Different Strokes for Different Folks as the saying goes… and here are three books that couldn’t be more different!
A Play for the End of the World by Jai Chakrabarti
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Debut Fiction, this one is great for book clubs. From NYC to Warsaw to India, wartime history and the impact of art in the form of a play, a relationship and how a friendship continues after living in an orphanage…This intense story with dimension, deep characters and beautiful writing combines art, history and the will to survive. Survivor’s guilt, shame and trauma and how we recall memories is at the forefront along with falling in love and the impact of artistic expression. I highly recommend it and look forward to reading Jai Chakrabarti’s newest novel, A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness.
Jai Chakrabarti is the author of the novel A Play for the End of the World, which won the National Jewish Book Award for debut fiction, was long-listed for the PEN/Faulkner Award and short-listed for the Tagore Prize. He is also the author of the story collection A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness. His short fiction has received both the O.Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize and has been anthologized in the Best American Short Stories and performed on Selected Shorts by Symphony Space. His nonfiction has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and elsewhere. Born in Kolkata, India, he now lives in New York with his family.
Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes
Julian Barnes in his artistic, erudite writing examines platonic love and dives into a philosophical examination of history. I enjoyed the parts of the story that focus on the narrator, Neil, his feelings for Elizabeth Finch, the professor of his Culture and Civilization class, and memory and how people can have an impact on each other. The section on Julian the Apostate and Christianity was a bit too dry for my taste, but overall the short book was thought provoking. I loved The Sense of an Ending, his Booker Prize winning novel, also about memory.
Julian Barnes was born in Leicester, England on January 19, 1946. He was educated at the City of London School from 1957 to 1964 and at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which he graduated in modern languages (with honours) in 1968.
After graduation, he worked as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary supplement for three years. In 1977, Barnes began working as a reviewer and literary editor for the New Statesman and the New Review. From 1979 to 1986 he worked as a television critic, first for the New Statesman and then for the Observer.
Barnes has received several awards and honours for his writing, including the 2011 Man Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending. Three additional novels were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (Flaubert’s Parrot 1984, England, England 1998, and Arthur & George 2005). Amongst many other awards, he was awarded the 2021 Jerusalem Prize and the 2021 Yasnaya Polyana Prize, the latter for his book Nothing to Be Frightened Of. Also in 2021, he was awarded the Jean Bernard Prize, so named in memory of the great specialist in hematology who was a member of the French Academy and chaired the Academy of Medicine.
Julian Barnes has written numerous novels, short stories, and essays. He has also translated a book by French author Alphonse Daudet and a collection of German cartoons by Volker Kriegel. His writing has earned him considerable respect as an author who deals with the themes of history, reality, truth and love.
Barnes lives in London.
Dirtbag Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald
I decided to read Dirtbag, Massachusetts because Isaac Fitzgerald was coming to Westport Library’s StoryFest (the largest literary festival in CT) and I like to do my homework! I had never seeing him on the Today show where he often is on screen to discuss books, and I wasn’t sure how I would feel about him. Similar to Augustus Burroughs and James Frey, Isaac’s early life was far from traditional. In his essays he shares gritty confessions in search of forgiveness. His parents both cheated on their respective spouses to conceive him so his life began as a mistake between two sinners. He did an abundance of drinking and worked in the porn industry… at times his essays shared a bit too much drugs alcohol and sex for my taste. But he also went to private school, did missionary work, became a bartender and developed friendships.
Overall, after finishing the book and watching some video interviews of his I arrived in a place of respect and admiration. His vulnerability and willingness to share his journey with humor and honesty became charming and heartwarming. Fitzgerald’s upbringing caused damage he has been working his whole life to repair and for sure he is on his way to healing. His vivacious and warm personality is magnetic in person and I am a new fan!
Isaac Fitzgerald is the New York Times bestselling author of Dirtbag, Massachusetts. He appears frequently on The Today Show and is also the author of the bestselling children’s book How to Be a Pirate as well as the co-author of Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them and Knives & Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (winner of an IACP Award). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire, The Guardian, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and numerous other publications. He lives in Brooklyn.