Recent Stories: Books

June 21, 2018
By Kathy Engel, from “Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology”

The animals camp out in the farm 
of my body, a field of muscle, fat 
and bone, sea of nerves; they mend 
my vessels, sew back my arteries, sing 
my stutter, gallop my missteps — first a 
horse, then the others claim their places, 
even snakes and insects swivel and swarm.
I thought the rupture within was all 
a human thing — the mother, the father,
the lost girl — now I understand, the earth 
itself is calling and the animals, buried, 
scattered, those who rise, snort, bellow, 
murmur, hiss; their hooves, wings, fins, 
and tentacles seed the soil, serenade 
the sea, repair my soul. 

June 14, 2018
A.M. Homes, one of our darkest surrealists, is out with a grimly entertaining new collection of short stories.

“Days of Awe”
A.M. Homes

Viking, $25

“The first rule for a writer of fiction is it should not be made so strange as fact,” Thomas Hardy warned. A.M. Homes is a fiction writer who can be counted on to ignore that rule, her novels and stories outstripping the absurdity of life — usually. The alarming thing about reading her latest short-story collection, “Days of Awe,” in 2018 is that life in America might be catching up to her vision. 

Baylis Greene
June 5, 2018
The deep and eventful past of an American beauty, Sag Harbor, cataloged in historical photos and explanatory captions.

“Sag Harbor”
Tucker Burns Roth
Arcadia Publishing, $21.99

“Today, People’s United Bank is on the property.” Rarely have so few words said so much, so thuddingly and so prosaically, about what’s wrong with the towns and villages of America. Never mind the affront of the faux populist name on a commercial enterprise happy to make use of your money for no interest in return. How many banks does one village need? 

May 30, 2018
A novel about class and corruption that skewers the elitist communities of private schools in Manhattan and the Upper East Side.

Caitlin Macy
Little, Brown, $27

I’ve never met Caitlin Macy, but I feel as if I’ve run into some of the characters in her perceptive and searing new novel, because they happen to inhabit my neighborhood — the Upper East Side of New York City. 

Christopher Walsh
May 22, 2018
While Robert Hilburn clearly sees almost all of Paul Simon’s oeuvre as works of staggering genius, it’s true his impact on popular and world music has been profound.

“Paul Simon: The Life”
Robert Hilburn
Simon & Schuster, $30

I can still clearly recall the silence maintained by all 10,000 of us, in rapt attention under a late-afternoon sun at Indian Field Ranch in Montauk, all eyes on Paul Simon and the South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo as they sang the transcendent, a cappella “Homeless” from Mr. Simon’s 1986 hit album, “Graceland.” 

May 17, 2018
In his new memoir, Keith Hernandez hops around his life’s timeline, from present-day trials as a broadcaster to Little League in California, but he always returns to his coming of age as a player in the 1970s.

“I’m Keith Hernandez”
Keith Hernandez
Little, Brown, $28

Full disclosure: I’m a 52-year-old lifelong Mets fan. I loved Keith Hernandez as a player, love him now in the booth providing color for the Mets broadcasts, and the truth is he could’ve taken a dump on a piece of paper, mailed it in to his editor, and I’d be sitting here telling you what a new and creative way he found to tell his “life in baseball” story. The good news is that he actually did find a way.

May 10, 2018
An offshoot of Barney (Grove Press) Rosset’s interest in film was The Evergreen Review, devoted to articles that dealt with the theory and practice of cinema between 1958 and 1973.

“From the Third Eye”
Edited by Ed Halter and 
Barney Rosset
Seven Stories Press, $29.95

Barney Rosset, the founder of Grove Press, is one of my heroes. He devoted his time and money to publishing writers hitherto banned in this country, like Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, and James Joyce, and defending himself and his enterprise in court. Eventually, his interests expanded to film, and he both bankrolled and commissioned movies by European filmmakers — some of them already celebrated on the Continent, some unknown. An offshoot of these projects was The Evergreen Review, devoted entirely to articles that dealt with the theory and practice of cinema between 1958 and 1973.

Star Staff
May 1, 2018
John Jermain’s One for the Books has cocktail parties with writers, artists, and a filmmaker at houses across Sag Harbor.

They may be private residences in one of the world’s wealthiest communities, but don’t worry, the photo ID and background check are likely to be skipped, and no bulge will conceal a security goon’s Glock, if anything merely ardor for the written word.

Or the written word spoken, as that’s the deal with One for the Books, the yearly fund-raiser for Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library, in which writers, mostly, but also the occasional artist or filmmaker, discuss books, usually, at cocktail parties around town, the first being tomorrow night at 8 at Lou Ann Walker’s place, where the Stony Brook Southampton prof will welcome a recent hire in the M.F.A. program in creative writing and literature, Amy Hempel.

