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National Book Critics Circle
2016 (Fiction)
LaRose
Book Jacket   Louise Erdrich
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780062277022 Erdrich's most recent novel (after the National Book Award winner The Round House) acquaints us once again with members of the Peace family, though a different branch from the one in A Plague of Doves. The wives in two households, Nola and Emmaline, are half sisters, daughters of retired schoolteacher LaRose Peace. LaRose is an old family name that originally belonged to the family progenitor, a native girl who married a fur trader's young assistant. Nola and Peter have two children, Dusty and -Maggie. -Emmaline and husband Landreaux Iron have four, including their youngest son, LaRose, plus a foster son. In the book's first pages, the two families become inextricably conjoined when Landreaux kills Dusty in a hunting accident, and Emmaline and Landreaux make the agonizing decision to right this accidental wrong with an old form of justice: giving LaRose to the grieving family. The decision reverberates through the two sets of parents and siblings, and the community beyond. VERDICT Erdrich creates a contained world in the dying prairie town of Pluto, a reservation border village, where white and tribal history come together and where Catholic and traditional spirit worlds, modernity and the forbidding past, all intersect. [See Prepub Alert, 11/2/15.]-Reba Leiding, emeritus, James -Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780062466631 In rural North Dakota, Landreaux and Ravich are friends and neighbors, further bound by their wives who are half sisters. With a single gunshot, their lives change forever, when Landreaux aims at a buck at the edge of a field bordering both properties and kills Ravich's five-year-old son instead. In a shocking act of mourning and forgiveness, Landreaux adheres to an ancient native tradition and delivers his own five-year-old son LaRose, who was also the dead boy's best friend, to the grieving parents: "Our son will be your son now.... It's the old way." From that double cleaving, both families forge new paths toward acceptance and healing, but most of all young LaRose, who moves back and forth between a family who desperately needs him and one who can never fully release him. National Book Award Winner Erdrich (The Round House) narrates her latest novel with solemnity and grace, never resorting to outbursts and manipulation. Just as her prose remains understated and subtle-shockingly so, at times-her reading never wavers from elegance and control. VERDICT Another mesmerizing accomplishment from an unparalleled storyteller. ["Erdrich creates a contained world in the dying prairie town of Pluto, a reservation border village, where white and tribal history come together and where Catholic and traditional spirit worlds, modernity, and the forbidding past intersect": LJ 5/15/16 review of the Harper hc.]-Terry Hong, -Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780062277022 Erdrich spins a powerful, resonant story with masterly finesse. As in The Round House, she explores the quest for justice and the thirst for retribution. Again, the setting-a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation and a nearby town-adds complexity to the plot. Landreaux Iron, an Ojibwe man, accidentally shoots and kills the five-year-old son of his best friend, farmer Peter Ravich, who is not a member of the tribe. After a wrenching session with his Catholic priest, Father Travis, and a soul-searching prayer in a sweat lodge, Landreaux gives his own five-year-old son, LaRose, to grieving Peter and his wife, Nola, who is half-sister to Landreaux's own wife, Emmaline. In the years that follow, LaRose becomes a bridge between his two families. He also accesses powers that have distinguished his namesakes in previous generations, when LaRose was "a name both innocent and powerful, and had belonged to the family's healers." Erdrich introduces this mystical element seamlessly, in the same way that LaRose and other Ojibwes recognize and communicate with "the active presence of the spirit world." The magical aspects are lightened by scenes of everyday life: old ladies in an assisted-living home squabble about sex; teenage girls create their own homemade beauty spa. Erdrich raises suspense by introducing another, related act of retribution, culminating in a memorable and satisfying ending. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780062277022 *Starred Review* Erdrich has perfected the meteor-strike novel tales that begin with an out-of-the-blue, catastrophic event, and then track the ensuing shock waves. This dramatic structure shapes Erdrich's National Book Award-winning The Round House (2012) and takes on even more intensity here. Two neighboring families live in a North Dakota community in which many of the Ojibwe are related, memories are long, and the wounds of the war against Native Americans run deep: Loss, dislocation, disease, addiction, and just feeling like the tattered remnants of a people with a complex history. The women, half-sisters, do not get along; their husbands have become friends. Landreaux and Emmaline Iron are raising five children, including their youngest, LaRose, a preternaturally soulful five-year-old boy. Nola and her white husband, Peter Ravich, have Maggie and Dusty, born at the same time as Dusty's favorite playmate, LaRose. The summer of 1999 is waning, the Y2K scare growing, and Landreaux, a physical-therapy assistant devoted to his clients and guided by both Ojibwe beliefs and the Catholic Church, is hunting. He's a crack shot, but when he pulls the trigger, the deer flees, and Dusty falls. Landreaux and Emmaline make a devastating decision: they will give LaRose to Nola and Peter. Our son will be your son, Landreaux says. It's the old way. As Erdrich explores the inevitable anguish and complications inherent in this act of sacrifice and attempt at justice, she takes soundings of the wellsprings of trauma and strength shaping these grieving households. The time frame shifts to 1839 when a trading post stood on the land the Irons now occupy. There a desperate Ojibwe woman from a mysterious and violent family trades her daughter for rum, igniting a terrifying sequence of passion, murder, and supernatural revenge. Gliding back and forth in time, Erdrich follows the long line of healers named LaRose, and reveals Landreaux's long-hidden past tied to a boarding school designed to sever Native American children from their roots, as well as his volatile relationship with a fellow student named Romeo, now a brooding, plotting, outlaw loner in the grip of substance abuse, poverty, and rage. Their simmering conflict is a key aspect of Erdrich's increasingly suspenseful inquiry into the repercussions of vengeance. The radiance of this many-faceted novel is generated by Erdrich's tenderness for her characters, beginning with the profoundly involving primary figures. But there's also Father Travis, crucial to The Round House and reappearing here in all his rigor, incisiveness, and unruly desires. A circle of bawdy elder women and the smart and funny sisters Snow and Josette (among the young characters who will fascinate advanced teen readers) provide comic relief and covertly wise counsel, while Peter's extreme preparedness for the turn-of-the-millennium apocalypse offers a piquant reflection on questions of fear and faith. LaRose is the fifteenth novel in Erdrich's magnificent North Dakota cycle about the painful and proud legacy and intricately entangled relationships among Native Americans, whites, and people of mixed heritage, a brilliantly imagined and constructed saga of empathy, elegy, spirituality, resilience, wit, wonder, and hope that will stand as a defining master work of American literature for generations to come.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2016 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780062466631 Novelist extraordinaire Erdrich proves she is also a gifted voice actor in the audio edition of her latest novel. She reads with a soft but authoritative voice that works so well with her subject matter-the lives of contemporary Ojibwe in North Dakota torn between their modern ideas and sensibilities and the traditions of their ancestors. Erdrich reads fluently, at a conversational pace that easily draws listeners in. As in The Round House, the story explores the quest for justice and the thirst for retribution. Landreaux Iron, an Ojibwe man, accidentally shoots and kills Dusty, the five-year-old son of his best friend, who is not a member of the tribe. In his anguish, Landreaux turns to an Ojibwe tradition that holds that he must give his own son, LaRose, to Dusty's parents. Erdrich's reading captures the complex emotions of both sets of mothers and fathers and each of their children; of the lonely, jealous alcoholic who years ago gave his son to the Iron family because he couldn't raise him; and of the local priest painfully in love with LaRose's mother. Erdrich's narration adds depth to this contemporary story intertwined with the long history of the LaRose name and Ojibwe culture. A Harper hardcover. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780062277022 Erdrich's most recent novel (after the National Book Award winner The Round House) acquaints us once again with members of the Peace family, though a different branch from the one in A Plague of Doves. The wives in two households, Nola and Emmaline, are half sisters, daughters of retired schoolteacher LaRose Peace. LaRose is an old family name that originally belonged to the family progenitor, a native girl who married a fur trader's young assistant. Nola and Peter have two children, Dusty and -Maggie. -Emmaline and husband Landreaux Iron have four, including their youngest son, LaRose, plus a foster son. In the book's first pages, the two families become inextricably conjoined when Landreaux kills Dusty in a hunting accident, and Emmaline and Landreaux make the agonizing decision to right this accidental wrong with an old form of justice: giving LaRose to the grieving family. The decision reverberates through the two sets of parents and siblings, and the community beyond. VERDICT Erdrich creates a contained world in the dying prairie town of Pluto, a reservation border village, where white and tribal history come together and where Catholic and traditional spirit worlds, modernity and the forbidding past, all intersect. [See Prepub Alert, 11/2/15.]-Reba Leiding, emeritus, James -Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780062466631 In rural North Dakota, Landreaux and Ravich are friends and neighbors, further bound by their wives who are half sisters. With a single gunshot, their lives change forever, when Landreaux aims at a buck at the edge of a field bordering both properties and kills Ravich's five-year-old son instead. In a shocking act of mourning and forgiveness, Landreaux adheres to an ancient native tradition and delivers his own five-year-old son LaRose, who was also the dead boy's best friend, to the grieving parents: "Our son will be your son now.... It's the old way." From that double cleaving, both families forge new paths toward acceptance and healing, but most of all young LaRose, who moves back and forth between a family who desperately needs him and one who can never fully release him. National Book Award Winner Erdrich (The Round House) narrates her latest novel with solemnity and grace, never resorting to outbursts and manipulation. Just as her prose remains understated and subtle-shockingly so, at times-her reading never wavers from elegance and control. VERDICT Another mesmerizing accomplishment from an unparalleled storyteller. ["Erdrich creates a contained world in the dying prairie town of Pluto, a reservation border village, where white and tribal history come together and where Catholic and traditional spirit worlds, modernity, and the forbidding past intersect": LJ 5/15/16 review of the Harper hc.]-Terry Hong, -Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780062277022 Erdrich spins a powerful, resonant story with masterly finesse. As in The Round House, she explores the quest for justice and the thirst for retribution. Again, the setting-a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation and a nearby town-adds complexity to the plot. Landreaux Iron, an Ojibwe man, accidentally shoots and kills the five-year-old son of his best friend, farmer Peter Ravich, who is not a member of the tribe. After a wrenching session with his Catholic priest, Father Travis, and a soul-searching prayer in a sweat lodge, Landreaux gives his own five-year-old son, LaRose, to grieving Peter and his wife, Nola, who is half-sister to Landreaux's own wife, Emmaline. In the years that follow, LaRose becomes a bridge between his two families. He also accesses powers that have distinguished his namesakes in previous generations, when LaRose was "a name both innocent and powerful, and had belonged to the family's healers." Erdrich introduces this mystical element seamlessly, in the same way that LaRose and other Ojibwes recognize and communicate with "the active presence of the spirit world." The magical aspects are lightened by scenes of everyday life: old ladies in an assisted-living home squabble about sex; teenage girls create their own homemade beauty spa. Erdrich raises suspense by introducing another, related act of retribution, culminating in a memorable and satisfying ending. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780062277022 *Starred Review* Erdrich has perfected the meteor-strike novel tales that begin with an out-of-the-blue, catastrophic event, and then track the ensuing shock waves. This dramatic structure shapes Erdrich's National Book Award-winning The Round House (2012) and takes on even more intensity here. Two neighboring families live in a North Dakota community in which many of the Ojibwe are related, memories are long, and the wounds of the war against Native Americans run deep: Loss, dislocation, disease, addiction, and just feeling like the tattered remnants of a people with a complex history. The women, half-sisters, do not get along; their husbands have become friends. Landreaux and Emmaline Iron are raising five children, including their youngest, LaRose, a preternaturally soulful five-year-old boy. Nola and her white husband, Peter Ravich, have Maggie and Dusty, born at the same time as Dusty's favorite playmate, LaRose. The summer of 1999 is waning, the Y2K scare growing, and Landreaux, a physical-therapy assistant devoted to his clients and guided by both Ojibwe beliefs and the Catholic Church, is hunting. He's a crack shot, but when he pulls the trigger, the deer flees, and Dusty falls. Landreaux and Emmaline make a devastating decision: they will give LaRose to Nola and Peter. Our son will be your son, Landreaux says. It's the old way. As Erdrich explores the inevitable anguish and complications inherent in this act of sacrifice and attempt at justice, she takes soundings of the wellsprings of trauma and strength shaping these grieving households. The time frame shifts to 1839 when a trading post stood on the land the Irons now occupy. There a desperate Ojibwe woman from a mysterious and violent family trades her daughter for rum, igniting a terrifying sequence of passion, murder, and supernatural revenge. Gliding back and forth in time, Erdrich follows the long line of healers named LaRose, and reveals Landreaux's long-hidden past tied to a boarding school designed to sever Native American children from their roots, as well as his volatile relationship with a fellow student named Romeo, now a brooding, plotting, outlaw loner in the grip of substance abuse, poverty, and rage. Their simmering conflict is a key aspect of Erdrich's increasingly suspenseful inquiry into the repercussions of vengeance. The radiance of this many-faceted novel is generated by Erdrich's tenderness for her characters, beginning with the profoundly involving primary figures. But there's also Father Travis, crucial to The Round House and reappearing here in all his rigor, incisiveness, and unruly desires. A circle of bawdy elder women and the smart and funny sisters Snow and Josette (among the young characters who will fascinate advanced teen readers) provide comic relief and covertly wise counsel, while Peter's extreme preparedness for the turn-of-the-millennium apocalypse offers a piquant reflection on questions of fear and faith. LaRose is the fifteenth novel in Erdrich's magnificent North Dakota cycle about the painful and proud legacy and intricately entangled relationships among Native Americans, whites, and people of mixed heritage, a brilliantly imagined and constructed saga of empathy, elegy, spirituality, resilience, wit, wonder, and hope that will stand as a defining master work of American literature for generations to come.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2016 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780062466631 Novelist extraordinaire Erdrich proves she is also a gifted voice actor in the audio edition of her latest novel. She reads with a soft but authoritative voice that works so well with her subject matter-the lives of contemporary Ojibwe in North Dakota torn between their modern ideas and sensibilities and the traditions of their ancestors. Erdrich reads fluently, at a conversational pace that easily draws listeners in. As in The Round House, the story explores the quest for justice and the thirst for retribution. Landreaux Iron, an Ojibwe man, accidentally shoots and kills Dusty, the five-year-old son of his best friend, who is not a member of the tribe. In his anguish, Landreaux turns to an Ojibwe tradition that holds that he must give his own son, LaRose, to Dusty's parents. Erdrich's reading captures the complex emotions of both sets of mothers and fathers and each of their children; of the lonely, jealous alcoholic who years ago gave his son to the Iron family because he couldn't raise him; and of the local priest painfully in love with LaRose's mother. Erdrich's narration adds depth to this contemporary story intertwined with the long history of the LaRose name and Ojibwe culture. A Harper hardcover. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. After accidentally shooting his friend and neighbor's young son, a man on a Native American reservation subscribes to "an old form of justice" by giving his own son, LaRose, to the parents of his victim. Erdrich, whose last novel, The Round House, won the National Book Award in 2012, sets this meditative, profoundly humane story in the time just before the U.S. invades Iraq but wanders in and out of that moment, even back to origin tales about the beginning of time. On tribal lands in rural North Dakota, the shooter, Landreaux Iron, and his wife, Emmaline, trudge toward their neighbors' house to say, "Our son will be your son now." As both families amble through the emotional thickets produced by this act (the wives are half sisters, to boot), Erdrich depicts a tribal culture that is indelible and vibrant: Romeo, a drug-addled grifter still smarting from a years-ago abandonment by his friend Landreaux (and whose hurt makes this novel a revenge story); war vet Father Travis, holy but in love with Emmaline; and LaRose, his father's "little man, his favorite child," the fifth generation of LaRoses in his family, who confers with his departed ancestors and summons a deep, preternatural courage to right an injustice done to his new sister. Erdrich's style is discursive; a long digression about the first LaRose and her darkness haunts this novel. Just when she needs to, though, Erdrich races toward an ending that reads like a thriller as doubts emerge about Landreaux's intentions the day he went hunting. Electric, nimble, and perceptive, this novel is about "the phosphorous of grief" but also, more essentially, about the emotions men need, but rarely get, from one another. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2016 (General NonFiction)
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Book Jacket   Matthew Desmond
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780147526809 Desmond's (sociology, Harvard Univ.) eye-opening and revelatory book clearly conveys that one will never truly understand poverty without grappling with the crisis of precarious housing. The narrative follows the lives of several families and individuals living in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee and tracks their harrowing searches for affordable shelter. This nearly futile pursuit of home is made worse by an uncaring bureaucracy. Desmond lays out evidence that the relationships between landlords and low-income tenants and the apparatus that supports the status quo-eviction courts being one conspicuous piece-are thoroughly broken. This timely examination of some of the root causes of systemic poverty is flawlessly read by Dion Graham. VERDICT A copy of Evicted should be in every public library and in the hands of every politician. ["This resource is highly recommended for academic libraries as well as public-policy advocates seeking to understand issues relating to the lack of affordable housing": LJ 1/16 starred review of the Crown hc.]--Denis Frias, -Mississauga Lib. Syst., Ont. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780553447439 Realizing that "poverty (is) a relationship," Desmond (social science, Harvard Univ.; Racial Domination, Racial Progress) reflects on the eviction process after spending more than a year living in Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin, and one with a history of segregation. He tells stories of families facing eviction alongside the perspective of their landlords, neither glorifying the poor, nor vilifying the landlords. Finding no data on the frequency and causes of eviction, Desmond designed a study to survey Milwaukee's rental population. He found that one in eight renters had experienced "involuntary housing displacement" and were spending significantly more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The fieldwork and the survey led to his recommendations, which include offering a universal housing voucher program, regulating landlord profit margins, and providing legal counsel for those facing eviction. Extensive notes also make important points surrounding this relevant issue. VERDICT This resource is highly recommended for academic libraries as well as public-policy advocates seeking to understand issues relating to the lack of affordable housing.-Karen Venturella, Union Cty. Coll. Libs, Cranford, NJ © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780553447439 *Starred Review* It's hard to paint a slumlord as a sympathetic character, but Harvard professor Desmond manages to do so in this compelling look at home evictions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of America's most segregated cities. Two landlords are profiled here: Sherrena, who owns dozens of dilapidated units on Milwaukee's infamous North Side, and Tobin, who runs a trailer park on the South Side. They're in it to make money, to be sure, but they also have a tendency to rent to those in need and to look the other way. More often than not, however, they find themselves hauling tenants to eviction court, and here we meet eight families. Among them are Arleen, a single mother dragging her two youngest sons across town in urgent search of a warm, safe place; Scott, a drug addict desperate to crawl up from rock bottom; and Larraine, who loses all of her belongings when she's evicted. Desmond's natural storytelling style easily moves from engaging narrative (at times a tad florid, particularly when describing events he was not present for) to straight reporting. He does a marvelous job telling these harrowing stories of people who find themselves in bad situations, shining a light on how eviction sets people up to fail. He also makes the case that eviction disproportionately affects women (and, worse, their children). This is essential reading for anyone interested in social justice, poverty, and feminist issues, but its narrative nonfiction style will also draw general readers.--Vnuk, Rebecca Copyright 2016 Booklist
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780553447439 Harvard sociologist Desmond has written a first-rate ethnography of a surprisingly understudied phenomenon. When he found that most studies of poor people and poor places looked only at the poor, he decided to study where the poor and rich intersect. Eviction is one such place. This study mostly reports the lives of Milwaukeeans, black and white, poor tenants and rich landlords. Desmond spent a year living with them. He then commissioned surveys to bolster the big-picture context of the ethnography, both of renters in general and of evicted tenants in particular. The statistics are used very lightly--readers mostly hear the stories of a few representative people. Policy prescriptions are saved for the end. The constant churning of the slums tears at the social fabric, rippling out from the poor places to all of society. This fine work will shape the discussion of a sharply growing trend, the business of evicting the poor. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. --Beau Weston, Centre College
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A groundbreaking work on the central role of housing in the lives of the poor. Based on two years (2008-2009) spent embedded with eight poor families in Milwaukee, Desmond (Sociology and Social Science/Harvard Univ.; On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters, 2007, etc.) delivers a gripping, novelistic narrative exploring the ceaseless cycle of "making rent, delaying eviction, or finding another place to live when homeless" as experienced by adults and children, both black and white, surviving in trailer parks and ghettos. "We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty," writes the author. Once rare, eviction is now commonplace for millions of Americans each year, most often as a result of insufficient government support, rising rent and utility costs, and stagnant incomes. Having gained unusual access to these families, Desmond immerses us in the lives of Sherrena Tarver, a teacher-turned-landlord who rents inner-city units to the black poor; Tobin Charney, who nets more than $400,000 yearly on 131 poorly maintained trailers rented (at $550 a month) to poor whites; and disparate tenants who struggle to make rent for cramped, decrepit units plagued by poor plumbing, lack of heat, and code violations. The latter include Crystal, 18, raised in more than two dozen foster homes, who moved in with three garbage bags of clothes, and Arleen, a single mother, who contacted more than 80 apartment owners in her search for a new home. Their frantic experiencesthey spend an astonishing 70 to 80 percent of their incomes on rentmake for harrowing reading, interspersed with moving moments revealing their resilience and humanity. "All this suffering is shameful and unnecessary," writes Desmond, who bolsters his stories with important new survey findings. He argues that universal housing vouchers and publicly funded legal services for the evicted (90 percent lack attorneys in housing courts) would help alleviate this growing, often overlooked housing crisis. This stunning, remarkable booka scholar's 21st-century How the Other Half Livesdemands a wide audience. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780553447439 Gripping storytelling and meticulous research undergird this outstanding ethnographic study, in which Desmond (On the Fireline), an associate professor of sociology at Harvard, explores the impact of eviction on poverty-stricken families in Milwaukee, Wis. Living first in a rundown trailer park with predominantly white tenants and then in an African-American inner-city neighborhood, Desmond conducted fieldwork by observing and asking questions of his neighbors; later, he collected extensive data about eviction specifically in the private rental market. The book reveals the concentrated suffering of people repeatedly faced with the loss of their homes. He shares the stories of Lamar, a double amputee raising adolescent boys; Scott, who tries to conquer his heroin addiction and return to his nursing career; single mom Arleen, her sons, and their cat, Little; and five other families. In one gut-wrenching scene, Desmond shadows a moving crew as they evict numerous households in one day, finding in one tenant's face "the look of someone realizing that her family would be homeless in a matter of hours." Desmond identifies affordable housing as a leading social justice issue of our time and offers concrete solutions to the crisis. Agent: Jill Kneerim, Kneerim and Williams. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2016 (Biography)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
 Ruth Franklin
