Book Buzz: Short Story Anthologies, Standalone Debuts, and Libraries

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For January, we’re looking at a prestigious annual literary collection, a standalone mystery from one of the most popular crime writers working today, and a profile of the Los Angeles library system.

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Old Favorites: Ambrose Bierce

I was going to substitute this feature with something else about the Great American Read, but then I realized that Ambrose Bierce’s birthday was this coming Sunday and, well, I just had to pen an ode to one of my favorite writers, AKA Bitter Bierce, The Diabolical Bierce, The Wickedest Man in San Francisco, The Rascal with the Sorrel Hair, The Laughing Devil, and (last but not least) The Devil’s Lexicographer. (I think I hit all the high points and included all the nicknames.)

Now, these nicknames make Bierce seem like evil incarnate, but he wasn’t. Honest!

He was just really, really, really, really grouchy, even by 19th century standards. And according to biographers, he was a crotchety, eccentric kid, so maybe when he entered this world on June 24, 1842, in rural Ohio, he was already destined to be one of the world’s best known literary misanthropes. (Though certain life events certainly did help him along that path.)

If you know of Bierce, it is likely because his two most famous works: his delightfully mean Devil’s Dictionary and his haunting, surreal Civil War short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” These are both great, but there’s a lot more to Bierce than meets the eye. . . .

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Old Favorites–Mark Twain

We’re focusing on newer books, movies, and television shows for 2018, but that doesn’t mean we’re entirely ignoring old favorites! After all, what’s that saying–what’s old may just become new again (or something like that)?

Earlier this month marked the 159th anniversary of a man named Samuel Clemens receiving his steamboat pilot’s license. Ordinarily, that would not seem a monumental moment in literary history, but it was. Because of his time on the steamboat on the Mississippi River, he became familiar with the navigational term “mark twain.” When he began working as a reporter, he adopted the term as a pen name and the rest, as they say, is history.

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