May 1, 2018
Mary Cummings turns a bit player in the infamous Stanford White case, the district attorney, into an antihero, using his rise and fall to tell the tale of the true “crime of the century.”

“Saving Sin City”
Mary Cummings
Pegasus Books, $27.95

The story of the murder of the architect Stanford White on the rooftop of New York’s old Madison Square Garden has been well and truly told in the more than a century since. And yet the telling continues to fascinate. Famously, E.L. Doctorow spun that history into a fiction, later made into a film, which is where I first encountered it. Like the public at the time of the murder, I craved fresh details, an itch I satisfied by devouring books on White, his murderer, Harry K. Thaw, and Evelyn Nesbit, the teenage showgirl who drove them both. 

Baylis Greene
April 26, 2018
Brainteasers, questions of logic, tests of deductive reasoning face six teens foolish or desperate enough to enter the subterranean Initiation in Chris Babu’s debut novel for young adults.

“The Initiation”
Chris Babu
Permuted Press, $21

Is it a dream or is it a nightmare? You have the run of the Manhattan subway system, from 72nd Street to the South Ferry station. No crowds. Save for that section carpeted with hundreds of thousands of rats you have to sprint through as they crunch underfoot, “screeching and squealing . . . a warm, jittery pile of fur and bones . . . like standing on a deflated basketball.”

April 26, 2018
From “Blue Rose,” a new collection by Carol Muske-Dukes

He rode “no hands,” speeding
headlong down the hill near
our house, his arms extended,
held rigid away from his body,
our small daughter behind him
on the bike in her yellow sunsuit,
bareheaded. She held on to him
for her life. I watched them from
above — helpless. A failed brake.
Far below us, a stop-sign rose
like a child’s toy shield. He could
not stop. He would not. That hunger
for display overrode danger, illusions
of safety. Even death had less to do
with it than the will’s eventual triumph
over stasis: how he’d finally fly free
and how she might accompany him,
as an audience travels with a performer,

Baylis Greene
April 19, 2018
Writers Speak wraps up, while Schultz and Schulman hit Canio's

Writers Wrap It Up

There’s still time. Time before the students scatter and the tumbleweeds chase each other across Stony Brook Southampton’s web of footpaths, before an army of golfers and a small city’s worth golf fans descend on Shinnecock Hills, just a 3-iron across County Road 39, come the U.S. Open in June. Time still, that is, to catch the final guest readers in the spring’s Writers Speak series on Wednesday, courtesy of the M.F.A. program in creative writing and literature.

Evan Harris
April 19, 2018
To be buried or cremated, that is the question for one skirt-chasing, peep show-visiting, Bukowski-reading baby boomer.

(Not a Western)”

Francis Levy
Black Rose Writing, $17.95

To be buried or cremated, that is the question. “Tombstone: (Not a Western)” is an absurdist tour of one man’s neurotic approach to his own demise. Our mapless guide is the unlikable but very funny Robert Bernstein, a skirt-chasing, peep show-visiting, Bukowski-reading baby boomer with a serious case of male pattern self-absorption who is constantly trying to get a leg up in a world full of barriers to getting your obit in The New York Times. 

April 19, 2018
By Bruce Buschel

We were cleaning up the dinner
dishes with heads full of wine 
(and fantasies). Out of nowhere 
she said she had found a powdery 

mildew on her clematis. Gulp. 
I scoured the pots with extra gusto.
Then she muttered something 
about needing platycodon. Message 

received. Loud and clear. When all 
the dishes were tucked away she
asked if fritillaria would be okay with
me. Hot damn. Back in business! 

Bruce Buschel is a writer, producer, and director who lives in Bridgehampton.

Baylis Greene
April 10, 2018
Rocky Graziano and Tony Zale fought the fiercest trilogy of title bouts of the 20th century, matching an ex-con from the slums against an upstanding Midwesterner.

“Rocky Graziano: Fists, Fame, and Fortune”
Jeffrey Sussman
Rowman & Littlefield, $36

Let’s begin at the middle. Because for Rocky Graziano that also means the peak, his epic trilogy of title bouts with Tony Zale from 1946 to 1948, “the bloodiest, most intensely fought middleweight fights of the 20th century,” Jeffrey Sussman writes in his new biography, “Rocky Graziano: Fists, Fame, and Fortune.” They matched the immigrant slums versus the industrial heartland, he writes, “the streetfighter, the Italian delinquent, the ex-convict who fought like a junkyard dog against the upright, all-American, clean-living good guy.”

