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Mark Flanagan

Mark's Contemporary Literature Blog


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Pinstripe Empire by Marty Appel

Saturday May 31, 2014

Pinstripe Empire, Marty Appel's full-length, thoroughly researched "biography" of the Yankees is a remarkably dispassionate and even-handed history from someone associated with the team for twenty-five years. Appel brings people and events to life and lets the reader into some of the backstage dealings which have made the Yankees perhaps the most loved and hated team in baseball history.

Review of Pinstripe Empire

Photo: Bloomsbury

A Life in Men by Gina Frangello

Friday May 30, 2014

In Gina Frangello's third novel, Mary, recently diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, and her best friend Nix set out on a global journey together, but something happens at their first stop that will forever change the course of their friendships and their lives.

Review of A Life in Men

Photo: Algonquin

Maya Angelou, April 4, 1928 - May 28, 2014

Wednesday May 28, 2014

May Angelou passed away in her Winston-Salem home today at the age of 86. The author of six memoirs including her most famous, I Know Wy the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou spent time as an actor, playwright, journalist, teacher and songwriter, In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the poet told the story of her humble beginnings in Arkansas, an unstable childhood during which she was raped by her mother's boyfriend. When the rapist was killed by Angelou's uncles, Angelou blamed herself and didn't speak for five years.

"The Caged Bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom."

In addition to a prolific poet and author, Angelou went on to become a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement, a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize and a guest of U.S. Presidents, having famously read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Clinton's 1993 inauguration and, in 2011, been presented with a Medal of Freedom by President Obama. She was by all accounts a light in this world who will long be remembered.

More about Maya Angelou and her writing.

Marshlands by Matthew Olshan

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Marshlands, Matthew Olshan's short yet dizzying tale of a race of indigenous marshmen and the outsider in their midst is an exceptional, culturally-resonant and uniquely-told debut novel.

Review of Marshlands

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

Thursday May 22, 2014

The Transcriptionist, Amy Rowland's remarkable debut novel, is the story of "one lowly worker questioning the role of the newspaper as an institution, and how newspapers are facing the challenges and the new reality of the time we live in."

Review of The Transcriptionist

Photo: Algonquin

The Returned by Jason Mott

Monday May 19, 2014

The Returned, Jason Mott's unique vision of reincarnation, has the dead returning to life the same age at which they died, disoriented and seeking the people they knew in life though often in the wrong part of the world.

Review of The Returned.

Photo: Harlequin

Gary Shteyngart, "auteur of the book promo"

Friday May 16, 2014

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

A number of years ago I bought a phone from a guy who claimed to have travelled the Czech Republic with Gary Shteyngart, a trip that purportedly was the basis for The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Shteyngart's 2002 debut novel. The author has been on my radar since then, and though I've only read Super Sad True Love Story so far, I've now added his memoir, Little Failure to my TBR pile. Shteyngart is a ridiculously funny and inventive individual, evidenced not only by his novels but by the book trailers he's done for both Super Sad and Little Failure.

For a glimpse into his life, time-travel with me now to a brief profile of Gary Shteyngart that will be published in tomorrow's Sydney Morning Herald.

The Corpse Exhibition by Hassan Blasim

Monday May 12, 2014

Hassan Blasim's The Corpse Exhibition is a brutal, sobering collection of short fiction from the literarily under-explored world of contemporary Iraq. Blasim holds core literary concepts like good and evil and life and death to entirely different standards than the Western canon, making The Corpse Exhibition a difficult but illuminating, valuable read.

Review of The Corpse Exhibition

Photo: Penguin

Paleofantasy by Marlene Zuk

Tuesday May 6, 2014

Biologist Marlene Zuk has brought her trademark wit and rigorous research to Paleofantasy, a remarkable study that explores, as the sub-title states: "What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live." In ten intriguing chapters, Zuk presents a compelling case that debunks the "paleofantasy" that our ancestors were healthier, more muscular, and more attuned to their world than we are.

Review of Paleofantasy

Photo: W.W. Norton

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Wednesday April 30, 2014

San Francisco in the 1870s is undergoing both a heat wave and a small pox epidemic. French immigrants like Blanche Beunon and Jenny Bonnet are trying to make a living, while also trying to stay alive. When Jenny is murdered in cold blood in front of Blanche's eyes, Blanche makes it her mission to bring Jenny's murderers to justice. But at what cost?

Review of Frog Music

Photo: Little, Brown, and Company

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