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War is hell. It can also be funny as hell.
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Gambling on Love: Stewart O'Nan's "The Odds"

February 15, 2012

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When it comes to putting American culture under a microscope, few novelists succeed as well as Stewart O’Nan. Time after time, novel after novel, O’Nan has focused tightly on particular microbes of our society—people like you and me, to be blunt about it—and examined the foibles, the follies, and the flaws of the Way We Live. In Songs for the Missing, he turned his attention to the grief of a family whose teenage daughter goes missing; in Last Night at the Lobster, it was the disappointment of the American economic dream; in Emily, Alone, it was the solitude of the elderly. In his newest novel, The Odds: A Love Story, O’Nan puts a troubled marriage in the petri dish.

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Front Porch Books: February 2012 Edition

February 8, 2012

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In which I spotlight new arrivals to hit my front doorstep, courtesy of FedEx and UPS. New and forthcoming titles this month include books by Benjamin Busch, Joyce Carol Oates, Charlotte Rogan, Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), Jess Walter, Glen Duncan and Johanna Skibsrud.

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The Dark Side of Dickens

February 7, 2012

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that Charles Dickens the Writer was a genius but Charles Dickens the Man was an asshole.

I've now reached the point in Claire Tomalin's Charles Dickens: A Life where the nasty side of his nature can no longer be denied. In fact, at one point Tomalin warns the reader: "You'll want to avert your eyes from a good deal of what happened during the next year, 1858."

On this day, the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth, it may seem a little sacrilegious to pause in our adoration of the writer whose works, the Economist once pronounced in 1852, "are [as] sure to be sold and read as the bread which is baked is sure to be sold and eaten." It is, in fact, a little troubling to me that his bicentennial fete arrives just as I'm reading about Dickens the dick.

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