iOS app Android app

Dave Astor
Dave Astor, an avid reader of novels, is the author of the memoir Comic (and Column) Confessional. In the partly humorous book, Dave chronicles his years covering cartoonists, columnists and other celebrities. The book can be purchased by contacting the author directly at, or via Amazon.

Astor also does book reviews (including a piece for The Washington Post), writes the award-winning "Montclairvoyant" humor column for The Montclair (N.J.) Times and serves on the board of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Dave is not related to the rich Astors!

Entries by Dave Astor

Puzzling Book Titles

(221) Comments | Posted May 22, 2014 | 11:55 AM

The vast majority of novel titles are self-explanatory: the name of the lead character (Jane Austen's Emma!), the place where the book is mostly set (Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights!), a combination of both (L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables!), the book's subject matter (Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle of a Death...

Read Post

An Appreciation of George Eliot

(122) Comments | Posted April 25, 2014 | 12:23 PM

I'm no George Eliot expert, but I know what I like and I like George Eliot. One of the best novelists ever? I think so.

It took me many years to come to the point of saying that. Back in college, I started Middlemarch but put down that sprawling book...

Read Post

Sisters and Brothers and Fiction

(116) Comments | Posted March 28, 2014 | 12:29 PM

Siblings in literature! They love each other. They hate each other. They fight less when they become adults. They fight more when they become adults. They jockey for their parents' favor. Etc. So many dramatic possibilities.

I'm thinking of siblings because I recently read George Eliot's The Mill on the...

Read Post

Reading About Many a Legal Proceeding

(159) Comments | Posted February 28, 2014 | 10:37 AM

It's no surprise that literature features plenty of court cases. After all, there have always been many real-life, high-profile trials -- such as the recent prosecutions of the men who invoked Florida's awful "Stand Your Ground" law to try to justify their killings of unarmed black teens.

Indeed, literature can...

Read Post

When Characters Relocate in Literature

(88) Comments | Posted February 7, 2014 | 11:30 AM

As I prepare to move from a house to an apartment this year (what -- freelance writers don't make hedge-fund salaries?), I've become particularly aware of relocation scenarios in literature.

Yes, a major plot device in fiction involves characters going to a new place. There's plenty of inherent drama (including...

Read Post

Songs With Literary References

(140) Comments | Posted January 15, 2014 | 11:05 AM

Under my previous post, on pre-19th-century literature, discussion briefly turned to some post-19th-century music.

That happened after commenter "Dave B. (ultrabop)," in offering an example of earlier literature, mentioned One Thousand and One Nights -- which led to a discussion of Renaissance's lengthy 1970s tune "Song...

Read Post

In Praise of Pre-19th Century Literature

(143) Comments | Posted December 20, 2013 | 12:45 PM

The novel "came of age" in the 1800s, but that of course doesn't mean there weren't some great literary works before then.

I was reminded of that after reading The Sorrows of Young Werther this month. Goethe's 1774 novel -- about a sensitive, self-involved guy pining after an unattainable woman...

Read Post

When Authors Create Title Characters of the Opposite Sex

(125) Comments | Posted December 5, 2013 | 11:38 AM

Do women write the best novels starring women? Do men write the best novels starring men? In many cases, yes. But while there's a lot to be said for "living the gender," there are also some great literary works featuring title characters who are the opposite sex of the author.

Read Post

For Some Authors, What's Love Got to Do With It?

(180) Comments | Posted November 21, 2013 | 11:53 AM

Under my previous post, about similarities in literature, commenter "Little Princess" rightly noted that a very frequent fiction theme is "boy meets girl." But some past and present novelists don't pay a lot of attention to romance in their most famous books. Those authors' "love affairs" tend to...

Read Post

Déjà Vu Can Happen to You

(296) Comments | Posted November 8, 2013 | 11:45 AM

Ever read something in a novel and feel you've read something similar in a novel by a different author? I'm not talking about plagiarism, but a variation on a scene or theme. After all, few literary works are so original that they don't at least occasionally echo other fictional offerings.

