Likely Stories

Thursday 7:45am and 4:45pm. Saturday 8:35am. Sunday 9:35am

So many books, so little time!  Jim McKeown hosts this weekly review of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and biographies.  Jim is a lifelong voracious reader who learned to read by the “rule of 50.”  If he’s not engaged in the characters, the prose, or the plot by page 50, he puts in a book mark and returns it to the shelf.   Likely Stories  is a three and a half minute module that we think you’ll give “FIVE STARS!” 

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

According to the dust jacket, “Brock Clarke is an award-winning author of seven previous works of fiction, including the bestselling An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England.  He lives in Maine and he teaches at Bowdoin College.”  His latest novel, Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? is one peculiar book.  

 


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Richard Russo is a talented and widely admired writer.  His latest novel Chances Are… is the story of “Three old friends [who] arrived on Cape Cod in reverse order, from farthest to nearest: Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker, traveled practically cross-country from Las Vegas, Teddy. A small press publisher, from Syracuse; Mickey, a musician and sound engineer.  All were sixty-six years old and had attended the same small liberal arts college in Connecticut where they’d slung hash at a campus sorority” (3).  The group is rounded out with “Jacy,” (6).  I am about the same age, and I attended a small liberal arts college in Philadelphia, I could not help missing a healthy measure of intrigue.

 


Likely Stories: The Book of Dreams by Nina George

Sep 26, 2019

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

I discovered the writer Nina George when I impulsively bought her first novel, The Little Paris Bookshop.  Her next story, The Little Paris Bistro appeared next.  Both were delightful tales of life in Paris, France.  I had to wait a bit for her next novel, The Book of Dreams.  This was quite a departure from the French novels, but Nina has created a magnificent and tragic novel, which is filled with hope and desire.

Nina George is the author of the best-selling books I just mentioned.  Her books are an international phenomenon.  She has published a number of novels in Germany published around Europe.  She lives with her husband in Berlin and Brittany, France.  I was lucky enough to meet her while on a tour of the US.  I can’t wait for her next novel.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Toni Morrison is one of the great writers of her generation.  Few writers have the emotional and literary power of Morrison.  Add to that her development of many stories of the African American experience.  She deftly spins tales of great passion, empathy, and love.  Morrison gives readers a particularly intense focus of the tragedy of slavery as well as the aftermath leading up to the present day.  Her numerous novels include The Bluest EyeBeloved, and God Help the Child.  My particular favorite is Sula.  In honor of her recent passing, I am dedicating this review to Toni Morrison.

Adventures of a voracious reader who works in an independent bookstore

As my readers are aware, I have a craving for novels about books, bookshelves, bookstores, and libraries.  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman is her third novel

Abbi writes, “Larchmont Boulevard is the linear heart of Larchmont Village, populated by cafés, restaurants, boutiques, artisanal stores of many kinds, and one of the few remaining independent bookstores in Los Angeles.  That’s where Nina Hill works, spinster of the parish and heroine of both her own life and the book you’re holding in your lovely hand” (4).  I feel as though I am nearly in the presence of Jane Austen.

Excellent collection of poetry by the greatest Greek poet.


Collection of wonderful stories by the noted actor, Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks has a solid record as an actor.  He was born July 9, 1956.  He is well known for his comedic and dramatic roles in such films as Sleepless in Seattle, Forest Gump, Apollo 13, Cast Away, and Saving Private Ryan, to name a few.  He is widely regarded as an American cultural icon.  Uncommon Types: Some Stories is his first book.

The first story, “Three Exhausting Weeks” reveals much of the details of their relationship.  Anna is a whirlwind of ideas.  Hanks wrote, “Anna was still very pretty.  She never lost her lean, rope-taut body of a triathlete, which, in fact, she had been.  For a day, I showed her some available spaces, none of which she wanted for reasons that made little sense to me.  I could tell she was just as driven, focused, and tightly wound as she had been in [college].  She had too keen an eye for the smallest of details and left no stones unturned, uninspected, unrecorded, or unreplaced if they needed replacing.  Adult Anna was no more my type than Teen Anna had been” (5-6).  They became a couple.

Story of a young man who was abandoned by his wife but finds love at last.

