Matrix by Lauren Groff is a welcome assault on readers’ sensibilities–in this case ears and eyes, to say nothing of minds. In uniquely syntaxed prose, lucid and almost cinematographic in the unfolding of her tale, Groff creates a 12th century world that relies on...
In Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, this highly regarded author delivers another slamdunk novel. Hamnet is her first venture into historical fiction. She creates the ethos of rural, Elizabethan England within the story of grief-stricken domesticity, as an unpretentious...
The gift Bair gives us in Parisian Lives is a direct and knowing contemplation of the works of two literary giants—and the circumstances of their lives as they were written. Her memoir radiates that same honesty about her life and work.
“Wild Life is a page-turner with universal appeal, but a special gift for young girls and women, their brothers, and male acquaintances.”
“If this book were an opera, De Robertis would be deafened by curtain call after curtain call after every performance. It is, to say the least, a most memorable page turner that carries a siren call of hope.”
Paper Chains, despite its subject matter, is a well told tale of two young women who serendipitously meet in a jewelry shop in London, England. They soon discover they are Australians abroad, one from Sydney, the other Perth. India, from Perth, is bombastic, almost frenetically upbeat and energetic, while Hannah is reserved with a hang-dog affect. She rarely lifts her head other than to talk briefly with someone. She is a long-distance runner who is trying to outrun her guilt and shame.
In Wolas’ pages, Joan’s fully embodied motherhood, despite her ambiguous doubts about her role, are brilliantly accurate. Every mother who has sacrificed her ambition and talents for motherhood will find she is reading about herself. Every husband and wife whose marriage is torn apart will gain new perspectives from reading this novel. Every adult child who wonders about their parents’ relationship to one another and to themselves and their siblings will find a mirror shard here.
In the Midst of Winter: A Novel Reviewed by: Janet Levine Well known and adored by millions of readers worldwide, Chilean-American author, Isabel Allende with her 21st novel In the Midst of Winter will please multitudes of her fans and also leave them uneasy. Uneasy...
In Sacrificed the arcs of many storylines merge and part and ultimately leave several threads hanging. This in itself is satisfying and realistic, an intelligent way to conclude the book. Intimate family trajectories, as well as those of grandiose political schemas cannot be neatly packaged simply because they have become more transparent to the characters and the reader. Ultimately, we are left with some answers but also more questions.
Over that decade, thousands of other women, men, and boys have been abducted by Boko Haram and taken to hideouts in swampy rain forests in western Nigeria called Sambisa. Inevitably the world’s attention left Nigeria and the abducted girls. However, German journalist Wolfgang Bauer and his brilliant photographer, Andy Spira, with this book fill the gap.
The strongest parts of the book occur when Boylan writes from the point of view of the trans character who finds marginal redemption. This is not surprising as Boylan herself is trans and her character’s experience rings powerfully true.
Trevor Noah’s autobiography of his childhood and adolescence in this perilous, shifting landscape cleverly avoids polemical statements and moral platitudes. The very facts of how he learns to navigate the political currents swirling around him provides vivid commentary on those challenging times for South Africa.
JANET LEVINE BLOG: NYJB BOOK REVIEW: After 9/11: One Girl’s Journey through Darkness to a New Beginning
Throughout history witness-bearers through their stories provide personal glimpses into historic events that can otherwise become dates and place names and statistics. Hovitz’s book opens a window on one person’s journey in the aftermath of September 11. She has rendered a valuable service in adding her voice to the memory of this momentous interstice in world history.
Are you reading this Donald? A wise person told me that when someone is pointing a finger of blame at another, three fingers point back at—them. Do you get it?
So, for me it is her perceived lack of humility and grace under pressure that is bothering them at a visceral level. They are looking for an opening to support her whole-heartedly but these niggles remain.
* Drumpf models that it’s perfectly acceptable to be an ill-prepared, foul-mouthed ignoramus. As long as you can lie and lie again, and bully and browbeat, you can be President.
*Drumpf models to them that bluster and bullying, screaming obscenities at individuals and groups is acceptable —after all he’s running for President; he’s the standard-bearer of the Republican Party, he must be okay.
Barkskins: A Novel by Annie Proulx Reviewed by: Janet Levine “Over 300 years the forests are raped, eco-systems destroyed, wealth generated, and the insatiable international desire and greed for wood exploited.” Annie Proulx, the author of Barkskins is an accomplished...
Ethan, a child on the cusp of adolescence, is the perfect vehicle through which the story unfolds. We learn at the same time he does the mysterious twists of family history, burial and reframing of tortured memories, a family constellation torn apart.