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780871403131 Literary critic Franklin (A Thousand Darknesses) renders a gripping and graceful portrait of the mind, life, and work of groundbreaking American author Shirley Jackson (1916-1965). Though Jackson is today largely known for the chilling novel The Haunting of Hill House and the supremely upsetting short parable "The Lottery," Franklin brings forth her full oeuvre for careful study, including a prodigious number of short stories, books for young adults and children, and-perhaps improbably for a horror writer-two bestselling memoirs about life with her four children, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. Franklin's adept readings of Jackson's influences, formative relationships, and major works interweave the obsessions, fears, and life experiences that charge her writing with such wicked intensity. Treating her subject with a generous eye and gorgeous prose, Franklin describes one of Jackson's chief themes, a "preoccupation with the roles that women play at home and the forces that conspire to keep them there," as a product of her cultural moment, identifying Jackson's "insistence on telling unpleasant truths" about women's experience and her ability "to draw back the curtain on the darkness within the human psyche" as the elements that make Jackson a writer of lasting relevance who can still give today's readers an impressive shiver. 60 illus. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780871403131 Despite battles with anxiety, oppressive societal expectations, and a fraught relationship with husband, literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, Shirley Jackson (1916-65) wrote six novels, a collection of short fiction, and a handful of nonfiction and children's books. Even though her promise as a writer of supernatural suspense reached fruition with The Haunting of Hill House, the author's most infamous work was the short story "The Lottery." The story-Jackson claimed to have written it in a single day-generated unprecedented buzz, confusion, antipathy, and even hate mail. Yet as Franklin (A Thousand Darknesses) points out in her engaging portrait, Jackson is far from a one-hit wonder. Franklin writes that "[her] brand of literary suspense is part of a vibrant and distinguished tradition that can be traced back to the American Gothic work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry James." Drawing on a trove of research-including previously unpublished letters and interviews-and her own astute analysis of Jackson's fiction, Franklin gives her subject her much-deserved due and sets the standard for future literary biographers wrestling with the legacy and the unwarranted inattention of a major figure in 20th-century American literature. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers of Jackson's fiction as well as those interested in the connection between the inner lives of authors and their work. [See Prepub Alert, 3/28/16.]-Patrick A. Smith, -Bainbridge State Coll., GA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780871403131 *Starred Review* When Shirley Jackson's The Lottery was published in the New Yorker in 1948, the response was a pen-paper-postage equivalent of going viral. Although Jackson wrote many more works of arresting literary suspense concerned with cruelty and alienation, as well as, improbably enough, best-selling true-life domestic comedy (the forerunner, as critic Franklin notes, of today's mommy blogs), she is generally remembered only for that singular tale. In her engrossing and enlightening foundational biography, Franklin redresses this unjust diminishing of Jackson's extraordinary accomplishments, the final insult in a too-brief life poisoned by the selfishness of those closest to her her harshly critical mother and her philandering husband, the literary critic Stanley Hyman. Franklin seamlessly combines the bitterly ironic story of Jackson's demanding, self-destructive life in which she strived for literary breakthroughs while supporting herself, Hyman, and their four children and running their hectic households, primarily in Vermont with astute analysis of Jackson's disquieting, darkly funny, profoundly subversive writings. With unprecedented access to private papers, Franklin traces the evolution of Jackson's sensibility as a writer, building toward an ever-more nuanced understanding of the covert ways she deftly paired the horrific with the mundane to both express her own anger and pain while also illuminating the fears, anxiety, anti-Semitism, racism, and sexism of the conformity-obsessed Cold War era. A precise, revelatory, and moving reclamation of an American literary master.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2016 Booklist
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  Book Jacket
2016 (Poetry)
House of Lords and Commons
 Ishion Hutchinson
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374173029 Whiting Award winner Hutchinson here intensifies the promise of his debut, Far District, broadening his vision beyond the history and geography of his homeland, Jamaica, to encompass today's fraught world in visceral and richly compacted off-kilter lyric. Gold jingles in exploitation as "they talk Texas and the north cold,// but mostly oil and Obama," and a genie asks the speaker to build an ark "out of peril and slum/ things" where "I alone when blood and bullet and all Christ-fucking-'Merican-dollar politicians talk/ the pressure down to nothing." Even a poem that opens jauntily with the sighting of a red bicycle near the Ponte Vecchio moves quickly to recalling a mother's fury at her son's disobedience, as "the promised money/ didn't fall from my father's cold heaven in England." Yet there's also the desolate tenderness of seemingly spotting that father while "picking faces in the thick nest of morning's hard light" and a woman has a quiet moment as "the beauty of the trees stills her." No screeds, then, just true, vital stories, charged with emotion and a stunningly beautiful complexity of the language. VERDICT A challenging collection requiring careful reading to pick out the poet's full intent but definitely worth the effort. Highly recommended.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374173029 "History is dismantled music; slant,/ bleak on gravel," Hutchinson (Far District) writes in a second collection that sees him profiting highly from Emily Dickinson's dictum to tell the truth but tell it slant. In poetic suites more narrative and seamlessly associative than his previous work, Hutchinson melds Jamaica's history of political strife and the lives of its citizens into sensuous evocations of landscape: "After the hurricane walks a silence, deranged, white as the white helmets of government surveyors looking into roofless/ shacks." Hutchinson finds a dexterous register in which high and low diction strike sparks: "I mitre solid shadow, setting fire to snow in my ark./ I credit not the genie but the coral rock." His eye for local color elevates neighbors and relatives into figures of archetypal resonance, and his biting precision captures "Pure echo in the train's/ beam arriving on its cold nerve of iron." Informed both by sonorous biblical cadence and a fibrous Saxon lexicon of canonical Western references, Hutchinson's majestic lines snap like starched laundry in coastal wind: "drift-pocked, solitary/ ducks across the bay's industrial/ ruts." Yet this jaunty "ice-pick raconteur" is capable of stunning moments of visionary lyricism: "A soft light, God's idleness/ warms the skin of the lake." These poems herald the maturity of a major poetic voice. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374173029 For his second full-length book of poetry, after the award-winning Far District (2010), Hutchinson has crafted a tightly knit, deeply resonant collection. Hutchinson's formal verse and measured lyrics disguise a frenetic energy by burning slowly to a sudden boil. The Small Dark Interior opens with a young child gazing longingly at a newly, delicately frozen pond but closes when the speaker's thoughts turn abruptly to forgiveness for his father. A Burnt Ship catalogs the spilled belongings from a ship's hold (sunken masks, / god's horn, perfume, ivory tusks, / market dust), before erupting in the expected, yet still unsettling conclusion that all were lost, all were destroyed. Other poems maintain a serene inner stillness, an even calm that complements the charged tension. Moved by the Beauty of Trees simply repeats phrases of beauty, green, and leaves, mimicking the natural sound of rolling foliage in soft breeze. The only downside is Hutchinson's affinity for short lines and short poems; readers will finish the collection longing for more. Fans of Yusef Komunyakaa, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Camille Rankine will especially enjoy Hutchinson's latest.--Báez, Diego Copyright 2016 Booklist
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2016 (Criticism)
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
Book Jacket   Carol Anderson
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781632864123 The election of Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008 represented for many the transition of the U.S. into a post-racial nation. In the aftermath of the 2015 Charleston shootings, continued episodes of police violence, and repressive voter registration laws signifying the continuation of historical tendencies, however, critical issues once thought closed are now just as alive as ever. In this engaging, thought-provoking work, Anderson (Eyes off the Prize, 2003) argues that what is really at work in America is a white rage. This rage is characterized by an epistemic violence working through the courts, legislature, and government bureaucracies and triggered by black advancement. Anderson examines this larger trend, from the close of the American Civil War to the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education and the civil rights movement to the current, contentious debates. Anderson's clear, ardent prose detailing the undermining of America's stated ideals and democratic norms is required reading for anyone interested in the state of American social discourse.--Odom, Brian Copyright 2016 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A close reading of America's racial chasm.In the wake of what were often termed the Ferguson riots, Anderson (African American Studies/Emory Univ.; Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960, 2014, etc.) wrote an opinion column for the Washington Post with the headline, "Ferguson isn't about black rage against cops. It's white rage against progress." Here, she extends her argument, showing how any signs of black rage might be more than justified in the face of decades of white intolerance, indifference, and obstruction. The author provides a perspective dating back to the Civil War, charging that the victory outlawing slavery failed during Reconstruction, which shifted terms without significantly improving the plight of the former slaves. "Indeed, for all the saintedness of his legacy as The Great Emancipator," she writes, "Lincoln himself had neither the clarity, humanity, nor resolve necessary to fix what was so fundamentally broken. Nor did his successor." Most of what Anderson traces in this compact study offers more summary than revelation, and while it does testify to the dehumanizing effects of white power and prejudice, the "white rage" of the title seems more like a rebalancing of the scales than a precise description. As she writes in the wake of Ferguson, "framing the discussion, dominating it, in fact, was an overwhelming focus on black ragewhich, it seemed to me, entirely missed the point." Yet the book builds to an emotional climax that justifies its title, as the election of the nation's first black president brought such intensity to the nation's fissures: "the vitriol heaped on Obama was simply unprecedented," and the "hatred started early." By the epilogue, Anderson's analysis seems prescient. "Not even a full month after Dylann Roof gunned down nine African Americans," she writes, "Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, fired up his silent majority'with a macabre promise: Don't worry, we'll take our country back.' " A book that provides necessary perspective on the racial conflagrations in the U.S. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781632864123 Fitting together historical flash points from the aftermath of the Civil War to the current Black Lives Matter movement, historian Anderson (African American studies, Emory Univ.; Bourgeois Radicals) displays how public policies have systematically discarded all attempts at a colorblind U.S. democracy. The author shows how whites have passionately refused to budge from positions of privilege, thwarting at every turn black advances toward equal rights and economic opportunity. Indeed, she illustrates how white rage has persistently undercut progress among African Americans. For example, by closing down public schools and then abandoning public education systems, she notes, white reaction sabotaged the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education mandate for equal rather than separate public education. The author further exposes white rage as national; not regional, as she recounts -Northern and Midwestern opposition to the Great Migration of the 1900s and describes mass black incarceration, decimated central cities, defunded and dysfunctional institutions, and even the vitriol heaped on President Barack Obama. VERDICT Anderson's mosaic of white outrage deserves contemplation by anyone interested in understanding U.S. race relations, past and present.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2015 (Fiction)
The Sellout: A Novel
Book Jacket   Paul Beatty
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374260507 Dickens, CA, is so embarrassing yet so inconsequential that it has disappeared from the map. One of its residents is Professor Mee, who teaches sociology at Riverside Community College. As a single parent, he homeschools his son while using him in a radical social science experiment with racial implications that might someday result in a profitable book. After Mee is killed in a police shoot-out, the son draws on what he has learned about sociology to launch a crusade that he hopes will put Dickens back on the map. To bring the town some national attention, he resorts to the shocking means of reinstituting slavery and segregation. While he seems to succeed, his actions ultimately bring him before the U.S. Supreme Court, which must consider the ramifications of the case. VERDICT Beatty (The White Boy Shuffle) creates a wicked satire that pokes fun at all that is sacred to life in the United States, from father-son dynamics right up to the Supreme Court. His story is full of the unexpected, resulting in absurd and hilarious drama.-Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2015 (General NonFiction)
Dreamland: The True Tale of Americas Opiate Epidemic
 Sam Quinones
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781547601318 This young adult adaptation of 2015's widely acclaimed study of the opioid crisis begins in 1929 with Portsmouth, Ohio, where the community hub was once a swimming pool called Dreamland. From there, we are taken on a carefully researched journey through America and beyond, as anecdotal stories show how the epidemic has overrun small towns and suburbs throughout the country. Quinones lays out a historical narrative, tracing the use of opiates in medicine, detailing how a pharmaceutical company found a legal way to produce more addicts, and explaining why government research has been percolating so long. He examines the struggle of law enforcement to quell this disaster, as well as the various solutions still being considered, from reforming drug laws to finding ways to help recovering addicts. This riveting tale will introduce readers to the tiny Mexican state of Nayarit, the heart of the crisis, where a small town of nonviolent drug dealers has shaped the face of this critical period in American history.--Jessica Anne Bratt Copyright 2019 Booklist
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781620402504 *Starred Review* Heroin addiction has evolved from back-alley ghettos to suburban shopping malls, changing hearts and minds about how it is perceived and how it should be treated. That evolution pivots on a decision by Purdue Pharma to aggressively market OxyContin and efforts by Mexican drug traffickers to push black-tar heroin. In the 1990s, both highly addictive drugs flooded the markets in middle-class neighborhoods. OxyContin benefited from changes in philosophy on pain treatment and from worry about addiction that prevented even cancer patients from getting pain relief to the more freewheeling idea that pain relief is a human right. Unscrupulous doctors operated pill mills, prescribing OxyContin for dubious reasons and huge fees. Middle-class professionals, workers, and students found themselves easy targets for sellers of black tar, semi-processed opium produced in Mexico and sold by eager bands of drug crews. Like pizza deliverymen, the crews offered speedy delivery and good customer service. The distribution, centered in a small Mexican village and spread throughout the U.S. in midsize towns and cities, defied the typical profile of a drug cartel. Journalist Quinones weaves an extraordinary story, including the personal journeys of the addicted, the drug traffickers, law enforcement, and scores of families affected by the scourge, as he details the social, economic, and political forces that eventually destroyed communities in the American heartland and continues to have a resounding impact.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2015 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Discouraging, unflinching dispatches from America's enduring opiate-abuse epidemic. Veteran freelance journalist Quinones (Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration, 2007, etc.) cogently captures the essence of the festering war on drugs throughout the 1990s. He focuses on the market for black tar heroin, a cheap, potent, semiprocessed drug smuggled into the United States from Nayarit, a state on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The author charts its dissemination throughout American heartland cities like Columbus and Portsmouth, Ohio, home to a huge, family-friendly swimming pool named Dreamland, which closed in 1993, after which opiates "made easy work of a landscape stripped of any communal girding." Assembling history through varying locales and personal portraits, Quinones follows a palpable trail of heartbreak, misery and the eventual demise of seemingly harmless people "shape-shifted into lying, thieving slaves to an unseen molecule." The author provides an insider's glimpse into the drug trade machine, examining the evolution of medical narcotic destigmatization, the OxyContin-heroin correlation and the machinations of manipulative pharmaceutical companies. His profiles include a West Virginia father burying his overdosed son, a diabolically resourceful drug dealer dubbed "the Man," and "Enrique," a Mexican citizen who entered the drug trade as a dealer for his uncle at 14. Perhaps most intriguing is the author's vivid dissection of the "cross-cultural heroin deal," consisting of an interconnected, hive-minded "retail system" of telephone operators, dealers (popularly known as the "Xalisco Boys") and customers; everything is efficiently and covertly marketed "like a pizza delivery service" and franchised nationwide with precision. The author's text, the result of a five-year endeavor of remote research and in-person interviews, offers a sweeping vantage point of the nation's ever expanding drug problem. Though initially disjointed, these frustrating and undeniably disheartening scenarios eventually dovetail into a disturbing tapestry of abuse, addiction and death. Thankfully, for a fortunate few, rebirth is possible. A compellingly investigated, relentlessly gloomy report on the drug distribution industry. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. In this young adult adaptation of his adult title Dreamland (2015), seasoned journalist Quinones narrates a fast-paced expos of the opiate epidemic.The story begins and ends in Portsmouth, Ohio, a leader in both societal decline due to addiction and, years later, hope for recovering addicts. Quinones lays out the causes of the epidemic as if bringing together puzzle pieces. Purdue Pharma's ad campaign targeting physicians downplayed the addictive nature of painkillers; physicians overprescribed them, mostbut not allwith sincere intentions of helping their patients. A seemingly endless stream of Mexican drug dealers sought out the addict population as customers for their imported black tar heroin, which provided the same euphoria but with less cost and inconvenience. Presented as victims are the addictspredominantly white families, at first poor and rural, later from privileged backgrounds. The efforts of law enforcement and public health officials to tackle the problem are detailed. Personal profiles crafted from interviews keep things interesting, and the technical descriptions of the various drug forms and the history of opiates are informative. Although the author describes the radical about-face by lawmakers who took a "tough on crime" approach to drugs when victims were predominantly black, readers may finish the book with the impression that Mexicans have wreaked havoc on innocent white lives.A scrupulously researched, well-crafted tale that sheds light on a timely topic. (epilogue, photographs, reading guide, source notes) (Nonfiction. 12-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781620402504 In this fascinating, often horrifying investigation, journalist Quinones (True Tales from Another Mexico) delves into the heart of America's obsession with opiates like heroin, morphine, and OxyContin. He looks at how aggressive marketing and irresponsible business tactics led to the widespread use of addictive prescription painkillers (especially OxyContin) and how Mexican drug cartels introduced black tar heroin into small towns and vulnerable areas around the U.S. The story of the so-called Xalisco Boys, the source of so much misery and exploitation, unfolds with grim efficiency under Quinone's scrutiny. He doesn't hold back as he describes how widespread addiction and pill mills devastated entire communities, such as the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio. Through extensive interviews and research, Quinone gives a very human perspective to this topic, telling the tales of addicts and pushers, researchers and cops alike. While some of the threads become repetitive, this remains a harrowing, eye-opening look at two sides of the same coin, the legal and illegal faces of addictive painkillers and their insidious power. Agent: Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2015 (Biography)
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley
 Charlotte Gordon
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781400068425 The relationship between Mary Shelley (1797-1851) and the mother she never knew-Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), author of the incendiary tract A Vindication of the Rights of Women, who died 10 days after her daughter's birth-is explored with remarkable insight and perspicacity in this exhilarating dual biography from Gordon (Mistress Bradstreet). The book illustrates the similarities between mother and daughter by devoting alternating chapters to their lives. Both were raised in emotionally turbulent households (although Shelley's offered more intellectual stimulation); both had to leave home to find their identities as writers; and both lived as adults under the shadow of scandal-Wollstonecraft for her outspoken feminism and marriage to liberal political philosopher William Godwin, a critic of matrimony, and Shelley for her role in the notorious Byron-Shelley literary circle. Gordon's perceptive reading of both women's published works illuminates their core ideas, including complementary critiques of patriarchy, and identifies the emotional fault lines caused by the drama in their lives. Her lucid prose and multifaceted appraisal of Wollstonecraft, Shelley, and their times make warm-blooded and fully fleshed-out people of writers who exist for readers today only as the literary works they left behind. Agent: Brettine Bloom, Kneerim, Williams, & Bloom. © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Gordon (English/Endicott Coll.; The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths, 2007) delivers a drama-filled dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and her daughter, Mary Shelley (1797-1851).In an occasionally confusing style featuring alternating chapters, the author's biographies of the two Marys show how different their lives were. The daughter of an alcoholic father, Wollstonecraft grew up constantly trying to protect her mother and siblings, circumstances that led her into a lifelong fight for independence and female rights and against marriage. Her publisher, Joseph Johnson, gave her a position as a book reviewer for his monthly Analytical Review, where only initials indicated the author, masking her gender. Johnson eventually sent her to Paris to write about the Revolution, and she became the first foreign correspondent and an unwed mother to boot. Her political writing, especially A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), was highly regarded. She eventually married William Godwin, a political writer with an equally dim view of marriage. Their marriage was happy but short, and Mary died giving birth to her daughter, who spent her life idolizing and emulating her mother. At 16, Mary and her half sister, Jane, ran away to France with Percy Shelley; the only poorer choice would have been his dear friend, Lord Byron. Together, society termed them the "League of Incest." Mary and Jane vied for Shelley's attention; Jane eventually had Byron's child, and polite society shunned them. Mary and Percy eventually married, in hopes of gaining custody of his children from a previous marriage. The widowed Mary successfully carried on her mother's work, not through political writing but in novels. What the two women had in common was their writing talent, strength, and dedication to the fight for women's education and rights. While Gordon tells their stories well, moving back and forth between the Marys can be perplexing. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781400068425 *Starred Review* Gordon (Mistress Bradstreet, 2005) infuses literary history with electrifying discoveries in this symbiotic portrait of radical mother-daughter writers who indelibly changed society and the arts. Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of the scandalous and transformative A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), died soon after giving birth to a sickly baby girl whose father was the controversial philosopher William Godwin, a daughter who at 19 and as a mother herself wrote the still-reverberating masterpiece, Frankenstein. The first to fully investigate the life-determining influence Wollstonecraft's feminist writings had on Mary Shelley, Gordon chronicles their harsh, tragic, and courageous lives in alternating chapters that are as emotionally incisive as they are finely particularized in their astute renderings of tumultuous settings and dire predicaments. She traces each woman's struggle against poverty, viciously abusive sexism, agonizing familial and romantic relationships, and, in Shelley's case, the deaths of three children and her young husband, the poet Percy Shelley, all while insightfully profiling Godwin, Mary Shelley's stepsister and rival, and the romantic poets. As Gordon ardently excavates the complete, true stories of Wollstonecraft and Shelley's heroic, world-altering achievements during the French Revolution, the dawn of science, and the blossoming of romanticism, she delivers overdue justice to two heretofore shallowly perceived yet deeply moral thinkers and writers who risked everything to protest in word and deed crimes and discrimination against women.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781400068425 This excellent dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) and her daughter Mary Shelley (1797-1851) by author Gordon (English, Endicott Coll.; Mistress Bradstreet) examines the profound influence Wollstonecraft had on Shelley and the impact both women have had on women's rights in succeeding generations. Although Wollstonecraft died days after Shelley's birth, her writing, especially that most famous volume, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, inspired Shelley to embrace her mother's radical ideas and heartfelt aspirations. Consequently, Shelley's essays, novels, travel books, reviews, and poetry emphasize the importance of education and independence for women and denounce male values of dominance and ambition. Gordon presents the lives of each woman chronologically in alternating chapters; this technique allows her to emphasize "the echo of Wollstonecraft in Shelley's letters, journals, and novels and demonstrate how often Wollstonecraft addressed herself to the future." Gordon's prose is compelling and her scholarship meticulous; her contention that both women led "lives as memorable as the words they left behind" is brilliantly supported. VERDICT Readers interested in Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley will relish this volume.-Kathryn Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2015 (Autobiography)
