Literary and Scary

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The cool October embraces, and most of us—if we’re being honest—are drawn to the scary things as Halloween looms. Stories of darkness and horror whisper to us, in movies, television, graphic arts, and literature. Lovers of the literary, do not despair! Chills and frights are not all about slashers and gore. Illustrious writers from Shakespeare to Faulkner to Levin have dabbled in the macabre. It’s okay to be scared. But we don’t turn to the great authors for buckets of … Read More »

Through Different Eyes: Ray Bradbury and “The Garbage Collector”

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Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury is best known for the novel Fahrenheit 451 and his lush prose style, but his true gift, in my view, lay in the short story. He published hundreds of them, most of exceptional quality and invention. In 1953, he published one of only a couple thousand words, titled “The Garbage Collector.” It’s a workshop on taking the commonplace and finding the greatness within. In this case, the commonplace is the title character. We never learn … Read More »

The Sublime Art of the Unreliable Narrator

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  We want those around us to be honest with us, to tell us the truth. Most of the time, anyway. We want them to be reliable in their narrations. But in fiction, great beauty resides within the unreliable. Author Wayne C. Booth coined the phrase “unreliable narrator” in 1961 to describe that narrative voice the writer employs with the goal of misleading us, the readers. It may not be the easiest thing to manage with success, but when it … Read More »

Corresponding with the Experts

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As a reader, I’m willing to suspend disbelief to great extent, thereby granting license to Writer Jane to take liberties and push, even shred, the envelope in order to tell the story and entertain me. But Jane has a certain responsibility to get it right. I expect her to make at least a minimum effort to get right the facts of how things are or were, however mundane those facts may be. No matter the genre. Yet few among us … Read More »

Right Word, Wrong Year: Fun with Etymology

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Sometimes while reading a short story or novel with an historical setting, you come across a word or phrase that causes a bit of a stumble. The reason might be obvious or not. It might be that the word or phrase is lumbering about way outside its era. Maybe it’s a novel of the American Revolution, wherein General Washington receives more bad news in frozen Valley Forge, and orders his lieutenant to Philadelphia with an urgent plea for help. So … Read More »

Get Cozy: A Chat with Novelist Nancy J. Cohen

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My mother devoured every Agatha Christie novel ever written, and though I developed an early appreciation for Christie’s fussy little Belgian, Hercule Poirot, I didn’t become familiar with the term “cozy mystery” until many years later, but the moment I heard it, I knew it described Christie’s work to a tee. Or a tea, if you will. The cozy is the gentle workhorse of mystery fiction, a reliable subgenre with a dedicated following, and one that shows no signs of … Read More »

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