Alan Cheuse

Alan Cheuse has been reviewing books on All Things Considered since the 1980s. His challenge is to make each two-minute review as fresh and interesting as possible while focusing on the essence of the book itself.

Formally trained as a literary scholar, Cheuse writes fiction and novels and publishes short stories. He is the author of five novels, five collections of short stories and novellas, and the memoir Fall Out of Heaven. His prize-winning novel To Catch the Lightning is an exploration of the intertwined plights of real-life frontier photographer Edward Curtis and the American Indian. His latest work of book-length fiction is the novel Song of Slaves in the Desert, which tells the story of a Jewish rice plantation-owning family in South Carolina and the Africans they enslave. His latest collection of short fiction is An Authentic Captain Marvel Ring and Other Stories. With Caroline Marshall, he has edited two volumes of short stories. A new version of his 1986 novel The Grandmothers' Club will appear in March, 2015 as Prayers for the Living.

With novelist Nicholas Delbanco, Cheuse wrote Literature: Craft & Voice, a major new introduction to literary study. Cheuse's short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The Antioch Review, Ploughshares, and The Southern Review. His essay collection, Listening to the Page, appeared in 2001.

Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University, spends his summers in Santa Cruz, California, and leads fiction workshops at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. He earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature with a focus on Latin American literature from Rutgers University.

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Book Reviews
3:26 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Book Review: 'The Convert's Song' By Sebastian Rotella

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 5:16 pm

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Book Reviews
3:16 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Book Review: 'Skylight' By Jose Saramago

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 8:38 am

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Book Reviews
3:18 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Book Review: 'A Map Of Betrayal'

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:24 pm

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Most spy thrillers are about coldhearted people betraying one nation for another. But a new novel from Ha Jin was inspired by spy who, when he was caught, insisted he was looking out for two countries. Alan Cheuse has a review of "A Map Of Betrayal."

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Watch Your Head When Checking Out Murakami's Strange 'Library'

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Knopf

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 9:41 am

As if the work of Japanese fiction master Haruki Murakami weren't strangely beautiful by itself, his American publisher has just put out a stand-alone edition of his 2008 novella The Strange Library, in a new trade paperback designed by the legendary Chip Kidd.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Sun November 23, 2014

These Tales Of Transformation Are Both 'Rich And Strange'

Originally published on Mon November 24, 2014 1:28 pm

Ron Rash is a Southern-born novelist and short story writer with a reputation on the rise; you might know him as the author of the novel Serena (a PEN/Faulkner fiction prize nominee a few years back), which is about to become a movie with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. I have just finished reading his newly issued collection: 34 pieces of short fiction, previously published from 1998 to 2014, all of them under the title Something Rich and Strange, and I have to say that "rich" and "strange" are two words that aptly apply to this book.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Sun November 2, 2014

Rebuilding A Broken Family 'In Plain Sight'

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 5:23 pm

When Nuruddin Farah was a young writer, he published a satirical novel about Somalia, his native country. On his way home from a trip he called his brother, to ask for a ride from the airport. His brother told him not to come home: His novel had caused a stir, and authorities were looking for him.

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Book Reviews
3:27 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Book Review: 'Nora Webster' by Colm Toibin

Originally published on Mon October 27, 2014 5:25 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Book News & Features
3:02 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

'Lila' Sets The Stage For Marilynn Robinson's Earlier Works

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 5:03 pm

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Book Reviews
3:31 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Book Review: 'J'

Originally published on Mon October 13, 2014 3:58 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Book Reviews
3:35 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Two Dead Writers Come Alive In New Collections

Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 12:09 pm

This month sees the publication of posthumous collections of short fiction by two 20th century literary giants, the Italian fantasist Italo Calvino, and the American science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Reading these two books is like partaking in one of those fabled banquets of desserts. I seized the opportunity to read as many of the stories as I could in one sitting.

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Book Reviews
5:03 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Martin Amis' 'Zone Of Interest' Is An Electrically Powerful Holocaust Novel

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 5:48 pm

When I picked up Martin Amis' new novel, The Zone of Interest, it felt as though I had touched a third rail, so powerful and electric is the experience of reading it. After years of playing the snide card and giving his great store of talents to the business of giving other people the business, Amis has turned again to the matter of Nazi horrors (he tried to deal with it in a gimmicky way in his 1991 novel Time's Arrow), and the result is a book that may stand for years as the triumph of his career.

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Book Reviews
3:19 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Book Review: 'Lovely, Dark, Deep'

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 9:19 am

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Book Reviews
3:22 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Book Review: 'The Moor's Account'

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 5:14 pm

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Oates' Latest Story Collection Is 'Dark, Deep' And Marvelous

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 12:09 pm

Norman Mailer, one of the most prolific American writers of the 20th century, may have compared himself to some of the heavyweights of modern literature. But Joyce Carol Oates is an entire sports complex, including the Olympic-sized pools and the locker rooms.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Thu August 28, 2014

'Kill My Mother' Is A Darkly Drawn Confection

Originally published on Fri August 29, 2014 7:40 pm

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer — now in his mid-80s— has been in the business for more than 60 years. So his first graphic novel, a darkly drawn confection in the noir tradition, called Kill My Mother, comes late in his career. I feel a certain kinship with him, because as a reader I'm a latecomer to the genre myself. Call me a dinosaur, but his book, so deliciously inviting to scan (if a bit convoluted in its plot), is one of the first of its kind that I've read cover to cover.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Sun August 17, 2014

A Tumultuous Journey Along This 'Narrow Road'

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 6:14 pm

Tasmanian-born novelist Richard Flanagan named his latest book after a spiritually intense travel journal by the 17th century Japanese poet Basho, but this extraordinary new novel presents us with a story much more tumultuous than the great haiku writer's account of his wanderings. Flanagan has written a sort of Australian War and Peace, centered on the extraordinary Dorrigo Evans (also Tasmanian-born), a heroic yet philandering doctor.

