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
3:55 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Book Review: 'Starting Over,' By Elizabeth Spencer

Originally published on Mon January 20, 2014 6:44 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The Mississippi-born novelist and storywriter Elizabeth Spencer turned 92 last summer. Best known for her novella turned musical drama "The Light in the Piazza," Spencer has just published her 15th work of fiction. It's a collection of stories set in the South called "Starting Over." And we have a review from Alan Cheuse.

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Book Reviews
6:02 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Never Again: 'Trieste' Is A Harrowing Mix Of Memory And Memorial

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From Croatia comes a novel titled Trieste, by Dasa Drndic, originally published in Croatian in 2007 and now translated into English by Ellen Elias-Bursac. We might call the novel experimental because of some of the techniques the writer employs. But the story — a mother in search of a child, torn from her in the midst of monstrous warfare — feels ancient.

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Book Reviews
3:27 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Book Review: 'Famous Writers I Have Known'

Alan Cheuse reviews a new novel by James Magnuson, Famous Writers I Have Known.

Book Reviews
4:27 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

Written In Secret Behind The Iron Curtain, 'Corpse' Is Revived

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:28 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The fiction work of Soviet era writer Zigizmund Krzhizhanovsky never saw the light of day in his own time. He was known mostly as a theater, music and literally critic, but he also wrote fables and fiction for more than 20 years, none of which appeared in print until 1989. Well, a new volume of that work called "Autobiography of a Corpse" has just come out here in the U.S. It's translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull, and Alan Cheuse has our review.

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Book Reviews
3:35 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Gene Wolfe Spins A Kafkaesque Travelogue To A Fictional 'Land'

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 7:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Gene Wolfe is a novelist in the spirit of Jonathan Swift or Ursula K. Le Guin. He is an inventor of imaginary lands. His latest book, "The Land Across," is about an unnamed Eastern European country and reviewer Alan Cheuse says it would be a better place to visit than to live.

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Books
4:17 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Three Books Alan Cheuse Thinks You Should Read This Winter

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 7:06 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And we end this hour with a little help for your holiday shopping. It's time for our December don't miss booklist from reviewer Alan Cheuse.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: I wish instead of just recommending these books, I could set them down at your doorstep. "The Collected Stories of John Updike," the second volume of T.C. Boyle's collected stories, and Stanley Crouch's book about the rise and times of our genius saxophone player, Charlie Parker.

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Book Reviews
4:48 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

'Permanent' Shows Ordinary Americans — And Pets — Facing Life's Challenges

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 8:01 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From the author of novels such as "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Cloudsplitter," Russell Banks, comes a new collection of short stories called "A Permanent Member of the Family." It presents ordinary Americans leading difficult lives who are caught in family dramas.

Alan Cheuse has our review.

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Book Reviews
3:34 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Book Review: 'Going Dark'

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 9:45 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Writer James W. Hall is remarkably prolific. For the past two decades, he's averaged nearly one new book a year. Most are taut thrillers often set in the searing South Florida heat. Reviewer Alan Cheuse says Hall's latest novel, titled "Going Dark," proves he's one of the best genre writers working today.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Wed November 27, 2013

A Travel Writer, Lost In An Undiscovered Country In 'Land Across'

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Originally published on Wed November 27, 2013 7:55 am

Imaginary countries, from Swift's Laputa to the far lands in the works of Borges and Ursula K. Le Guin, countries we'd do better to just enjoy than try to find on a map — these strike us as mostly places it's better to visit than to live in.

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Book Reviews
3:32 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

'Long Day In November' Back Again After Long Time Gone

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 5:05 pm

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We have a review now of an old book reissued. It's by the great Southern writer Ernest J. Gaines who's best known for the novel "A Lesson Before Dying." More than four decades ago, he wrote a book for young readers called "A Long Day in November." It's being re-released with the story's original illustrations and Alan Cheuse has our review.

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Book Reviews
4:43 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

'Red Sky In Morning' Mixes Forceful Language And Powerful Story

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 6:42 pm

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

A propulsive new thriller set in 19th century Ireland hits the shelves this week. It's called "Red Sky in Morning," and it's the first novel from Paul Lynch, who is best known in his native Ireland as a film critic. But our books critic, Alan Cheuse, says this one doesn't read like a debut.

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Book Reviews
5:27 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

'Gate' Opens To Bloody And Raucous 17th Century England

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Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 4:35 pm

The absolute forefront of British writing, that's where Jeanette Winterson has stood for me ever since I read her early fiction, particularly her 1987 historical novel, The Passion. She's a writer in the vanguard, moving against the traditional, decorous nature of the British novel — even during the decade or more when, in books such as Gut Symmetries and The PowerBook, she seemed to allow aesthetics and philosophy to overtake story as her main interest.