Negroland: A Memoir
Book Jacket   Margo Jefferson
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307378453 Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jefferson relates her upbringing among America's black elite. (LJ 9/15/15) © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781504681537 "I was taught to avoid showing off," -Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jefferson (writing, Columbia Univ.; On Michael Jackson) begins. "But isn't all memoir a form of showing off?" That hesitation permeates throughout, the restraint perfectly mimicked in Robin Miles's elegant recitation. This work is a gorgeous examination-personally, socially, historically-of Jefferson's name "for a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty." Jefferson uses her own experiences of maturation, accomplishment, and struggle to aim a pointed lens at a racial divide that still excludes more often than it includes, regardless of that privilege and plenty. At her most vulnerable, she reveals her suicidal depression, which she describes as "one white female privilege.that was glorified in the literature of white female suffering and resistance. A privilege Good Negro Girls had been denied by our history of duty, obligation, and discipline." -VERDICT Jefferson's closing words, "Go on.," are both personal maxim and rallying inducement for every reader. Fans of Ta-Nahesi Coates and Roxane Gay will want to add Jefferson to their listening oeuvre immediately. ["The author's heartfelt prose takes her audience on a journey through rejection and acceptance, exclusion and inclusion, self-doubt and perseverance in this page-turning, provocative narrative": LJ 9/15/15 review of the Pantheon hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780307378453 *Starred Review* Born into an upper-class black family in Chicago, Jefferson came of age in the 1960s at a time when just beneath the surface of the civil rights movement, blacks were struggling with class frictions that complicated the ideals of racial unity. Her accomplished and aspiring parents and their friends sometimes thought of themselves as the Third Race, neither black nor white. Her father was a doctor, and her mother a proud stay-at-home mom. They were the strivers and achievers who longed to be judged by their merits, resentful of the racial identification they could not avoid. Jefferson recalls family members who passed, glorious social gatherings with elite entertainers whose fame didn't shield them from racial slights, and the comfort so many took in the embrace of people of their own race and class. Her parents fought the good fight to be treated with respect and equality and looked for any signs of backwardness they might need to root out of their daughters, who were alternately fascinated and repelled by the very cultural signifiers their parents feared. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jefferson draws on cultural touchstones, from Ebony to James Baldwin to Ntozake Shange, as she traces her life during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, when radical race consciousness and feminism questioned all of the old assumptions. This is a beautifully written memoir of growing up in the black elite with its distinctive challenges of race and class.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2015 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. From a Pulitzer Prize-winning theater and book critic, a memoir about being raised in upper-class black Chicago, where families worked tirelessly to distance themselves as much from lower-class black people as from white people. Born in 1947, Jefferson (On Michael Jackson, 2006) has lived through an era that has seen radical shifts in the way black people are viewed and treated in the United States. The civil rights movement, shifting viewpoints on affirmative action, and the election of the first black president, with all the promise and peril it held: the author has borne witness to changes that her parents could only have dreamed about. Jefferson was born in a small part of Chicago where a "black elite" lived, to a father who was the head of pediatrics at Provident, the country's oldest black hospital, and a socialite mother. The author describes a segment of the population intent on simultaneously distinguishing itself from both white people and lower-class black people and drawing from both groups to forge its own identity. She writes about being raised in a mindset that demanded the best from her and her family, while she also experienced resentment regarding the relative lack of recognition for the achievements they had earned. Jefferson tells a story of her parents seeing Sammy Davis Jr. on stage, early in his career, when he hadn't yet established himself enough to completely let his own unique style shine through. Her parents could see the change coming, thoughthe self-assuredness in his performanceand they saw that as emblematic of their own rise. Jefferson swings the narrative back and forth through her life, exploring the tides of racism, opportunity, and dignity while also provocatively exploring the inherent contradictions for Jefferson and her family members in working so tirelessly to differentiate themselves. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307378453 In this emotional memoir, Pulitzer Prize winner Jefferson (writing, Columbia Univ.; On Michael Jackson) examines race, gender, and class through memories of growing up in a wealthy, elite family in Chicago. A member of Negroland, Jefferson's term for a small group of privileged African Americans, she explains the contradictory nature of her existence, relating tales of childhood and young adulthood that will be familiar to anyone who was once an adolescent girl trying to measure up. These reflections also reveal a painful duality that exists within Negroland, one that can lead to depression and, in some families, exile. Coming of age in the civil rights era, during the shift into second-wave feminism, Jefferson parallels her remembrances with current events of her lifetime; she was born in the 1960s. The author's heartfelt prose takes her audience on a journey through rejection and acceptance, exclusion and inclusion, self-doubt and perseverance in this page-turning, provocative narrative. Includes eight pages of black-and-white photographs. VERDICT Highly recommended for biography and memoir lovers, historians, and readers interested in psychology and social movements. [See Prepub Alert, 3/16/15.]-Venessa Hughes, Buffalo, NY © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2015 (Poetry)
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
Book Jacket   Ross Gay
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780822963318 The Bloomington Community Orchard must have spread its roots into Ross Gay, an Indiana University English professor, as the organic poems in his third collection bear fruit, line by line, with each fresh word or phrase. These are accessible, alive poems that give one the sense of sitting and talking in the poet's kitchen. Often vulnerable and self-conscious in tone, they dig deep in the dirt of memory and unearth powerful images. In Burial, the speaker adds his father's ashes to the soil while planting a plum tree, and he sees his mother as a bison, dragging her hooves through the ash / of her heart, in c'mon! Whether by contemplating the extraordinary within everyday acts (sleeping in clothes, drinking water, buttoning and unbuttoning a shirt), or by entwining past and present as he pays homage to parents, friends, even his former love, Gay embraces the natural cycles of life and death as only an introspective gardener and accomplished poet can.--St. John, Janet Copyright 2015 Booklist
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2015 (Criticism)
The Argonauts
 Maggie Nelson
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781504660839 In this short but incredibly rich autobiographical meditation, Nelson (The Art of Cruelty) explores sexuality, childbearing, child rearing, and what it means to love and be loved. No mere romance, this book erases the physical, emotional, even literary boundaries that help human beings categorize their thoughts and feelings. Through the story of her love for, and marriage to, Harry Dodge (who is treated with testosterone and has a double mastectomy yet prefers to be labeled with no established gender), Nelson enacts the erasure of limits she explores in her writing. Drawing upon work by Judith Butler, Jean Baudrillard, and Roland Barthes (from whom she takes the book's title), as well as pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, Nelson blends philosophical inquiry, memoir, and gender criticism in a form she has dubbed "autotheory." Like her writing, Nelson's theory blurs, eradicates, even breaks the margins of binary thinking and of the prevailing normative notion that we should each live a life that is "all one thing." Verdict Read by the author, this work is highly recommended.-Wendy Galgan, St. Francis Coll., Brooklyn © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A fiercely provocative and intellectually audacious memoir that focuses on motherhood, love and gender fluidity.Nelson (Critical Studies/CalArts; The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning, 2012, etc.) is all over the map in a memoir that illuminates Barthes and celebrates anal eroticism (charging that some who have written about it hide behind metaphor, whereas she's plain from the first paragraph that she's more interested in the real deal). This is a book about transitioning, transgendering, transcending and any other trans- the author wants to connect. But it's also a love story, chronicling the relationship between the author and her lover, the artist Harry Dodge, who was born a female (or at least had a female name) but has more recently passed for male, particularly with the testosterone treatments that initially concerned the author before she realized her selfishness. The relationship generally requires "pronoun avoidance." This created a problem in 2008, when the New York Times published a piece on Dodge's art but insisted that the artist "couldn't appear on their pages unless you chose Mr. or Ms.You chose Ms., to take one for the team.' " Nelson was also undergoing body changes, through a pregnancy she had desired since the relationship flourished. She recounts 2011 as "the summer of our changing bodies." She elaborates: "On the surface it may have seemed as though your body was becoming more and more male,' mine more and more female.' But that's not how it felt on the inside." The author turns the whole process and concept of motherhood inside out, exploring every possible perspective, blurring the distinctions among the political, philosophical, aesthetic and personal, wondering if her writing is violating the privacy of her son-to-be as well as her lover. Ultimately, Harry speaks within these pages, as the death of Dodge's mother and the birth of their son bring the book to its richly rewarding climax. A book that will challenge readers as much as the author has challenged herself. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781555977078 In a fast-shifting terrain of "homonormativity," Nelson, poet and author of numerous works of gender and sexuality (The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning; Bluets), plows ahead with a disarmingly blushing work about trying to simultaneously embrace her identity, her marriage with nomadic transgender filmmaker Harry, and motherhood. She mixes a memoir of her love for Harry with clinical depictions of their attempts to get her pregnant, as well as a critical meditation on the queer craft of "becoming," investigating the ways that "new kinship systems mime older nuclear-family arrangements" and whether those older models are good, oppressive, useful, or fair. Nelson takes her title from the notion that the Argonauts could continually replace their ship's parts over time, "but the boat [was] still called the Argo." The new waters she's sailing include learning how to be a stepparent to Harry's young son and then a mother to her newborn, no longer scorning heterosexual "breeders," and becoming much more forgiving of what she once saw as too-outrageous queer radicalism, since all-including her husband, undergoing his own gender voyage via testosterone therapy and surgery-have a "shared, crushing understanding of what it means to live in a patriarchy." Nelson writes in fine, fragmented exhalations, inserting quotes from numerous theorists as she goes (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, D.W. Winnicott). Her narrative is an honest, joyous affirmation of one happily unconventional family finding itself. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2014 (Fiction)
Lila
 Marilynne Robinson
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374187613 *Starred Review* We catch glimpses of the Reverend John Ames' much younger second wife, Lila, in Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gilead (2004), the first in a deeply reflective saga set in a small Iowa town, the second volume of which is Home (2008). We now learn Lila's astonishing story, which begins with a thunderbolt opening scene, in which an abused little girl is swept up by a strange young woman called Doll. The two roam the countryside as itinerant workers, settling down just long enough for Lila to learn to read and write. As life grows even more harrowing during the Great Depression, and Doll's dangerous secrets catch up to her, capable and strong Lila fends for herself, ultimately arriving in Gilead. The wanderer and the minister embark on a wondrously unlikely and fitful courtship as Lila asks confounding questions about existence, belief, trust, and justice. Bringing the land to ravishing life, season by season, Robinson sets the tentative lovers' profoundly involving emotional and metaphysical struggles within both the singing web of nature and the indelible stories of the Bible. Robinson has created a tour de force, an unforgettably dramatic odyssey, a passionate and learned moral and spiritual inquiry, a paean to the earth, and a witty and transcendent love story all within a refulgent and resounding novel so beautifully precise and cadenced it wholly transfixes and transforms us. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Robinson's readers will be primed for the well-promoted third title in her cherished Iowa saga as the author tours the country.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374187613 Starred Review. This gentle novel revisits characters in the town of Gilead, IA, the setting of Robinson's earlier novels Home and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead. Whereas Gilead focused on elderly minister John Ames's writing a letter to his seven-year-old son, this new work steps back nearly a decade to explain how John came to meet and marry second wife Lila, with the focus on her past rather than his. A homeless orphan, Lila led an itinerant life under the care of a woman named Doll. It was a life full of hardship, but Doll's love sustained the child. When Lila meets John, their courtship and marriage develop through discussions about the Bible and God, as Lila struggles to reconcile her own suffering with the love and kindness of her husband and his faith. It also proves difficult for her to settle down and to fit in among people whose lives are so different from the one she has lived. As with Gilead, this book is full of ruminations about faith, and it flows in a single gush without chapters. VERDICT While some readers may yearn for more action and structure, this is a lovely and touching story that grapples with the universal question of how God can allow his children to suffer. Recommended for fans of Robinson as well as those who enjoyed Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, another exploration of pain and loneliness set against the backdrop of a small town. [See Prepub Alert, 4/7/14.] Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374187613 This third of three novels set in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa, is a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson's work. This time the narrative focuses on Lila, the young bride of elderly Reverend Ames, first met in Gilead. Rescued as a toddler from abusive caretakers by a rough but kind drifter named Doll, raised with love but enduring the hard existence of a field worker, and later, in a St. Louis whorehouse, Lila is a superb creation. Largely uneducated, almost feral, Lila has a thirst for stability and knowledge. As she yearns to forget the terrible memories and shame of her past, Lila is hesitant to reveal them to her loving new husband. The courtship of the couple-John Ames: tentative, tender, shy, and awkward; Lila: naive, suspicious, wary, full of dread-will endure as a classic set piece of character revelation, during which two achingly lonely people discover the comfort of marital love. Threaded through the narrative are John Ames's troubled reflections that the doctrines of his Calvinist theology, including the belief that those who are not saved are destined for hell, are too harsh. Though she reads the Bible to gain knowledge, Lila resists its message, because it teaches that her beloved Doll will never gain the peace of heaven. Her questions stir up doubt in Ames's already conflicted mind, and Robinson carefully crafts this provocative and deeply meaningful spiritual search for the meaning of existence. What brings the couple together is a joyous appreciation of the beauty of the natural world and the possibility of grace. The novel ends with the birth of their son, to whom Ames will leave his diary in Gilead. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781427230119 Robinson's novel, set in the fictional Iowa village of Gilead, trades in stillness and restraint. The challenge for recording an audiobook with this material is capturing its subtlety. There is no large cast of characters, all needing individual voices; there is only a tiny ensemble, anchored by the tormented drifter Lila, a young woman who seems to finally take root when she marries an elderly preacher. Hoffman, an experienced audio narrator, resists the temptation to simplify these rural characters with overdone country accents. The narration is unadorned, allowing Hoffman? to direct attention to Robinson's spare prose and the main character's private anguish as Lila sifts through her past. This is a lonely and pensive book, and the wrong narrator could have killed the introspection with showy acting. Instead the performance is fittingly understated, at times seeming lost in thought, its mood as reflective as the novel itself. A Farrar, Straus and Giroux hardcover. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. More balm in Gilead as Robinson (When I Was a Child I Read Books, 2012, etc.) returns to familiar ground to continue the saga of John Ames and his neighbors. Ames, Robinson's readers will know, is a minister in the hamlet of Gilead, a quiet place in a quiet corner of a quiet Midwestern state. Deceptively quiet, we should say, for Robinson, ever the Calvinist (albeit a gentle and compassionate one), is a master at plumbing the roiling depths below calm surfaces. In this installment, she turns to the title character, Ames' wife, who has figured mostly just in passing in Gilead (2004) and Home (2008). How, after all, did this young outsider wind up in a place so far away from the orbits of most people? What secrets does she bear? It turns out that Lila has quite a story to tell, one of abandonment, want, struggle and redemptionclassic Robinson territory, in other words. Robinson provides Lila with enough back story to fuel several other books, her prose richly suggestive and poetic as she evokes a bygone time before "everyonestarted getting poorer and the wind turned dirty" that merges into a more recent past that seems no less bleak, when Lila, having subsisted on cattails and pine sap, wanders into Gilead just to look at the houses and gardens: "The loneliness was bad, but it was better than anything else she could think of." She never leaves, of course, becoming part of the landscapeand, as readers will learn, essential to the gradually unfolding story of Gilead. And in Robinson's hands, that small town, with its heat and cicadas, its tree toads and morning dew, becomes as real as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, just as charged with meaning if a touch less ominous, Lila's talismanic knife notwithstanding. Fans of Robinson will wish the book were longerand will surely look forward to the next. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781427230119 Starred Review. Returning to the Iowa town of two earlier novels (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Home), Robinson here continues the story of preacher John Ames, this time focusing on his much younger second wife, Lila. Battered by a life of poverty, lonely, and with no place to call home, Lila seeks shelter from the rain by entering John's church. And it is with John that she eventually, hesitatingly, finds the home she has been missing. As with the first two novels set in Gilead, this book is beautifully written. Robinson's lyrical storytelling gently draws the listener into the novel's meditations upon faith, grace, love, forgiveness, and, perhaps most of all, the connections all human beings seek. Pitch-perfect narration by Maggie Hoffman brings Robinson's words to life. VERDICT Spiritual without being preachy, forgiving of the frailties of its characters while at the same time looking at them unflinchingly, this novel is a wonder. ["While some readers may yearn for more action and structure, this is a lovely and touching story that grapples with the universal question of how God can allow his children to suffer," read the starred review of the Farrar hc, LJ 8/14.] Wendy Galgan, St. Francis Coll., Brooklyn (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2014 (General NonFiction)
A brief history of seven killings : a novel
Book Jacket   Marlon James
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. An assassination attempt on Bob Marley stokes this sweeping portrait of Jamaica, encompassing a host of gangsters, CIA agents, journalists and businessmen.Marley is never mentioned by name in the third novel by James (The Book of Night Women, 2009, etc.). But the singer is unmistakably him, and the opening chapters, set in late 1976, evoke an attempt on his life sparked by tensions between gangs representing rival political parties. (In reality, as in the novel, the singer was wounded and went into exile in England.) And though we never hear Marley in his own voice, James massive novel makes room for pretty much everybody elses. Most prominent are Papa-Lo and Josey Wales, kingpins of the Copenhagen City gangs; Barry, a cynical CIA agent with orders to stop the march of communism though the red menace is the least of the islands problems; Alex, aRolling Stonereporter assigned to cover Marley who becomes enmeshed with the gangs; and Nina, who had a fling with Marley. As in his previous novels, James is masterful at inhabiting a variety of voices and dialects, and he writes unflinchingly about the violence, drug-fueled and coldblooded, that runs through the islands ghettos. Moreover, he has a ferocious and full character in Nina, who persistently reboots her life across 15 years, eventually moving to New York; her story exemplifies both the instinct to escape violence and the impossibility of shaking it entirely. But the book is undeniably overstuffed, with plenty of acreage given to low-level thugs, CIA-agent banter and Alexs outsider ramblings about Jamaican culture. James fiction thus far is forming a remarkable portrait of Jamaica in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the novels sprawl can be demanding.An ambitious and multivalent, if occasionally patience-testing, book. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781594486005 In his novels, Jamaican-born James centers on his homeland while giving larger scope to the African diaspora in caustically beautiful language. John Crow's Devil, featuring two battling MarlonJames Marlon James, Marilynne Robinson, Jane Smiley, Colm Tóibín | Barbaras Fiction Picks, Oct. 2014, Pt. 1preachers, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, while The Book of Night Women, about a slave revolt fomented by women, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. This third novel should be the charm that makes him a household name, partly because of the arresting subject. In a novel that moves from contentious 1970s Kingston, to crack-ridden 1980s New York, then back to a resurgent Jamaica, James offers a fictional investigation of the attempted assassination of reggae star Bob Marley just days before Jamaica's 1976 general election and only 48 hours before he was scheduled to play the Smile Jamaica Concert. You'll meet musicians and journalists, assassins and drug dealers, and even ghosts in what promises to be a wild ride.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781594486005 There are many more than seven killings in James's (Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner for The Book of Night Women) epic chronicle of Jamaica's turbulent past, but the centerpiece is the attempted assassination of Bob Marley on December 3, 1976. Through more than a dozen voices, that event is portrayed as the inevitable climax of a country shaken by gangs, poverty, and corruption. Even as the sweeping narrative continues into 1990s New York, the ripples of Jamaica's violence are still felt by those who survived. James's frenetic, jolting narrative is populated by government agents, ex-girlfriends, prisoners, gang members, journalists, and even ghosts. Memorable characters (and there are several) include John-John K, a hit man who is very good at his job; Papa-Lo, don of the Copenhagen City district of Kingston; and Josey Wales, who begins as Papa-Lo's head enforcer but ends up being a major string-puller in the country's most fateful events. Much of the conflict centers on the political rivalry of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP), which involves everyone from the CIA (which comes off as perennially paranoid about "isms," namely communism) to the lowest Jamaican gang foot soldier. The massive scope enables James to build an incredible, total history: Nina Burgess, who starts the book as a receptionist in Kingston and ends as a student nurse in the Bronx, inhabits four different identities over the course of 15 years. She is undoubtedly one of this year's great characters. Upon finishing, the reader will have completed an indispensable and essential history of Jamaica's troubled years. This novel should be required reading. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781594486005 *Starred Review* This lengthy novel by the acclaimed Jamaican author of The Book of Night Women (2009) is a densely imaginative fictional retelling of the 1976 assassination attempt on reggae superstar Bob Marley (The Singer) and its aftermath. It is far less about music than about Jamaican (and international the CIA is implicitly engaged) politics and its gangs, inextricably linked. The book is, as a result, nasty, complicated, violent, and profane. That it is also beautiful is testimony to author James' immense talent. Despite the lack of suspense (one knows Marley survives, though James handles the ensuing events deftly), James keeps the pages turning. He handles a complex cast of characters with disparate viewpoints and voices (literally) that, although daunting to readers unfamiliar with the country's culture and speech (No star me no know a who that?), will please and delight (and shock) many but should impress all diligent readers. This is a breakthrough novel not only for the author but also for Caribbean and world literature. The Kingston milieu (and its extensions, including New York) is made horrifyingly believable; the patois is rhythmic, slangy, and often quite funny. This is a unique, difficult (the latter portions less so), and very worthwhile reading experience.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2014 Booklist
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2014 (Biography)
Tennessee williams : mad pilgrimage of the flesh.
