• Robert Birnbaum

Not The New York Times Book Review (20 Feb. 2019)*


 “When a man is young he needs many, many books and when he is old he needs only a few books". Rainer Maria Rilke





The steady stream of books landing on my front porch is a both an embarrassment of riches and a burden—a persistent reminder that there will never be enough time to read all that is being offered. Leaving one envious of a time only a few centuries past that some men could lay claim to having read everything in print. But to cite one the of the basic laws of logic *(Identity) which has become a cliche —'It is what it is'...





Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield , Juliet Schor(Contributor), Trudy Wilner Stack(Contributor)


Ms Greenfield, who for the most part is a still photographer has produced a documentary as well as well published tome that presents the repugnant nature of contemporary conspicuous consumption ( materialism on steroids).



Landfall: A Novel by Thomas Mallon


Thomas Mallon joins Gore Vidal (The American Empire Series) with his own skein of historical novels (Finale, Watergate, Fellow Travelers, Bandbox, Dewey Defeats Truman) that would do well to be included in any reading list for United States States history courses. Landfall focuses on the period of the twin catastrophes of the Iraq insurgency and Hurricane Katrina in the George W. Bush presidency...


My favorite story remains Henry and Clara , which follows the lives of the couple who sat next to Abraham Lincoln at the Ford Theater the night he was assassinated.





China Dream byMa Jian, Flora Drew(Translator)



Ma Jian, dissident Chinese novelist whose writing is banned in the Peoples Republic presents a truly Orwellian narrative of life in contemporary China.


Cemetery Road: A Novel by Greg Iles





Given my aversion to series (excepting Ace Atkins books), I previously avoided Iles's best selling novels, such as the Natchez Burning trilogy. However aspiring to open-mindedness ,

I dipped into this (so far) 600 page standalone, which confirmed that these Mississippi boys can tell a riveting full-bodied story.






November Road: A Novel by Lou Berney


Lou Berney's latest has the attraction of yet another imagined Kennedy assassination tale. I ended up reading all of Berney's novels (Gut shot straight, Whiplash River, The Long and farawa— two of which feature New Orleans born and bred petty criminal Charles "Shake" Bouchon, a character begging for a TV series...


Lost Children Archive: A novel by Valeria Luiselli


Northamerican author Valeria Luisell's previous opus, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay is "structured around the forty questions Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin American children facing deportation." Michael Agresta (The Texas Observer) opines,


Luiselli’s book transcends its subject matter and becomes worthy of inclusion in a great American (and international) canon of writing about migration. But to read Tell Me How It Endsonly in that way is to miss the point. Luiselli is not, in this book, much interested in transcending anything, or in her own admission to the great house of immortal literature. These days, reality is more urgent. The fate of thousands of children is at stake. And as they slip through the cracks, so does the future of a people, a continent and a nation — whichever one it is that we imagine we belong to, the children and Luiselli and her readers too.


Her new novel builds a novel around a character who is involved in the plight of undocumented Latin American children. From Parul Seghal,


Luiselli drives home just how much pain and sacrifice we are prepared to accept in the lives of others. She dramatizes what it takes for people to stare hard at their own families, to examine their complicity in other people’s suffering.


To call these morals or messages does a disservice to the novel’s rangy storytelling and panoptic curiosity. Better to think of it as a challenge.


As the narrator once tells the boy: “Look hard and tell me everything. We are all counting on you.”




The Alexandria Quartet:Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea by Lawrence Durrell


The supply of contemporary publication that I referred to above is, unfortunately, something of an impediment to reaching back in the vast treasure chest of 20th century literature( and beyond). So on occasion I make a conscious effort to look back. As an alienated undergraduate, I read Durrell's meisterstück The Alexandria Quartet with great devotion, taking to heart much of the romantic melodrama exuded from the exotic precincts of mid century Alexandria, Egypt. One of that locale's attractions was its magnetism for a wide swath of nationalities and characters. Reading Justine today, I am less impressed with the plot lines and fictional apparatus and more appreciative of Durrell's arcane descriptive calculus. Meaning, the novel hols up as a worthy read.


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* for that small but mighty cadre that cares what Our Man in Boston is reading


** The law of identity: P is P.,The law of noncontradiction: P is not non-P.,The law of the excluded middle: Either P or non-P.

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