Playing Cartas

Spanish playing cards are completely different from the 52-card deck with which most of us are accustomed.  To start, there are only 40 cards: no 8’s and 9’s and face cards begin with 10’s.  There are no queens: knights follow the jacks.  Forget about spades, diamonds, and hearts and think coins, cups, and swords.  The […]

Is A Picture Worth A Thousand Words? Black Hole by Charles Burns (2005) and Fun Home By Alison Bechdel (2006)

Is a picture worth a thousand words?  Sometimes. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of graphic novels, considering them to be more expensive and lengthier cousins of comic books.  I did enjoy Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and its sequels.  Satrapi’s illustrations hammered the human toll of the Shah’s overthrow in Iran.  However, I […]

No Bullcrap–I Love Ferdinand

So what’s your favorite children’s book?  This may not have been true when I was a kid, but it’s true now.  My favorite children’s book is not the confidence-affirming Little Engine That Could or the aesthetic-inspiring Harold and The Purple Crayon or the didactic The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  It’s The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.  The bull […]

Murder In Javier Marias: A Heart So White (1992)

Straying outside the New York Times bestseller list has its perils.  After my painful slog with Kingsley and Martin Amis a couple of weeks ago, I was dismayed to encounter some heavy sledding at the start of Javier Marias’ A Heart So White.  It wasn’t the author’s fault.  This is not a book that you can […]

All In The Family: Parent-Child Novelists

Scions of wealth end up in the family business.  There may be something genetic about writing talent but it’s surprising how few pairs of parent-child novelists have been successful. Alexandre Dumas, pere and Alexandre Dumas, fils.  Dad created The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.  Fils wrote Camille, about the self-sacrificing prostitute whom Verdi later […]

Amis & Amis: Kingsley and Martin

After painfully slogging through Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis and Money (1984) by Martin Amis, I reached three conclusions: (1) there is either something wrong with British sense of humor or with mine; (2) I’m not attracted to novels featuring loutish protagonists; and (3) Lucky Jim is less boring than Money because it is shorter and less […]