Dear Students, My Job is to Kill Your Dreams

When the novelist Kelly Braffet was in high school, she had the worst English teacher of all time: One day, Mrs. Smith told us to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote about wanting to be a writer. I wrote about how I'd loved books as long as I could remember and was never happier than when I was deeply immersed in a story. I probably added something about wanting to win the Pulitzer by 25 and the Nobel by 30, because that was the kind of obnoxious kid I was. I didn't really know anything ... read more

At the Annual Dancers' Ball ...

I'm making a second attempt to read The Marriage Plot, a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides about a book-obsessed English major at Brown University in the early '80s. The protagonist, Madeleine Hanna, is given this logic puzzle in a GRE test prep guide: At the annual dancers' ball a number of dancers performed their favorite dance with their favorite partners. Alan danced the tango, while Becky watched the waltz. James and Charlotte were fantastic together. Keith was magnificent during his foxtrot and Simon excelled at ... read more

Frederik Pohl Remembers Jack Vance

Frederik Pohl, one of the founders of science fiction, is still writing novels at age 93 and has a blog he updates regularly. The Way the Future Blogs recently noted the death of another legend of the genre, Jack Vance. Pohl recalls being editor of Galaxy magazine in the early '60s when a Vance manuscript came in: ... "I've got a new story from Jack Vance that I love. It's called The Dragon Masters, and it's about a race of dragon-like creatures from a distant planet who are at war with the human race. The ... read more

Review: 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'

I just finished reading Kiss of the Spider Woman, the 1976 Manuel Puig novel that became a terrific 1985 film. William Hurt won an Oscar playing Molina, a gay window dresser sharing a prison cell with Valentin, a straight Marxist revolutionary played by Raul Julia. To pass the time, Molina retells his favorite movies to Valentin. The book held my interest but was difficult to read because of the experimental fiction techniques used by Puig. Most of the book is told through dialogue between the two men but the ... read more

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Joe McGinniss

I've had a mixed history with author Joe McGinniss. His true-crime book Cruel Doubt was a laughably bad attempt to blame Dungeons & Dragons for a 1988 murder. His soccer book The Miracle of Castel di Sangro may be the best sports book I've ever read. McGinniss has a biography of Sarah Palin coming out in the fall. I was looking forward to it, since his move-next-door stunt reminds me of funny things he did in Castel di Sangro. But I'm looking forward to it less after reading this paragraph from his Palin book, ... read more

Two Science Fiction Novels I Didn't Finish

I hit a bad streak reading novels this month. My house is overflowing with books I've been meaning to read, so I will give up on a novel when I've abandoned all hope of being entertained. I figure if I'm not enjoying a book after 50 to 75 pages, it's time to bail. I reached that point with Wilson Tucker's The Year of the Quiet Sun (1970) and Philip K. Dick's The Divine Invasion (1981). Quiet Sun is a Nebula Award-nominated time-travel novel by the late Wilson "Bob" Tucker. He was an active science fiction fan who ... read more

Review: 'Tinkers' by Paul Harding

This year's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Tinkers by Paul Harding, is one of the best I've read in years. The slim 191-page book is about the last eight days of dying clock repairman George Washington Crosby, whose hallucinating mind wanders across time in his final hours, stopping at disordered points in his life and that of his father. The first novel by Harding, Tinkers was rejected by numerous publishers and sat in a drawer for several years before it found a home at Bellevue Literary Press, an obscure ... read more