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
Tue April 8, 2014

In 'Paradise,' Finding Understanding In The Ruins Of Horror

Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 9:58 am

Over the course of his long and distinguished writing career, Peter Matthiessen — who died this past weekend at the age of 86 — chased numerous demons, from Florida outlaws to missionaries and mercenaries in South America. In his latest novel, which the ailing writer suggested would be his last, takes us back to a week-long conference held at Auschwitz in 1996. Here, as autumn shifts toward winter, Jews and Germans, Poles and Americans, rabbis, Buddhists, European nuns and slightly crazed survivors of Nazi genocide stand witness to the atrocities of some of the greatest demons of history.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Tue April 1, 2014

'Frog Music' Sounds A Barbaric (But Invigorating) Yawp

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 6:42 pm

San Francisco in the summer of the 1876, between the Gold Rush and the smallpox epidemic, is the setting for Emma Donoghue's boisterous new novel, Frog Music.

There's real frog music in these pages, the riveting cries of the creatures hunted by Jenny Bonnet, one of the two main characters. She's a pistol-packing, pants-wearing gal in a town where pants on women are one of the few cardinal sins, and she scratches out a living catching frogs and selling them to local restaurants.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Tue March 25, 2014

A Lyrical Meditation On Grief In 'Falling Out Of Time'

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 10:44 am

I am a mortal reader; I have my flaws. I don't usually enjoy prose poems or novels written in lines of poetry, and when I see character types with names in capital letters like the ones that appear in Israeli writer David Grossman's new Falling Out of Time — The Walking Man, the Net Mender, the Midwife, the Town Chronicler — I tend to prepare to pack up, close the book, and turn to something less allegorical.

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Book Reviews
7:54 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Book Review: 'The Divorce Papers'

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 12:56 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The woe that is marriage, the subject of the Wife of Bath's prologue in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" has long been a rich subject for stories. Susan Rieger has just published a novel on the matter called "The Divorce Papers."

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Book Reviews
4:25 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Book Review: 'Falling Out Of Time'

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 4:50 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

"Falling Out of Time" is the name of a new novel by Israeli writer David Grossman. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse calls it a dramatic meditation on grief, reminiscent of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." [POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: The book was translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen.]

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Tue March 18, 2014

All Sides Of A Divorce, Told In Fresh, Lively 'Papers'

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 6:20 pm

The "woe that is in marriage," the subject of the Wife of Bath's Prologue in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, is a great old subject. Susan Rieger's smart and wonderfully entertaining domestic comedy, with all its shifts of tone from the personal to the legal and a lot in between, takes up this old problem and makes it fresh and lively — and in some places so painful, because it has to do with a child torn between two parents, you don't want to go on. But you do. The power and canniness of this bittersweet work of epistolary fiction pulls you along.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Thu March 13, 2014

American Jazzmen Swing Overseas In 'Shanghai'

Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The thing about historical novels is that above all else, they must stand as good fiction. If not, the reader's supposed trip back into the past isn't worth the time or the token. The writer must give the feel and flow of the time in question in a manner that seems natural; characters on a street corner shouldn't remark to themselves about all of these 1922 motor cars rolling past, nor Roman legionaries point out that an axe is bronze when it should be steel.

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Book Reviews
4:02 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Review: 'E.E. Cummings: A Life'

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 7:59 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Spring 1958, the poet Edward Estlin Cummings, or E.E. Cummings as most of us know him, was a passenger in writer John Cheever's car. Cummings had just spoken at the school of Cheever's teenage daughter and she was sitting in the back seat. Well, that day kicked off a fascination that led to Susan Cheever's recent biography "E.E. Cummings: A Life." Alan Cheuse reviews the book and shares the origins of his own fascination with Cummings.

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Book Reviews
4:07 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Book Review: 'Night in Shanghai'

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 7:57 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Shanghai in 1936 was on the verge of Japanese occupation. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it makes a terrific setting for new novel by Nicole Mones. It's called "Night in Shanghai." The book showcases the multicultural and moneyed scene of Shanghai's prewar heyday.

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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Lorrie Moore's New 'Bark' Is Half Of A Good Book

Courtesy of Knopf

There are eight stories in Lorrie Moore's new collection, but only two of them really stand out. Moore's one of the country's most admired writers – and maybe I was so dazzled by the brilliance and power of the two longest stories in these pages that I couldn't read the other pieces — which I found either a little off-kilter or too subtly played — without feeling a certain amount of loss. But my possibly cock-eyed view of Bark is that it's a book, or at least half a book, that anyone who loves contemporary fiction should have a go at.

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