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Showing posts from October, 2019

New Yorker Fiction Review #232: "Wide Spot" by Thomas McGuane

Review of a short story from the Sept. 23, 2019 issue of The New Yorker...

Nothing overly complex or life-changing going on in this petite story from New Yorker regular Thomas McGuane; however, Thomas McGuane's worlds are almost always fun to inhabit for a few pages.

This story features an aging, small-time Montana politician canvasing his rural district, who bumps into one of his long-lost friends from his 20s, a guy he used to be in a band with. Throw in one or two Thomas McGuane-esque comic details about lame attempts to fight authority (a stuffed vulture placed symbolically in front of a savings & loan), a beautiful woman, and a macho brush with violence in the style of the disappearing Old West that McGuane is forever in love with, and you've got a story.

Thomas McGuane is, for me, one of those writers you don't think about a lot but whose writing I've actually managed to read a lot of over the years and who probably had as much of an affect on my early writin…

Coffee Review: Brandywine Coffee Roasters - Costa Rica, Las Lajas - Black Honey

This is what I'm talking about. A nice light-bodied, tart cup of Central American coffee. Just the way I like it. And with some pretty badass packaging, too.

Brandywine Coffee Roasters is based in Delaware which, as everyone knows, is the epicenter of the U.S. artisan coffee roasting scene. Bought this coffee a few weeks ago and tried it in all three (3) of the different brewing methods I have in my house: drip, pour-over, and Bialetti (moka) pot. As expected, with a coffee like this, the pour-over wins out. The drip machine is, in my opinion, more suitable for average and/or not so great-flavored coffee. The stove-top moka pots are good for dark-roast, finely-ground coffee that only has a short time to get hit by the boiling water. For a complex, lighter-roast coffee you really want to get the most out of...you gotta go pour-over.

The tartness is the main characteristic of this coffee. So tart it's almost kind of refreshing, like drinking lemon-water, but I like that. Light-…

Book Review: Black Leopard, Red Wolf (2019), by Marlon James

Upon reading the first 50 pages of the novel Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, a good friend of mine said: "Clearly a book this clever doesn't need me to read it." That somewhat accurately describes the way I feel about Black Leopard, Red Wolf. There may have been something very intellectual and advanced going on in this dark, violent, swirling, always difficult and at times excruciatingly confusing novel, but I don't think I "got" it. 
This book was a major slog. In fact, the only reason I read to the end of it was because I paid the full, brand-new hardcover price and had pre-ordered it from the bookstore back in like February or something. I remember trying to read it the day I got it and having some difficulty, then putting it down for about 8 months before giving it another try. If I'd rented it from the library I probably would not have felt the need to finish it. But when you've got $30 invested into a book, something compels you onward. 
As the f…

Book Review: If on a winter's night a traveler, by Italo Calvino (1979)

I read this fairly short novel in a single day, but that does not mean it's an easy read. Far from it. This classic work of post-modernist fiction will challenge your abilities as a reader, alternating between being playful and fun at times, to a downright chore. Having said that, I'd probably go back and read it again simply because Italo Calvino has dropped into this book enough profoundly deep observations on the nature of time, story-telling, and the act of reading (to say nothing about life in general) that it would be worth going back to see if there was anything I missed. Also, the book is compact enough that it would not take a Talumdic scholar or a lifetime to go back and do it.

Using a structure I've never before encountered in any book I've ever read, If on a winter's night a traveler consists of 12 "numbered" chapters that tell the story of two people (one of them is the second person, "you") who have bought the book If on a winter&…