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, two collections of short fiction, 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. With Caroline Marshall, he has edited two volumes of short stories.

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 most recent collection of his short fiction was published in September 1998, and his essay collection, Listening to the Page, appeared in 2001.

Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Washington, DC, and spends his summers teaching writing at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in Santa Cruz, Calif. Cheuse earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature with a focus on Latin American literature from Rutgers University.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed September 4, 2013

A Dying Man's Memory-Laden Search For Revenge In 'The Return'

Michael Gruber began his fiction career as a ghostwriter for a well-known American judge. A former federal civil servant, chef, environmentalist, and speechwriter, Gruber had a varied career before he took up writing his own novels, and it shows in his work, in the broad and capacious subject matter and cast of thousands.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed August 28, 2013

'Shaman' Takes Readers Back To The Dawn Of Humankind

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 1:15 pm

Big questions about the origins of consciousness and culture may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if these are things you find yourself thinking about, there's nothing like a seriously composed and compelling novel about prehistoric life — both for illumination, and for some of the most intelligent entertainment you can find.

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Book Reviews
4:34 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Book Review: 'Return To Oakpine'

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 6:31 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Home, Robert Frost famously wrote, is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Well, writer Ron Carlson tests that proposition in his latest work of fiction, a novel called "Return To Oakpine." And he does it, says our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, in beautiful fashion.

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Book Reviews
5:03 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Book Review: 'Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish'

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 8:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The writer and humorist David Rakoff died last year at the age of 47 of cancer. He left behind his final work: a brief novel in verse with the long title "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish." It was published today, and Alan Cheuse has this review.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Rhetoric Drowns Out The Thrills In Huston's 'Skinner'

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Charlie Huston's 2010 novel, Sleepless, bowled me over. What a powerful combination of combustible plot and fiery language! At the center of that book, an insomnia plague spreads across Southern California (and the rest of the country). The illness keeps you awake all night, quite fuzzy-minded during the day, and then after a couple of months it kills you. The only thing approaching an antidote is a drug called Dreamer, which makes a little sleep possible before you die.

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NPR Story
4:15 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Book Review: 'Skinner'

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 12:36 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Charlie Huston is a Los Angeles-based writer known for his superhero comic books and crime novels. Alan Cheuse couldn't wait to get his hands on Huston's latest thriller called "Skinner." Here's his review.

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NPR Story
4:44 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Book Review: 'The Mehlis Report'

Originally published on Mon July 1, 2013 6:15 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Our book reviewer Alan Cheuse is excited to introduce the work of Rabee Jaber. He lives in Lebanon, and his novel "The Mehlis Report" takes place there. In Beirut, the characters await the real Mehlis report, which analyzed the watershed moment in Lebanon, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

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Book Reviews
7:04 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Reader Advisory: 'Shining Girls' Is Gruesome But Gripping

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 6:18 pm

Borrow from Stephen King a house with a wormhole that somehow allows for time travel, re-create the monstrous chilliness of scenes between a serial killer and his female victims in The Silence of the Lambs, and you could easily end up with a pretty derivative thriller. But talented Cape Town writer Lauren Beukes has managed to turn such borrowing and theft into a triumph in her new novel, The Shining Girls. It's her third book, and a marvelous narrative feat that spans the history of Chicago from the 1930s to the 1990s.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Thu May 16, 2013

How To Put This 'Delicate'-ly ... Not Le Carre's Best Work

Some novelists interest us because they turn the light of a style we enjoy on whatever subject they take up. Some novelists we enjoy because they have found a great subject and work it well and lovingly. John le Carre seems to belong to the latter group, having found his vein of fiction gold in the world of Cold War espionage.

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Book Reviews
4:38 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Book Review: 'Submergence'

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 6:04 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The writer J.M. Ledgard leads multiple lives. He's a journalist and covers East Africa for the Economist, but Ledgard is also a novelist. Here's Alan Cheuse with a review of his latest book, "Submergence."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: James More, a British secret agent, has been captured by a Somalian affiliate of al-Qaeda, a peripatetic fringe group that keeps moving him back and forth across the mostly barren terrain of northeastern Africa, trying to hide from drone attacks and make jihad at the same time.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed April 3, 2013

Real Writing, Real Life In Salter's 'All That Is'

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Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 7:41 am

"There comes a time," James Salter writes in the epigraph for his new novel, All That Is, "when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real."