Book Jacket   John Lahr
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780393021240 Writing with sympathy and insight, former New Yorker drama critic Lahr (Prick Up Your Ears) invests the Tennessee Williams of this brilliant new biography with the same vitality and honesty that the playwright used to bring his characters to life. Williams wrote that he "saw every play and every film I ever worked on as a confession," and Lahr looks to his scripts as the chief means of understanding his turbulent life, beginning with the delicate poetry of The Glass Menagerie, which is encoded with sentiments from his fraught childhood relationships with his mother and sister. Quoting extensively from diaries, notebooks, and journals, Lahr depicts Williams as an artist who "made a spectacle of his haunted interior." His detailed account of Williams's work with Elia Kazan on the stage productions of A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and other projects reveals the complex dynamics of one of the greatest partnerships in modern theater, just as his exploration of Williams's troubled romantic relationships highlights the self-destructive proclivities that fueled and threatened his creativity. Lahr's feel for Williams's literary creations-he describes The Glass Menagerie's Amanda Wingfield as an "embattled bundle of Southern decorum and Puritan denial"-and for Williams himself show a perspicacity wanting in previous biographies. Though Lahr acknowledges the successes of previous Williams scholars, his achievement is not likely to be surpassed. 80 photos. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780393021240 Writing with sympathy and insight, former New Yorker drama critic Lahr (Prick Up Your Ears) invests the Tennessee Williams of this brilliant new biography with the same vitality and honesty that the playwright used to bring his characters to life. Williams wrote that he "saw every play and every film I ever worked on as a confession," and Lahr looks to his scripts as the chief means of understanding his turbulent life, beginning with the delicate poetry of The Glass Menagerie, which is encoded with sentiments from his fraught childhood relationships with his mother and sister. Quoting extensively from diaries, notebooks, and journals, Lahr depicts Williams as an artist who "made a spectacle of his haunted interior." His detailed account of Williams's work with Elia Kazan on the stage productions of A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and other projects reveals the complex dynamics of one of the greatest partnerships in modern theater, just as his exploration of Williams's troubled romantic relationships highlights the self-destructive proclivities that fueled and threatened his creativity. Lahr's feel for Williams's literary creations-he describes The Glass Menagerie's Amanda Wingfield as an "embattled bundle of Southern decorum and Puritan denial"-and for Williams himself show a perspicacity wanting in previous biographies. Though Lahr acknowledges the successes of previous Williams scholars, his achievement is not likely to be surpassed. 80 photos. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The tormented life of a celebrated American playwright.WhenThe Glass Menageriedebuted on Broadway in 1945, the opening-night audience erupted in thunderous applause. After 24 curtain calls, shouts of Author, Author! brought a startled, bewildered, terrified, and excited Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) to the stage. At 34, after a decade of failed productions, he had achieved the success for which he had been desperately striving. Arthur Miller called the play a revolution in theater; Carson McCullers saw in it the beginning of a renaissance. But praise could never quash the demons that haunted Williams throughout his life. In this majestic biography, former longtimeNew Yorkerdrama critic Lahr (Honky-Tonk Parade: New Yorker Profiles of Show People,2005, etc.) delineates the fears, paranoia and wrenching self-doubt that Williams transformed into his art. I have lived intimately with the outcast and derelict and the desperate, Williams said. I have tried to make a record of their lives because my own has fitted me to do so. In stories, poems and such plays asA Streetcar Named DesireandCat on a Hot Tin Roof,Williams drew upon his stultifying childhood; his anguish over his sisters mental illness; and his promiscuity and failed love affairs. Addicted to alcohol and a pharmacopeia of narcotics, Williams at one point sought help from a psychoanalyst; however, when the treatment forbade him to write, he fled. His self-worth, Lahr concludes, was bound up entirely in his work and consequently in how directors, actors and especially critics responded to what he produced. Feeling bullied and intimidated by others expectations, he projected onto them (director Elia Kazan, most notably, or his long-suffering agent Audrey Wood) his own moral failure and turned it into a kind of legend of betrayal. Lahr knows his subject intimately and portrays him with cleareyed compassion. Drawing on vast archival sources and unpublished manuscripts, as well as interviews, memoirs and theater history, he fashions a sweeping, riveting narrative.There is only one word for this biography: superb. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781491519707 In this exhaustive biography of Tennessee Williams, Lahr presents the life of the legendary playwright, warts and all, in enthralling detail, tracing him from his early life in a troubled Mississippi family (which gave him plenty of fodder for his plays), to his almost overnight success with The Glass Menagerie, to his death in 1983. The book also paints a fascinating picture of the theater world during Williams's time, populated with such luminaries as Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, and others. Reader Ashley is a Tony Award-nominated actress who portrayed Maggie in the 1974 Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and was also a longtime friend of Williams. She reads Lahr's book in a southern accent, perfectly infused with bourbon and cigarettes, and though her rendering of the expository passages is perfunctory, she shines when quoting Williams and his friends, lovers, and colleagues. A Norton hardcover. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780393021240 This new biography of playwright Tennessee Williams was conceived as a sequel to the late Lyle Leverich's Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams (CH, Mar'96, 33-3772), which concludes with the staging of The Glass Menagerie (1944). However, longtime New Yorker theater critic John Lahr decided that "to reinterpret the plays and the life, [he] needed to revisit Williams's childhood and to take a different tack from Lyle's encyclopedic chronological approach." The result is indeed a "stand-alone biography," a masterful treatment of the often-tempestuous professional and personal relationships that shaped Williams's characteristically autobiographical dramas, from Battle of Angels through his last major play, A House Not Meant to Stand. Although Lahr makes limited reference to the extensive secondary scholarship on Williams's work, he cites interviews, memoirs, and manuscript collections in libraries from California to Massachusetts. Lahr's deep knowledge of the theater is evident in his attention to the impact of producers, directors, agents, actors, and reviewers on A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and other gripping dramas of Williams's "mad pilgrimage of the flesh." Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. --Joan Wylie Hall, University of Mississippi
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2014 (Autobiography)
Cant we talk about something more pleasant?
 Roz Chast
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781608198061 Adult/HS-Veteran New Yorker cartoonist Chast powerfully recounts her parents' decline through weakness, senility, and death. Chast's scratchy hand emphasizes their age and fragility, while interspersed personal photographs drive home the reality of the situation. Her portrayal of the humiliations of infirmity and the sadness of nursing facilities creates relatable and thought-provoking circumstances for teens to ponder. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A revelatory and occasionally hilarious memoir by the New Yorker cartoonist on helping her parents through their old age. Few graphic memoirs are as engaging and powerful as this or strike a more responsive chord. Chast (What I Hate, 2011, etc.) retains her signature style and wry tone throughout this long-form blend of text and drawings, but nothing she's done previously hits home as hard as this account of her family life as the only child of parents who had never even dated anyone else and whose deep bond left little room for this intruder in their midst. Yet, "the reality was that at 95, their minds and bodies were falling apart," and these two people who had only relied on each other were forced to rely on a host of caretakers, their daughter in particular, and to move from the Brooklyn apartment that had been home for half a century into a series of facilities that provided fewer and fewer amenities at escalating expense. Chast rarely lapses into sentimentality and can often be quite funny, as she depicts mortality as "The Moving Sidewalk of Life" ("Caution: Drop-Off Ahead") or deals with dread and anxiety on the "Wheel of DOOM, surrounded by the cautionary' tales of my childhood." The older her parents get, the more their health declines and the more expensive the care they require, the bleaker the story becomesuntil, toward the end, a series of 12 largely wordless drawings of her mother's final days represents the most intimate and emotionally devastating art that Chast has created. So many have faced (or will face) the situation that the author details, but no one could render it like she does. A top-notch graphic memoir that adds a whole new dimension to readers' appreciation of Chast and her work.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781608198061 New Yorker cartoonist and prolific author Chast (What I Hate from A to Z, 2011) writes a bravely honest memoir of watching her parents decline, become too frail to stay in the Brooklyn apartment they called home for five decades, suffer dementia and physical depletion, and die in their nineties in a hospice-care facility. Unlike many recent parent-focused cartoon memoirs, such as Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? (2012) and Nicole J. George's Calling Dr. Laura (2012), in which the story is as much about the cartoonist's current work and family life as it is about his or her parents, Chast keeps her narrative tightly focused on her mother and father and her own problematic though not uncommon guilt-provoking relationships with them. Chast's hallmark quirky sketches are complemented by annotated photos from her own and her parents' childhoods. Occasionally, her hand-printed text will take up more than a full page, but it's neatly wound into accompanying panels or episodes. An unflinching look at the struggles facing adult children of aging parents.--Goldsmith, Francisca Copyright 2014 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781608198061 Chast (Theories of Everything) draws the Moving Sidewalk of Life with a sign: "Caution-drop-off ahead." The New Yorker cartoonist had vaguely thought that "the end" came in three stages: feeling unwell, growing weaker over a month or so in bed, and dying one night. But when her parents passed 90, she learned that "the middle [stage] was a lot more painful, humiliating, long-lasting, complicated, and hideously expensive" than she imagined. Chast's scratchy art turns out perfectly suited to capturing the surreal realities of the death process. In quirky color cartoons, handwritten text, photos, and her mother's poems, she documents the unpleasant yet sometimes hilarious cycle of human doom. She's especially dead-on with the unpredictable mental states of both the dying and their caregivers: placidity, denial, terror, lunacy, resignation, vindictiveness, and rage. VERDICT Like Joyce Farmer in Special Exits (LJ 9/15/10), Chast so skillfully exposes herself and her family on the page as to give readers both insight and entertainment on a topic nearly everyone avoids. As with her New Yorker cartoons, Chast's memoir serves up existential dilemmas along with chuckles and can help serve as a tutorial for the inevitable.-M.C. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781608198061 "Something more pleasant" than the certainty of old age and death is what Chast's parents would prefer to talk about, in this poignant and funny text-and-cartoon memoir of their final years. (In one cartoon, the Grim Reaper declares, "The Chasts are talking about me? Why, I'll show them!") Chast, a cartoonist who contributes frequently to the New Yorker, describes how her parents, George and Elizabeth, try her patience as she agonizes over their past and future. She brings her parents and herself to life in the form of her characteristic scratchy-lined, emotionally expressive characters, making the story both more personal and universal. Despite the subject matter, the book is frequently hilarious, highlighting the stubbornness and eccentricities (and often sheer lunacy) of the author's parents. It's a homage that provides cathartic "you are not alone" support to those caring for aging parents. Like Raymond Briggs's classic Ethel and Ernest, this is a cartoon memoir to laugh and cry, and heal, with-Roz Chast's masterpiece. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2014 (Poetry)
Citizen : an american lyric.
