Tag Archives: friends

*** The Pelican by Martin Michael Driessen

In the waning days of Yugoslavia, a shady mail carrier decides to blackmail his neighbor, whom he caught cheating from his wife. He will soon get a taste of blackmail himself, and The Pelican: A Comedy takes us through the complicated and very entertaining relationship between the blackmailers. It’s funny and absurd and a great escape.

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* Chances Are by Richard Russo

As Chances Are opens, three college friends are getting together for a weekend in the Cape Cod house of on of them, decades after a young woman disappeared mysteriously from the same house, as they were all gathered for a post-graduation ceremony. The mystery will be untangled and many memories shared, or relived. It’s all fine and comfortable and even entertaining, but a little lightweight at the same time.

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*** The Party by Elizabeth Day

The Party is the story of a long, complicated, dark friendship that unravels brutally on the night of a lavish party. The author dribbles out the story as one of the friend is interviewed by the police while his wife recuperates at a rehab center. The plot is quite ordinary, stemming from the vast class differences between the friends; what makes the book is the slow deployment of it. Delicious!

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** The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds tells the story of the collaboration and friendship between Amos Tversky and Dan Kahneman, which produced so many insights in behavioral economics (and indeed, founded the field). The most interesting part of the book to me was not so much the science, although tantalizing anecdotes abound, but the friendship, and how accidents of life and egos eventually terminated a tight working and personal relationship that seemed to be able to bring out the best qualities of  each partner, until they quarreled.

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* Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta

Innocents and Others follows two filmmaker who started out as best friends but find themselves on different tracks.  I expect that movie buffs and would-be filmmakers will like the story, which is told, overly preciously to my taste, partly in the form of scripts and blog posts for a film class. There are some lovely observations here and there: the mother who automatically accepts any scheme that stars a favored friend of her daughter’s, the woman who hopes her husband won’t get into a writing program that would require a long separation — but overall I felt the story was plodding, even aimless, although well-written and carefully unfolded.

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*** A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


A Little Life starts slowly, appearing to describe nothing more than four aimless friends, moving to glittery New York after four years in a pampered elite Boston (excuse me, Cambridge!) college, and I almost gave up after 100 pages of aimlessness and breathless New York travelogue. We have to make choices when faced with a 700-page tome!

But I am glad I persisted, since the book then morphs into the personal, tragic story of one of the four, blending his appalling childhood with his current travails, with the other friends moving to secondary characters. It ends in an overdone, to my taste, and even more tragic episode — but the bulk of the story is breath-taking and full of well-observed details.

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*** Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner


Crossing to Safety is the masterful story of a friendship between two academic couples who meet in Madison, Wisconsin, during the Depression and remain friends for decades. There are challenges along the way, some easily surmounted, it turns out, such as a vast difference in economic circumstances. Others are more difficult, especially how friends can witness, suffer from, but not do very much as a couple struggles through relationship issues. The author’s plain style captures the small moments of life perfectly — including the rigid sex roles from decades past, which interestingly create much of the conflict in the story. The willful Charity (what a name!) today would be writing Lean In, not  pressuring her poor husband to publish books he has no desire to write…

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