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed March 20, 2013

Tigers, Scholars And Smugglers, All 'At Home' In Sprawling Novel

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 1:04 pm

It's difficult to predict the reception Where Tigers Are at Home will receive in the United States. The winner of France's Prix Medicis in 2008, this big, sprawling novel (in a translation by Mike Mitchell) comes to us from Algerian-born writer, philosopher and world traveler Jean-Marie Blas de Robles, author of more than a dozen works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction. This book — the first of his to appear in the U.S. in English — stands as a challenge to readers who want their fiction to offer a quick pay-off.

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Book Reviews
5:39 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Book Review: 'Where Tigers Are At Home'

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 1:05 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Our book reviewer, Alan Cheuse, has just traveled to Brazil and back in an 800-page novel. The book is called "Where Tigers Are At Home." It's by a French novelist named Jean-Marie Blas de Robles and it's just out in English. Here's Alan's review.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed February 27, 2013

Hamid's How-To for Success, 'Filthy Rich' In Irony

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 6:20 pm

Novelist Mohsin Hamid lives in Lahore, Pakistan, quite some distance from the Long Island of Jay Gatsby. But his new novel — his third and, I think, best so far — reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's quintessential American work. As I read this novel about the dark and light of success in a world of social instability, I kept asking myself how much I might be inflating the value of Hamid's novel by rating it so highly. After all, this story takes the form of a gimmick, and gimmicks usually work against real quality.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Lost In Everett's Hall Of Metafictional Mirrors

A friend of mine, with more than half a lifetime in the business of writing and a following of devoted fans, some years ago nailed a sign on the wall above his writing desk.

TELL THE [Expletive] STORY!

How I wish Percival Everett looked up every now and then from his keyboard to see a sign like this.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed February 6, 2013

Brutality, Balkan Style In A Satiric 'Stone City'

Grove Atlantic

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 10:26 am

From Swift to Orwell, political satire has played a major role in the history of European fiction. Much of it takes on an allegorical cast, but not all. The Fall of the Stone City, an incisive, biting work by Ismail Kadare — one of Europe's reigning fiction masters — refines our understanding of satire's nature. Kadare's instructive and delightful book takes us from the 1943 Nazi occupation of a provincial Albanian town, the ancient stone city of Gjirokaster, to the consolidation of communist rule there a decade later.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed January 30, 2013

Under Ogawa's Macabre, Metafictional Spell

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Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 7:23 pm

It used to be a truism among critics of British poetry that Keats and most of his fellow Romantic poets worked in the shadow of John Milton. I'm not making a perfect analogy when I suggest that most contemporary Japanese writers seem to be working under the shadow of Haruki Murakami, but I hope it highlights the spirit of the situation.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Comic Struggles Of A Frustrated Writer In 'Zoo Time'

Courtesy of Bloomsbury

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 11:01 am

"My aim," writes English novelist Guy Ableman to his agent, "is to write a transgressive novel that explores the limits of the morally permissible in our times."

Sounds quite serious, even brow-wrinkling, doesn't it? A dangerous act of experimental writing, perhaps something Norman Mailer might have tried, or Henry Miller before him?

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Books
7:03 am
Tue October 16, 2012

'Round House' Is One Of Erdrich's Best

Louise Erdrich's debut novel, Love Medicine, won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984. Her other books include The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and The Plague of Doves.
Paul Emmel Harper

I've devoted many hours in my life to reading, and among these hours many of them belong to the creations of novelist Louise Erdrich. In more than a dozen books of fiction — mostly novel length — that make up a large part of her already large body of work, Erdrich has given us a multitude of narrative voices and stories. Never before has she given us a novel with a single narrative voice so smart, rich and full of surprises as she has in The Round House. It's her latest novel, and, I would argue, her best so far.

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Book Reviews
4:16 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

A Midcentury Romance, With 'Sunlight' And 'Shadow'

John Craven Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 5:54 pm

New York, New York, it's a wonderful town! And Mark Helprin's new near-epic novel makes it all the more marvelous. It's got great polarized motifs — war and peace, heroism and cowardice, crime and civility, pleasure and business, love and hate, bias and acceptance — which the gifted novelist weaves into a grand, old-fashioned romance, a New York love story that begins with a Hollywoodish meet-cute on the Staten Island Ferry.

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