 Claudia Rankine
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781555976903 Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award in poetry, this follow up to Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric brings together essays, images, and poems on the stress of citizenship in a deeply racist country. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781555976903 Starred Review. In this trenchant new work about racism in the 21st century, Rankine, recently appointed chancellor of the American Academy of Poets and winner of the 2014 Jackson Poetry Prize, extends the innovative formal techniques and painfully clear-sighted vision she established in her landmark Don't Let Me Be Lonely. Accounts of racially charged interactions, insidious and flagrant, transpiring in private and in the public eye, distill the immediate emotional intensity of individual experience with tremendous precision while allowing ambiguity, ambivalence, contradiction, and exhaustion to remain in all their fraught complexity. Combining poetry, essay, and images from media and contemporary art, Rankine's poetics capture the urgency of her subject matter. Indeed, much of the book focuses on language: sound bites from cultural commentators; the words of acquaintances, colleagues, and friends; responses and moments of silence; what it means to address and be addressed; and what it means when one's only recourse is to sigh. "A body translates its you-/ you there, hey you,"¿ she writes, "The worst hurt is feeling you don't belong so much/ to you."¿ Once again Rankine inspires sympathy and outrage, but most of all a will to take a deep look at ourselves and our society. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A prism of personal perspectives illuminates a poet's meditations on race.Like a previous volume, Don't Let Me Be Lonely (2004), Rankine (English/Pomona Coll.) subtitles this book An American Lyric, which serves as an attempt to categorize the unclassifiable. Some of this might look like poetry, but more often there are short anecdotes or observations, pieces of visual art and longer selections credited as "Script for Situation video created in collaboration with John Lucas." Yet the focus throughout is on how it feels and what it means to be black in America. It builds from an accretion of slights (being invisible, ignored or called by the name of a black colleague) and builds toward the killing of Trayvon Martin and the video-gone-viral beating of Rodney King. "A similar accumulation and release drove many Americans to respond to the Rodney King beating," she writes. "Before it happened, it had happened and happened." Rankine is particularly insightful about Serena Williams, often criticized for displays of anger that the author justifies as responses to racism, conscious or not. "For Serena," she writes, "the daily diminishment is a low flame, a constant drip. Every look, every comment, every bad call blossoms out of history, through her, onto you." The author's anger is cathartic, for her and perhaps for readers, though she shows how it can be strategic as well: She refers to an artist's "wryly suggesting black people's anger is marketable," while proposing that "on the bridge between this sellable anger and the artist' resides, at times, an actual anger." Within what are often very short pieces or sections, with lots of white space on the page, Rankine more effectively sustains a feeling and establishes a state of being than advances an argument. At times, she can be both provocative and puzzlinge.g., "It is the White Man who creates the black man. But it is the black man who creates." Frequently powerful, occasionally opaque. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781555976903 Rankine, winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize and chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, is playwright and essayist as well as poet, and all three forms are present in her second, galvanizing American Lyric, following Don't Let Me Be Lonely (2004). In prose poems and poetic essays as sharp and stinging as a surprise slap to the face, Rankine matter-of-factly chronicles ordinary encounters poisoned by racism. Thoughtless and reflexive remarks and responses, such as a white therapist reacting with fear and aggression when a black client appears at her door. She also addresses, with fresh insights and precision, the adversities facing tennis star Serena Williams, presents a piece titled Frisk and Search, and offers deeply resonant tributes to those felled by racial violence, including Trayvon Martin. In poems of solitary reflection, despair, and conviction, the speaker considers the eloquence of sighs and rejects the directive, Let it go. Accompanied by evocative images, Rankine's arrestingly forthright, emotionally authentic, and artistically lithe inquiry induces us to question and protest every racial assault against our individual and collective humanity.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781494510510 Academy of American Poets chancellor Rankine (poetry, Pomona Coll., Don't Let Me Be Lonely) explores daily acts of racism in this poetic essay. Moving at a pace that varies greatly throughout the work, small "you see" or "you hear" statements provide examples of racist remarks that often go unchallenged in society, but Rankine spends time examining the thoughts (in both her own words and those of the person speaking) and her possible reactions that did not come forth in the moment. This is a work that benefits from being listened to several times to appreciate fully the nuanced wording and references. Narrator Allyson Johnson reads the prose with a lilting voice during some parts and a harsh, angry tone during others to match the situation. VERDICT Sometimes shocking, sometimes disturbing, but always thoughtful, this work is for fans of Rankine and modern poetry, those who care for societal and racial concerns, and those who want to help change negative views on race.-Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
 
2014 (Criticism)
The Essential Ellen Willis
Book Jacket   Ellen Willis
2013 (Fiction)
Americanah
Book Jacket   Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781470388911 Adichie's (The Thing Around Your Neck) remarkable novel is partly an immigrant experience narrative, partly pointed social commentary, and partly a love story. Ifemelu and Obinze fell in love as teenagers in 1990s Lagos, Nigeria, when the country was under military dictatorship. Ifemelu immigrates to the United States, while Obinze gets a tourist visa to England but cannot attain permanent status and is discovered and deported. Meanwhile, Ifemelu completes college in Philadelphia and writes an extremely successful blog called "Raceteenth; or Various Observations About American Blacks by a Non-American Black." Back home, Obinze becomes part of the upper middle class in oil-rich Nigeria, with a wife, a child, and a big house. After 15 years in the States, Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, where the couple reunite and must determine if their passion has endured the years of separation. Adjoa Andoh's narration is superb. Every character is clearly and distinctly voiced. The African-accented English is crystal clear. The American characters-Andoh's interpretation of Ifemelu's observations-are deliciously caricatured. VERDICT This may well be the best narration of the year. -["Witty, wry, and observant, Adichie is a marvelous storyteller who writes passionately about the difficulty of assimilation and the love that binds a man, a woman, and their homeland," read the starred review of the Knopf hc, LJ 5/1/13.]-Nann Blaine Hilyard, formerly with Zion-Benton P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307271082 Ifemelu, the Nigerian expat and Princeton lecturer at the heart of this latest novel by Orange Prize winner Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun), writes biting, dead-on blog posts taking aim at the cultural schism between non-African blacks, Africans, and everyone else. She also observes her Auntie Uju turning herself inside out to attract a man as Ifemelu's nephew silently accepts his mother's aspirations. Whether Ifemelu is writing a treatise on how to care for black hair or a scathing take on American students earning extra credit for bombast, her opinions bring her money and acknowledgment. But one day, as she is complimented on her nurtured American accent, Ifemelu senses that she has lost her way. A parallel plotline follows Obinze, the man Ifemelu left behind in Lagos, who emigrated to London and longs for a life in America with her. -VERDICT Witty, wry, and observant, Adichie is a marvelous storyteller who writes passionately about the difficulty of assimilation and the love that binds a man, a woman, and their homeland. Her work should be read by anyone clutching at the belief that we're living in a post-racial United States.-Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Estero, FL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780307271082 *Starred Review* To the women in the hair-braiding salon, Ifemelu seems to have everything a Nigerian immigrant in America could desire, but the culture shock, hardships, and racism she's endured have left her feeling like she has cement in her soul. Smart, irreverent, and outspoken, she reluctantly left Nigeria on a college scholarship. Her aunty Uju, the pampered mistress of a general in Lagos, is now struggling on her own in the U.S., trying to secure her medical license. Ifemelu's discouraging job search brings on desperation and depression until a babysitting gig leads to a cashmere-and-champagne romance with a wealthy white man. Astonished at the labyrinthine racial strictures she's confronted with, Ifemelu, defining herself as a Non-American Black, launches an audacious, provocative, and instantly popular blog in which she explores what she calls Racial Disorder Syndrome. Meanwhile, her abandoned true love, Obinze, is suffering his own cold miseries as an unwanted African in London. MacArthur fellow Adichie (The Thing around Your Neck, 2009) is a word-by-word virtuoso with a sure grasp of social conundrums in Nigeria, East Coast America, and England; an omnivorous eye for resonant detail; a gift for authentic characters; pyrotechnic wit; and deep humanitarianism. Americanah is a courageous, world-class novel about independence, integrity, community, and love and what it takes to become a full human being. --Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780307271082 Adichie burst onto the literary scene in 2006 with Half of a Yellow Sun, her searing depiction of the civil war in Nigeria. Her equally compelling and important new novel follows the lives of that country's postwar generation as they suffer endemic corruption and poverty under a military dictatorship. An unflinching but compassionate observer, Adichie writes a vibrant tale about love, betrayal, and destiny; about racism; and about a society in which honesty is extinct and cynicism is the national philosophy. She broadens her canvas to include both America and England, where she illuminates the precarious tightrope existence of culturally and racially displaced immigrants. The friendship of Ifemelu and Obinze begins in secondary school in Lagos and blossoms into love. When Ifemelu earns a scholarship to an American college, Obinze intends to join her after his university graduation, but he's denied a U.S. visa. He manages to get to London where his plight is typical of illegal immigrants there: he uses another man's ID so he can find menial, off-the-grid work, with the attendant loss of dignity and self-respect. The final blow comes when he's arrested and deported home. Ifemelu, meanwhile, faces the same humiliations, indignities, and privations-first in New York, then in Philadelphia. There, attending college, she's unable to find a job and descends to a degrading sexual act in order to pay her rent. Later she becomes a babysitter for a wealthy white family and begins writing a provocative blog on being black in America that bristles with sharp, incisive observations about racism. Ifemelu writes that the painful, expensive process of "relaxing" kinky African hair to conform to cultural expectations brings black women dangerously close to self-hatred. In time the blog earns Ifemelu fame and a fellowship to Princeton, where she has love affairs with a wealthy white man and, later, an African-American Yale professor. Her decision to return home to Nigeria (where she risks being designated as an affected "Americanah") is the turning point of the novel's touching love story and an illuminating portrait of a country still in political turmoil. Announced first printing of 60,000. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency. (May 17) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A sensitive portrayal of distant love, broken affinities and culture clash by Nigerian novelist Adichie (Purple Hibiscus, 2003, etc.). Absence makes the heart grow fonder, it's said--but as often it makes the heart grow forgetful. Ifemelu, beautiful and naturally aristocratic, has the good fortune to escape Nigeria during a time of military dictatorship. It is a place and a society where, as a vivacious "aunty" remarks, "[t]he problem is that there are many qualified people who are not where they are supposed to be because they won't lick anybody's ass, or they don't know which ass to lick or they don't even know how to lick an ass." Ifemelu's high school sweetheart, Obinze, is too proud for any of that; smart and scholarly, he has been denied a visa to enter post-9/11 America (says his mother, "[t]he Americans are now averse to foreign young men"), and now he is living illegally in London, delivering refrigerators and looking for a way to find his beloved. The years pass, and the world changes: In the America where Ifemelu is increasingly at home, "postracial" is a fond hope, but everyone seems just a little bewildered at how to get there, and meanwhile, Ifemelu has to leave the safe, sheltered confines of Princeton to go to Trenton if she's to get her hair done properly. The years pass, and Ifemelu is involved in the usual entanglements, making a reunion with Obinze all the more complicated. Will true love win out? Can things be fixed and contempt disarmed? All that remains to be seen, but for the moment, think of Adichie's elegantly written, emotionally believable novel as a kind of update of Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale. Soap-operatic in spots, but a fine adult love story with locations both exotic and familiar.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2013 (General Nonfiction)
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
 Sheri Fink
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780307718969 *Starred Review* As the floodwaters rose after Hurricane Katrina, patients, staff, and families who sheltered in New Orleans' Memorial Hospital faced a crisis far worse than the storm itself. Without power, an evacuation plan, or strong leadership, caregiving became chaotic, and exhausted doctors and nurses found it difficult to make even the simplest decisions. And, when it came to making the hardest decisions, some of them seem to have failed. A number of the patients deemed least likely to survive were injected with lethal combinations of drugs even as the evacuation finally began in earnest. Fink, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her reporting on Memorial in the New York Times Magazine, offers a stunning re-creation of the storm, its aftermath, and the investigation that followed (one doctor and two nurses were charged with second-degree murder but acquitted by a grand jury). She evenhandedly compels readers to consider larger questions, not just of ethics but race, resources, history, and what constitutes the greater good, while humanizing the countless smaller tragedies that make up the whole. And, crucially, she provides context, relating how other hospitals fared in similar situations. Both a breathtaking read and an essential book for understanding how people behave in times of crisis.--Graff, Keir Copyright 2010 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780307718969 "They were in a war zone," Fink (War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival) writes of those stranded inside New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center in the calamitous wake of Hurricane Katrina. In this astonishing blend of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism (Fink, who also has an M.D. and Ph.D., won the award for the investigative reporting on which this book is based) and breathtaking narration, she chronicles the chaotic evacuation of the hospital and the agonizing ethical, physical, and emotional quandaries facing Memorial nurses and doctors, including a nightmarish triage process that led to the controversial decision to inject critically ill patients with fatal doses of morphine in order to refocus attention on those with a chance of surviving. An alarming 45 bodies were recovered from the crippled hospital, nine of which were deemed suspected victims of euthanasia. Yet investigators realized that unraveling the tragedies was "as impossible as collecting fragments of a fractured mirror and then, somehow, inferring what image had once appeared there." Some members of the medical staff were charged with murder, but a grand jury acquitted them. Plenty of hard-earned lessons were learned from the stunningly mismanaged response to the disaster, yet Fink acknowledges that for the families of those who never made it out of Memorial, the "war against nature" could only be considered a loss. (Sept. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780804128117 Fink's (War Hospital) meticulous and extensive research is apparent in this detailed description of a large New Orleans hospital in crisis during Hurricane Katrina. Memorial Hospital was seen as shelter from the pending storm and even had patients transferred there from other facilities. When the woefully unprepared facility lost power and seemed under siege, the doctors made some difficult and controversial decisions about evacuation and triage, with the most physically able people leaving first. As a result of this policy, a doctor and two nurses were charged with injecting some patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. The first half of the book vividly describes the situation in the hospital, and the equally engrossing second half covers the legal cases resulting from the storm's aftermath, a situation that took years to play out. Reader Kristin Potter narrates professionally and even-handedly. -VERDICT Highly recommended for all listeners. ["Fink's six years of research and more than 500 interviews yield a rich narrative full of complex characters, wrenching ethical dilemmas, and mounting suspense," read the starred review of the Crown hc, LJ 9/1/13; an LJ Best Book of 2013, see p. 26.]-Mary Knapp, Madison P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Pulitzer Prizewinning medical journalist/investigator Fink (War Hospital, 2003) submits a sophisticated, detailed recounting of what happened at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Under calamitous, lethal circumstances, the staff at Memorial did a remarkable job of saving many lives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina--though others would point out they didn't have the street smarts of the staff at Charity Hospital, whose creativeness resulted in far fewer deaths. Fink draws those few days in the hospital's life with a fine, lively pen, providing stunningly framed vignettes of activities in the hospital and sharp pocket profiles of many of the characters. She gives measured consideration to such explosive issues as class and race discrimination in medicine, end-of-life care, medical rationing and euthanasia, and she presents the injection of some patients with a cocktail of drugs to reduce their breathing in such a manner that readers will be able to fully fashion their own opinions. The book is an artful blend of drama and philosophy: When do normal standards no longer apply? what if doing something seems right but doesn't feel right? In the ensuing investigation of one doctor, who is clearly the fall guy (or woman, as it were), Fink circles all the players, successfully giving much-needed perspective to their views. The obvious villains are the usual suspects: nature, for sending Katrina forth; big business, in the guise of Memorial owner Tenet Healthcare, for its failure to act and subsequent guilty posturing; and government, feds to local, for the bungling incompetence that led to dozens of deaths. The street thugs and looters didn't help much, either. With apparent effortlessness, Fink tells the Memorial story with cogency and atmosphere.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780804128117 Fink's meticulous and extensive research is apparent in her first book, a detailed description of a large urban hospital in New Orleans in crisis during Hurricane Katrina. Memorial Hospital was seen as a place to shelter from the pending storm, and even had patients transferred there from other facilities. When the woefully unprepared hospital lost power and seemed under siege, the doctors made some difficult and controversial decisions about evacuation and triage, with the most physically able people leaving first. As a result of this policy, a doctor and two nurses were charged with injecting some patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. The first half of the book vividly describes the situation in the hospital and the equally engrossing second half describes the legal cases resulting from the storm's aftermath, a situation that took years to play out. Reader Kristin Potter narrates professionally and even handedly. Verdict Highly recommended for all listeners. ["Fink's six years of research and more than 500 interviews yield a rich narrative full of complex characters, wrenching ethical dilemmas, and mounting suspense," read the starred review of the Crown hc, LJ 9/1/13. See Best Books 2013: Top Ten, http://ow.ly/ruZ6p, LJ 12/13.-Ed.]-Mary Knapp, Madison P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307718969 Journalist Fink (War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival) won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for her work on the harrowing events at New Orleans's Memorial Hospital during and after Hurricane Katrina, reporting that became the basis for this book. Two thousand patients, staff members, and their family and friends sought safety at Memorial as Katrina approached on Monday, August 28, 2005. Without power, running water, air-conditioning, or standard high-tech medical equipment, conditions quickly deteriorated, particularly for the oldest and most critically ill patients. It wasn't until Friday, September 1, that everyone was finally rescued, and, by that time, there had been 45 patient deaths-18 of them deemed suspicious by the New Orleans coroner. A legal hurricane followed, and one doctor and three nurses were accused of second-degree murder. Fink devotes half of her book to the criminal investigations and ensuing grand jury inquiry, guiding readers through the concepts of triage, euthanasia, and end-of-life care that made the cases so controversial. VERDICT Fink's six years of research and more than 500 interviews yield a rich narrative full of complex characters, wrenching ethical dilemmas, and mounting suspense. General readers and medical professionals alike will finish the book haunted by the question, "What would I have done?" [See Prepub Alert, 6/24/13.]-Kathleen Arsenault, St. Petersburg, FL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
2013 (Biography)
Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World
 Leo Damrosch
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780300164992 More than 50 years after the first volume appeared and 30 after the set was completed, Irvin Ehrenpreis's Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age (3v: 1962; CH, Jan'69; CH, Apr'84) remains the standard scholarly biography of the writer. Two more recent lives--David Nokes's Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed (CH, May'86) and Victoria Glendinning's Jonathan Swift: A Portrait (CH, Oct'99, 37-0775)--have challenged the Ehrenpreis for dominance, without success. Now Damrosch (Harvard) joins the fray with a new life, more sympathetic to its subject than Nokes's and more substantial and less speculative than Glendinning's. Damrosch did no original archival research: everything comes from printed sources and, despite the author's protestations, not much new primary material has turned up since Ehrenpreis. One therefore gets no really new portrait of Swift. Damrosch differs from his predecessors in terms of reliability of sources (Damrosch finds some secondhand reports more plausible than Ehrenpreis does) and because he is less given to Freudian interpretation. Beyond that, the book differs mostly in emphasis. Damrosch does provide plenty of context for students, who will find this a very accessible and readable guide to Swift's life and times. Specialists will continue to rely on Ehrenpreis. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. T. Lynch Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780300164992 Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Irish novelist, essayist, satirist, cleric, and poet, was a man of mystery and great intellectual heft, as Damrosch (Ernest Bernbaum Research Professor of Literature, Harvard; Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius) demonstrates. He asserts that while Swift's best-known work, Gulliver's Travels, is universally recognized, it is often mistaken for a fairy tale when in fact it masks a revolutionary political view of Swift's native Ireland. Damrosch seeks here to round out the version of the author presented in Irvin Ehrenpreis's Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, asking questions about his private affairs: Did Swift have a secret marriage to his housekeeper's daughter? Damrosch raises issues about Swift's life and clarifies fact from fiction, providing insight into the writer and the time and place he inhabited. VERDICT Irish history buffs and literati alike will need to read this work.-Elizabeth Heffington, Lipscomb Univ. Lib., TN (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780300164992 In his latest, Harvard literature professor and veteran biographer Damrosch (Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius) recounts the life of satirist Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels. The outlines of Swift's life are more or less familiar. To render a novel account of Swift's biography, then, Damrosch investigates myths and assumptions about such vexed questions as Swift's disappointed political ambitions, his moral and religious views, and his love affairs. These last come in for special scrutiny, as Damrosch carefully weighs the evidence of Swift's romantic attachments and possible marriages. Just as importantly, the author analyzes the political landscape of early 18th-century England in order to illuminate how Swift transmuted contemporary events into biting satire in an era in which wit could have fatal consequences. While Damrosch is to be credited for entertaining alternatives to outdated biographical shibboleths, his polemics against previous biographers and his reliance upon hypotheticals lead to a work rather academic in scope and occasionally needling in tone. Nonetheless, this is an impressive feat of scholarship filled with insightful readings of Swift's work, as well as extensive illustrations that help to vivify the world of this satiric master. Illus. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A feisty, first-class life of the sage and scourge of English Literature. Besides being a great essayist, satirist, novelist and poet, Jonathan Swift (16671745) was a very public man: a social-climbing Anglican minister, a friend to Alexander Pope, a competitor of Daniel Defoe and Laurence Sterne, a stalwart nationalist of Ireland--where he would be consigned to live--and a man whose shifting political allegiances forced him to publish his fiercest critiques anonymously (if only just barely). He masked himself in other ways, as well, leaving behind enough private contradictions and obscurities to keep biographers busy to this day. Damrosch (Literature/Harvard Univ.; Tocqueville's Discovery of America, 2010, etc.) is bent on both correcting the record and adding to it, creating a fresh and vivid life even as he wrestles with previous biographers--namely Irvin Ehrenpreis--along the way. Damrosch explores the mystery of Swift's parentage as well as his concealed Betty-and-Veronica relationships, one with the loving and devoted "Stella" (Hester Johnson)--whom he may have secretly married and who is buried next to him--and one with the temptress "Vanessa" (Esther Vanhomrigh). Damrosch also amply scrutinizes Swift's inner life: Was this preacher who absolutely insisted on churchly tithes even a true believer? Was Gulliver's Travels misanthropic or, as Methodist founder John Wesley suggested, an honest examination of mankind at its worst? Damrosch gets close to Swift as both a talented author and a man, detailing his frustrations, habits and multiple physical torments from deafness, vertigo and a variety of odd ailments. ("The spots increased every day and had little pimples, which are now grown white and full of corruption, though smallI cannot be sick like other people," he wrote, "but always something out of the common way.") This is the kind of biography where you come to feel you know the subject personally. A rich and rewarding portrait of an irreplaceable genius.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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  Book Jacket
 