Gravity does not operate the same way in this family constellation as it does on a universal scale; the stars do not align, at least not on the surface. But at the quantum level gravity and relativity are present although to the untrained eye particles heave and bubble like chaos itself.
In this worldview those who questioned Christendom were agents of demons and summarily victimized. Witches were the most unsavory manifestations of Satanic influence to undermine God’s divine creation.
Reviewer: Janet Levine “The novel is a quick, compulsive read but leaves much untold; however, this is fiction and not comprehensive biography.” Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman is fictional autobiography (told almost exclusively in an imagined first-person narrative...
In the novel the protagonists are professional filmmakers, women who know how to create illusions through a camera lens and peddle them as reality. Spiotti, perhaps, questions if fiction works the same way. Black marks on a white page or handheld reading device become an escapist reality as the neurons fire in our brains to link those black marks into an associative mélange of language, memory, and imagination.
More Was Lost is a memoir of two parts; the first reads like a fairy tale and the second like a nightmare. Perényi’s coherently reassuring voice is simultaneously engrossing and intimate. Her memoir ranges from delightful detail to thought-provoking reflection. And all through the book her readers are aware of a sense of the historical relevance of her observations.
Buruma explores with sensitivity questions of class, culture, and identity by looking at how his own grandparents lived as “outsiders who were insiders too.” As he writes, “Devotion to ‘the family’ was perhaps the most Jewish thing about them. The family offered safety, protection, and a refuge. It is a recurring theme in Bernard’s letters and intimately linked to his idea of a ‘haven’. . . . He cultivated a rather Victorian idea of domestic tranquility, a mixture of English coziness and German Gemütlichkeit, something Jews of a different class would have called heimisch.”
The strength of the journals lies in Hahn’s honesty in his writing. The journal entries are not private musings but poignant and often powerful reflections, inspirational messages directed at his followers. A controversial figure in Vietnam as he went into to exile (for the first time) in May 1966, he wrote that he doubted if the collection would pass the censors. “If it can’t be published, I hope my friends will circulate it among themselves.”
The novel is written entirely from Therese’s perspective, a single voice narrative style presently in vogue. We see Carol through Therese’s eyes, we share Therese’s introspection but not Carol’s, and yet Carol emerges as a fully developed character, complex and nuanced. Not only the lens of Therese’s perspective but also the dialog used as a literary device allows us to more fully grasp the coloring of Carol’s personality. Both what she says and how she acts carry layers of implicit meaning.
At first Therese grapples with trying to understand why falling in love with a woman is classified as distinct from falling in love with a man. (In 1952 such love was a taboo subject.) Each woman knows what she desires and while they dance around one another, neither knows the steps to manifest what she wishes.
Janet Levine Blog: NYJB Book Review: A Guest at the Shooters’ Banquet: My Grandfather’s SS Past, My Jewish Family, A Search for the Truth
Lithuania is at the epicenter of her memoir. The Holocaust in Nazi occupied Lithuania is responsible for the near total destruction of Lithuanian Jews living in Nazi-controlled Lithuanian and Polish territories. More than ninety five percent of Lithuania’s Jewish population was slaughtered over the three-year German occupation, a higher number than any other country suffered during the Holocaust. Out of approximately 208,000 to 210,000 Jews, an estimated 190,000–195,000 were killed during this mass extermination between June and December 1941.
Gabis aligned with many other historians to situate culpability for this massive horror largely on organized, local collaboration by non-Jewish Lithuanians.
During his lifetime and after his death Shakespeare was not regarded any more or less highly than many of his contemporaries. He was destined for the ash heap of history had not Hemmings and Condell, recognizing his genius, collected 36 of his plays and published them.
What then is she writing about? Behavioral patterns such as food gathering and eating habits, attaining and maintaining specific female body images, female mating rituals, ornamentation, accrual of cash and other commodities in competition to be an alpha female, parenting norms, and how male partners are sexually satisfied, in return for providing material resources for these same female behavior patterns.
In Africa, as elsewhere, legends and folklore die slowly. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa (as in the Latin American consciousness of Marquez) the spirit world is separated by a gossamer thin fabric from our “real” world, a flimsy curtain easily rent.
This is a superb novel: luminous and illuminating. You’ll gallop through every page and then read it again. British author Sarah Hall is a writer’s writer . . . as well as a reader’s best friend. She gets it all right. Page turning plot development, command of the protagonist’s third person point of view, gripping story lines, flawed characters (human like you and me), beautiful, shimmering descriptions of her beloved Cumbrian landscape (the Lake District), where she was born and raised.
