Listening to the Page: Adventures in Reading and Writing

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Overview

When he sold his first short story to The New Yorker in 1979, Alan Cheuse was hardly new to the literary world. He had studied at Rutgers under John Ciardi, worked at the Breadloaf Writing Workshops with Robert Frost and Ralph Ellison, written hundreds of reviews for Kirkus Reviews, and taught alongside John Gardner and Bernard Malamud at Bennington College for nearly a decade. Soon after the New Yorker story appeared, Cheuse wrote a freelance magazine piece about a new, publicly funded broadcast network called National Public Radio, and a relationship of reviewer and radio was born.

In Listening to the Page, Alan Cheuse takes a look back at some of the thousands of books he has read, reviewed, and loved, offering retrospective pieces on modern American literary figures such as Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Bernard Malamud, and John Steinbeck, as well as contemporary writers like Elizabeth Tallent and Vassily Aksyonov. Other essays explore landscape in All the Pretty Horses, the career of James Agee, Mario Vargas Llosa and naturalism, and the life and work of Robert Penn Warren.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

World Literature Today - Marvin J. LaHood

This is a fascinating book -- and why not? Cheuse has probably read as much as anyone ever.

San Francisco Chronicle - Jacob Molyneux

Despite his several novels and story collections, Alan Cheuse remains best known as the book critic on the public radio show 'All Things Considered.' The essays collected in Listening to the Page are longer and deeper than his pithy radio reviews and reveal a commitment to reading as a passionate engagement with life.

Sven Birkerts

Steady, but also passionate, boundlessly receptive, but willing to tender strong judgment, Alan Cheuse is the reader any writer would want. For the same reasons, he is a writer serious readers will feel instantly connected to. Listening to the Page is a generous and wise and quietly instructive book of essays.

World Literature Today
This is a fascinating book — and why not? Cheuse has probably read as much as anyone ever.

— Marvin J. LaHood

San Francisco Chronicle
Despite his several novels and story collections, Alan Cheuse remains best known as the book critic on the public radio show 'All Things Considered.' The essays collected in Listening to the Page are longer and deeper than his pithy radio reviews and reveal a commitment to reading as a passionate engagement with life.

— Jacob Molyneux

Booklist

[An] incisive and vivifying essay collection.... Cheuse is wholly engaged and creative, stoking readers' hunger and helping them understand the bounty of their pursuit.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
NPR listeners know Cheuse as the friendly book commentator who's been a fixture on All Things Considered for two decades; he is also a well-received fiction writer (The Bohemians; The Grandmothers' Club). Over the years Cheuse has consumed untold thousands of books for work, research and pleasure; for this reason if no other it would be interesting to hear what he has to say about the mysterious alchemies of reading and writing. But in this first collection of criticism, Cheuse's "adventures" turn out to be fairly uninspired excursions. Nearly two-thirds of the essays have appeared in other venues, and little has been done to update them or give them a book's coherence. For example, in his opening section, he treats stylistic points in the work of neglected Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier, leaving unexplained what the connection to the surrounding essaysone on pictorial fiction, one on readingmight be. Cheuse's critical prose tends to be a curious hybrid of biography, plot summary and appreciation, occasionally held together by a thin conceptual framework (e.g., "historical truth" or "minimalism"). His essays shy away from a critical standpoint, tending instead to graze around various topics before arriving at a sort of impenetrable nonconclusion ("Writers make narratives that develop over time... all we can do is work with our language and the time it takes to tell it in..."). The best parts of the book are anecdotal, recounting Cheuse's personal journeys as a reader and as a struggling writer; these generously conceived moments will leave readers the more disappointed for what this volume could have been. (May Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The learned, lively, and handsomely crafted essays in this collection revive some neglected authors as varied as the dazzling Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier, the magisterial Tom Wolfe (the elder), and the Russian memoirist Lidiya Ginsburg. Cheuse, a book reviewer for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, unabashedly prefers prose to poetry and finds instruction, impetus for moral growth, and consolation both in epoch-spanning novels and in poignant short stories in which language is sharply trimmed to expose transformative experience. His essays are instructive, his enthusiasm contagious, his views unobjectionable. However, since Cheuse rarely allows for a whiff of the high-octane and shocking strangeness that lends great works their staying power, he skims from frequently fierce books only the mellow, feel-good comforts that one associates with purring cats, decaffeinated tea, and Oprah in the afternoon. Recommended for larger public libraries. Ulrich Baer, New York Univ. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Not how to get the message on your beeper. Fiction writer, critic, and radio book commentator Cheuse collects 21 essays and an interview with him, most previously published, looking back at the thousands of books he has read, reviewed, and loved. He clearly distinguishes between ancient and modern literature, and among the contemporary literatures of various cultures. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231122719
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 9/18/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 7.96 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Cheuse is a fiction writer, a long-time critic, and the book commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. He is the author of eight books including The Grandmothers'Club, The Light Possessed, The Tennessee Waltz and Other Stories, and the memoir Fall Out of Heaven. He has written for many national publications and has taught at the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan, among other places. He currently serves as a member of the writing program at George Mason University.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Getting Started; or, Two Thousand BooksPart 1. Reading 1. Writing It Down for James: Some Thoughts on Reading Toward the Millennium2. Books in Flames: A View of Latin American Literature3. The Lost Books4. Hamlet in Haiti: Style in Carpentier's The Kingdom of This World5. Traces of Light: The Paradoxes of Narrative Painting and Pictorial Fiction6. Truth as Fiction: Or, the Tail of the Monstrous Peacock7. The Consolation of ArtPart 2. Rereading 8. You Can Read Wolfe Again9. Stories of Deep Delight10. Of Steinbeck and Salinas11. The Return of James Agee12. Mario Vargas Llosa and Conversation in the Cathedral: The Question of Naturalism13. Where Is She Going? Where Has She Been?: Elizabeth Tallent's "No One's a Mystery'' and the Poetry of Female Initiation14. A Wintry Saga15. Bernard and Juliet: Romance and Desire in Malamud's High Art16. Fitzgerald's Christmas Carol, or the Burden of "The Camel's Back''17. A Note on Landscape in All the Pretty Horses18. Rereading TravenPart 3. Writing 19. Confessions of an Ex-Minimalist20. On the Contemporary21. Of the Making of Books22. Voices: A Conversation

Columbia University Press

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