2013 (Autobiography)
Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti
Book Jacket   Amy Wilentz
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781451643978 Haiti has been marked by colonial oppression, revolution, dictators, and foreign occupation by American imperialism-to say nothing of widespread poverty, social and political turmoil, disease, and the crippling earthquake in 2010. Caught in the remarkable prose of Wilentz (The Rainy Season) the tragedy is told through the eyes of Fred Voodoo, Haiti's fictional everyman, a figure who fits invisibly in Haitian society but whose insight is unmatched. The author's fluid and engaging narrative delves into Haiti's history and focuses on the current plight of a nation of ten million living in stark poverty. Sean Penn, "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Jimmy Carter, and dozens of other personages appear across her pages, as do the voodoo priests and the Tonton Macoutes, Duvalier's personal police force. VERDICT Tragic, ironic, humorous, scary, and fascinating, the book is a remarkable achievement and a must read for those interested in Caribbean affairs. An overwhelming positive recommendation.-Boyd Childress, formerly with Auburn University Libs., AL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781451643978 Zestfully candid, award-winning journalist Wilentz began her love affair with Haiti in 1986, and she has been exploring the country and its unique culture, history, and torrid relationship with the U.S. ever since. The catalyst for this ripping inquiry is what Wilentz observed during her sojourns in the wake of the horrific 2010 earthquake. Attuned to all the irony of her white outsider status even as she draws on her deep knowledge of Haiti's strength and struggles, she picks her way through the heartbreaking ruins and wretchedly inadequate camps, listening to post-quake hip-hop in the midst of chaos, blood, and misery and taking stern measure of international do-gooders. Wilentz is fierce in her criticism of missions of self-aggrandizement rather than aid and the pornographic aspects of media coverage. Writing with brandishing intensity, wit, skepticism, and indignation, Wilentz exposes systemic corruption, attends a voodoo ceremony, considers zombies and dictators, and marvels over everyday survival. She profiles two seriously committed and effective American heroes, physician Megan Coffee and Sean Penn, while her portraits of Haitians instruct and humble us.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A veteran journalist captures the functioning chaos of Haiti. New Yorker writer Wilentz has been covering shattering events in Haiti since the Duvalier dynasty fell in 1986, culminating in her book The Rainy Season. Now based in Los Angeles, the author again felt the fatal pull of the country after the recent natural-disaster devastation and returned repeatedly in order to record the uneven progress in reconstruction and humanitarian aid as well as interview many of the so-called (in politically incorrect parlance) Fred Voodoos, or Everymen on the street, for a reality check. Describing herself as "a nave person, and a romantic," she has grown enormously wary of the good intentions heaped on the country from one crisis to another and is frequently cynical after many years of her "Haitian education." Since its very inception as the first (and last) slave revolution in history, Haiti has been victimized, plunged into poverty, denuded of resources and patronized by rich white neighbors bent on a "salvation fantasy" that has never lifted the country out of poverty. After the hurricane, suddenly whites appeared everywhere to help out. While Wilentz does chronicle some extremely good work being done--by the indefatigable infectious-disease specialist Dr. Megan Coffee and by actor Sean Penn in setting up a workable refugee camp--much of what the journalist witnessed remained a familiar profound malaise and dysfunction. Seeking out her old acquaintances and former protgs of President Aristide, the author found drugged-out zombies, many living in permanent refugee camps without proper sanitation and little or no literacy. She learned that nothing is as it seems in Haiti. Like voodoo ceremonies, society runs on "artifice and duplicity," and its government (a kleptocracy) has been organized "to be porous and incompetent, to allow for corruption." An extraordinarily frank cultural study/memoir that eschews platitudes of both tragedy and hope.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781451643978 In this bracing memoir, Wilentz (The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier) revisits Haiti, as she describes a complex nation, following the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake. The world's first black republic is neither French nor completely Caribbean nor a protectorate of the United States, but rather, Wilentz writes, something akin to French West Africa. Readers get a stimulating immersion course in Haiti's culture, history, and political machinations. She introduces a fantastical cast of characters who inhabit the many layers of Haitian society and those individuals who flocked to the island following the earthquake, burdened with motives ranging from the base self-promotion or redemption of sundry celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Charlie Sheen to those who came to help such as Doctor Coffee, whom Wilentz calls "an all-purpose medical phenomenon." Though many pontificate on the country's unrelenting despair, poverty, and corruption, Wilentz's remarkable narrative strives to alter these perceptions. She writes, "But in fact, this depression and hopelessness come from experts who don't understand Haiti, don't acknowledge its strengths (and don't know them), don't get its culture or are philosophically opposed to what they assume its culture is, and don't know its history in any meaningful way." An unsentimental yet heartfelt journey to a country possessing the power to baffle some, yet beguile others. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2013 (Poetry)
Metaphysical Dog: Poems
Book Jacket   Frank Bidart
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374173616 "At seventy-two, the future is what I mourn," Bidart announces in this starkly inspiring eighth collection. The poet's spiky free reverse remains direct, sometimes even frightening, and clearer than ever before about mortality-his own death, and the deaths of his friends and his parents; and yet, perhaps in the spirit of anticipatory mourning, familiar interests-in old and new movies, terse metaphysical argument, and sex, especially sex between men- are all present. "The true language of ecstasy/ is the forbidden// language of the mystics," he says in "Defrocked," exploring the language of piety as well as of blasphemy as he returns to his Bakersfield, Calif., childhood and his family's Catholic belief. Bidart's taut lines investigate faith and doubt, art and yearning, erotic fulfillment and literary heritage, "fueled by the ruthless gaze that/ unshackled the chains shackling/ queer me in adolescence," even as they investigate their own premises; in "Writing 'Ellen West,' " they also ask how Bidart composed one of his own most famous poems. The new volume veers away from the interest in overt beauty, rendered in musical lines, that was evinced in Watching the Spring Festival (2009), leaning more in this volume on the wiry abstractions of Bidart's earlier work. At the same time, the poems of Metaphysical Dog are at once emotionally bracing and full of intellectual reward. Bidart is widely admired by other influential poets; he seems in line for even more attention than he has received. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374173616 "At seventy-two, the future is what I mourn," Bidart announces in this starkly inspiring eighth collection. The poet's spiky free reverse remains direct, sometimes even frightening, and clearer than ever before about mortality-his own death, and the deaths of his friends and his parents; and yet, perhaps in the spirit of anticipatory mourning, familiar interests-in old and new movies, terse metaphysical argument, and sex, especially sex between men- are all present. "The true language of ecstasy/ is the forbidden// language of the mystics," he says in "Defrocked," exploring the language of piety as well as of blasphemy as he returns to his Bakersfield, Calif., childhood and his family's Catholic belief. Bidart's taut lines investigate faith and doubt, art and yearning, erotic fulfillment and literary heritage, "fueled by the ruthless gaze that/ unshackled the chains shackling/ queer me in adolescence," even as they investigate their own premises; in "Writing 'Ellen West,' " they also ask how Bidart composed one of his own most famous poems. The new volume veers away from the interest in overt beauty, rendered in musical lines, that was evinced in Watching the Spring Festival (2009), leaning more in this volume on the wiry abstractions of Bidart's earlier work. At the same time, the poems of Metaphysical Dog are at once emotionally bracing and full of intellectual reward. Bidart is widely admired by other influential poets; he seems in line for even more attention than he has received. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374173616 "Writing 'Ellen West'/ was exorcism," says Bollingen Prize winner Bidart in a gloss on his famous earlier poem about an anorexic from The Book of the Body (1977). Beneath that older poem, he uncovers a guilt-laden struggle for independence from his mother and the devastation he felt at her death: "This is the body that you can draw out of you to expel from you the desire to die." In fact, Bidart's theme from the beginning has been the burden of the body-how the soul's presence and absence are rooted in the physical: "Words/ are flesh." In this new book, terror and shame connected with the young body's flaws and differences-sexual and otherwise-ebb in the face of old age, a muted phase in which the body one loves best inhabits memory. The final poem, "For an Unwritten Opera," strikes a lyric, almost formal pose, invoking "magpie beauty"-a kind of separateness within unity that can shape itself into love. VERDICT Another restless exploration from a writer whose work defies conventionality and refuses to stop asking questions; for all poetry collections.-Ellen Kaufman, New York (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374173616 Bidart (Watching the Spring Festival, 2008), winner of the Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, among many other awards, takes what is for him a radically personal approach in this candid and inquiring collection. A poet of refined distillation, Bidart writes with rare cogency and poignancy of the war between the mind and the body, ecstasy and obliteration, his mother's death, and his coming out. In reflections on the mysteries of being, Bidart uses the words crave, flesh, stone, soul, idea, and dream in a beautifully plangent philosophical calculus of longing. A master of the ready counterpoint of the couplet, Bidart can be tart and bemusing, as in the title poem with its dark twist, as well as richly emotive in his yearning for metaphysical clarity. As he explains in his notes, poems are curses, exorcism, prayer . . . the attempt to make someone or something live again. His, he declares, is an aesthetics of embodiment. There is a quiet, stirring grandeur here as Bidart contemplates the spectrum of existence, life's endless transformations, and our hunger for the absolute. --Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374173616 "At seventy-two, the future is what I mourn," Bidart announces in this starkly inspiring eighth collection. The poet's spiky free reverse remains direct, sometimes even frightening, and clearer than ever before about mortality-his own death, and the deaths of his friends and his parents; and yet, perhaps in the spirit of anticipatory mourning, familiar interests-in old and new movies, terse metaphysical argument, and sex, especially sex between men- are all present. "The true language of ecstasy/ is the forbidden// language of the mystics," he says in "Defrocked," exploring the language of piety as well as of blasphemy as he returns to his Bakersfield, Calif., childhood and his family's Catholic belief. Bidart's taut lines investigate faith and doubt, art and yearning, erotic fulfillment and literary heritage, "fueled by the ruthless gaze that/ unshackled the chains shackling/ queer me in adolescence," even as they investigate their own premises; in "Writing 'Ellen West,' " they also ask how Bidart composed one of his own most famous poems. The new volume veers away from the interest in overt beauty, rendered in musical lines, that was evinced in Watching the Spring Festival (2009), leaning more in this volume on the wiry abstractions of Bidart's earlier work. At the same time, the poems of Metaphysical Dog are at once emotionally bracing and full of intellectual reward. Bidart is widely admired by other influential poets; he seems in line for even more attention than he has received. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374173616 "Writing 'Ellen West'/ was exorcism," says Bollingen Prize winner Bidart in a gloss on his famous earlier poem about an anorexic from The Book of the Body (1977). Beneath that older poem, he uncovers a guilt-laden struggle for independence from his mother and the devastation he felt at her death: "This is the body that you can draw out of you to expel from you the desire to die." In fact, Bidart's theme from the beginning has been the burden of the body-how the soul's presence and absence are rooted in the physical: "Words/ are flesh." In this new book, terror and shame connected with the young body's flaws and differences-sexual and otherwise-ebb in the face of old age, a muted phase in which the body one loves best inhabits memory. The final poem, "For an Unwritten Opera," strikes a lyric, almost formal pose, invoking "magpie beauty"-a kind of separateness within unity that can shape itself into love. VERDICT Another restless exploration from a writer whose work defies conventionality and refuses to stop asking questions; for all poetry collections.-Ellen Kaufman, New York (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374173616 Bidart (Watching the Spring Festival, 2008), winner of the Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, among many other awards, takes what is for him a radically personal approach in this candid and inquiring collection. A poet of refined distillation, Bidart writes with rare cogency and poignancy of the war between the mind and the body, ecstasy and obliteration, his mother's death, and his coming out. In reflections on the mysteries of being, Bidart uses the words crave, flesh, stone, soul, idea, and dream in a beautifully plangent philosophical calculus of longing. A master of the ready counterpoint of the couplet, Bidart can be tart and bemusing, as in the title poem with its dark twist, as well as richly emotive in his yearning for metaphysical clarity. As he explains in his notes, poems are curses, exorcism, prayer . . . the attempt to make someone or something live again. His, he declares, is an aesthetics of embodiment. There is a quiet, stirring grandeur here as Bidart contemplates the spectrum of existence, life's endless transformations, and our hunger for the absolute. --Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2013 (Criticism)
Distant Reading
 Franco Moretti
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781781680841 In the 10 linked essays in this collection, Moretti (Signs Taken for Wonders)-a literary historian and the director of Stanford University's Literary Lab-fearlessly, often gleefully, challenges entrenched conceptions about world cultures and arts. In "Modern European Literature: A Geographical Sketch," he disputes the notion of a literature that reflects "a European 'essence,' " arguing instead that European literature comprises "national (and regional) entities, clearly different, and often hostile to each other," bound in a relationship of "productive enmity." In its companion piece, "Conjectures on World Literature," he similarly explodes the notion of a single contemporary literature that accommodates the writing of all nations, pointing out how the rise of the modern novel in non-Western countries often shows "a compromise between a Western formal influence... and local materials" (i.e., the social context of the nation in question). Some of the essays are fancy packages for obvious insights, among them "Planet Hollywood," whose study of the popularity of American films in non-American markets will surprise no one with its revelation that action films cross national borders more easily than comedies, because the action films replace language and words with "sheer noise"-"explosions, crashes, gunshots, screams"-that all cultures understand. Regardless of whether readers agree with Moretti's conclusions, they will find that his application of economic theory, network theory, and evolutionary models to literature and culture shows these subjects from fresh and often provocative new perspectives. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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  Book Jacket
2012 (Fiction)
Billy Lynns Long Halftime Walk
 Ben Fountain
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060885595 Lots of underground anticipation for this first novel from PEN/Hemingway winner Fountain, helped by this movie pitch: "A Catch-22 for our time." (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Hailed as heroes on a stateside tour before returning to Iraq, Bravo Squad discovers just what it has been fighting for. Though the shell-shocked humor will likely conjure comparisons with Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five, the debut novel by Fountain (following his story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, 2006) focuses even more on the cross-promotional media monster that America has become than it does on the absurdities of war. The entire novel takes place over a single Thanksgiving Day, when the eight soldiers (with their memories of the two who didn't make it) find themselves at the promotional center of an all-American extravaganza, a nationally televised Dallas Cowboys football game. Providing the novel with its moral compass is protagonist Billy Lynn, a 19-year-old virgin from small-town Texas who has been inflated into some kind of cross between John Wayne and Audie Murphy for his role in a rescue mission documented by an embedded Fox News camera. In two days, the Pentagon-sponsored "Victory Tour" will end and Bravo will return to the business as usual of war. In the meantime, they are dealing with a producer trying to negotiate a film deal ("Think Rocky meets Platoon," though Hilary Swank is rumored to be attached), glad-handing with the corporate elite of Cowboy fandom (and ownership) and suffering collateral damage during a halftime spectacle with Beyonc. Over the course of this long, alcohol-fueled day, Billy finds himself torn, as he falls in love (and lust) with a devout Christian cheerleader and listens to his sister try to persuade him that he has done his duty and should refuse to go back. As "Americans fight the war daily in their strenuous inner lives," Billy and his foxhole brethren discover treachery and betrayal beyond anything they've experienced on the battlefield. War is hell in this novel of inspired absurdity. ]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780060885595 *Starred Review* Written in a voice that is at once hopeful, cautious, naive, profoundly wise, and completely lost yet utterly knowing, Fountain's most recent work of fiction delivers a brilliant, powerful examination of how modern warfare affects soldiers back at home. Billy Lynn is 19 and already a war hero after footage of a fierce battle between his squad and Iraqi insurgents went viral. Briefly back from Iraq on a victory tour through the states, the young Silver Star winner lives an entire lifetime over the course of one day, Thanksgiving, while he and his more worldly Bravo Squad members are feted by a deliriously grateful and mostly misunderstanding public. Attending a Dallas Cowboys game, Billy Lynn and Bravo Squad must juggle the possibility of endless love with cheerleaders, Hollywood producers seeking to make a movie about them, football players morbidly curious about what it's like to kill another human being, and all the conflicting emotions, thoughts, and actions each of them experiences while back in the land of sports mania, mass consumerism, and coveted yet fleeting fame before they return to the war itself. Billy's journey carries the reader along with its richly detailed, pitch-perfect language and characterizations, leaving an indelible impression.--Trevelyan, Julie Copyright 2010 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060885595 Billy Lynn is a member of Bravo Company, which acquitted itself heroically in a deadly confrontation early in the Iraq War. An embedded reporter captured the battle on widely broadcast video. Now, on the last day of a victory tour, an insane PR event put on by the army, the company is at a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving football game. Native Texan Billy has been deeply affected by the death of squad leader Shroom, who gave him books to read and challenged him to think about what he was doing with his life. During a brief stop at home, Billy's sister urges him to refuse to return to Iraq. Billy also meets one of the fabled Cowboys cheerleaders, with whom he improbably forms an immediate and passionate connection, something that has opened a door to the possibility of a new, more hopeful life. But though Billy has had his eyes opened, in many ways he and his company are happier and feel more purposive as soldiers. VERDICT Employing intricate detail and feverish cinematography, Fountain's (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories) vividly written novel is an allegorical hero's journey, a descent into madness, and a mirror held up to this society's high-definition TV reality. Tragically unhinged, it also rings completely, hilariously true. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/11.]-Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780060885595 Unfolding over the course of one Thanksgiving Day, Fountain's (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara) second novel follows Bravo Company, the eight survivors of a savage clash with Iraqi insurgents, on the last leg of their government-sponsored "Victory Tour" in this witty and ironic sendup of middle America, Fox News politics, and, of all things, football. One minute, the soldiers are drinking Jack and Cokes, mobbed by hordes of well-wishers demanding autographs and seeking "the truth" about what's "really going on" over there; the next, they're in the bowels of Texas Stadium, reluctantly hobnobbing with the Dallas Cowboys and their cheerleaders, brokering a movie deal with a smarmy Hollywood producer, and getting into a drunken scuffle with the stadium's disgruntled road crew, all in a series of uncomfortable scenes that border on the farcical. Texan Billy Lynn is the 19-year-old hero who learns about life and himself on his visit home to his family, and the palpable camaraderie between soldiers ground the book. But despite much valid pontificating on what it means to be a soldier and the chasm that exists between the American public's perception of the war and the blunt reality of it, the often campy writing style and canned dialogue ("We, like, we wanna do somethin' like you. Extreme, you know, cap some Muslim freaks...") prevents the message from being delivered effectively. Agent: Heather Schroder, ICM. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2012 (General Nonfiction)
Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity
Book Jacket   Andrew Solomon
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780743236713 A profoundly moving new work of research and narrative by National Book Award-winner Solomon (The Noonday Demon) explores the ways that parents of marginalized children-being gay, dwarf, severely disabled, deaf, autistic, schizophrenic, the product of rape, or given to criminal tendencies or prodigious musical talent, to name a few he chose-have been transformed and largely enriched by caring for their high-needs children. These children are marginalized by society, classified traditionally as ill and abnormal, and shunned; in the cases of those who are deaf or homosexual, they were forced to conform to mainstream strictures. A seasoned journalist and LGBT activist, Solomon relies on anecdotes to convey the herculean tasks facing parents and caregivers of special-needs children because "stories acknowledge chaos," and he takes great pains to probe the dark side of parental despair and anger, as well as ennobling efforts of resilience and strength. Sifting through arguments about nature versus nurture, Solomon finds some startling moments of discovery, for example, among Deaf activists who ferociously cling to their marginality, parents of children with Down syndrome who express their children's infinite "mystery and beauty," and the truculent compassion of Dylan Klebold's parents, 10 years after the Columbine High School shootings. Solomon's own trials of feeling marginalized as gay, dyslexic, and depressive, while still yearning to be a father, frame these affectingly rendered real tales about bravely playing the cards one's dealt. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780743236713 *Starred Review* Solomon, who won the National Book Award for The Noonday Demon (2001), tackles daunting questions involving nature versus nurture, illness versus identity, and how they all affect parenting in his exhaustive but not exhausting exploration of what happens when children bear little resemblance to their parents. He begins by challenging the very concept of human reproduction. We do not reproduce, he asserts, spawning clones. We produce originals. And if we're really lucky, our offspring will be enough like us or our immediate forebears that we can easily love, nurture, understand, and respect them. But it's a crapshoot. More often than not, little junior will be born with a long-dormant recessive gene, or she may emerge from the womb with her very own, brand-new identifier say, deafness, physical deformity, or homosexuality. Years of interviews with families and their unique children culminate in this compassionate compendium. Solomon focuses on the creative and often desperate ways in which families manage to tear down prejudices and preconceived fears and reassemble their lives around the life of a child who alters their view of the world. Most succeed. Some don't. But the truth Solomon writes about here is as poignant as it is implacable, and he leaves us with a reinvented notion of identity and individual value.--Chavez, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780743236713 Award-winning author Andrew Solomon (psychiatry, Cornell) draws an amazing parallel between familial acceptance of difference and the capacity all humans could have for tolerance and acceptance of all--regardless of difference. How is it that some parents can learn not to live life through their children? How is it that some parents can strike that balance between letting their child be the individual he or she is and striving to help that child reach his or her unique potential? Solomon expresses the emotional side of the issue most clearly in the family histories he presents. But the true power of the work resides in Solomon's blend of scientific inquiry into the various illnesses and differences that fundamentally challenge individuals and families and the empowering examples of nurturing acceptance that he offers. This reader teaches courses on prejudice, discrimination, and hate. In those courses, the question of what the opposite of hate is often arises. Solomon convincingly demonstrates that hate's opposite is not love--it is acceptance of a person's individuality, in whatever shape or form that takes. This book makes clear the value of difference. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers. R. E. Osborne Texas State University--San Marcos