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Book Reviews
4:07 am
Sat October 26, 2013

Norman Mailer, Warts And All, In 'A Double Life'

Originally published on Sat October 26, 2013 8:59 pm

When Norman Mailer spoke, you paid attention. Whether he was standing on a stage and speaking for an hour — without notes — on writing, or art, or politics, or in a manic monologue around a dinner table, or in a chance encounter on the sidewalks of New York or in an airport, you listened. Especially if you grew up idolizing him, as many of us did.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Anne Rice's Wolves Are Worth Catching Up To

Ken Canning iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 5:19 pm

The phrase "previously on..." has become quite familiar to American TV audiences. Whether you're devoted to Battlestar Galactica, to Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, you need to be able to catch up to a narrative when you've missed an installment or two. Novelists were there first, of course — the notion of a chain of novels focusing on the same characters goes back to Trollope and Proust – but it's less common to find a recap at the beginning of a book.

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Book Reviews
4:37 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

A Coming Of Age Story For The (Ice) Ages

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. A new novel explores life on Earth tens of thousands of years ago. It's called "Shaman" by science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, says it's worthy of a spot on the bookshelf between "The Inheritors" and "The Clan Of The Cave Bear."

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Remembrances
11:03 am
Thu October 3, 2013

Remembering Tom Clancy, 'Faulkner In A Flak Jacket'

Tom Clancy poses next to a tank in his Maryland backyard. Though he never served in the military, his books were renowned for their detail.
AP

Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 2:23 pm

The Army rejected him because of his bad eyes — he was nearsighted — but Tom Clancy, who went into the family insurance business instead of the military, turned out to have the greatest vision of modern warfare of any writer of our time. His research into military history and technology led him to create a new form of thriller, and a hero for our time, a man named Jack Ryan whose talents as a spy and technowarrior put a name and a face to the people who battled Russians, Pakistanis, Irish nationalists and Islamists along a constantly shifting front line.

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Book Reviews
3:59 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

A 'Return' To A Mexico More Dangerous Than Before

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 6:48 pm

Alan Cheuse reviews a crime novel set in Mexico, The Return by Michael Gruber.

Book Reviews
4:17 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Book Review: 'The Woman Who Lost Her Soul'

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 4:52 pm

Alan Cheuse reviews The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis. The author's first novel in twenty years traverses the globe and spans decades, and is engaging for all 700-plus pages.

Book Reviews
4:24 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Creepy Kid From 'The Shining' Back In New Stephen King Book

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 7:01 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. Stephen King has been scaring us to death for more than four decades and in his latest effort, he revisits one of his best, most terrifying novels, which also inspired this film classic.

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM "THE SHINING")

JACK NICHOLSON: (As Jack) Here's Johnny.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Here's Danny! 'Doctor Sleep' Picks Up Where 'Shining' Left Off

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Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 1:33 pm

If you're a dutiful fan of Stephen King's work — myself, I'm an off again, on again follower — you will have read The Shining, King's hit 1977 novel about a haunted resort in the Colorado Rockies. Depending on how recently you immersed yourself in that story, you'll have a sharp or vague recollection of a young child with the power of "shining," or mind-reading mixed with telekinesis.

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Book Reviews
7:00 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Book Review: 'Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish'

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The writer and humorist David Rakoff died last year at the age of 47 of cancer. He left behind his final work: a brief novel in verse with the long title "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish." It was published today, and Alan Cheuse has this review.

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NPR Story
3:15 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Book Review: 'Skinner'

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 11:36 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Charlie Huston is a Los Angeles-based writer known for his superhero comic books and crime novels. Alan Cheuse couldn't wait to get his hands on Huston's latest thriller called "Skinner." Here's his review.

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NPR Story
5:11 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Book Review: 'The Mehlis Report'

Originally published on Mon July 1, 2013 5:15 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Our book reviewer Alan Cheuse is excited to introduce the work of Rabee Jaber. He lives in Lebanon, and his novel "The Mehlis Report" takes place there. In Beirut, the characters await the real Mehlis report, which analyzed the watershed moment in Lebanon, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

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Book Reviews
4:23 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Book Review: 'A Nearly Perfect Copy'

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 6:23 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Allison Amend is out with her third book. It's a novel called "A Nearly Perfect Copy." It features richly detailed characters, including an art dealer gone bad, and it's set in both Paris and New York. Our review Alan Cheuse found it all quite delectable.

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Book Reviews
3:38 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Book Review: 'Submergence'

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 5:04 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The writer J.M. Ledgard leads multiple lives. He's a journalist and covers East Africa for the Economist, but Ledgard is also a novelist. Here's Alan Cheuse with a review of his latest book, "Submergence."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: James More, a British secret agent, has been captured by a Somalian affiliate of al-Qaeda, a peripatetic fringe group that keeps moving him back and forth across the mostly barren terrain of northeastern Africa, trying to hide from drone attacks and make jihad at the same time.

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