Archive: Dennis Drabelle

A chance encounter -- and a literary delight

By Dennis Drabelle Here's why bookstores will always be important to me. Last week, on a visit to Philadelphia, I stopped in at the Book Trader, a roomy secondhand store on Second Street, looking for something to read, wanting to be surprised. While browsing the fiction shelves, I noticed "Chad...

By Steven E. Levingston | November 19, 2009; 05:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

What to Skip

I want to add my two cents to Jack Murnighan's new book, "Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits." I agree with some his skip recommendations. For example, I consider everything in Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain" after Hans Castorp's dream in...

By Denny Drabelle | June 25, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

My Oldest Book

In a previous posting, I mentioned the need to cull some items from our house's overflowing bookcases. While performing the chore (more than 60 titles were ultimately delivered to the good folks at Stone Ridge Academy for their next spring's sale), I ran across the book I've owned the longest...

By Denny Drabelle | June 16, 2009; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (4)

The Mumps of Wodehouse

Overlook Press has been publishing deluxe-ish editions of the works of P.G. Wodehouse, and the latest has just arrived: "Aunts Aren't Gentlemen." I mean "latest" in two senses: This is the latest volume to come out, and it was the last novel the overlord of light comedy finished before his...

By Denny Drabelle | May 19, 2009; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Weeder

It's crunch time in my household: too many books, not enough space. Several bookcases are double-shelved; most have books on the very top; and even some cupboards hold books rather than food or crockery. One of these days -- no, make that pretty damn soon -- I've got to cull....

By Denny Drabelle | May 14, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

War Game

Yesterday I came across yet another forthcoming book about the Civil War: one on the 1864 Battle of the Crater. Though not one of the war's most decisive battles, it is certainly one of the most memorable, the crater in question being caused after the Union army spent weeks tunneling...

By Denny Drabelle | April 28, 2009; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Cheever Bio up for Grabs

I can't wait to read the recent biography by Blake Bailey, and not just because its subject, John Cheever, is one of my favorite writers. The book has received wildly divergent reviews, and I'm eager to see which side my opinion falls on. In Book World a few weeks ago,...

By Denny Drabelle | April 7, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Five First-Rate Narrative Histories

Narrative history was considered an endangered species during the 1970s and '80s, when no-frills revisionist scholarship was in the ascendance. But in the decades since, on the shoulders of such bestselling authors as David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin, narrative history has made a comeback. We've rediscovered the joy of...

By Denny Drabelle | March 26, 2009; 10:50 AM ET | Comments (3)

Foreign Matter

Ever get tired of reading in English? There's something limiting -- imprisoning almost -- in being stuck with your native tongue all the time. For one thing, especially with mediocre writers, you find yourself mentally finishing sentences before you reach their ends (this makes you appreciate all the more those...

By Denny Drabelle | March 17, 2009; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Too Much 'War and Peace'?

A newish (2005) translation of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" has just landed on my desk, done by a man named Anthony Briggs and published by Penguin Classics. Is it a good thing that, with this one, we now have at least half-a-dozen mass-market English translations of the novel to...

By Denny Drabelle | February 24, 2009; 07:08 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Five Best From My 'Book World' Past

My first review for Book World appeared in Style on Christmas day, 1978; a few weeks later, I made my first appearance in Sunday's Book World, by then a section of its own. As most of you know by now, we are now merging with the rest of the paper,...

By Denny Drabelle | February 12, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Art of Editing

Lately we at Book World have been thinking a lot about what we do: that is to say, about editing. More and more of our reviewers are complaining that too many elementary mistakes -- clich├ęs, faulty grammar, even errors of fact -- are finding their way into finished books. This...

By Ron Charles | February 3, 2009; 01:54 PM ET | Comments (3)

Five Books That Made You Feel Like an Adult Reader

There comes a time in every reader's life when he or she graduates from kids books and young-adult titles to nonfiction with no holds barred and fiction that draws on the full resources of the language in portraying complex human relationships. My friend Jack is entering this phase now in...