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. National Book Awardwinning journalist Solomon (The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, 2001, etc.) uses issues raised by disability to examine the nature of parenthood, the definition of disability and the ability to control reproduction to create designer children. More than a decade ago, when he was assigned to cover a student protest at the Lexington Center for the Deaf in Queens, N.Y., over the hiring of a CEO with normal hearing, the author began to look at medical and cultural issues raised by disability. The protesters demanded that deafness should not be considered a disability, but rather a neuro-diversity on par with ethnic diversity. Some members of the deaf community even considered cochlear implants in young children as "a genocidal attack on a vibrant community" because of the linguistic richness of sign language. Solomon also wrote a piece on child prodigies based on an interview with the Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin, and he followed with a story about the lives of dwarfs based on the experience of a friend who sought role models for her daughter. Gradually, Far from the Tree began to take shape as the author explored more deeply the question of disability. Additional chapters cover Down syndrome (a genetic disorder), autism (of unknown origin), transgenderism and more. Solomon writes about the transformative, "terrifying joy of unbearable responsibility" faced by parents who cherish severely disabled children, and he takes an in-depth look at the struggles of parents of autistic children who behave destructively. He also explores the fascinating mental lives of independently functioning autistic individuals and speculates on the possibility that geniuses such as Mozart and Einstein were at the far end of the spectrum. Throughout, Solomon reflects on his own history as a gay man who has been bullied when he didn't conform to society's image of masculinity. An informative and moving book that raises profound issues regarding the nature of love, the value of human life and the future of humanity.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2012 (Biography)
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Book Jacket   Robert Caro
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781455890507 To erect a fourth tier in his literary monument to Johnson, Caro chisels ambiguities from 1958 to 1964, especially the transition between Kennedy's assassination and LBJ becoming President. This chunk of recent history reveals veins flecked with characters and events that gripped the nation: the Bay of Pigs invasion; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; charismatic JFK plus wife Jacqueline and U.S. Attorney General brother Bobby; lethal gunshots; and a long weekend of funeral ceremonies. Reader Grover Gardner relays history with a newscaster's gravity but can also deliver an LBJ quote with a fluent Texas cadence. VERDICT U.S. history buffs, Caro fans, and admirers of accomplished writing will find it absorbing. The savvy listener may want concurrently to borrow the book, since it is enhanced with 32 pages of photographs missing from the audio. ["Caro has once more combined prodigious research and a literary gift to mount a stage for his Shakespearean figures.... Readers' only disappointment will be the necessary wait for Caro's next volume," read the review of the Knopf hc, LJ 5/1/12.-Ed.]-Judith Robinson, Dept. of Lib. & Information Studies, Univ. at Buffalo (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679405078 The fourth volume of Caro's monumental biography of Lyndon Johnson (CH, Apr'83; CH, Oct'90, 28-1143; CH, Oct'02, 40-1113) extends from the 1960 presidential campaign through Johnson's 1964 State of the Union address. It thus follows the depth of Johnson's humiliation as vice president and his ascent to the summit of power after President Kennedy's assassination. Throughout, Robert Kennedy is Johnson's foil in one of the bitterest rivalries in US politics. Caro's narrative examines Johnson's curiously cautious quest for the 1960 Democratic nomination and his reluctance to appear too eager to win it until it was too late, and Robert Kennedy's endeavor to deny him the vice presidential nomination. As vice president, Johnson became uncharacteristically withdrawn, marginalized by Kennedy's staff. After Kennedy's death, Johnson worked to assure continuity, convincing Kennedy's staff to remain. In the first seven weeks of his presidency, Johnson employed his undeniable political skills and the image of his martyred predecessor to lay the groundwork for civil rights, tax cuts, and the War on Poverty. Caro foreshadows dark days ahead, but in these seven weeks Johnson is at the peak of his abilities. A masterful achievement of biography and historical analysis. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. A. J. Dunar University of Alabama in Huntsville
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679405078 Caro's Pulitzer-winning multivolume biography reaches a magisterial climax (though not its Vietnam era denouement) in this riveting account of Johnson's vice-presidency in the Kennedy administration and early presidency through 1964. It's a roller-coaster narrative as Johnson plummets from the powerful Senate majority leader post to vice-presidential irrelevance, hated and humiliated by the Kennedy brothers, then surges to presidential authority with the crack of Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle and forces a revolutionary civil rights act through a recalcitrant Congress. Caro's penetrating study of competing power modes pits Kennedyesque charisma against Johnson's brilliant parliamentary street-fighting, backroom arm-twisting, and canny manipulation of personal motives, all made vivid by rich profiles: JFK, the polished, amused aristocrat; Bobby, the brutal, guilt-haunted zealot; Johnson, the uncouth neurotic-egomaniacal, insecure, sycophantic as an underling, sadistic as a boss, ruthless and corrupt yet possessed of an empathy for the downtrodden (he picked cotton in his penniless youth) that outshines Camelot's noblesse oblige. The author's Shakespearean view of power-all court intrigue, pageantry, and warring psychological drives-barely acknowledges the social movements that made possible Johnson's legislative triumphs. But Caro's ugly, tormented, heroic Johnson makes an apt embodiment of an America struggling toward epochal change, one with a fascinating resonance in our era of gridlocked government and paralyzed leadership. Photos. 300,000 announced first printing. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow and Nesbit. (May 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679405078 The first volume of Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson was published in 1982; the third, Master of the Senate, garnered the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. Caro (The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York) now presents the fourth volume-a major event in biography, history, even publishing itself. The time span covered here is short, opening with Johnson's unsuccessful try for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination and closing with his 1964 State of the Union address mere weeks after JFK's assassination. Caro's focus is on those seven weeks between the assassination and the address. He again alters our view of Johnson by illuminating how, even in the earliest moments of confusion and grief following the assassination, he moved beyond the humiliations of his years as vice president and, with a genius for public leadership buttressed by behind-the-scenes manipulation of the levers of power, ensured the success in Congress of JFK's dormant economic and civil rights programs while establishing himself, however briefly, as a triumphant president, fulfilling his lifetime ambition. VERDICT Caro has once more combined prodigious research and a literary gift to mount a stage for his Shakespearean figures: LBJ, JFK, and LBJ's nemesis Robert F. Kennedy. Readers' only disappointment will be the necessary wait for Caro's next volume.-Bob Nardini, Niagara Falls, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780679405078 *Starred Review* Wedged between LBJ's triumphant Senate career and his presidency, this fourth volume in Caro's acclaimed Years of Lyndon Johnson series addresses the failed presidential campaign of 1960, the three frustrating years as vice president, and the transition between the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Though seemingly focused on less compelling material than Master of the Senate (2002), the book is riveting reading from beginning to end, perhaps because Caro's real subject is political power, both its waxing and waning. There is plenty of both here, as Caro shows Johnson struggling with his lifetime fear of being humiliated, first in the brilliant account of his mystifying refusal to enter the 1960 campaign before it was too late to win and then in the agonizing story of the vice-presidential years, throughout which Johnson tiptoed on the edge of the humiliation he dreaded (mainly at the hands of Robert Kennedy, whose relationship with LBJ Caro calls perhaps the greatest blood feud in American political history ). But the real tour de force in this stunning mix of political and psychological analysis comes in the account of the seven-week transition between administrations, from November 23, 1963, to January 8, 1964, when Johnson delivered his first State of the Union message. From the moment he assumed the presidency, on Air Force One with Jackie Kennedy at his side, Johnson, as Caro portrays him, was a man reborn, his zeal for and uncanny understanding of the craft of governance risen from the ashes of the brow-beaten vice president. It is an utterly fascinating character study, brimming with delicious insider stories (the Bobby Baker scandal, the way LBJ maneuvered Senator Harry Byrd into passing the federal budget and clearing the way for the 1964 civil rights bill to reach the floor, and on and on). Political wonks, of course, will dive into this book with unbridled passion, but its focus on a larger-than-life, flawed but fascinating individual the kind of character who drives epic fiction should extend its reach much, much further. Unquestionably, one of the truly big books of the year. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This much-anticipated fourth in a roundly acclaimed series will receive top-drawer media coverage, in print, online, and on television. 125,000 first printing.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781455890507 To erect a fourth tier in his literary monument to Johnson, Caro chisels ambiguities from 1958 to 1964, especially the transition between Kennedy's assassination and LBJ becoming President. This chunk of recent history reveals veins flecked with characters and events that gripped the nation: the Bay of Pigs invasion; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; charismatic JFK plus wife Jacqueline and U.S. Attorney General brother Bobby; lethal gunshots; and a long weekend of funeral ceremonies. Reader Grover Gardner relays history with a newscaster's gravity but can also deliver an LBJ quote with a fluent Texas cadence. VERDICT U.S. history buffs, Caro fans, and admirers of accomplished writing will find it absorbing. The savvy listener may want concurrently to borrow the book, since it is enhanced with 32 pages of photographs missing from the audio. ["Caro has once more combined prodigious research and a literary gift to mount a stage for his Shakespearean figures.... Readers' only disappointment will be the necessary wait for Caro's next volume," read the review of the Knopf hc, LJ 5/1/12.-Ed.]-Judith Robinson, Dept. of Lib. & Information Studies, Univ. at Buffalo (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679405078 The fourth volume of Caro's monumental biography of Lyndon Johnson (CH, Apr'83; CH, Oct'90, 28-1143; CH, Oct'02, 40-1113) extends from the 1960 presidential campaign through Johnson's 1964 State of the Union address. It thus follows the depth of Johnson's humiliation as vice president and his ascent to the summit of power after President Kennedy's assassination. Throughout, Robert Kennedy is Johnson's foil in one of the bitterest rivalries in US politics. Caro's narrative examines Johnson's curiously cautious quest for the 1960 Democratic nomination and his reluctance to appear too eager to win it until it was too late, and Robert Kennedy's endeavor to deny him the vice presidential nomination. As vice president, Johnson became uncharacteristically withdrawn, marginalized by Kennedy's staff. After Kennedy's death, Johnson worked to assure continuity, convincing Kennedy's staff to remain. In the first seven weeks of his presidency, Johnson employed his undeniable political skills and the image of his martyred predecessor to lay the groundwork for civil rights, tax cuts, and the War on Poverty. Caro foreshadows dark days ahead, but in these seven weeks Johnson is at the peak of his abilities. A masterful achievement of biography and historical analysis. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. A. J. Dunar University of Alabama in Huntsville
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The fourth volume of one of the most anticipated English-language biographies of the past 30 years. This installment covers Johnson's vice presidency under John F. Kennedy, his ascension to the presidency after the Kennedy assassination and his initial nine months as president. As in the earlier volumes, Caro (Master of the Senate, 2002, etc.) combines a compelling narrative and insightful authorial judgments into a lengthy volume that will thrill those who care about American politics, the foundations of power, or both. Even Johnson acolytes, sometimes critical about portions of the earlier volumes, are less likely to complain about their hero's portrayal here. While documenting the progression of his subject's character flaws, Caro admires Johnson's adroit adaptability. Though he chafed as vice president after giving up the leadership of the U.S. Senate, Johnson seems to have developed a grudging admiration for JFK. However, Johnson and Robert Kennedy could not put aside the animosity that had taken root on Capitol Hill. When Robert became not only his brother's confidant but also his attorney general, Johnson resented the appointment. Caro documents the feuds between them and vividly relates how the warfare between the two men continued after JFK's assassination. On a more upbeat track, the author explains how Johnson's lifelong commitment to helping the dispossessed led to passage of unprecedented civil-rights legislation. The evidence seems strong that JFK could not have engineered passage of much of the civil-rights legislation because he lacked Johnson's influence over members of Congress. The fifth volume is in the works, and it is expected to cover Johnson's election to the White House and his full term, with the conduct of the Vietnam War ceaselessly dogging him. The author writes that the next book "will be very different in tone." Before beginning the Johnson biography, Caro published a life of Robert Moses, The Power Broker (1974), a book many scholars consider a watershed in contemporary biography. The Johnson project deserves equal praise.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679405078 Caro's Pulitzer-winning multivolume biography reaches a magisterial climax (though not its Vietnam era denouement) in this riveting account of Johnson's vice-presidency in the Kennedy administration and early presidency through 1964. It's a roller-coaster narrative as Johnson plummets from the powerful Senate majority leader post to vice-presidential irrelevance, hated and humiliated by the Kennedy brothers, then surges to presidential authority with the crack of Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle and forces a revolutionary civil rights act through a recalcitrant Congress. Caro's penetrating study of competing power modes pits Kennedyesque charisma against Johnson's brilliant parliamentary street-fighting, backroom arm-twisting, and canny manipulation of personal motives, all made vivid by rich profiles: JFK, the polished, amused aristocrat; Bobby, the brutal, guilt-haunted zealot; Johnson, the uncouth neurotic-egomaniacal, insecure, sycophantic as an underling, sadistic as a boss, ruthless and corrupt yet possessed of an empathy for the downtrodden (he picked cotton in his penniless youth) that outshines Camelot's noblesse oblige. The author's Shakespearean view of power-all court intrigue, pageantry, and warring psychological drives-barely acknowledges the social movements that made possible Johnson's legislative triumphs. But Caro's ugly, tormented, heroic Johnson makes an apt embodiment of an America struggling toward epochal change, one with a fascinating resonance in our era of gridlocked government and paralyzed leadership. Photos. 300,000 announced first printing. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow and Nesbit. (May 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679405078 The first volume of Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson was published in 1982; the third, Master of the Senate, garnered the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. Caro (The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York) now presents the fourth volume-a major event in biography, history, even publishing itself. The time span covered here is short, opening with Johnson's unsuccessful try for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination and closing with his 1964 State of the Union address mere weeks after JFK's assassination. Caro's focus is on those seven weeks between the assassination and the address. He again alters our view of Johnson by illuminating how, even in the earliest moments of confusion and grief following the assassination, he moved beyond the humiliations of his years as vice president and, with a genius for public leadership buttressed by behind-the-scenes manipulation of the levers of power, ensured the success in Congress of JFK's dormant economic and civil rights programs while establishing himself, however briefly, as a triumphant president, fulfilling his lifetime ambition. VERDICT Caro has once more combined prodigious research and a literary gift to mount a stage for his Shakespearean figures: LBJ, JFK, and LBJ's nemesis Robert F. Kennedy. Readers' only disappointment will be the necessary wait for Caro's next volume.-Bob Nardini, Niagara Falls, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780679405078 *Starred Review* Wedged between LBJ's triumphant Senate career and his presidency, this fourth volume in Caro's acclaimed Years of Lyndon Johnson series addresses the failed presidential campaign of 1960, the three frustrating years as vice president, and the transition between the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Though seemingly focused on less compelling material than Master of the Senate (2002), the book is riveting reading from beginning to end, perhaps because Caro's real subject is political power, both its waxing and waning. There is plenty of both here, as Caro shows Johnson struggling with his lifetime fear of being humiliated, first in the brilliant account of his mystifying refusal to enter the 1960 campaign before it was too late to win and then in the agonizing story of the vice-presidential years, throughout which Johnson tiptoed on the edge of the humiliation he dreaded (mainly at the hands of Robert Kennedy, whose relationship with LBJ Caro calls perhaps the greatest blood feud in American political history ). But the real tour de force in this stunning mix of political and psychological analysis comes in the account of the seven-week transition between administrations, from November 23, 1963, to January 8, 1964, when Johnson delivered his first State of the Union message. From the moment he assumed the presidency, on Air Force One with Jackie Kennedy at his side, Johnson, as Caro portrays him, was a man reborn, his zeal for and uncanny understanding of the craft of governance risen from the ashes of the brow-beaten vice president. It is an utterly fascinating character study, brimming with delicious insider stories (the Bobby Baker scandal, the way LBJ maneuvered Senator Harry Byrd into passing the federal budget and clearing the way for the 1964 civil rights bill to reach the floor, and on and on). Political wonks, of course, will dive into this book with unbridled passion, but its focus on a larger-than-life, flawed but fascinating individual the kind of character who drives epic fiction should extend its reach much, much further. Unquestionably, one of the truly big books of the year. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This much-anticipated fourth in a roundly acclaimed series will receive top-drawer media coverage, in print, online, and on television. 125,000 first printing.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2012 (Autobiography)
Swimming Studies
 Leanne Shapton
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A disjointed debut memoir about how competitive swimming shaped the personal and artistic sensibilities of a respected illustrator. Through a series of vignettes, paintings and photographs that often have no sequential relationship to each other, Shapton (The Native Trees of Canada, 2010, etc.) depicts her intense relationship to all aspects of swimming: pools, water, races and even bathing suits. The author trained competitively throughout her adolescence, yet however much she loved racing, "the idea of fastest, of number one, of the Olympics, didn't motivate me." In 1988 and again in 1992, she qualified for the Olympic trials but never went further. Soon afterward, Shapton gave up competition, but she never quite ended her relationship to swimming. Almost 20 years later, she writes, "I dream about swimming at least three nights a week." Her recollections are equally saturated with stories that somehow involve the act of swimming. When she speaks of her family, it is less in terms of who they are as individuals and more in context of how they were involved in her life as a competitive swimmer. When she describes her adult life--which she often reveals in disconnected fragments--it is in ways that sometimes seem totally random. If she remembers the day before her wedding, for example, it is because she couldn't find a bathing suit to wear in her hotel pool. Her watery obsession also defines her view of her chosen profession, art. At one point, Shapton recalls a documentary about Olympian Michael Phelps and draws the parallel that art, like great athleticism, is as "serene in aspect" as it is "incomprehensible." While the author may attempt to mirror this ideal, the result is less than satisfying and more than a little irritating.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2012 (Poetry)
Useless Landscape/A Guide for Boys
 D. A. Powell
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781555976057 Poems by Powell (Chronic) are the Apple products of the literary world: sleek, urbane, well-designed marvels. They are so startlingly hip that one can almost be excused for not noticing that they are slowly infiltrating the mainstream. The homoeroticism that lies at the center of this work is tongue-in-cheek, proceeding via allegory and dispensing with much of the campiness that characterizes earlier (and some current) queer writing. But as a literary artifact, this book's slick veneer and perfect lines sometimes seem at odds with the awkward and exciting messiness of adolescent sexuality, as if the poems had been disassembled and shipped off to Iowa City to have the rough edges sanded out. Powell's treatment of sexuality lacks much of the transgressive power of a Dennis Cooper or Kathy Acker, both of whom manage to transform eroticism into something as dangerous as it is transformative. VERDICT Powell is as good a technician as anyone in the business, and his latest book, both smart and accessible, will have award panels queuing up to sing its praises. [See Prepub Alert, 8/18/11.]-Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781555976057 In his fifth collection, Powell revisits themes of body and illness, sacred space and seductive desecration. The first section is an examination of beauty divorced from utility, the second a characteristically witty, arresting portrait of young people in acts of exploration. In the former, Powell confronts physical and emotional environments in the kinds of translucent lyrics that have gained him critical appreciation and a reputation for accessibility. His landscapes are mean and meaningful; visions of California bear the dead-eyed gaze of valley dolls and interned immigrants alike. In A Guide for Boys, he maps an anatomy of lymph and libido, not least through clever substitution of unexpected items in familiar settings. Kiwi fruit appear in Sex Ed textbooks, wattles swelter in a sauna, prickly sweetgum seeds turn suggestive. Throughout the collection, Powell flexes his command of inflectional forms, using subjunctive constructions to pose some of the most wrenching, lovely unrealities since his initial triptych (Tea,1998; Lunch, 2000; Cocktails, 2004) and imperatives to exploit creeping, linguistic ambiguity Tell me how much I've got to lose. --Baez, Diego Copyright 2010 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781555976057 Powell has now turned the corner from promising new poet into established power. This fifth collection condenses his obsessions into poems clearer and more compact than ever, some scathing and others comedic, some based on life stories and others built on puns. Now living in San Francisco, Powell grew up in California's agricultural Central Valley; the impoverished spaces of his youth stand out among his backgrounds and metaphors for ecological disaster, for gay sexual awakening, for sex itself, for illness, and for love. "The Kiwi Comes to Gridley, CA," for example, recalls "this... overgrown berry with its easy sway/ and pubescent peel, how it will proffer its redolent fruit." Another poem delights in "Having a Rambutan with You": "Sometimes, I forget to spit out all the seeds." Among other culturally omnivorous poets of gay American life, Powell, with his range of form and line, his dark but vivid humor, and his commitment to Romantic traditions, is set apart. Disneyland, high school marching bands, 1970s funk and disco, "donkey basketball," and planetary astronomy join his expanding universe of figures for sexual pleasure, and sexual sadness; erotic experience serves as a lens through which Powell-a passionate lover of puns, like Shakespeare-views life and death, body and spirit, youth and advancing age. This book will belong on many lists of the year's best. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2012 (Criticism)
Strange Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights
Book Jacket   Marina Warner
