April 23, 2020
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Kenyon alumni have a lot to say — and, happily for readers, many of them say it on the page, with eloquence, imagination and expertise. Here’s a short list of notable books by Kenyon authors that appeared in 2016, compiled by Alumni Bulletin book editor Dan Laskin.
“Sweetbitter,” by Stephanie Danler ’06 (Knopf). In this sensual and emotionally tumultuous coming-of-age novel, Danler’s heroine Tess arrives in New York, lands a job in a fine restaurant and struggles to develop a “palate” — not just in culinary terms but also in the larger sense of personal proficiency. Both food and New York come to shimmering life in Danler’s exquisite prose.
“Library of Souls,” by Ransom Riggs ’01 (Quirk Books). Fantasy, suspense, linguistic inventiveness and eerie vintage photographs combine once again to captivate young readers of all ages, in this third installment of the “Miss Peregrine’s” series. Riggs delves further into his wonderful world in “Tales of the Peculiar” (Dutton).
“Eyes,” by William Gass ’47 (Knopf). Many critics have noted the extraordinary powers of language, its music and rhythms, in the fiction of William Gass. The writer’s sentence-level virtuosity is fully on display in this collection of two novellas and four shorter stories. The pieces range from “In Camera,” one of the longer works, about the reclusive proprietor of a photography shop, to “Don’t Even Try, Sam,” in which the narrator is the aging piano from the classic film “Casablanca.”
“Capitol Punishment,” by Andrew Welsh-Huggins ’83 P’17 (Ohio University Press). Welsh-Huggins, a veteran reporter for the Associated Press in Columbus, Ohio, has published another witty and faced-paced mystery featuring Andy Hayes, a disgraced Ohio State quarterback turned private eye. This one centers on the murder of a muckraking journalist and simmering scandals in a big election year.
“Dawn to Twilight: New and Selected Poems,” by Daniel Mark Epstein ’70 (Louisiana State University Press). Epstein draws on work from almost 50 years in this collection. Abiding themes include happiness and despair, love and aging, and time itself. Prolific and multi-talented, Epstein is also a highly regarded biographer, with books about figures ranging from Nat King Cole to Abraham Lincoln.
“Enter Helen,” by Brooke Hauser ’01 (HarperCollins). Hauser traces the career of the famous and sometimes infamous Helen Gurley Brown, author of “Sex and the Single Girl” and the legendary editor of “Cosmopolitan” magazine. In addition to exploring Brown’s personal life, the book vividly evokes an era that embraced everything from the rise of modern feminism and the Civil Rights Movement to the heyday of the Playboy Club and the Summer of Love.
“The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today,” by Bryan Doerries ’98 (Knopf). Doerries has won national acclaim for using staged readings of Greek tragedies to help traumatized veterans and disaster victims. This book tells the deeply personal and very powerful story of his work.
“Sunny’s Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World,” by Tim Sultan ’89 (Random House). “There was a sense that one was off the leash here,” writes Sultan in this absorbing memoir about a Red Hook, Brooklyn, bar and its unforgettable owner. In Sultan’s hands, the bar emerges as a fantastic, story-filled, wonderfully eccentric world unto itself.
“Seeing the War: The Stories Behind the Famous Photographs of World War II,” by David Colley ’63 (University Press of New England). Many of the photos in this book have been etched into collective memory — for example, General Eisenhower chatting with paratroopers on the eve of D-Day. Others, though less known, are equally compelling. Colley not only tells the stories of the photos but also sketches the lives and fates of the men and women who served and suffered.
“Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me from Myself,” by Julie Barton ’95 (Penguin Books). Barton’s affecting memoir tells how a golden retriever puppy named Bunker helped her deal with terrible depression. It’s a painful but moving story that vividly depicts Barton’s anguish and her slow, halting path to recovery.