Robert Hillman’s first novel—The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted—turned out to be a lovely story marvelously written with a backdrop of a frightening past set in Australia.  Tom Hope has been abandoned by his wife.  He struggles to understand why his wife left him.  Trudy returns after a long period and announces she is pregnant.   She stays for a while, but then she disappears again, leaving the boy with Tom.  Then she shows up to claim her son.  Tom is devastated after raising the boy alone for a few years. 

Heart-breaking story of a man desperate to reunite with his deceased wife.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Over the course of my reading life, I have been fortunate enough to gather a small number of books which deeply affected me and drove me to tears.  For example, A Little Life by Yonagihara, The Goldfinch by Donna Tart, and Iris Murdoch: A Life by Peter Conradi to name a few.  I now have a fourth to add to my list: Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin. 

Hysterically funny French satire of life in a small village in France.

Many of my graduate school studies were firmly grounded in the 19th century.  Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevallier—suggested by a good friend—recently came my way, and it proved to be a very funny story.

According to Wikipedia, Clochemerle is a French satirical novel, which was first published in 1934.  The book is set in a fictional French town called "Clochemerle", situated in the Beaujolais region.  The book is a comic work, satirizing the conflicts between Catholics and Republicans in the French Third Republic by telling the story of the installation of a fixture in Clochemerle's town square. 

Fantastic and thrilling story of a young child abandoned by her family in a hidden marsh.

In 1984, I purchased a book with an intriguing soft cover with, lots of pictures, and outstanding prose.  I read Cry of the Kalahari in one sitting.  I was so struck, I immediately read it again.  When I noticed Delia Owens’s name on Where the Crawdads Sing, I instinctively knew it would be a masterpiece of fiction.  My thoughts proved to be correct. 

According to the dust jacket, Delia Owens is the author of several books of African species in Botswana.  Her first book was co-authored with her then husband, who sold all their possessions and moved to Botswana.  They faced agonizing red tape before they were able to enter the country.  Where the Crawdad Sings is her first novel.  I hope it will not be her last.

Another in a series of Swedish novels, which are quite funny

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Fredrik Backman is one funny writer.  He is a Swedish columnist, blogger, and writer.  He is the author of A Man Called OveMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, Beartown, and Us Against You.  His novels offer the reader many, many hours of laughter and tears.  Britt-Marie Is Here is my latest read by Backman.

Britt-Marie cannot stand numerous assaults on neatness, uncleanliness, and poor manners.  She is socially awkward, and she does not suffer fools.  However, she is a ferocious and meticulous cleaner.  She also takes care to feed a rat, which takes up residence in her living space.  She has recently separated from her husband, Kent, and she is now courted by Sven, a handsome police officer who lives in the town of Borg. 

Students at a prestigious academy come under the influence of a charismatic professor

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

One of my earliest of my obsessions with an individual writer was Ann Beattie.  Two things about her drew me to her works.  The first was the fact she had published—simultaneously—a collection of short stories and a novel.  The novel was Chilly Scenes of Winter and the short story collection was Distortions.  She has now written twenty-one magnificent works, including her latest novel, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck.  Her collections of short stories will provide a reader with a treasure trove of American short fiction.

Eerie story of a woman searching for clues to her husband’s intentions.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

An eerie coincidence led me to Mamta Chaudhry’s novel, Haunting Paris.  As I read, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned in a horrible conflagration.  I have traveled to Paris a number of times, and the cathedral on the river Seine was always an important stop.  Chaudhry’s fiction, poetry, and feature articles have been published widely.  Much of her professional career has taken her from Calcutta to Miami, to Dallas.  She currently lives with her husband in Coral Gables, Florida, and they spend part of each year in India and France.  Haunting Paris is her first novel.

Likely Stories: Calypso by David Sedaris

Jul 8, 2019

Surprisingly funny personal stories of the comic writer.

 Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Every family has stories of unusual and funny uncles, nephews, aunts, and siblings.  David Sedaris is no exception.  Calypso—is no exception.  His brand of humor takes a few pages to absorb, but once “bitten,” he will infect your funny bone for good.  David Raymond Sedaris is an American humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor.  He was publicly recognized in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "Santaland Diaries.”  Calypso is his tenth book. 


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