Posts Tagged Nothing Serious

STEELE Picks: 20 Best Books of 2013

woman upstairs

1. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud [Knopf]
–a brilliant novel about anything but that typical woman upstairs. It’s about aspirations present and past, realized and forsaken.


2. The Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna [Tin House Books]
–an intense book about squatting, community and political activism in the 90s

ghana must go

3. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi [Penguin]
–a beautifully written book. haunting and lyrical. family, race, country, belonging.


4. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward [Bloomsbury]
–this memoir. raw. upsetting. the author mediates on the poverty in Louisiana and the black men she lost in its depths.


5. Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat [Knopf]
–another novel in which I’m in awe of the writing style. gorgeous mystical tale about Haiti.


6. FEVER by Mary Beth Keane [Scribner]
-wondrous historical fiction about “Typhoid Mary.” fascinatingly imagined.

inbetween people

7. The Inbetween People by Emma McEvoy [The Permanent Press]
–stunning, powerful novel. Avi Goldberg writes from military prison because he refuses to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces [IDF]. He writes about his friend Saleem, an Israeli Arab he met. Their lives intertwine despite cultural differences and past troubles.

in the body of the world

8. In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler [Metropolitan]
–not only a memoir about Ensler’s personal journey with cancer but it’s a call to community, to get involved. so powerful I cried when I finished reading it.

valley of amazement

9. The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan [ECCO]
–sweeping story about mothers and daughters set in turn-of-the-century Shanghai

Harvard Square

10. Harvard Square by Andre Aciman [W.W. Norton]
–melancholic, nostalgic autobiographical novel about belonging and assimilation that focuses on immigrants finding their place in America in the 70s.

sister mother husband dog

11. Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) by Delia Ephron [Blue Rider]
–the this essay collection, Delia tackles the profound to the superficial with wit, perception and charm. She maintains a steady wisdom-filled tone. She’s a woman who’s experienced plenty and shares mistakes, some secrets and reflects upon life-lessons with those willing to listen.

vampires in lemon grove

12. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell [Knopf]
–This collection of stories transports you to places you never imagined going to. Russell writes stories about variations on monsters. Beautiful, peculiar, unusual and tragic monsters. She creates bizarre, macabre and funny settings. Complete with vivid imagery, creepiness and potent emotions without an excess of verbiage. She writes dark, funny and tender.

freuds mistress

13. Freud’s Mistress by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack [Amy Einhorn]
–long rumored to have had an affair with his wife’s sister, Kaufman and Mack vividly imagine this sister’s character and life with the Freuds.


14. Montana by Gwen Florio [The Permanent Press]
–MONTANA drew me in immediately with its stellar page-turning plot, terrific characters and stunning descriptions of Montana scenery. Also Lola’s an independent feminist journalist determined to uncover the truth at any cost.

dirty love

15. Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III [WW Norton]– author interview
–one of my all-time favorite authors writes vignettes about love, sex, relationships and the gritty, sticky, messy aftermath.


16. Lillian and Dash by Sam Toperoff [Other Press]
–What a charming novel that delves into the long affair between playwright Lillian Hellman [Little Foxes, The Children’s Hour] and noir author and screenwriter Dashiell Hammett [The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man].

big brother

17. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver [Harper Collins]
–Lionel Shriver expresses so many thoughts about obesity epidemic, how we indulge, how food is a treat, a central focus for holidays, outings, dates, meetings etc. Dazzling writing, vocabulary and character creation up until the ending.

together tea

18. Together Tea by Marjan Kamali [ECCO]– author interview
–insight into the immigrant experience. Humor, love, respect and mother-daughter bonding make this a book you’ll long remember after finishing the last page. It’s a love story to Persia as well as an acceptance for the United States.

hypothetical girl

19. The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen [Other Press]– author interview
–in this astute story collection, Elizabeth Cohen writes about dating in the digital age.

nothing serious

20. Nothing Serious by Daniel Klein [The Permanent Press]
–brilliant meditation on print media and its changing format and relevance.

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Nothing Serious: book review

nothing serious

Nothing Serious by Daniel Klein. Publisher: The Permanent Press (2013). Fiction. 216 pages. ISBN13: 9781579623142.

After working in the 1980’s and 1990’s for The Village Voice and New York Magazine– a glorious time to work in print journalism—the pot-smoking, elitist Digby Maxwell finds himself out of work. What happens when a New York trend spotter accepts a position at a small Vermont college to edit and modernize a failing philosophical journal? Everything. It forces Digby Maxwell much self-reflection and compromise.

Author Daniel Klein [himself a Harvard graduate in philosophy] writes: “The source of this talent, he believes, is his aptitude for empathy in the service of exploiting rather than helping his fellow man. He picked up quickening vibes where others only picked up cacophony; he detected subconscious whims in the unconscious masses.” As Digby familiarizes himself with the Cogito staff and attempts to bring the coolness factor to the magazine it becomes clear that either Digby’s fooling everyone or he’s the fool.

For decades in Manhattan, Digby chose the cool bands, coffee shops and various social trends well before his readers had heard about them. He lived a lavish and comfortable lifestyle. Paid well for his editing and writing and most likely guest-listed for art gallery openings, clubs, concerts and receiving all the latest wonder products gratis. At Cogito, Digby must come to terms with his waning power and lack of relevance as the editorial world changes. However he’s not quick to relinquish his abilities and ideas. The first issue he edits will focus exclusively on Heaven, not a popular choice with the staff or with the journal’s sponsors. Klein writes: “The ad pulls by those stodgy university presses are actually a testimony to his innovative genius; they simply cannot keep up with him.”

Taking the fish-out –of-water novel to an innovative, brilliant level, Klein writes a witty, crisp, intellectually amusing and thoughtful novel about a writer and editor coming to terms with not being at the zeitgeist. Any wordsmith, consummate reader will appreciate well-designed sentences such as: “Yet finally discerning the pattern of Felcia’s deviousness brings him a dulcet dose of peace.” Nothing Serious is a brilliant meditation on print media and its changing format and relevance.

RATING: ****/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from The Permanent Press.

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