Fiction

Review: Dürrenmatt, The Inspector Barlach Mysteries

January 10, 2007
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Review: Dürrenmatt, The Inspector Barlach Mysteries

In the December 22 & 29 edition of the Times Literary Supplement Ian Brunskill’s review of Dürrenmatt’s The Inspector Barlach Mysteries: The Judge and His Hangman and Suspicion begins: The more well-ordered a world (or narrative) appears to be, the greater the potential for devastation …. that, to a large extent, is what drew Dürrenmatt in the 1950s to the traditionally disciplined realm of crime fiction, the conventions and formulas of which he proceeded, with some relish, to turn upside down. The resulting short novels have long been among his most popular works. Now wonderfully translated by Joel Agee, they are part of the University of Chicago Press’s promotion of the author. And indeed with these translations of The Inspector Barlach Mysteries the Press has done its best to reinvigorate interest in Dürrenmatt’s atypical crime stories. Both of the mysteries in this book make a radical departure from convention as they follow Inspector Barlach through worlds in which the distinction between crime and justice seems to have vanished. In The Judge and His Hangman, Barlach forgoes the arrest of a murderer in order to manipulate him into killing another, more elusive criminal. And in Suspicion, Barlach pursues a former . . .

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Review: Dürrenmatt, Selected Writings

December 28, 2006
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Review: Dürrenmatt, Selected Writings

Last week Alberto Manguel—whose own work as a translator and editor makes him quite a qualified critic—wrote a review for the Spectator of Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Selected Writings. Translated by Joel Agee, the Selected Writings collects in three volumes the best of Dürrenmatt’s plays, fictions, and essays—and as Manguel acknowledges—captures the essence of the author’s work. Manguel writes: I’d like to congratulate the University of Chicago Press for allowing us once again to read Friedrich Dürrenmatt in English, thereby restoring to the English-speaking public one of the most important writers of the 20th century … Dürrenmatt’s best writing has been included, and almost any of these pieces is an astonishing example of a writer’s power to portray and explain experience, and then subvert the whole procedure by opening up his arguments to unanswerable questions. Reading Dürrenmatt’s work leaves us with the impression of having witnessed the creation and then the explosion of a small galaxy. The light continues to reach us long after closing his books. We created a Friedrich Dürrenmatt website where you can peruse a fascinating collection of excerpts and essays, including an interview with Dürrenmatt . . . .

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Today is for Norman Maclean

December 23, 2006
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Today is for Norman Maclean

Norman Maclean was born December 23, 1902. He will forever be associated with the mountains and rivers of Montana, but he was born on the rolling plains of Iowa. His family moved to Missoula, Montana in 1909. Maclean came to the University of Chicago in 1928 to pursue graduate studies in English. Three years later he was hired as an instructor and eventually became the William Rainey Harper Professor of English. He won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching three times during his UC career and served as an inspiring mentor to generations of students. Upon his retirement in 1973, Maclean turned to writing, drawing material from his youth in Montana and his fascination with the Mann Gulch Fire of 1949. In 1976 the University of Chicago Press had the good fortune to publish a collection of his work, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. The book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the title novella was made into a movie in 1992. That same year we published Young Men and Fire which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for best general non-fiction. Maclean died on August 2, 1990 in Chicago, at the age . . .

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Review: Peter De Vries, The Blood of the Lamb

March 3, 2006
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Review: Peter De Vries, The Blood of the Lamb

The Gazette (Montreal) recently published a review of Peter De Vries’s novel The Blood of the Lamb: "De Vries was a master of puckish pedantry. His marvelously erudite sentences are often inverted and complex, but they always end up where he wants them.… humour is a welcome gleam of wry rationality shining through the dark clouds. This is a deeply touching book whose sincerity and universality are likely to ensure its future." The most poignant of all De Vries’s novels, The Blood of the Lamb is also the most autobiographical. It follows the life of Don Wanderhop from his childhood in an immigrant Calvinist family living in Chicago in the 1950s through the loss of a brother, his faith, his wife, and finally his daughter—a tragedy drawn directly from De Vries’s own life. Despite its foundation in misfortune, The Blood of the Lamb offers glimpses of the comic sensibility for which De Vries was famous. . . .

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James Frey and Norman Maclean

February 20, 2006
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James Frey and Norman Maclean

A passage about the truth-telling power of fiction, from the closing paragraphs of Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It, is being cited in commentary about James Frey and his apparently fictionalized memoir A Million Little Pieces. (For example, this piece by John MacDonald in the Arizona Republic.) Near the end of the story, Norman’s father speaks to him: “You like to tell true stories, don’t you?” he asked, and I answered, “Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.” Then he asked, “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it? “Only then will you understand what happened and why.” We have an excerpt from the opening pages of the novella. . . .

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Stuart Dybek’s "Long Thoughts"

February 17, 2006
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Stuart Dybek’s "Long Thoughts"

Today Zulkey.com features an interview with Stuart Dybek, author of Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. In the interview, Dybek talks about one of the stories from the book, titled "The Long Thoughts": Have any of the characters in your stories had impact on your real life relationships? Meaning that, if somebody recognizes themselves in one of your stories, how has that impacted his relationship with you? Despite the fact that I’m writing fiction and have taken the liberties that fiction allows for, people have at different times recognized themselves in some of the characters. Mostly the reaction has been favorable. I had one old friend who appeared in a story called "The Long Thoughts," who would give the book that story appeared in to people as gifts so that they could read about him. There was an instance however when a dear friend who saw himself in one of my stories—a version of a story that he told to me—was offended not by his portrayal but that I would use a story he’d told to me in private. I should add that the story he told to me was fantastical and I changed it further and made still more fantastical. Still, . . .

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