Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live

"Alone in the garage with all these books. There's no room on the shelves anymore. Now they live in piles," writes Peter Orner in his introduction. "I sit here... and I think... I'll be dead before I read a quarter of the books down here." A variety of volumes, their impact on Orner at various times in his life and the memories they stir up are the essence of the essays and ruminations in Am I Alone Here? With a penchant for short stories in particular, he discusses an eclectic mix of authors, including Anton Chekhov and Eudora Welty, who have influenced him and his writing.

Using quotations from particular pieces, Orner analyzes and scrutinizes the writing through his own experience, focusing primarily on his interactions with his late father and his troubled marriage. The writing ebbs and flows, morphing and shifting as if the reader is watching Orner's life through a kaleidoscope of brilliant words instead of shapes and colors. The effect is mesmerizing. The only drawback to reading Am I Alone Here? is the urge to go forth and read (or reread) the pieces Orner writes about, which is a considerable library of work and could easily take a lifetime to do. But as he writes, "I have come to the conclusion that reading keeps me alive, period." Adding this brilliant book to your to-read pile will definitely keep you breathing. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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