Michael Schaub http://wwno.org en 'Gottland': A Short Book About Stalin's Long Shadow http://wwno.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, 25 Jun 2014 22:34:39 +0000 Michael Schaub 63270 at http://wwno.org The 'Wayward And Defiant' Life Of Journalist Rebecca West http://wwno.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. Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:16:16 +0000 Michael Schaub 62546 at http://wwno.org Mitterrand's Taste For 'Intrigue' And Contradiction http://wwno.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 23:29:16 +0000 Michael Schaub 59317 at http://wwno.org When Love Is 'In The House' http://wwno.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. Sun, 23 Jun 2013 02:11:06 +0000 Michael Schaub 38002 at http://wwno.org Sons, Guns And The Sins Of The Father In Meyer's Texas Epic http://wwno.org/post/sons-guns-and-sins-father-meyers-texas-epic "Texas yesterday is unbelievable, but no more incredible than Texas today," wrote Edna Ferber, author of the iconic Lone Star State novel <em>Giant</em>. Thu, 30 May 2013 23:50:26 +0000 Michael Schaub 36438 at http://wwno.org Echoes Of Orwell In 'The Office Of Mercy' http://wwno.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 18:03:12 +0000 Michael Schaub 30065 at http://wwno.org 'Vampires' Isn't Sparkly — It's Magnificent http://wwno.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. Wed, 13 Feb 2013 15:39:50 +0000 Michael Schaub 29163 at http://wwno.org Here's To The Pleasures Of 'Drinking With Men' http://wwno.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 16:25:44 +0000 Michael Schaub 27638 at http://wwno.org From George Saunders, A Dark 'December' http://wwno.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 17:27:33 +0000 Michael Schaub 26539 at http://wwno.org True Originals: Biographies That Defy Expectations http://wwno.org/post/true-originals-biographies-defy-expectations It's probably not true that truth is stranger than fiction, but in the hands of a great biographer, it can be just as compelling. Novelists can create unique and unforgettable characters — there's never been anyone quite like Jane Eyre or Ignatius J. Reilly — but there's no shortage of fascinating literary protagonists who just happened to exist in real life.<p>This year brought us some brilliant biographies of world-famous leaders like Lyndon B. Fri, 28 Dec 2012 23:26:00 +0000 Michael Schaub 25935 at http://wwno.org