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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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."

Prize-winning short story writer Edith Pearlman has just come out with a new collection of short fiction, called Honeydew. And the first thing I wanted to do after finishing my initial reading of these 20 stories was, well, I wanted to go right back again and start from the beginning.

But instead, I've put my own rereading on pause so I can tug at your sleeve about this marvelous talent who moves among us. Here is one of our best living short story writers, and with Honeydew, her fifth volume, her reputation is gaining serious velocity.

In an extraordinary feat of literary ventriloquism, the widely praised Canadian nonfiction writer John Vaillant has produced a novel that seems to have leapt from the headlines. Called The Jaguar's Children, it's about the terrible dangers of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and the lives of those who dare to try it.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The premise of "Descent," a new novel by Tim Johnston, is a familiar one. A teenaged girl disappears; her family agonizes over her fate. But reviewer Alan Cheuse says this is much more than your typical thriller.

The premise of Descent may sound pretty straight-forward: One summer morning while vacationing with her family in the foothills of the Rockies, a young girl, a high-school athlete in her senior year, goes out for a run in the higher altitudes — and disappears.

And Moby-Dick's about the whaling industry.

With great energy and a cold eye for contemporary American race relations, here comes Joyce Carol Oates with a new novel that shows off her muck-raking credentials. The Sacrifice faces squarely an incident that took place in upstate New York nearly thirty years ago in which a young black girl named Tawana Brawley claimed that a group of white males, mostly police officers, kidnapped her and gang-raped her over a number of days.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to do some last-minute shopping with our book critic Alan Cheuse. Needless to say, his friends and family can guess what they'll get from him. And this year he says he's proud of his selections.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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