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The masterstroke of Robert McCloskey's "Blueberries for Sal" is the sound he devised for the berries dropping into the pail.

A Quiet Mastery

Friday, July 31, 2015

They are all still happily picking, after all these years. Picking, snacking, and kuplunking their way up the rocky, spruce-dotted slopes of Blueberry Hill. Little Sal looks much the same as she did in 1948, appealingly androgynous, both in name and in appearance, dressed in overalls the straps of which keep sliding off her shoulders, her haircut the homemade kind …

Jimmy Carter Holds Ideals Close at 90

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jimmy Carter let me down. Not with his book A Full Life: Reflections at 90 — a warm and detailed memoir of his youth followed by a clear-eyed assessment of the issues he tackled as president and afterward — but with his response to the question “Does the arc of history bend toward …

Scout’s Adult Conscience

Saturday, July 18, 2015

When I was 12, in the 1970s, I went on a trip to Alabama, my first trip to the Deep South. The occasion was a visit to a well-to-do family, connected distantly through marriage, that had made their fortune in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in timber and the railroads. Two …

Book Notes: Alice Fogel Wins Award for Poems Inspired by Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’

Friday, April 10, 2015

Like Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous G oldberg Variations, New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice B. Fogel’s new collection of poems, Interval, begins and ends with the same verses, titled Aria , and tucks 30 variations in between. Fogel has …

How the Bombs Reached Boston

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy by Masha Gessen; Riverhead (272 pages, $27.95) Masha Gessen does something unexpected with The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy. In a book about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and …

A Writer’s Choice of Residence Can Influence the Written Work

Friday, April 10, 2015

One of the reasons people daydream about becoming a writer is the possibility of plying your craft anywhere you want. A beach shack in the Bahamas. A coffee bar in San Francisco. A garret in Montparnasse. All you need is a place to set down your laptop, or, …

On Poetry: For this Poet, Words Provide the Inspiration

Friday, March 27, 2015

The question I’m most frequently asked as a poet, one I mused on in my December column, is “Why doesn’t that rhyme?” In this column, I’ll look, at least to begin with, at the second most frequently asked: “Where do you get your inspiration?” Well, fact is, I’m …

Faith, Evil and Penance: Jeffrey Lent’s New Novel Revisits Post-Civil War Era

Friday, March 27, 2015

There’s a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons — That oppresses, like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes — — Emily Dickinson A small religious group started by a charismatic woman is at the heart of Jeffrey Lent’s new …

With ‘Ongoingness,’ Sarah Manguso Reflects on Recording Her Life

Friday, March 27, 2015

Here’s the question at the heart of Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary (Graywolf: 98 pages, $20): How does a writer record his or her experiences and live them at the same time? Sitting in the …

New Afterwords: Self-Indulgence, Now Available in Paperback

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Washington — The words on the book cover are in bold, italics or all-caps, meant to seduce shoppers: With a New Afterword. A New Preface by the Author. With a New Epilogue. Perhaps some people succumb. I didn’t …

Harper Lee’s Agent Dismisses ‘Elder Abuse’ Allegations

Friday, March 13, 2015

New York — Harper Lee’s literary agent says he was “surprised” that his client was believed a victim of elder abuse and asserted “categorically” that she was in “full possession of her mental faculties” and “delighted” about this …

Grieving Writer Keeps Company With a Goshawk

Friday, March 13, 2015

H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald; Grove (300 pages, $26 Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk is one of a kind, unless there are other grief memoirs/falconry tales/literary analyses out there. But really, it is one of …

Sun Shines on Boston Boy

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dennis Lehane is one of Boston’s best-known writers. Born and raised in the community of Dorchester (or, as he would pronounce it, “Dorchestah”), he’s got a Bostonian no-nonsense, tough-guy edge, and his books, including “Mystic River” and the …