Reading Room

Short Takes: “Leave Me” “Perpetual Carnival”

by John Allison
Pittsburghers could read “Leave Me” for the same reasons they’d see a movie filmed and set here. It’s a kick to see the city as a backdrop, collecting references to your favorite coffee shop (Commonplace in Squirrel Hill), local slogans (“I Bleed Black and Gold”) and outright praise (“she stared…

A Well-​Woven Contemporary Tale

by John Allison
For his second act, Pittsburgh novelist Jacob Bacharach has turned in another work of enormously entertaining literary fiction set in Pittsburgh. It’s less cosmic than his debut, the 2014 sci-​fi sendup “A Bend in the World,” but equally peppered with highbrow cultural references, trenchant social observations and turns of phrase…

Six Books for Your Winter Reading List

by John Allison
This issue, we take up half-​a-​dozen new books in three groupings: literary works from two creative writing teachers, Pittsburgh sports history from two prominent national writers, and the latest from two great local legal minds.

The Challenge of Fighting Back

by John Allison
Reading the latest novel by Stewart O’Nan, the Pittsburgh-​born writer who boomeranged home several years ago, is like watching the performance of an experienced athlete who makes it all look so easy. “City of Secrets” is his 16th novel since 1994, and the first to take place entirely outside of…

Short Takes: “Whiskey, Etc.” “Death by Cyanide”

by John Allison
Sherrie Flick’s latest collection is described as “short (short) stories” — that parenthetical “short” preparing you for one page tales, even one-​paragraph blasts. Scholars of marketing might see this as evidence that fiction creators are getting with the short-​attention span condition of the modern consumer, offering an efficient product that can be…

A Window Into the Marcellus

by John Allison
“Heat and Light,” the latest novel from western Pennsylvania native Jennifer Haigh, has tandem virtues. It possesses not only the urgent feel of a story “ripped from the headlines,” as they say, but also the grace and insight of American literary fiction for the ages. The Marcellus Shale boom in…

4 reads for the Pittsburgh winter

by John Allison
Theresa Brown, a nurse from Point Breeze, is already nationally known for her 2010 nursing memoir “Critical Care” and years of writing online for The New York Times about her profession. Brown’s new book, “The Shift,” should cement her reputation as a reliable and compassionate explainer of modern American heath…

The long way home

by John Allison
Lori Jakiela has the essential quality for a memoirist with a tale of trauma to tell: empathy for the reader. She makes her anguish entertaining. But based on the engaging voice, underlying humor and clarity of her adoption memoir “Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe,” I bet she…

Timeless & Unremembered

by John Allison
Gladys Schmitt is a wonderful Pittsburgh writer you have probably not read. If so, the time has come for that to change.

The Fading Light

by John Allison
Stewart O’Nan’s novel “West of Sunset,” based on the final tragic years of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood, took some nerve to write. Would you like to get into the ring with one of the greatest figures in American literature and try to describe what’s going on in his alcoholic…

The road back

by John Allison
Jennifer Matesa, a writer living in Friendship, was a well-​dressed, middle-​class junkie. She didn’t score from shady dealers in back alleys, though. Her supplier was the pharmaceutical industry. Starting about 10 years ago, this self-​described “white soccer mom” got hooked on pain-​killers after seeking legitimate treatment for chronic pain. Vulnerable…

Apocalypse Pittsburgh

by John Allison
Pittsburghers have long boasted that, in the heat of the Cold War, our role as an industrial power made us the Russians’ No. 1 nuclear target. It was a counterweight to our role as a national punchline for being a sooty dump.

Bend of the ‘burgh

by John Allison
Pittsburgh has enjoyed some nice national media buzz in recent years. We’re so livable, we’re hipper than Portland, we’re the next foodie destination. But Pittsburgher Jacob Bacharach’s debut novel could blast the city’s profile into an otherworldly dimension. “The Bend of the World” — a highly enjoyable comedy of modern manners — imagines our…

The working man novelist

by John Allison
Dave Newman is a hard-​working and funny writer who embodies an everyman Pittsburgh spirit with all of his ample heart. His latest novels — the brand-​new “Two Small Birds” and “Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children” (2012) — show him succeeding at the goal which his autobiographical protagonist, Dan Charles, declares at one…

Glory daze

by John Allison
In this season of Steelers discontent, Gary Pomerantz offers rattled fans some balm. “Their Life’s Work” is a thoroughly reported and clearly written account of the Steelers’ sensational ‘70s, framed through the “brotherhood” of the players and their interplay with the owners.
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