By Christian Pelusi | December 11, 2008; 07:32 AM ET | Comments (11)

The Reader in the Oval Office

Now that Barack Obama has confounded us all by performing almost exactly as the polls said he would, I'm wondering what the effect will be of having a president who reads literary fiction. The president-elect's favorite authors are said to include Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, E.L. Doctorow and Philip Roth:...

By Ron Charles | November 7, 2008; 10:09 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Frail but Vibrant Tony Hillerman

Three or four years ago, I had the privilege of lunching with Tony Hillerman, the great writer of mysteries set in the Navajo country of the Southwest, who died last Sunday at age 83. It came about by accident: I was on hand at the National Book Festival to introduce...

By Denny Drabelle | October 28, 2008; 09:59 AM ET | Comments (2)

Five Books about Baseball

As the 2008 baseball season nears its climax, it's time for addicts of the game to begin easing their looming withdrawal by laying in baseball books for the winter. Here to get you started are five classics of the genre: Ball Four, by Jim Bouton (1970). Published at the end...

By Rachel Hartigan Shea | October 23, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

So Many Titles, So Little Space

You would think that any author who has labored so mightily as to bring forth a book ought to noticed by The Washington Post. Alas, that's impossible: Book World receives hundreds of books and bound galleys (the rough, junior versions of the ultimate products) per week, and we have a...

By Ron Charles | September 24, 2008; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Five Great Unfinished Novels

With publication of Vladimir Nabokov's last, unfinished novel, The Original of Laura, being talked about, it seems a good time to look at other incomplete works, many of which were shaping up to be masterpieces when something happened: Inspiration flagged, or time ran out on the aging author, or the...

By Christian Pelusi | August 21, 2008; 07:58 AM ET | Comments (7)

Five Favorite Graphic Novels

Let me emphasize that word "favorite": I wouldn't necessarily claim that the following are the best graphic novels ever created, just ones that particularly please me. As you'll see with the last item, I'm not above cheating. But graphic storytelling is such a raffish art form that I don't feel...

By Christian Pelusi | July 17, 2008; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (14)

Five Literary Fiascos by Great American Writers

From time to time a successful author decides he should take a chance, go for broke, write a revolutionary book. Whereupon said writer promptly lays an egg. Here are five literary fiascos, all by Americans: Cases of good writers gone shockingly bad. 1. Pierre, or The Ambiguities, by Herman Melville...

By Christian Pelusi | June 19, 2008; 06:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

Five Books That Defy Categorization

We're becoming more and more wedded to genres: labeling books as mystery, literary fiction, Western chick-lit, travel, American history and so on, while expecting them to live up to expectations and abide by boundaries. But some of my favorite books defy easy pigeonholing -- and may be the better for...

By Christian Pelusi | May 1, 2008; 06:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Great -- and Way Too Often Overlooked -- Novels by Famous Authors

Here are five stepchildren -- terrific novels overshadowed by their creators' more famous or better-selling works: 1. No Name (1862), by Wilkie Collins. Collins's The Woman in White and The Moonstone are giants of sensationalist fiction, but No Name, a dizzying spiral of impersonation and revenge, is just as good....

By Christian Pelusi | February 28, 2008; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (12)

Books That Illuminate the Silver Screen

The feature film is just about a century old, and all those years of history have produced a landslide of books about the medium. These five books, ranging from the glamorous silent era to the cusp of the 1960s renaissance, help bring it all in focus. 1. Silent Stars, (1999),...

By Christian Pelusi | January 3, 2008; 07:25 AM ET | Comments (5)

Travel Books That Will Take You Far

As the days get shorter and colder, vicarious adventure starts looking better than the real thing. Here, chosen in part to reflect the range of the planet's ecosystems, are half-a-dozen great books for the armchair explorer: 1. Arabian Sands (1959), by Wilfred Thesiger. From 1945-50, Thesiger spent as much time...

By Christian Pelusi | November 15, 2007; 07:02 AM ET | Comments (11)

 

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