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Posts from the ‘Sensible Shoes: Book Reviews’ Category

Hearts as Idiots: Two Versions

I’ve just finished two very different books, but realized that they had a common thread after all: the places you end up by listening to your heart (or possibly your ego, libido, or a combination of all the above). The books are Davy Rothbart’s My Heart is an Idiot: Essays and Kathy Ebel’s Claudia Silver to the Rescue. Read more

This Beautiful Life, by Helen Schulman

This novel answers the question “how far can an inappropriately shared video go on the internet?” Take a group of teenagers partying in a house with absent parents, add alcohol, a spurned 8th grade girl, and a smart phone, and you’ll quickly find out. Read more

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

For me, this novel was a perfect summer read, and not because it was a lightweight piece of fluff, either. It starts in an summer arts camp in the Berkshires in the mid-1970s. This is a classier camp than I ever went to, full of privileged, talented high school students. While my music and church camp experiences were more low-rent, there’s something about the experience of being thrown into communal, semi-outdoor living with a bunch of strangers at that age that’s universally traumatic and memorable. I could almost smell the musty, reindeer-flannel-lined sleeping bags. Read more

NW, by Zadie Smith

I loved the characters in this book, and cared what happened to all of them. My problem was that the elliptical style — and my uneasy grasp of NW London slang — left me groping occasionally to figure out what was happening, and sometimes to whom. I loved both of Smith’s earlier novels, White Teeth and On Beauty. Read more

The financial lives of the poets, by Jess Walter

I’m working my way backwards through Jess Walter’s fiction, after reading and loving his Beautiful Ruins last fall. Ruins jumped from Italy to Edinburgh to Hollywood, from the 60s to the present. This earlier novel is solidly American in setting and themes, but no less engrossing. The main character, Matt Prior, has given up his day job as a reporter to pursue a venture that sounds like a joke: a financial journalism website composed entirely in blank verse. Unfortunately for Matt, his wife, their two sons, and their mortgage (with its upcoming balloon payment), this works about as well as it sounds like it would. Read more

Arcadia, by Lauren Groff

This book should quickly clear up any romantic notions you might have about how idyllic it might have been to live on a commune in the 60s. True, it’s fiction, but the numerous ways it could go wrong (winter, infidelity, bad parenting, rock star egos, and outhouses, to name but a few) are so convincingly portrayed that I found myself searching the author’s bio to see if she might have done time in one herself.
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The love song of Jonny Valentine, by Teddy Wayne

If you’d told me I’d like a novel narrated by a Justin Bieberesque 11-year-old pop star, I would have called you nuts. But I found this tragicomic novel by Teddy Wayne, author of 2011′s Kapitoil, very affecting.

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