Does the appeal of this novel lie in this very ambiguity, so that the novel becomes part philosophical inquiry, part historiographical research and reading of the record, part fiction and part nonfiction.
To read this book is to take a thinking person’s journey to uncover the “truth” of a valiant but ultimately enigmatic historical figure.
The “plot” posited on such a simplistic equation—on one side, Kurt: white, German, decadent, inheritor of Nazi atrocities, and on the other, Jomo: African, bestial, drunk, savage, purveyor of current terror and horror—becomes a caricature of cardboard characters who function as polemical mouthpieces for Khadra’s frothing didactics on a mythical Africa.
On New Year’s Day we visited a nearby pueblo. The villagers performed a reindeer/yak/buffalo dance, and I could swear I was back in Nepal or northern India witnessing Buddhist festivities with dancers in giant masks and beaded costumes. The drumbeat soon became mesmerizing echoing the steady metronome of my heart.
When thinking what to blog about at this juncture of the year, the word “books” keeps coming to mind. Books, in many ways remain an anchor in my life. So, I am going to share my great pleasure in books by selecting several highlights from my reading this year. I’ll start with my most recent “fav”.
The first half of the book develops the slowly blossoming friendship of the two young women from such different backgrounds that slowly but inevitably blooms into a passion flower. The consequences of this relationship, the unexpected twists and turns of the second half of the book are spellbinding. No spoilers here.
Rape is not the subject in this review and can never be condoned, but to draw a parallel between Duego’s penetration of Natasha, and the penetration of two enormous jets into the Twin Towers is so contrived a device, so obvious, that I lost interest in the novel. This was regrettable because parts one and two fill less than one third of the book, so there was much more to read.
But the strength of the novel is Harper’s recreation of the ancient Greek world that assimilates philosophy, more pertinently metaphysics, into the Orphic myth along with a retelling of Plato’s journey to Syracuse. Well-documented history substantiates that such a journey occurred and that something happened on that journey to change Plato’s worldview.
This review published July 14 in The New York Journal of Books The Heiresses: A Novel Reviewed by: Janet Levine "The Heiresses" by Sara Shepard is bad—bad, bad, bad, about as bad as any novel I’ve ever not read beyond the first two or three pages. Page 1: [Corinne,...
You grow older among a sea of perpetual youth so gradually that you hardly notice your own well of bountiful energy starts to dry up. If your time in the classroom invigorates you, all that time away from the class room drains your internal reservoirs.
Jason Martin has done neither himself nor the city of Iquitos and Amazonian shamanism a favor in publishing this book. The writing is weak. Somewhere amid the tangle of words and images is the potential for a novel, but not in this fictional effort.
Ms. Brown works with words like a miniaturist painter does with color and detail. Scenes from the van Dusen’s courtship, early marriage, and later years merge into the slowly fading life of the present with its impending changes and challenges.
Stay, Illusion! is not a graceful gavotte but a gallop through the fields of thought familiar to them and reined in by an almost whimsical tethering of their associative processes to specific references to the play. Riders who accompany them throughout the book are among the great modern philosophers and psychoanalysts such as Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Freud, Lacan, Nietzsche, Hegel, Melville, and Joyce, and others referenced, who happen to have written, mostly briefly, about Hamlet.
“We are in Julie Kavanagh’s debt for shining a light on this woman almost forgotten in the dust of history, allowing her legend to endure.”
The book raises provocative questions, and challenges assumptions: on the nature of families, parenting, and how these interact with socioeconomic, cultural, political (such as pro-life and right of choice) issues. Parents who read the book will gain (perhaps) a different perspective on the reality of their choices.
From: The New York Journal of Books, June 4, 2013 Reviewed by Janet Levine | Released: June 4, 2013 Publisher: Knopf (256 pages) “But this narrative, a story of family domesticity and femininity—desires, wiles, superstitions—is light fare for a historical novel that...
by T. Berry Brazelton Reviewed by Janet Levine | Released: April 29, 2013 Publisher: Da Capo Press (256 pages) Review published in New York Journal of Books www.nyjb.com “Such is the importance of Dr. Brazelton’s work that this sensitive memoir fills a gap as to...
“. . . the book is neither Dr. Bates’ memoir nor a disquisition on the transformative power of Shakespearean language and imagery; it actually centers on murderer and prisoner Larry Newton’s story.”
But the Ephrussis family were Jews and the vast majority of their members perished in the 1940s along with their spectacular wealth. It is coldly shocking all over again to read evidence of the depth of Austrian, German and French anti-Semitism.
Having read and thought so highly of Tsukiyama's 1996 book "The Samurai's Garden" I was excited to pick up "Dreaming Water" last week. It is well-reviewed and Tsukiyama is an esteemed American novelist but this one was obviously not for me. The subject matter of the...
