Heller McAlpin http://wwno.org en 'Delicious!' ... Isn't http://wwno.org/post/delicious-isnt The exclamation point in its title is a clear tipoff: <em>Delicious!, </em>Ruth Reichl's first novel, is about as subtle as a Ring Ding. It's an enthusiastic but cloyingly sentimental story about a 21-year-old who finds happiness by making peace with her past — namely, her crippling, self-deprecating hero-worship of her older sister. Wed, 25 Jun 2014 21:50:55 +0000 Heller McAlpin 63249 at http://wwno.org Full Of Warmth And Wisdom, 'Vacationers' Is A Frothy Beach Read http://wwno.org/post/full-warmth-and-wisdom-vacationers-frothy-beach-read Meet the Posts — no relation to Emily and her rules of etiquette. The stressed family of New Yorkers in Emma Straub's breezy summer read,<em> The Vacationers,</em> are the kind of people who pack their troubles on top, for easiest access, when they head off on a trip together.<p>Sixty-year-old Jim Post has been kicked out of his beloved job editing <em>Gallant</em> magazine after an indiscretion with a 23-year-old editorial assistant whose father sits on the publication's board. Mon, 16 Jun 2014 21:58:49 +0000 Heller McAlpin 62688 at http://wwno.org 'Empathy Exams' Is A Virtuosic Manifesto Of Human Pain http://wwno.org/post/empathy-exams-virtuosic-manifesto-human-pain A boyfriend once called Leslie Jamison "a wound dweller." This is one of many personal morsels she shares in her virtuosic book of essays, <em>The Empathy Exams,</em> in which she intrepidly probes sore spots to explore how our reactions to both our own pain and that of others define us as human beings. Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Heller McAlpin 57649 at http://wwno.org Comedian Ages With Humor — And Effort http://wwno.org/post/comedian-ages-humor-and-effort What is it about comedians itching to get between the covers — book covers, that is? Annabelle Gurwitch's <em>I See You Made An Effort, </em> a seriously funny collection of essays about teetering over the edge of 50, makes it clear that the draw isn't strictly literary. Sun, 16 Mar 2014 20:16:19 +0000 Heller McAlpin 55943 at http://wwno.org 'One More Thing' Has A Few Too Many Things, But It's Still Funny http://wwno.org/post/one-more-thing-has-few-too-many-things-its-still-funny How entertaining is B.J. Novak? With <em>One More Thing</em>, the standup comic, scriptwriter and actor (best known for his work on <em>The Office</em>), takes his talents to the page in 64 fresh, short, offbeat and often hilarious stories, many of which involve updating classics for satirical effect — whether with a rematch between the tortoise and the hare, or by replacing detective Encyclopedia Brown from children's literature with Wikipedia Brown, who is hopelessly distracted by tangential subjects. Mon, 24 Feb 2014 02:28:07 +0000 Heller McAlpin 54650 at http://wwno.org Anna Quindlen Is (Still) The Voice Of Her Generation http://wwno.org/post/anna-quindlen-still-voice-her-generation Back in the 1980s, Anna Quindlen's <em>New York Times </em>column, "Life in the 30s," delineated — with humor and grace — what so many of her fellow newly liberated female Boomers were going through: the complications of using your maiden name after you have children. Check. The challenges of balancing a career with parenting. Check. Grocery shopping with small children in tow, "an event I hope to see included in the Olympics in the near future."<em> </em>Check again.<p><em>Still Life with Bread Crumbs</em>, Quindlen's seventh novel, offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. Fri, 07 Feb 2014 03:22:50 +0000 Heller McAlpin 53620 at http://wwno.org Music And Chemistry Are An Explosive Combination In 'Orfeo' http://wwno.org/post/music-and-chemistry-are-explosive-combination-orfeo Richard Powers, whose novels combine the wonders of science with the marvels of art, astonishes us in different ways with each new book. His 11th, <em>Orfeo</em>, is about a 70-year-old avant-garde composer who has sacrificed family and fortune to his relentless pursuit of immortal, transcendent music.<p>Retired from teaching, Peter Els finally takes his esoteric monomania too far when he attempts to combine his twin obsessions — music and chemistry — in homegrown genetic engineering experiments aimed at instilling music into bacterial cells by altering DNA. Fri, 31 Jan 2014 05:55:57 +0000 Heller McAlpin 53139 at http://wwno.org E.L. Doctorow's New Novel 'Puzzling And Ultimately Disappointing' http://wwno.org/post/el-doctorows-new-novel-puzzling-and-ultimately-disappointing E.L. Doctorow's 19th book, <em>Andrew's Brain</em>, is a real head-scratcher. This short, perplexing but occasionally potent novel presents particular challenges to a critic, as it's difficult to discuss its enigmas without giving away its odd twists. What I can say is that what starts out as a tale of lost love ends up taking a baffling political turn into rather biting commentary on post-Sept. 11 America.<p>This is hardly Doctorow's first book with a political slant. A recurrent theme in his remarkable fiction has been the way public historical events resonate in private lives. Tue, 28 Jan 2014 20:30:17 +0000 Heller McAlpin 52921 at http://wwno.org 'Boy Detective' Walks Down Memory Lane, But Doesn't Get Anywhere http://wwno.org/post/boy-detective-walks-down-memory-lane-doesnt-get-anywhere There's a difference between ruminating and rambling, and Roger Rosenblatt crosses the line in <em>The Boy Detective,</em> his dilatory, meandering new memoir about his New York boyhood. I was a big fan of <em>Kayak Morning</em>, Rosenblatt's meditation on the tenaciousness of grief published in early 2012, four years after the sudden death of his 38-year-old daughter, a pediatrician and mother of three small children. Wed, 13 Nov 2013 16:54:43 +0000 Heller McAlpin 47884 at http://wwno.org An Exhaustive Survey From Columbus To Nemesis In 'Roth Unbound' http://wwno.org/post/exhaustive-survey-columbus-nemesis-roth-unbound <em>Roth Unbound</em>, Claudia Roth Pierpont's aptly titled study of Philip Roth's evolution as a writer, unleashes a slew of memories — including my eye-opening first encounter with <em>Portnoy's Complaint </em>as a naive 14-year-old. It also stokes a strong desire to re-read his books, which I suspect will be the case for many.<p>About that early memory: My father was an avid fan, who connected with Roth's exuberant, subversive take on sex and what it meant to be both a secular Jew and an American in the years following WorId War II. Wed, 13 Nov 2013 02:41:37 +0000 Heller McAlpin 47651 at http://wwno.org