Out Loud  / new fiction

Written by Jan Kline four months ago

The Portable Veblen, by Elizabeth McKenzie

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The main character in this book is one of the most specific and memorable I’ve encountered in a while. Veblen Amundsen-Hovda is an underachiever (despite her high intelligence, college degree, and fluency in Norwegian, she’s doing temporary clerical work at

Written by Jan Kline eight months ago

Two Excellent Debut Novels about Family

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The holidays have a way of reminding us about family: the ones we are born into (and sometimes flee from), and the ones we choose. I’ve recently read two very different first novels that center around this theme. Aaron Englund,

Written by Jan Kline two years ago

Us, by David Nicholls

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Sad and funny is one of my favorite combinations in a novel, and this one has the perfect balance.

Written by Jan Kline three years ago

Hearts as Idiots: Two Versions

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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

Written by Jan Kline three years ago

This Beautiful Life, by Helen Schulman

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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

Written by Jan Kline three years ago

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

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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

Written by Jan Kline three years ago

NW, by Zadie Smith

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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

Written by Jan Kline three years ago

Arcadia, by Lauren Groff

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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,

Written by Jan Kline three years ago

The love song of Jonny Valentine, by Teddy Wayne

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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.

Written by Jan Kline three years ago

Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon

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The prospect of a fat new Michael Chabon novel always makes me clear the reading decks for action. Telegraph Avenue sounded especially appealing, with its Bay Area setting, musical subject matter (two of the four main characters are co-owners of

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