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Harvey Freedenberg

Biography

Harvey Freedenberg


Harvey Freedenberg practiced intellectual property law and litigation with a large Harrisburg, Pennsylvania firm before he retired in 2017. He has been working as a freelance reviewer since 2005 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. In addition to the nearly 300 reviews he has written for Bookreporter.com since 2006, he writes for BookPageShelf Awareness and Kirkus Reviews. He also has published reviews and essays on a variety of other websites and literary blogs.

In 2000, Harvey took a six-month sabbatical from his law practice and studied creative writing at his alma mater, Dickinson College. Three of his short stories have won prizes, and he has written an as-yet-unpublished novel.

Harvey enjoys literary fiction and a wide range of nonfiction. His favorite authors are too numerous to mention, but include Richard Ford, Tim O’Brien, John Updike, Charles Baxter, John Cheever, Tracy Kidder and John McPhee. To read all of Harvey's reviews, along with his comments on the book world and assorted topics, follow him on Twitter (@HarvF) or friend him on Facebook.

Harvey Freedenberg

Reviews by Harvey Freedenberg

by Cynthia Ozick - Fiction, Women's Fiction

Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie, one of the seven elderly trustees of the now-defunct (for 34 years) Temple Academy for Boys, is preparing a memoir of his days at the school, intertwined with the troubling distractions of present events. As he navigates, with faltering recall, between the subtle anti-Semitism that pervaded the school's ethos and his fascination with his own family's heritage --- in particular, his illustrious cousin, the renowned archaeologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie --- he reconstructs the passions of a childhood encounter with the oddly named Ben-Zion Elefantin, a mystifying older pupil who claims descent from Egypt's Elephantine Island.

by Gabriela Garcia - Fiction

In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. She is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother, a Cuban immigrant named Carmen, and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, Carmen must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt.

by Russell Banks - Fiction

At the center of FOREGONE is famed Canadian American leftist documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, one of 60,000 draft evaders and deserters who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam. Fife, now in his late 70s, is dying of cancer in Montreal and has agreed to a final interview in which he is determined to bare all his secrets at last, to demythologize his mythologized life. The interview is filmed by his acolyte and ex–star student, Malcolm MacLeod, in the presence of Fife’s wife and alongside Malcolm’s producer, cinematographer and sound technician, all of whom have long admired Fife but who must now absorb the meaning of his astonishing, dark confession.

by Patricia Lockwood - Fiction

A woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world. She must navigate the new language and etiquette of what she terms "the portal," where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats --- from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness --- begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal's void. An avalanche of images, details and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: "Something has gone wrong" and "How soon can you get here?"

by Chang-rae Lee - Fiction

Tiller is an average American college student with a good heart but minimal aspirations. Pong Lou is a larger-than-life, wildly creative Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterous trip across Asia, Tiller is catapulted from ordinary young man to talented protégé, and pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong and of himself. The narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it, as Tiller processes what happened to him abroad and what it means for his future.

by Robert D. Kaplan - Biography, Nonfiction

In his long career as an acclaimed journalist covering the “hot” moments of the Cold War and its aftermath, Robert D. Kaplan often found himself crossing paths with Bob Gersony, a consultant for the U.S. State Department whose quiet dedication and consequential work made a deep impression on Kaplan. Gersony, a high school dropout later awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, conducted on-the-ground research for the U.S. government in virtually every war and natural-disaster zone in the world. Kaplan saw in Gersony a powerful example of how American diplomacy should be conducted. Set during the State Department’s golden age, THE GOOD AMERICAN is a story about the loneliness, sweat and tears, and the genuine courage, that characterized Gersony’s work in far-flung places.

by George Saunders - Essays, Literary Criticism, Nonfiction

For the last 20 years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.

by Mark A. Bradley - History, Nonfiction, True Crime

In the early hours of New Year’s Eve 1969, in the small soft coal mining borough of Clarksville, Pennsylvania, longtime trade union insider Joseph “Jock” Yablonski and his wife and daughter were brutally murdered in their old stone farmhouse. Seven months earlier, Yablonski had announced his campaign to oust the corrupt president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), Tony Boyle, who had long embezzled UMWA funds, silenced intra-union dissent, and served the interests of Big Coal companies. The Yablonski murders triggered one of the most intensive and successful manhunts in FBI history --- and also led to the first successful rank-and-file takeover of a major labor union in modern U.S. history, one that inspired workers in other labor unions to rise up and challenge their own entrenched, out-of-touch leaders.

by Charles Baxter - Fiction

Once a promising actor, Tim Brettigan has gone missing. His father thinks he may have seen him among some homeless people. And though she knows he left on purpose, his mother has been searching for him all over the city. She checks the usual places --- churches, storefronts, benches --- and stum­bles upon a local community group with lofty goals and an enigmatic leader who will alter all of their lives. Christina, a young woman rapidly becoming addicted to a boutique drug that gives her a feeling of blessedness, is inexplicably drawn to the same collective by a man who’s convinced he may start a revolution. As the lives of these four characters intertwine, a story of guilt, anxiety and feverish hope unfolds in the city of Minneapolis.

by Thomas E. Ricks - History, Nonfiction

On the morning after the 2016 presidential election, Thomas Ricks awoke with a few questions on his mind: What kind of nation did we now have? Is it what was designed or intended by the nation’s founders? Trying to get as close to the source as he could, Ricks decided to go back and read the philosophy and literature that shaped the founders’ thinking, and the letters they wrote to each other debating these crucial works --- among them the Iliad, Plutarch’s Lives, and the works of Xenophon, Epicurus, Aristotle, Cato and Cicero. Although much attention has been paid to the influence of English political philosophers like John Locke, the founders were far more immersed in the literature of the ancient world.