Books

4 reads for the Pittsburgh winter

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

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…

Imagination Motel: Pomes With Many Bags of Buttered Popcorn and Big Pepsis

The word “legendary” was built for Chuck Kinder. The heart and soul of the University of Pittsburgh writing program for years, he entered legend as the inspiration for the main character of “Wonder Boys,” the hit novel by his former student Michael Chabon. He fulfills the legend of the novelist…

Timeless & Unremembered

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

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

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

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…
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

Short takes

Speaking Pittsburghese: The Story of a Dialect By Barbara Johnstone Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics Oxford University Press ($39.95) Linguistics wizard Barbara Johnstone has spent years chronicling the intricacies of the Pittsburgh accent with the same work ethic and good nature that Pittsburghers love to celebrate in themselves. A professor at…

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.

The social wasteland

Themes of social, psychological and emotional isolation have been the stock in trade of American writers for as long as the concept of a national literature — and the elusive Great American Novel — have existed, variously attributed to religion, race, politics, drugs, wars, fragmented families, generation gaps and gender issues. Now Michael Bishop,…

The Sentimental Anarchists

by Sandra Levis
Sentimentality is not often associated with terrorism, yet authors Paul and Karen Averich display an unmistakable nostalgia for the so-​called first American Age of Terror in their wildly sympathetic history, “Sasha and Emma: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman.“

Ecce homo!

by Sandra Levis
Feeling discouraged? Lacking self esteem? Skip the self-​help books and read “Last Ape Standing” instead. Subtitled “The Seven-​Million-​Year Story of How and Why We Survived,” this engaging précis of recent developments in paleoanthropology is imbued with enough enthusiasm for evolution to cheer and inspire even the most miserable Homo sapiens.

A tragedy for the ages

by Sandra Levis
I don’t think anybody can get a handle on what makes me tick… without understanding what I learned from the deep relationship I formed with Virgil,” wrote the late Pennsylvania State University football coach Joe Paterno in his 1997 autobiography, “Paterno: By the Book.” The remark refers without irony to…
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