviews of other books as well, recommendations so inspired that I headed for the library and my local bookstore to see what I could find of them.
From Thanksgiving dinners to football games, from the floors of Congress to Joe’s Bar & Grill, from universities to kindergartens, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Americans find themselves locked into political and cultural debates, shooting out tweets, screaming at rallies, shouting down speakers, and smearing their opponents. Civility and a sense of humor have been banished, replaced by identify politics pitting tribes of people against their neighbors whose skin color, religion, party, and gender preferences differ from their own. The abuse of language, reason, and argumentation, and the failure to define terms or to make clear what is said, only make more brutish this mix of hysteria and malevolence.
Miss Julia Springer lives in a small town near Asheville, where she is mourning the death of her husband of 44 years and trying to settle his affairs, including the enormous estate he has left her. On this particular hot day in August, Miss Julia — she goes by this title despite her long marriage — discovers that she has one last affair to face: her husband’s years-long adultery with Hazel Marie Puckett, a scandalous relationship known to nearly everyone in town except for Miss Julia.
Because Dr. Hood was only one of five professors in Guilford College’s history department, and because history was my major, I took several of his classes. Dr. Hood was more than a bit crazy. He once told our class that every afternoon he returned home, played his harpsichord, and pushed himself back in time to sixteenth century Europe. He seemed serious about these travels. Still, he was a marvelous lecturer with a fascinating mind.
It is late in the day, and 60-year-old Marianne Messmann of Germany stands on the Pont Neuf in Paris. She has arranged her shoes, coat, wedding ring, and purse on the pavement beneath the bench where she is sitting. Now she climbs the parapet of the bridge, stares into the Seine, and throws herself into the river, determined to free herself from the misery of her life and marriage.
Alcohol, alcoholism, and alcoholics appear frequently in literature.
Shakespeare’s Falstaff is a son of Bacchus. Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder and James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux are both detectives who emerge from the dark, beer-damp bars of New York and New Orleans, respectively, to join AA and battle their demons as well as murderers and thieves.