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780674055308 This learned, lively, and well-written book concerns the wide-ranging influence of The Arabian Nights a polyvocal anthology of world myths, fables and fairy tales on Western culture. Even Freud's couch, carpet, and Middle Eastern antiquities created an Oriental setting for the first psychoanalytical cures. Warner's densely detailed, loose, baggy monster of a book covers an impressive array of subjects from Voltaire and Goethe to Borges and Nabokov. It includes and interprets 15 of the tales, which describe fantasy, magic, and enchantment as well as cruelty and executions, humanity and justice. They were first translated into French by the orientalist Antoine Galland in 1704-12. The most popular stories, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, were not in the original collection but rather invented by the translator. Warner writes, Sharazad plays the part of an Arabian Penelope, delaying her fate by weaving an endless tapestry of stories, which instead of unwinding actually grows. At the end of a thousand nights, the sultan decrees that she deserves to live and inscribes her stories in a golden book.--Meyers, Jeffrey Copyright 2010 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780674055308 Warner (literature, film, & theater studies, Univ. of Essex, UK; Monsters of Our Own Making: The Peculiar Pleasures of Fear) has long been recognized as one of the foremost scholars of the fairy tale and myth. Here, she brings her characteristic erudition and insight to one of the great works of world literature, The Arabian Nights, using the best-known as well as some of the lesser-known stories to demonstrate how the Nights contributed to the rise of magical thinking across European and world culture. In all, she examines 15 stories from the Nights and connects them to wider cultural phenomena such as Mozart's The Magic Flute and ideas of flying "before flying." Freud's couch plays its role as well. Warner's argument is based on her premise that "the cultural picture has greater potential for enriching the historical view." She ably demonstrates how the tales loom large in European culture and have provided the basis for much creativity and imagination since their discovery by the West in the 18th century. VERDICT General readers and scholars in folklore, history, and Arabic literature alike will appreciate Warner's ability to make connections between the Nights and the way the stories have resonated over time and space. Highly recommended.-David S. Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania- Libs., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780674055308 Writer and mythographer Marina Warner (Univ. of Exeter, UK) examines the perplexing popularity of Arabian Nights during the Enlightenment. Antoine Galland's creative reconstruction of the tales in 1704 provides the starting point for Warner's investigation. Despite multiple variations, every version of Arabian Nights follows the same overarching plot: by telling fascinating, interlaced tales, Shahrazad is able to distract, educate, and transform an enraged sultan. These fantastical tales enabled Western readers to act out their fantasies in a foreign and therefore safe space. The book is divided into five parts, each featuring three stories written by Warner for convenience and consistency. Part 1 focuses on enchantment in the legends of Solomon; part 2 examines how magic became exoticized by being projected on mysterious yet powerful foreigners; part 3 connects the stories to modern experience through objects and artifacts; and part 4 explores respectively writers' and artists' response to Nights. Part 5 provides specific case studies of the Arabian Nights' influence on modernity. Overall, Warner's analysis of Arabian Nights aims at redefining the relationship between East and West, reason and imagination, science and magic. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. S. Gomaa Salve Regina University
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780674055308 This remarkable study is an arabesque, and an intricate Persian rug of themes, eras, tales, and authors-of the Middle East and West, playing on "states of consciousness" as well as state-cultures. With a basic knowledge of Arabic from childhood as well as a Catholic upbringing, Warner is almost divinely positioned to unravel the infinite strands of the wily Scheherazade, as she weaves her way through the Arabian Nights, exploring their boundless capacity to "keep generating more tales, in various media, themselves different but alike: the stories themselves are shape-shifters." From Disney's Aladdin to the works of Freud, Goethe, Hans Christian Andersen, and others, Warner explores the impact of the Arabian Nights on the West and the power of enchantment and fantasy. Like all myth, these of flying carpets, sofas, and beds of genies and heroic connivers grant lasting insights into human aspirations, transcendence, and love. Carefully documented, Warner's ever shifting work takes its place alongside that of Edward Said, though she is refreshingly less polemical and less theoretical. No one need cover this enchanting ground again. 25 color, 55 b&w illus. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2011 (Fiction)
Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories
Book Jacket   Edith Pearlman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780982338292 A finely tuned collection by writer's writer Pearlman combines the best of previous collections (How to Fall; etc.) with austere, polished new work. Pearlman's characters for the most part are stiff-upper-lipped Northeasterners who take what comes and don't grumble: in "The Noncombatant," Richard, a 49-year-old doctor suffering gravely from cancer during the tail end of WWII, rages quietly in his small Cape Cod town as celebrations erupt and memories of the wasted lives of the dead are swept away. A fictional Godolphin, Mass., is the setting for many of the stories, such as "Rules," in which the well-meaning staff at a soup kitchen try not to pry into the lives of the "cheats and crazies, drunks and dealers" who frequent the place. "Hanging Fire" is a perfectly crafted story about a 21-year-old college graduate, Nancy, on the cusp of embarking on life and certain only of her obligation to herself. The tale of retired gastroenterologist Cornelia Fitch in "Self-Reliance" reads like the fulfillment of Nancy's own self-determined trajectory: after a successful career, she determines how she wants to leave this life: with dignity and a wink. This should win new converts for Pearlman. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780982338292 *Starred Review* There is a vast difference between reading Pearlman's stories in a magazine or anthology and reading this collection. In settings ranging from unnamed South American countries to the Boston suburbs, from the current day to the last century (e.g., the Russian Revolution, WWII), depictions of people, places, and manners are so perfect that the stories become totally immersive. The characters, always interesting, are limned just as strongly whether female or male, young or old. The Latin American minister of health (called the Cow by her enemies) in Vaquita and the old man studying Japanese at age 75 in Relic and Type both linger in memory long after the book is closed. Stylistically, the stories are complex in their use of language, with technique incorporated seamlessly to engage and provoke readers. Many describe the lives of Jews who have integrated into the modern world and who examine the resonance of Judaism in their lives. The stories' disparate lengths are no impediment to these qualities. The shorter The Story is just as involving as the longer Binocular Vision. Give this wonderful collection to fans of such classic short story writers as Andre Dubus and Alice Munro and novelists like Nicole Krauss. They will thank you.--Loughran, Ellen Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2011 (General Nonfiction)
Libertys Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World
 Maya Jasanoff
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9781400041688 Jasanoff (Harvard) calls this the "first global history of the loyalist diaspora," but greater value lies in her meticulous tracking of a few families and individuals (some prominent, some not; Indians and slaves, paupers, landed aristocrats) as they scattered across the planet in the years following the American Revolution. The loyalists--reviled or ignored by US historians and only lately rehabilitated--are limned as real people with a variety of motives and fates. Their role in the founding of Canada, Sierra Leone, and the Bahamas, as well as the history of those who settled in Britain or remained in the US, has been more thoroughly examined in other works. Jasanoff pulls together these stories via the ties of family and friendship that overcame distances from Jamaica to Nova Scotia to Bengal. The loyalists had much in common with the "patriots": they prompted London to reorganize the empire as a more liberal democracy. A useful cast of characters begins the book, and comprehensive notes end it. The author has done her homework and reduced a vast, complex, and fragmentary story to its essence. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. T. S. Martin Sinclair Community College
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781464045998 This comprehensive, engaging work examines the Loyalists, those on the losing side of the American Revolution. While some readers may associate the term Loyalist with images of affluent white Englishmen, Jasanoff (history, Harvard Univ.) points out that they were in fact a multiethnic group that included African Americans and Native Americans. After the war, many of those still loyal to the Crown left the Colonies and fled around the world to places where British rule still prevailed. The personal stories of these refugees are the most poignant part of this study. Readers travel with the exiles forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind and struggling to remake their lives in such diverse locations as Quebec, Jamaica, and India. Verdict The epic sweep of these world-changing events and the affecting personal accounts of those who endured them are handled expertly by L.J. Ganser, who narrates with firmness and clarity. The historical analysis and eyewitness testimonies will satisfy academic and general readers alike. ["Combining compelling narrative with insightful analysis, Jasanoff has produced a work that is both distinct in perspective and groundbreaking in its originality," read the review of the Knopf hc, LJ 12/10. Winner of the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction.-Ed.]-Denis Frias, Mississauga Lib. Syst., Ont. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Jasanoff (History/Harvard Univ.; Edge of Empire: Life, Culture, and Conquest in the East 17501850, 2005) examines the effects of the American Revolution on those whose loyalty to the Crown compelled them to flee the new United States.As the author writes, few expected the Revolution to succeed, but when it did, the American supporters of King George III found their property and lives in dire jeopardyeven the Anglican clergy, who had sworn fealty to George III and felt honor-bound to their oaths. Loyalists were beaten and tormented constantly. After a swift summary of the war, Jasanoff focuses on those who did not remain. Where did they go? Did they prosper? Upper-class white loyalists were inconvenienced, but many managed to find havens elsewhere. The lower classes, however, including the American Indians and African-Americans who had sided with the British, found their lives shattered and their futures bleak. Jasanoff moves artfully from larger global issues (where to resettle?) to individual stories of people who documented the turmoil with publications, letters and diaries. Some individuals stand out. Sir Guy Carleton organized a massive evacuation of up to 100,000 soldiers and civilians from U.S. coastal cities. Dr. William Johnston struggled with the many ill immigrants in Jamaica. John Clarkson was the white Moses of the emigration in 1792 of hundreds of blacks from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone. Jasanoff gives just space to each of the principal destinationsNova Scotia, the Bahamas and Jamaica, Canada and Sierra Leone. The struggles were fierce in all the locations, but the author has perhaps her kindest words for the African settlers, who, after a devastating attack from the French, succeeded in Freetown. Jasanoff's most sympathetic words go to the American Indians, who listened and trusted, and suffered horribly as a result.Splendidly researched, sensibly argued and compassionately told.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781400041688 As well as a war of independence, the Revolutionary War was a civil conflict in which the losers, white, black, and Indian loyalists, paid dearly. Facing retribution from the victorious patriots, tens of thousands fled the new U.S. to havens in the British Empire. Jasanoff positions her history as the most comprehensive treatment of this topic; accomplished as scholarship, it appeals to general-interest readers through her narrative accounts of several refugees' fates after mass evacuations in 1783. And it will strongly appeal to black-history readers because of Jasanoff's sifting of abundant documentary evidence generated by Britain's wartime promise to emancipate slaves who fought in its ranks. Free black loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia, where racial tension impelled some to settle in Sierra Leone, while enslaved black loyalists suffered even harsher consequences, their white loyalist owners forcing them to relocate to Florida, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Wherever loyalists started their lives anew in Britain, Canada, India, and even Australia Jasanoff dramatizes their travails in this discerning social and political history of an overlooked side of the American Revolution.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781400041688 In this lucidly told and engaging work, Jasanoff (history, Harvard Univ.; Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850) examines the loyalist diaspora following the American Revolution in which both white and black adherents to the British scattered across the empire to various locations including Nova Scotia, Jamaica, and Sierra Leone and attempted to reconstruct their lives in the face of tremendous obstacles. For Jasanoff, the "Spirit of 1783" was a dynamic ideological force that drove British imperial growth, was committed to liberty and humanitarian ideals, and was politically characterized by increasing centralization. One of the most compelling aspects of this well-researched work is Jasanoff's discussion of the post-Revolutionary struggles of both British-allied Native Americans and freed blacks as they tried to carve out a place of their own in the shifting Colonial environment. VERDICT Combining compelling narrative with insightful analysis, Jasanoff has produced a work that is both distinct in perspective and groundbreaking in its originality. Strongly recommended for both students of the Revolutionary Atlantic world and British Empire generalists.-Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., AL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781400041688 The plight of American Loyalists during and after the Revolutionary War has been largely forgotten. Harvard historian Jasanoff (Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850) corrects that omission with a masterful account of the struggles, heartbreak, and determination that characterized specific Loyalist families and individuals. Rich and poor, black, white, and Native American, the Loyalists paid for their devotion to king and country with their blood, their property, and their prospects. The terrorist tendencies of the Sons of Liberty and the deliberate cruelty of Patriot leaders, including Washington and Franklin, are painfully described. Most tragic, however, was the postwar neglect of Loyalist refugees by the British government, which minimized the human consequences of defeat. Some Loyalists, among them John Cruden and William Augustus Bowles, responded with continuing efforts to establish armed encampments on the southeast frontier of the new United States. Others, by far the majority, settled in Canada, with smaller enclaves in the Caribbean. This superb study of a little-known episode in American and British history is remiss only in largely ignoring the Loyalist community in Spanish West Florida and the War of 1812 as a continuation of the earlier conflict. 8 pages of illus.; 10 maps. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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  Book Jacket
2011 (Biography)
George F. Kennan: An American Life
 John Lewis Gaddis
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781594203121 *Starred Review* Diplomat and historian Kennan (1904-2005) cooperated with this biography that in its documentary thoroughness and lucidity about his enigmatic, fragile personality must stand as the definitive portrait. Of undoubted brilliance in his adulthood, Kennan throughout his life was acutely sensitive, solitary, often pessimistic, but ultimately philosophical an outlook encapsulated in his Around the Cragged Hill (1993). The youthful sources of those traits Gaddis roots in feelings of abandonment provoked by the premature death of Kennan's mother, in testing experiences in military school and Princeton University, and in rapidly maturing appreciations for the behaviors of governments, his own and others, while he was a young foreign service officer in the 1920s and 1930s. An inveterate diarist and letter writer, Kennan probably deluged Gaddis with his interior life, which seemed beset by self-doubt and despair over matters personal (Kennan apparently had several affairs) and public. Apart from the years 1946-50, politicians ignored his advice and prophecies on world politics, but within that window, Kennan was uniquely influential as the enunciator of containment policy toward the Soviet Union during the early Cold War. The work of an eminent historian of that very subject, Gaddis' biography is doubly significant and a new essential in any reading, recreational or scholarly, in the history of American foreign policy.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The long-awaited authorized biography of George F. Kennan (19042005), the creator of America's Cold War containment strategy.Kennan commissioned Gaddis (History/Yale Univ.; The Cold War: A New History,2006, etc.) to write his life story back in 1981, on condition that the work not be published until after his death. Then 75, Kennan lived to be 101. Now the story can be told, and it is well worth the wait. At the beginning of his diplomatic career in the late 1920s, Kennan, along with a handful of others, was recruited into the Russian Studies section of the State Department's Eastern European division by Robert Kelley, and he helped FDR's Ambassador William Bullitt open diplomatic relations. Gaddis has had unique access to official papers, Kennan's own publications and documents, the diary that he kept throughout his life and his correspondence, especially to his sister. This access will be especially revealing for those interested in discovering more about the period from 1944 to 1952, which saw victory in World War II, the development of the atomic bomb, the adoption of containment, the beginning of the Cold War and the adoption of the Truman Doctrine. Throughout the book, Kennan's papers make clear what he was responsible for, and what he wasn't. Gaddis also provides intriguing accounts of Kennan's work with the Marshall Plan, his establishment of a training program for upcoming officers in the military and diplomatic service and his work with Frank Wisner and the Office of Policy Coordination. But of equal interest are his later life at Princeton's School of Advanced Studies and his relations with subsequent Presidents, including Bill Clinton, whose expansion of NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union Kennan forcefully objected to.A well-rounded treatment of the life of a man who made significant contributions to his country and the world at large.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781455155378 Prolific author and New York Times-heralded "Dean of Cold War Historians," Gaddis presents a massive and magnificent biography of George Frost Kennan (1904-2005). A Times obit described Kennan as "the American diplomat who did more than any other envoy of his generation to shape U.S. policy during the cold war." Drawing on unprecedented access to Kennan's personal papers and diaries as well as numerous interviews with the subject, his family members, and many influential diplomats and government officials, Gaddis reveals how Kennan's work continues to influence American foreign policy. This exhaustive analysis weaves details of the subject's life with his numerous high-level relationships with world leaders and reminds listeners of the dilemmas and aspirations our nation faced during this period. VERDICT Professional narrator Malcolm Hillgartner's lively, personable reading of this huge work is impressive as he maintains listener interest in this important addition to our understanding of American foreign policy during the Cold War. Highly recommended for all university libraries and government wonks. ["Highly recommended for Cold War scholars and for all library collections, alongside Nicholas Thompson's more personal The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War," read the review of the Penguin Group (USA) hc, LJ 9/15/11.-Ed.]-Dale Farris, Groves, TX (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781594203121 No one is better suited than Gaddis to write this authorized biography of George F. Kennan: the noted Yale cold war historian had total access to Kennan's papers as well as to his family members and associates-Kennan so trusted his biographer that he remarked, "write [the book], if you will, on the confident assumption that no account need be taken of my own reaction... either in this world or the next." Through his privileged relationship with Kennan, Gaddis reveals the man behind the public persona as an agonized and fragile individual who often felt alienated from the U.S. and his fellow citizens, despite his tireless service to his country. In addition to the intimacies of the work, Gaddis offers critical analyses of Kennan's key roles as diplomat, policy maker, and scholar of Russian history. Unsurpassed in his strategic vision during the cold war, Kennan is credited with being responsible for much of America's eventual victory, and therein lies the impetus behind this remarkable biography. Adroitly managed (if occasionally barnacled with extraneous facts), Gaddis's work is a major contribution to Kennan's legacy and the history of American foreign policy. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781594203121 George F. Kennan (1904-2005) exerted a profound influence on the conduct of American foreign policy, especially during the years of the Cold War. His famous 1947 Foreign Affairs article, "Sources of Soviet Conduct," published under the pseudonym X, laid the theoretical groundwork for "containing" the Soviet Union in those hectic and dangerous postwar years. As Kennan's authorized biographer, Gaddis (The Cold War: A New History)-himself one of our most distinguished diplomatic historians-had unfettered access to Kennan's diaries and personal papers. The result is a nearly 800-page book with by far the most sophisticated and nuanced examination of Kennan's remarkable contributions to our nation during his lengthy life. Gaddis's portrayal of Kennan's personal life is more workmanlike, with less nuance. VERDICT Gaddis has crafted an in-depth study of Kennan as a thinker and practicing diplomat. The focus on Kennan as foreign policy maker will not trouble most scholars of the diplomatic arts, but for the average reader the level of detail may prove more burdensome. Highly recommended for Cold War scholars and for all library collections, alongside Nicholas Thompson's more personal The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War. [See Prepub Alert, 5/2/11.]-Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2011 (Autobiography)
The Memory Palace: A Memoir
Book Jacket   Mira Bartok
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781439183311 This moving, compassionately candid memoir by artist and children's book author Bartok describes a life dominated by her gifted but schizophrenic mother. Bartok and her sister, Rachel, both of whom grew up in Cleveland, are abandoned by their novelist father and go to live with their mother at their maternal grandparents' home. By 1990, a confrontation in which her mother cuts her with broken glass leads Bartok (nee Myra Herr) to change her identity and flee the woman she calls "the cry of madness in the dark." Eventually, the estrangement leaves her mother homeless, wandering with her belongings in a knapsack, writing letters to her daughter's post office box. Reunited 17 years later, Bartok is suffering memory loss from an accident; her mother is 80 years old and dying from stomach cancer. Only through memories do they each find solace for their collective journey. Using a mnemonic technique from the Renaissance-a memory palace-Bartok imagines, chapter by chapter, a mansion whose rooms secure the treasured moments of her reconstructed past. With a key found stashed in her mother's knapsack, she unlocks a rental storage room filled with paintings, diaries, and photos. Bartok turns these strangely parallel narratives and overlapping wonders into a haunting, almost patchwork, narrative that lyrically chronicles a complex mother-daughter relationship. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781439183311 *Starred Review* Bartók's mother, Norma Herr, was a pianist who suffered from schizophrenia and was homeless for much of her life. When Bartók was a child, her unpredictable mother tried to jump out of a second-floor window. After enduring years of painful uncertainty, Bartók and her sister made the difficult decision to cut off all ties to their mother, with only a post office address as a tenuous connection. They changed their names, too, and had unpublished telephone numbers and addresses. Only after Bartók suffered a debilitating brain injury in an automobile accident and discovered her mother's stored artifacts were she and her mother able to re-connect. After the accident, Bartók covered her computer with Post-it notes of things I can't remember anymore, yet memories of her childhood fill these pages as images come flooding back and she tries valiantly to make sense of them within a contemporary context that bridges the past and the present. By the time mother and daughter meet again, some 17 years later in 2006, her mother is dying from cancer. Poignant, powerful, disturbing, and exceedingly well-written, this is an unforgettable memoir of loss and recovery, love and forgiveness.--Sawyers, June Copyright 2010 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781452630250 A memoir of the author's estrangement from and reunion with her schizophrenic mother; simultaneous release with the Free Pr. hc (100,000-copy first printing); Hillary Huber reads. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781452630250 See Major Audio Releases, LJ 12/10; the Free Pr: S. & S. hc received a starred review, BookSmack! 10/21/10; Hillary Huber reads. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781439183311 This moving, compassionately candid memoir by artist and children's book author Bartok describes a life dominated by her gifted but schizophrenic mother. Bartok and her sister, Rachel, both of whom grew up in Cleveland, are abandoned by their novelist father and go to live with their mother at their maternal grandparents' home. By 1990, a confrontation in which her mother cuts her with broken glass leads Bartok (nee Myra Herr) to change her identity and flee the woman she calls "the cry of madness in the dark." Eventually, the estrangement leaves her mother homeless, wandering with her belongings in a knapsack, writing letters to her daughter's post office box. Reunited 17 years later, Bartok is suffering memory loss from an accident; her mother is 80 years old and dying from stomach cancer. Only through memories do they each find solace for their collective journey. Using a mnemonic technique from the Renaissance-a memory palace-Bartok imagines, chapter by chapter, a mansion whose rooms secure the treasured moments of her reconstructed past. With a key found stashed in her mother's knapsack, she unlocks a rental storage room filled with paintings, diaries, and photos. Bartok turns these strangely parallel narratives and overlapping wonders into a haunting, almost patchwork, narrative that lyrically chronicles a complex mother-daughter relationship. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781439183311 *Starred Review* Bartók's mother, