Blogger Picks Classic Novels, Modern Short Stories

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Max Magee, creator of the literary blog The Millions, talks about his summer reading picks. They include Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow and Pastoralia by George Saunders.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This week's summer reader is Max Magee. By day, he writes for financial newsletters and Web sites. But in his free time, he manages and writes for a literary blog. It's called The Millions.

Magee is based in Philadelphia, but we have reached him at his parents' home in Potomac, Maryland.

Welcome to the show, Max.

Mr. MAX MAGEE (Blogger, The Millions): Thanks for having me.

HANSEN: So what are you reading?

Mr. MAGEE: Right now, I'm reading "Ragtime" by E.L. Doctorow. It's a pretty classic book. It was written - he wrote it in the '70s and it's a sweeping novel set at the turn of the last century. And it's got all kinds of historical figures walking through it like Harry Houdini and Sigmund Freud. Only about 50 pages in so far but really enjoying it a lot.

HANSEN: What attracted you to it in the first place?

Mr. MAGEE: Well, I've read several of Doctorow's stories over the year and he's sort of - he's a, you know, pretty well-known writer and I've been wanting to read this book. It's considered his best. So I've had it on my list for a while.

HANSEN: So you're only a few pages into that one. I hate to ask, what are you going to read next?

Mr. MAGEE: Well, next, I'm going to read a book of short stories called "Pastoralia" by George Saunders. He is a contemporary writer that a lot of people are excited about these days. I'd compare him to Kurt Vonnegut, somebody like that. His stories sort of accentuate the excesses of modern life and sort of scary and fascinating alternate worlds where capitalism has run amuck, I guess, (unintelligible) describe it. Interesting stuff.

HANSEN: Hmm. Had you read Kurt Vonnegut?

Mr. MAGEE: Yes. I read pretty much all of Kurt Vonnegut's books when I was back in high school. I devoured all of his novels. I'm a big fan. So I'm looking for the next Kurt Vonnegut, I guess.

HANSEN: I'm not sure that's going to happen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: So if you had all the time in the world, what would you want to read?

Mr. MAGEE: I think I would take that opportunity to re-read some of my favorite classics that I don't know if I'll ever have time to get back to. But things like John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" and "Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. I also want to read "The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll."

HANSEN: Hmm. What book is that? I never heard of that book.

Mr. MAGEE: It's by Alvaro Mutis and he's actually a friend of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez's from way back. And the book is about a mysterious sailor named Maqroll, who travels the world and gets caught up in all sorts of adventures and misadventures, obviously, and it's really a remarkable book, pretty unique. I've never read anything like it. I definitely recommend it, one of my favorites.

HANSEN: All right. That was Max Magee, creator of the literary blog, The Millions. He joined us from Potomac, Maryland. Thanks a lot.

Mr. MAGEE: Thank you.

HANSEN: All summer, you've heard what other people have been reading. Now, what are you reading? Let us know by going to our Web site, npr.org and click on the Contact Us link.

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