The cause of stress is processed as a feeling that you are special. Stressful situations are to be avoided and they pull you into a messy emotional morass where you do not belong. You are ill because you thought of yourself as too special to take healthy precautions, those routines are for others. Your extended family is in turmoil because no-one realizes your uniqueness and they blame you for relationships not running smoothly. Your boss is rude and harassing because (s)he does not appreciate your creativity, and anyway (s)he should never have asked you to do those mundane tasks in the first place. The panacea for those avoiding ordinariness is to cultivate compassion and empathy and see the basic goodness of all life in every moment lived—whatever that may be.
A gift from South Africa’s National Parks for St. Valentine’s Day
According to the E-model (the personality paradigm that I use) facing our avoidances is a huge step towards cultivating psychological well being. If you are faced with an unexpected dire illness or accident, extended family issues that involve your spouse, abusive behavior by a boss, or any other intense experience, how do you react? We each have a strategy of avoidance.
The protagonists are two women and their love story is the engine of the work. (Call out to President Obama who in his Inauguration Speech highlighted Stonewall and gay rights as central to the ongoing struggle for human rights.) What better time than now to publish this book? What better time for a book about two people who love one another (and are women) to flow into the literary mainstream? Agents have lauded the writing. But no one bites. South Africa is far away. Lesbians are not as popular as vampires. Historical fiction is but a tiny niche in the fiction market.
How often this year I have heard these words in my head “breathe, relax, center and smile.” It is such a powerful mantra, and so useful as a centering or attention practice.
I had no idea that a body of literature exists on “the terrain of language” and I am content I did not; otherwise I am sure my writing would have become too self-consciously contrived. I am pleased I wrote from my heart.
The publishing world began experiencing volcanic shifts as if its citizens lived on the lower slopes of a Vesuvius in near-constant uproar. Publishers failed to see the consequences heralded by the ramifications of the exploding Information Era and Information Technology Age.
Exhausted, yet we could not absorb enough of the bush veld: lions, cheetah, elephants, buffalo, rhino, hyenas, many other animals, glorious, multi-hued birds and surprising blooms among the tawny brown and shimmering grasses at mid-winter. The edenic Orpen Dam, and on and on. The secret to being in the presence of the spirit of the bush, is to drive at about five to ten miles an hour and not complain about the wash boarded roads.
With the ever-increasing pressure on writer’s to send agents publishing-ready quality manuscripts or for most writers to have ebook ready manuscripts, the editing business is booming. Daily editors thank Amazon and Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and all other indie publishing and self-publishing ventures.
Meditation has given me a refuge as I have seen a glimpse of the universe within myself.
Those closest to you are your least reliable readers because they know too much about you and read as if you are all at a pyjama party telling stories.
“Can’t be a more beautiful site for an airport anywhere in the world…” Mythic Robberg transfixes me; at times in detention I was not sure if I would ever gaze at the promontory again. “Not with Robberg lying in front of you, like a sleeping leviathan.”
Maybe you have to be British to appreciate fully this one. For me, I prefer my old men to be like King Lear tearing at the very fabric of the heavens who have conspired against his hubris.
In the New York Times October 17, 2011 the following article appeared. I've been blogging on this topic for months, and obviously, the future is now here. This is a positive and welcome development for all writers. Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of...
The title words of today's post are by Anglo-American poet T.S. Eliot in his famous Four Quartets. Last weekend on a glorious fall day I was in our nation's capital. The area around the mall is indeed living proof of Eliot's idea that "Time past and time future are...
You can complete a self-publishing project in six weeks once you are satisfied that the manuscript is ready for publication. You can have a page on amazon.com before most agents will have read and responded to your query letter!
Yet like Transcendentalist Thoreau, who after a session in his cabin or a walk in the woods at Walden Pond, would return home to Concord for lunch; I enjoy going to the main house to take my meals with the hard-working and friendly staff. We have a young chef who creates wholesome and delicious vegetarian meals from the center’s own garden. I trust the concoction of my own fiction will be as easy on the reading palate and as digestible as hers.
Three generations under one roof provides a petri dish for examining family dynamics.
From a negative point of view, it seems that patient endurance is to tolerate an adverse situation. However, in reality, endurance is not in a cowardly way blindly accepting what happens.
For months now many of my valued blog readers have asked me if I have a Twitter account so they can become a follower. So now I can shout out, “Yes, I do. Hope to connect with you.” Several factors coincided to move me to act now. I am so grateful to all my blog readers and those who take the time to leave comments on the blogs. One hundred and ten thousand of you in the last three months!
