Books

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

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

“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…

Neither, Either, Or

If you want to explore the vexing subject of global climate change, Seamus McGraw is the guy to have as a tour guide. He will not torture your brain with elaborate science, tax your patience with lectures about evil consumer habits, or bash you over the head with partisan arguments.…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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,…
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