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Alan Cheuse, NPR Book Critic, 1940-2015
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Alan Cheuse, NPR Book Critic, 1940-2015

When Alan Cheuse, writer, reader, teacher, and champion of books, died on July 31, the literary world lost one of its most influential advocates. A longtime book critic for NPR (review titles for All Things Considered for more than thirty years), Cheuse’s reviews were famously deft and insightful. And as a writer of literary fiction whose love of reading extended across genres, he loved a good story well told. Here’s a passage from a recent review of The Black Snow, by Irish writer Paul Lynch, an indication of Cheuse’s regard for close observation and careful language:

As Lynch presents the story, it becomes an out-of-the-ordinary creation, a novel in which sentence after sentence come so beautifully alive in all of the fullness of its diction and meaning that it makes most other contemporary Irish fiction seem dull by comparison, such as the description of the face of the doomed farmhand, Matthew Peoples, a face like a lived-in map. “The high terrain of his cheekbones and the spread of red veins on the pads of his cheeks like great rivers were written on him or the farmer looking up and seeing a fault over the earth that rived the morning sky with a ridge of low cloud-like dirt snow sided on a road.”

In an obituary published last week, the New York Times quoted Cheuse’s advice to, “Live as much as you can, read as much as you can, and write as much as you can.” The author’s family asked, via his web site, that in his honor, remember to “raise a glass of wine (or whatever you may be drinking), tell a joke, hug someone that you love, be kind, and read a great story.”

Read the New York Times remembrance here.