BY SEAN CLARK

[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]

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the-conductor-and-other-tales-3The Conductor and Other Tales, by Jean Ferry. Reviewed by Michael Dirda (Washington Post).

When Dirda says a set of stories “may remind you of Italo Calvino or Steven Millhauser at their most beguiling,” I don’t need to read anymore. I’m sold. I did read on though, and then promptly ordered a copy of the book–which is not new, by the way, but in re-release. If you like short fiction and the fantastic, this sounds like a winner.

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The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, by Olivia Laing. Interviewed by Jasmine Elist (Los Angeles Times).

Speaking as someone who unabashedly drank his way through an MFA program, the romance (with all the highs and lows that entails) between writers and alcohol is a fascinating one. Elist’s puffball interview questions aside, some of the insight Laing dug up for this book sounds pretty fascinating. It runs the risk of being a preachy or didactic screed of course, but could just as easily be an interesting exploration into the creative process of six beloved authors.

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Brown Dog, by Jim Harrison. Reviewed by Heller McAlpin (Barnes & Noble Review).

This “rollicking” collection of five previously published novellas (and one new one) about a eccentric woodsman sounds brimming with character and charm. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to read a book featuring this guy: “There’s something hapless but never hopeless about Brown Dog, who constantly gets caught up in harebrained schemes to protect what’s sacred to him, including the Anishinabe burial grounds, whose location he’s stupidly divulged to a seductive anthropology graduate student during a ‘pussy trance.'” McAplin is a lucid reviewer, so the review is worth reading in it’s own right.

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Quickly: This romance novelist just landed an 8-figure advance; I hope it puts St. Martin’s out of business. Semi-related, this guy should totally be running HarperCollins for real. Instead they are doing the same tired, old stuff. (Also, the origin of that YA book “by” Frey is beyond grimy, and NYT should know better.)

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