It is easier to contemplate the idea that we cause much of our unhappiness by attaching so much energy and attention to the cause—loss, unwelcome change, illness, our own or that of someone we are close to, disappointment and so on—than to change our state of mind about the situation. Yet change our attitude is exactly what we need to do.
Meditation allows us to have a penetrating connection with the world through the realization that we all exist in the same ocean of breath—we breathe the same air and are interconnected through this simple act. This realization allows us to feel connected in a new and vital way. We breathe the same air as Hitler, Idi Amin, Gandhi and Mother Teresa. A student states that through just one simple breath you embrace the wholeness of the earth and all of its creatures, becoming part of something greater than just self.
It is my profound belief that we cannot create a “whole” world while more than half of humanity is barely valued and even more rarely acknowledged in public domains—such as that of artistic expression.
Heptilibrium is governed under the perfect balance of the nine. By forming harmony with nature, different cultures, moral principles and one’s inner self, citizens of Heptilibrium will walk the paths of happiness and live life content with joy while being responsible and upright citizens.
In August 2010 I published a post on Sissinghurst, the famous English garden designed by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson. Many readers expressed the desire for more on this topic.
A lifelong anti-apartheid activist I was intrigued that van Niekerk’s protagonist in Agaat was an Afrikaner and that the novel (at least on one level) describes the dissolution of apartheid from the perspective of a perpetrator of the infamous ideology.
What does the Buddha say about happiness? Here is the Metta Sutra (teaching) of the Buddha.
I want to introduce you to my two wonderful sons who are the joy and blessing of their mother’s life. I cannot imagine anyone being more proud of and grateful for their children than I am of my boys. I know many of us feel this way, so you can share my moment.
To be truly alive we need to bring all our attention and awareness to every moment of our lives: to our loves, our activities, our preoccupations, our commute, to our emotions, to eating, bathing and on and on.
Sometimes one has to think of life and cycles in centuries and not days and weeks, this season and the next.
The world of words and books is exploding, growing like a virus on steroids inside the box on your desk, or sitting on your lap, or indeed being held in your hand.
Great Britain of course, is a history and literary theme park.
From September to June I teach, and sometimes I write blogs about the lessons I learn in the classroom from my students and from the literature I teach. From June to September I think, reflect and sometimes I write.
The novel uncovers archetypal and highly relevant spiritual teachings. East meets West in Leela helping her as Maharishi says, “To understand ancient wisdom in a modern world.”
I like to be on the cutting edge, I like to write hybrids, I like to break new ground. This is true of everything I have done in my life, from my anti-apartheid activism to how I live my life to my writing.
I planted myself in American soil in bringing that garden back to life.
A mother is irreplaceable and there is a hole inside of me.
This Eastern prince searches for happiness, inner peace and enlightenment. He teaches the “middle way” neither too tight nor too loose.
Three thousand powerful and evocative words to reflect the natural beauty we are fortunate to encounter on a beach walk.
Subsequently, regrettably, the world has seen similar outrages against humanity, and it seems they increase exponentially as we watch innocent people dying as a result of terrorist activity or internecine warfare all over the world. But Sharpeville remains a high-water mark of shame in the struggle for human rights.
As I read their reflective journals these past days I was struck at how these two-thousand year old teachings caused a rebirth of sorts in my students, an awakening, an opening.
Touch of the button recording of at least two channels at the same time, access to the latest computer technology and the ability (economic and utilitarian) to use the ever-changing and increasing tools of the Information Age creates a cyber-age global apartheid that separates the hi-technology and computer literate and savvy haves, from the billions and billions of have-nots.
It is part of our DNA to defend our territory and ensure not only our food supply but the future of our children and our clan. Xenophobia’s face is that of the cave dweller across the valley.
Practice thinking in “a middle way” process; expectation not too high, disappointment not too low. Keep your balance and harmony.
Stress is pervasive in our lives. Therefore it is not a question of how to avoid stress, but rather how to deal with stress. Remind yourself that this is the one life you have to live. Be passionate. Your life is happening now, this is not a rehearsal.
Staying present in the moment is among the greatest mind-training challenges you will ever undertake.
Practiced correctly by preparing the ground in easy stages can help us master advanced concentration techniques.
We are the continuum of creativity.
The e-model is the EEE of self-awareness—Expanded horizons, Expertise at knowing yourself and others, and an Explanation for what motivates our behavior.
If you are a friend of one of these E-types how can you help them?
If you are a friend of one of these E-types how can you help them?
Copyright © Janet Levine, All Rights Reserved, 2022