Read Post

Another-Chance-at-Love Literature

(285) Comments | Posted October 25, 2013 | 10:59 AM

As someone in a happy second marriage after an unhappy first one, I'm partial to novels featuring characters getting another chance at love. Those divorced, widowed or otherwise-unattached protagonists may or may not do better in their next relationship, but at least the "happily ever after" potential can put a...

Read Post

Fictional Characters We'd Hate to Meet

(144) Comments | Posted October 10, 2013 | 2:12 PM

After I blogged last month about fictional characters we'd like to meet, several people suggested I write a post about literary protagonists we'd hate to meet. Hopefully you'll like meeting this follow-up piece.

Among the fictional characters we might want to avoid (if they somehow came to life)...

Read Post

Fictional Characters We'd Most Like to Meet

(161) Comments | Posted September 26, 2013 | 11:06 PM

In Jasper Fforde's very clever novel The Eyre Affair, "literary detective" Thursday Next enters Charlotte Bronte's iconic Jane Eyre book to interact with Jane and Rochester.

Ms. Next's "novel" adventure made me think about which fictional characters I'd most like to meet if I had my own "Prose Portal." The...

Read Post

Literary Monogamy and Polygamy

(220) Comments | Posted September 12, 2013 | 10:07 AM

There are canon readers and then there are jump-from-author-to-author readers. I've been both.

For a number of years, liking a novel by a certain author set me off on a binge of consecutively reading other books by the same author. I did that with Margaret Atwood, Balzac, Willa Cather, Colette,...

Read Post

Readers Live for That Occasional Transcendent Novel

(280) Comments | Posted August 30, 2013 | 1:32 PM

We read fiction for many reasons -- including excitement, enjoyment, diversion, comfort and education. I'd like to add another: the hope that, every once in a while, we'll stumble across a book that's absolutely wonderful.

Most novels I read range from good to excellent. (It helps that many of them...

Read Post

The Casual Versatility of Some Hardworking Writers

(245) Comments | Posted August 15, 2013 | 10:11 AM

And literature's MVP (Most Versatile Producer) is...

Actually, I'm not sure. But any author who can write very different types of novels deserves an award.

For instance, I finally read The Casual Vacancy this month, and was struck by how un-Harry Potter-like much of that impressive book is. Sure, J.K....

Read Post

Novels With or Without Flashbacks

(155) Comments | Posted August 8, 2013 | 8:18 PM

When it comes to literature, there are many contrasts -- including "literary" novels vs. mass-market ones, long-ago classics vs. modern fiction and chronological novels vs. non-chronological ones.

The last is the subject of this post.

Jumping back and forth in time, of course, is a hallmark of some modern fiction....

Read Post

The Art of Putting Artists in Literature

(167) Comments | Posted August 2, 2013 | 7:25 AM

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how worthy are thousands of words about literary characters who draw pictures?

Yes, some fiction includes protagonists who are painters, cartoonists or other kinds of artists. It's a tricky proposition for authors, because the works artist characters create can only be described,...

Read Post

Unlike Rowling, They Were Denied Literary Fame

(180) Comments | Posted July 19, 2013 | 12:13 PM

J.K. Rowling tried to go under the radar by using a pen name for The Cuckoo's Calling, but many other great authors spent all or part of their careers involuntarily missing out on the literary cachet and cash they deserved.

Yes, as we endure "the dog days of summer," those...

Read Post

Orphans in Literature

(135) Comments | Posted July 2, 2013 | 1:38 PM

When recently rereading Uncle Tom's Cabin, it struck me that this heartbreaking novel about slavery was also about something slavery caused: the orphaning of children. Whether their parents were yanked away at auction or killed, many kids in the brutal antebellum South lost their moms and dads.

A major orphan...

Read Post