“The Sheep from the Goats”: I review “What Maisie Knew”

at AmCon. Spoilers. There may not be many movies with happy endings more heartless than the one in What Maisie Knew.The new adaptation of Henry James’s novel about divorce as seen through the eyes of a small child does some things really well. All of the acting is great, especially Onata Aprile as six-year-old Maisie and Steve Coogan as her art-dealer father. Cell phones are used terrifically to create a sense of parental distraction, chaos, and irreconcilable conflicting demands.We s … [Read more...]

“All-Weather Friends”: me on Wallace Stegner

at Acculturated: All three novels of marriage I’ve looked at so far have a certain sense of the privacy of marriage, which can become isolation. In fact, the focus has narrowed with each novel: Extended family and community are essential parts of Kristin Lavransdatter, but its heart remains with Kristin’s marriage and home; the isolation of the married couple is part of the point of How to Be Good; and Gilead gains much of its force from the sense that the dying narrator is increasingly sepa … [Read more...]

Speaking of Endurance

His-and-hers perspectives on chronic relapse. Strong stuff. She: I met my husband, Jimmy, at my very first AA meeting. I stumbled into the 14th Street Workshop, bloated and reeking of booze from the night before, in my pajamas. I hadn't showered in days, and I was wary of the people in the room. I didn't trust anyone.Jimmy recognized that I was new (it wasn't hard to spot), and he put out his hand to shake mine, welcoming me and giving me a meeting list. I don't remember much about that … [Read more...]

“Prodigals and Preachers”: me on Marilynne Robinson

at Acculturated: This is the halfway point for my series of posts on great novels about marriage, and with this third installment I think I see some intertwined themes emerging. All three of the books so far—Kristin Lavransdatter, How to Be Good, and now Marilynne Robinson’s generational Iowa epic-in-miniature Gilead—are also stories about being sorry, and trying to be better, and wondering how much any person can ever really change. more; keep in mind that all of these posts necessarily overs … [Read more...]

“You’re Not the Horrible Man I Married Anymore!”: me on Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good

In the first installment of this series on great novels about marriage we looked at a thousand-plus-page epic novel about life and death in medieval Norway: early death, mutilation, miserable weddings, war, prowling wolves, even the Black Plague itself. So you might be relieved by the book I’ve chosen this time. Nick Hornby’s 2001 How to Be Good has a bright yellow cover, a modern British setting, and a manageable three-hundred pages. This first impression is misleading. How to Be Good is a bru … [Read more...]

“Cold Nights, Fiery Hearts”: me on Kristin Lavransdatter

First in a series on novels about marriage. … [Read more...]

“Some Prefer Nettles”: Drifting Toward Divorce

Some Prefer Nettles is a slim 1928 novel by Junichiro Tanizaki about the opening of Japan to the West; and, also, about a couple who can't quite seem to pull themselves together enough to divorce. They have a strange existential lassitude about it, even as everyone around them urges them to make some kind of resolution.Should they divorce? They're not happy but then again their unhappiness is just normal unhappiness, as Kaname's father-in-law finally points out to him. They have a son who is … [Read more...]


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