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.

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.

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.

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 Review: 'J'

Oct 13, 2014
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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.

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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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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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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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.

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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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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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.

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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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.

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."

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.

No book I've read all year underscores the distinctions between the long form and the short story more than the award-winning story writer Anthony Doerr's new novel All the Light We Cannot See.

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In Syria, the 1980s were marked by a bloody civil war between the Sunni majority and the minority Alawite Muslim government. That's now the setting for a novel titled "In Praise of Hatred." It's by Syrian writer Khaled Khalifa. It's now available in the United States and a translation by Larry Price. And Alan Cheuse has our review.

Over the course of his long and distinguished writing career, Peter Matthiessen — who died this past weekend at the age of 86 — chased numerous demons, from Florida outlaws to missionaries and mercenaries in South America. In his latest novel, which the ailing writer suggested would be his last, takes us back to a week-long conference held at Auschwitz in 1996. Here, as autumn shifts toward winter, Jews and Germans, Poles and Americans, rabbis, Buddhists, European nuns and slightly crazed survivors of Nazi genocide stand witness to the atrocities of some of the greatest demons of history.

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