Books

Close to Home: Local Poets Get Personal

by Fred Shaw
If all politics is local, perhaps all good poetry might be considered local, as well. Consider how setting and description flavor the Homestead poems of Robert Gibb and the Detroit poems of Jim Daniels. In his seminal essay collection on poetic craft, “The Triggering Town,” poet Richard Hugo asks writers…

Short Takes: “Imagining the Modern,” “The Best Seven Years of My Life”

by John Allison
“Imagining the Modern” is a gorgeous book about a period that not everyone thinks is beautiful: the postwar design of Pittsburgh. It is a truth universally acknowledged that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and the popular consensus holds that East Liberty, the Hill District and a…

A Meditation of Life in Twilight

by John Allison
Certain Pittsburghers could read Stewart O’Nan’s “Henry, Himself” just for the satisfaction of having their world described by a masterful writer. The Pittsburgh native’s novel, his 17th, takes place largely in the pleasant precincts of the East End, from well-​tended houses in Highland Park to the Phipps Conservatory Flower Show…

Poetic Mission

by Fred Shaw
With its deep pool of talented writers, Pittsburgh punches well above small-​city status, especially among poetry circles. Reasons for this embarrassment of riches include the exposure many local poets receive for work that wins them awards, ample workshops, university writing programs with strong reputations and a vibrant scene that features…

Treating Patients As People

Healthcare often gets treated as if the only issue is economic: Health insurance-​Goliaths Highmark and UPMC are in a coverage standoff; a “Medicare-​for-​all” bill that could cost up $32 trillion is unveiled in the U.S House of Representatives; insurance rates tick upward. But what about the emotional plight of flesh-​and-​blood…

Short Takes: “Engineering Pittsburgh,” “American Dinosaur Abroad”

by John Allison
Without civil engineers, our world would fall apart. They are hidden brains behind what we civilians take for granted — all the marvelous methods for getting us from here to there, safe and sound. To observe its 100th anniversary, the Pittsburgh section of the American Society of Engineers has produced an indispensable…

An Eye-​Opener About Living Black in Pittsburgh

by John Allison
Damon Young recently bought a rather nice house a block away from me. Yet I don’t expect to be invited over, although I am about to lavish praise on his brave, incisive and witty memoir about growing up and living while black in Pittsburgh. Even a blurb-​ready assessment — Damon Young is…

Short Takes: “Thank Your Lucky Stars” “Asia Ascending”

The pleasures of “Thank Your Lucky Stars” are doubled in the re-​reading. The 50 stories tucked into 189 pages encourage a binge. Most are short short, sometimes just a few paragraphs; about 10 are traditional-​length short stories (if size matters). But when you return to browse through the collection, images…

The Bad Old Days

You won’t get depressed by reading Richard Gazarik’s “Wicked Pittsburgh.” The retired Tribune-​Review reporter does not seek to darken the name of our fair city. He merely wants to gather, in one handy and readable volume, key stories of corruption, crime and skulduggery stretching back to the turn of the…

An Elegy of the Marcellus Shale region

When U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler visited Pittsburgh on October 24 last year, his first order of business was to visit a Range Resources well-​pad outside Washington, Pa., announcing that the EPA would continue “removing regulatory barriers and leveling the playing field for American companies.”

On Children’s Literature

“Why do we give children the illusion of a world that doesn’t exist and which all their lives they will compare with a harsh reality?” –Georges Simenon

Pursuing Crime from Pittsburgh to Eternity and Back

“The Gone World” by Pittsburgh novelist Thomas Sweterlitsch is about nothing less than preventing the end of world as we know it. As is often the case in real life,Western Pennsylvania is at the center of the story.

Terrance Hayes Tackles Current Life in “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin”

“Prismatic” is how the late poet Wanda Coleman once described her smart, resonant American sonnets in a 2002 radio interview with writer Paul Nelson. The impetus of her avant-​garde style was to approach the old form in a new way, making it a more stimulating way to express anger and…

Rob Ruck Examines Football the Samoan Way

by Jody DiPerna
The thing to understand about Rob Ruck is that he’s a runner — a distance runner and a daily runner. He’s the type of guy to run the Pittsburgh marathon a bunch of times, and when he is not running, he is at loose ends and out of sync. This devoted runner…

Grit, Striving and Some Redemption Highlight Rust Belt Collection

A Pittsburgher’s first reaction upon completing the 24 essays in “Voices from the Rust Belt” is bound to be: Jeez-​o-​man, we’ve got it pretty good here.
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