Heller McAlpin

Heller McAlpin is a New York-based critic who reviews books regularly for NPR.org, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle and other publications.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Wed March 11, 2015

'B & Me' Is Intelligent, Immoderate, And A Bit Belabored

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 4:18 pm

J.C. Hallman's audacious B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal, is a textbook example of "creative criticism" — a highly personal form of literary response that involves "writers depicting their minds, their consciousnesses, as they think about literature." Hallman, who has championed creative criticism in two anthologies, has written a wildly intelligent, deeply personal, immoderate — and somewhat belabored — exploration of Nicholson Baker's entire oeuvre, reading in general, and the state of modern literature.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Tue March 3, 2015

A Life Examined — And Examined And Examined In 'Ongoingness'

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 7:09 pm

Ever since Michel de Montaigne hit on the winning mix of frankly personal and broader philosophical reflections in his 16th century Essays, the personal essay has attracted those for whom the unexamined life is — well, unthinkable. In recent years, we've seen a spate of auto-pathologies — minutely observed meditations on the tolls of often strange ailments. A newer trend is the meta-diary — short autobiographical entries that frequently explore the writer's relationship with time, memory and identity.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Tue February 10, 2015

Cozy 'Blue Thread' Is Unabashedly Domestic

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 8:35 am

You don't read Anne Tyler to have your worldview expanded, or to be kept awake at night anxiously turning pages. You read, instead, for the cozy mildness, the comfort of sinking into each new warmhearted, gently wry book.

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Book Reviews
6:28 am
Tue February 3, 2015

'Funny Girl' Is A Book Made For Binge-Watching

Originally published on Tue February 3, 2015 8:59 am

Leave it to Nick Hornby to produce a smart comic novel that pits light entertainment against serious art and comes through as winning proof of the possibility of combining the two.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Tue January 27, 2015

'Mr. Mac' Paints Flowers In A Darkening World

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 12:53 pm

Reading Esther Freud's eighth novel — about an English boy's unlikely but life-expanding friendship with Scottish architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh — is a bit like watching a watercolor painting take shape. Mr. Mac and Me begins with delicate dabs of color, as 13-year-old Thomas Maggs, the only surviving son of an abusive alcoholic pub proprietor and his long-suffering wife, paints a plaintive picture of life at the aptly named Blue Anchor, in the Sussex village of Walberswick.

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