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
1:32 pm
Tue July 7, 2015

'Aurora' Journeys In A New Direction

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 3:08 pm

Veteran California science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson grounds his new novel squarely in a recognizable convention: the generation ship. In this case, it's a 26th century starship sent from Earth to find a home in some distant galaxy, as generations live and die onboard during the long journey.

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Book Reviews
7:12 am
Wed June 24, 2015

'The Cartel' Is A True Crime Adventure With A Killer Protagonist

Lydia Thompson NPR

Originally published on Wed June 24, 2015 9:01 am

The dedication of Don Winslow's novel The Cartel is nearly two pages long: a list of journalists who were either murdered or "disappeared" in Mexico between 2004 and 2012 — the period covered in this hugely hypnotic new thriller.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Sun June 14, 2015

'Meteor' Is A Fiery Ride Through American History

William Henry Jackson Courtesy of Bellevue Literary Press with the Permission of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta

Only last year, New Jersey writer Norman Lock brought out The Boy in His Winter, his time-travel version of Huck and Jim's passage along a great American river, and the river of time. In his new novel, American Meteor, Lock demonstrates that he doesn't have to lean on other people's creations to make a novel worth reading. He invents a cast that includes doctors, photographers, poets, presidents, and Indian chiefs, making a fable all his own which sheds brilliant light along the meteoric path of American westward expansion.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Thu June 11, 2015

'Mazie' Pays Homage To A Real-Life Saint Of The Streets

Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 1:44 pm

The Mazie of Jami Attenberg's new novel is Mazie Phillips Gordon — an actual New Yorker. Though born in Boston just at the end of the 19th century, she moved to New York City at the age of 10 to live with her sister Rosie. An attractive girl with a robust sense of life, Mazie grew up to become an exemplary ordinary citizen with a soul of gold, a charitable heart and abundant desires.

And a great subject for writers who love New York.

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Book Reviews
4:44 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Book Review: 'The Black Snow,' Paul Lynch

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 6:54 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed June 3, 2015

A 'Pinch' Of Magic Seasons This Half-Fantastical Neighborhood History

Lydia Thompson NPR

You may have read about an imaginary Southern piece of turf where the past presses on the present with such force that characters find themselves transformed with the pressure of it, where the landscape comes alive, where human beings seem sometimes like gods and sometimes like devils, and the language of the story lights up your mind: William Faulkner's half-historical, half-fabulized Yoknapatawpha County, yes?

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Book Reviews
4:19 pm
Tue June 2, 2015

Book Review: 'Lifted By The Great Nothing,' Karim Dimechkie

Originally published on Tue June 2, 2015 6:35 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Sometimes a book grips you from the moment you read the title. That's what happened when reviewer Alan Cheuse picked up the debut novel from Karim Dimechkie. It's called "Lifted By The Great Nothing."

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Book Reviews
1:31 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

'Black Snow' Is A Lyrical Landscape Of Hope And Menace

Courtesy of Hachette Book Group

Former Dublin newsman Paul Lynch made his debut as a novelist a few years ago with a book called Red Sky in Morning, set in mid-19th century County Donegal, where a rage-driven farmer has committed a murder with devastating results. The Black Snow, Lynch's second novel, returns us to Donegal, though at a later date, and he's working at an even higher level of accomplishment than before.

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Book Reviews
5:16 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

Book Review: 'The New World'

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 7:55 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Two to make a marriage and two to make a novel about a marriage. Reviewer Alan Cheuse has just picked up the new book by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz. Alan says it leads readers on an inventive journey for both hearts and minds. It's called "The New World."

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Book Reviews
10:11 am
Mon May 4, 2015

A Former Country Girl Catches Fire In 'The Love Object'

The Love Object
Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 7:06 pm

When Edna O'Brien's first novel, The Country Girls, was published in 1960, her family and neighbors in the small Irish village where she was born tossed copies into a bonfire expressly set for that horrifying purpose. Nearly 60 years later, the country girl herself has long since moved to London, but her fiction still blazes (if only in metaphor). That's what I found while reading my way through The Love Object, a newly published selection of more than 30 of O'Brien's short stories.

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Book Reviews
4:56 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Book Review: 'The Language Of Paradise'

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 7:03 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

"The Language Of Paradise." That's the title of a new book by first-time novelist Barbara Klein Moss. "The Language Of Paradise" sounds lovely, but it's much more complicated. Alan Cheuse has our review.

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Book Reviews
6:21 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

These 'Voices In The Night' Whisper Of Wonders

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Sun April 19, 2015 6:40 pm

Beautifully made fantastic tales such as Steven Millhauser writes don't begin from nothing. As in the tradition of Nikolai Gogol, Italo Calvino and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (to name a few revered creators of fiction that carries us beyond the normal), most of them grow out of everyday incidents and lead us right up to the line between the ordinary and the magical. And sometimes they help us to cross over.

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Book Reviews
4:36 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

Book Review: Jo Nesbo, 'Blood On Snow'

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 7:48 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

One of Scandinavia's leading crime novelists, Jo Nesbo, has a new book out about a contract killer who worries about money and his own shortcomings. It's called "Blood On Snow." Alan Cheuse has this review.

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Book Reviews
5:22 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

'Crescent Moon' Counts Down To Political Mayhem

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 6:02 am

The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is American-educated Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto's first novel, but she already has three books to her credit: One volume of poetry, another a memoir (Songs of Blood and Sword, a title that seems apt, since she's the granddaughter of the executed Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, niece of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto and daughter of the murdered Murtaza Bhutto), and a compilation of survivors' accounts of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.

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Book Reviews
5:30 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

Book Review: 'The Discreet Hero'

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 8:18 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DON GONYEA, HOST:

Nobel Prize-winner Mario Vargas Llosa has just published a new novel. It's called "The Discrete Hero," and it's translated by Edith Grossman. The new title prompts our reviewer Alan Cheuse to make a confession.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Thu March 12, 2015

In Vargas Llosa's Latest, Dickens Meets Soap Opera

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 12:27 pm

The Discreet Hero is set in two Peruvian cities, the provincial desert town of Piura and the metropolis of Lima, and tells of two aging businessmen, each of whom we meet on the verge of life-changing situations.

A transportation company owner from Piura, Felicito Yanaque, has spent most of his adult years in a bloodless marriage. He has two sons, a young mistress, and has recently become the apparent target of an extortion threat against his transit enterprise, a threat that, he vows heroically, to fight against, with or without the help of the police.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Montana's Almost Crowded Now, Thanks To The Colorful Characters Of 'Crow Fair'

I recall with a certain fondness a summer evening long ago at the Bennington Summer Writing Workshops, when Montana resident Richard Ford opened a reading from the work of Montana writer William Kittredge by saying, "Well, it's Montana Night at the workshops, and it's just like Montana. Hours will go by, and all you will see are two people."

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Book Reviews
4:44 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Book Review: 'Satin Island' By Tom McCarthy

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 8:13 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Now, "Satin Island." It's the title of the new book by Tom McCarthy, the acclaimed experimental novelist. It is a novel, but our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it might be more apt to call it a critique of modern life, dressed in a novel's clothing.

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Book Reviews
4:56 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Book Review: Ross Ritchell's 'The Knife'

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 6:40 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Book Reviews
4:00 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Book Review: 'The Evening Chorus'

Originally published on Mon February 16, 2015 7:35 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If you like dark and lyrical love stories, Alan Cheuse has a suggestion for you. It's a novel by the Canadian writer Helen Humphreys, set during World War II and its aftermath. It's called "The Evening Chorus."

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