April 10, 2018
By Thayer Cory

Have you a place where, when the world ends, you want to be?
– William Stafford

Here where the sea

   breathes in and out

a steady pulse of always


Where sand-stunted pines

   and snarled underbrush

link arms around the house


Here between the scalloped hem

   of the tide line

and the smooth rim of the world


Where waves unfurl their ruin

   and primal shell homes

whisper Listen Now


I will be here where the dog chases

   sandpipers up the beach

April 3, 2018
A thorough and thoroughly engrossing guide to the 17th-century twists and turns that established the reigning British family’s unbroken line over the last 300-plus years.

“Daughters of 
the Winter Queen”

Nancy Goldstone
Little, Brown, $30

Next month, millions of people around the world will tune in to watch the royal nuptials of Prince Harry and the American actress Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle in England. For those not well versed in British history and wondering how the current royal family came to its enviable position, Nancy Goldstone’s new book, “Daughters of the Winter Queen,” offers a thorough and thoroughly engrossing guide to the “astonishing twists and turns” of the 17th century that established the over-300-year “unbroken line” of the reigning British family.

Judy D’Mello
March 27, 2018
Read in our often bewildering #MeToo world, Meg Wolitzer’s “The Female Persuasion” is an almost prophetic tale of gender and power, shaped by a sustained inquiry into relationships.

“The Female Persuasion”
Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead Books, $28

I wish a male reviewer had been assigned Meg Wolitzer’s timely and clever new novel, “The Female Persuasion.” It could have been an edifying exercise in literary biases, since Ms. Wolitzer has too often been labeled a writer of “women’s fiction.” That is to say, her stories vibrate with nuanced insights and observations, mostly about relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, men and women, women and women. Or, as V.S. Naipaul, the Nobel laureate, called it, “all that feminine tosh.”

Baylis Greene
March 20, 2018
Chris Knopf’s latest mystery involves the clubbing death of a deep-undercover intelligence operative, black-jumpsuited ninja types, and the fine cabinetry and company of one Sam Acquillo.

“Tango Down”
Chris Knopf
Permanent Press, $29.95

It begins with a local’s dream: Construction on yet another too-large Hamptons house of questionable taste has been halted. But there’s a catch, as “facedown in a slurry of blood, sawdust, and cutoffs from the finish work going on around the windows and door frames” is the moneyed homeowner, one Victor Bollings, a high-powered international business consultant. He’s had his head stove in with one of his own golf clubs. Though one wonders, a driver? With the composites these days, you can almost hear the harmless ping.

March 13, 2018
Reading Martin Amis’s new nonfiction collection, “The Rub of Time,” you almost wish he wasn’t so proficient a fiction writer, and a world-class one at that. Success has thinned Mr. Amis’s need for grunt work.

“The Rub of Time”
Martin Amis
Knopf, $28.95

Sheridan Sansegundo
March 6, 2018
Alafair Burke’s “The Wife” asks a worrying question: If you suffer through a traumatic event, do you recover? Or do you just think you have recovered?

“The Wife”
Alafair Burke
Harper, $26.99

The first thing that hits you upon opening “The Wife” is its uncanny timeliness. Angela’s husband, a charismatic economics professor at N.Y.U., Jason Powell, is accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by a college intern. The book came out soon after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke and the #MeToo movement started and focuses on many of the same questions that until that moment had simply been swept back under the proverbial rug.

Judy D’Mello
February 27, 2018
A.J. Jacobs confirms the beguiling promise of ancestry-hunting: to construct a narrative for yourself that is more interesting than the one you’ve got.

“It’s All Relative:
Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree”
A.J. Jacobs
Simon and Schuster, $27

A decade ago there was no point even considering researching your roots if you weren’t prepared to spend days, months, or potentially years trawling through dusty registers and reels of microfilm. But now, people just sit at their kitchen table on an otherwise unexceptional weekday morning and drool saliva into a test tube.

Baylis Greene
February 20, 2018
How do you figure out what comes next after what gave your life meaning is gone?

“The Book of Resting Places”
Thomas Mira y Lopez
Counterpoint, $26

I don’t know if “tour de force” can be applied to a 23-page essay on death — big subject, limited space — but Thomas Mira y Lopez packs so much, so subtly and so smoothly, into “Memory, Memorial” that a reader can be forgiven for wondering. 

February 13, 2018
Philip Schultz’s new collection of poems, though steeped in loss, may well provide you with all you need to rise above pain and despondency.

Philip Schultz
W.W. Norton, $26.95

In his latest collection of new poems, Philip Schultz explores the existential quagmire so many 21st-century inhabitants find themselves struggling to rationalize their continued existence within. Mr. Schultz’s “Luxury” is imbued with sadness and steeped in loss. In an increasingly godless world characterized by greed, suffering, incompetence, illness, and decreasing life spans, how can we continue to thrive? The poet seems to suggest that happiness is simply another human illusion, one we may need to reconcile using as a barometer of contentedness.