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Book Reviews
3:19 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

The Dangerous Private Lives Of Spies In 'A Colder War'

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 5:43 pm

With half a dozen novels to his credit, British spy writer Charles Cumming has a growing reputation as the heir to the John Le Carre tradition in British fiction. His latest, A Colder War, shows us why.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Wed August 6, 2014

An Heir To E.M. Forster's Vision In 'Every Stone'

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 6:38 pm

Every literate nation should have the epics it deserves. The Indian subcontinent already has Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (among a few others), and now we can add to that illuminating company Kamila Shamsie's new novel, A God in Every Stone. Stretching from the ancient Persian Empire to the waning days of the British Empire, the novel has an enormous wingspan that catches a wonderful storyteller's wind.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Wed July 30, 2014

An Unconventional Family On The Road To Happiness In 'Lucky Us'

Originally published on Mon August 4, 2014 6:09 pm

Amy Bloom's new novel Lucky Us takes readers across America in the 1940s, that special decade of wartime dislocation and post-war disruption — with side-trips to England and Germany — in the company of a pair of half-sisters as endearing and comically annoying as any you'll find in contemporary fiction.

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Book Reviews
3:09 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Book Review: 'A Replacement Life'

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 6:40 pm

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Book Reviews
4:47 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Book Review: 'Angels Make Their Hope Here'

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 7:17 pm

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDRED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Now to 19th-century New Jersey and a new novel. It set among unusually tolerant people. A racially mixed community that offers refuge to independent souls. Alan Cheuse has this review of the novel "Angels Make Their Hope Here" by Breena Clarke.

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Book Reviews
3:13 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Book Review: 'Shooting Star'

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 5:13 pm

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A 30-year-old novel has just been translated to English but keeps its Spanish name, "Muerte En Una Estrella." The author is Sergio Elizondo, and the translators are Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it crackles.

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Book Reviews
3:17 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Book Review: 'The Expedition To The Boabab Tree'

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 6:01 pm

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The journey of a girl sold into slavery is the topic of a compelling piece of fiction out of South Africa. It's called "The Expedition To The Boabab Tree." The author is poet Wilma Stockenstrom. She originally published it back in 1981, and now it has been translated from the Africaans by Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee and published in the United States. Allen Cheuse has our review.

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Book Reviews
3:07 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

'Warburg' Struggles For Love And Justice In Wartime Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
AP

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 3:26 pm

James Carroll, who served as a Catholic priest before his literary ambitions led him to go secular, has gathered together his knowledge of church history and his mature powers as a novelist to create Warburg in Rome, his most splendid work of fiction to date.

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Book Reviews
3:15 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Book Review: 'No Country'

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 6:14 pm

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. Kalyan Ray has been busy. The Bangladesh-born writer is also a translator and actor. That may be why 10 years have passed since his first novel was released. And reviewer Alan Cheuse is happy his second is now out.

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Book Reviews
3:00 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Summer Reading: Three Books To Take You To New Frontiers

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 5:24 pm

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. You don't need a ticket to travel this summer. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, has packed a small bag of books that he says will send you to Alaska, Siberia and Tasmania. Here's Alan on three debut works.

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Book Reviews
6:21 am
Wed June 4, 2014

'Night Heron' And 'The Director' Provide A Double Shot Of Intrigue

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 9:39 am

I suppose it's preaching to the converted to announce that David Ignatius has done it again. But here he is, having written yet another deeply engaging spy thriller, rooted at that point where the intricacies of the intelligence community and the everyday world of civilians converge. However, it's a reviewer's duty to point out some fascinating new turns in the man's work — in particular, the highlighting of Internet communications as a source of secret information over the conventional collection of data in the field, and the actual manipulation of events by means of writing code.

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Book Reviews
3:08 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Book Review: 'The Director' and 'Night Heron'

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 7:03 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Now, two new spy novels, both written by journalists - one by an old hand of the genre, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius - the other by a first-time novelist, Adam Brookes at the BBC. Alan Cheuse has our reviews.

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Book Reviews
4:05 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

McMurtry Takes Aim At A Legend In 'Last Kind Words Saloon'

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:53 am

In a prefatory note to The Last Kind Words Saloon, his first novel in five years, Western writer supreme Larry McMurtry states that he wants to create a "ballad in prose." And he borrows a line from great moviemaker John Ford: "When legend becomes fact, print the legend."

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Book Reviews
3:00 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Everyday Life Is a Rich Mine Of Absurdity In 'American Innovations'

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 6:59 pm

Richard Ford talks about understanding voice in fiction as "the music of the story's intelligence." It's been a long while since I've read short fiction by a new writer who makes that idea seem so definitive. But here is American Innovations, the first collection by Rivka Galchen. She lives in New York City, attended medical school, writes for the New Yorker, and has already published one novel. And now, she's brought out these stories that seem like the smartest around.

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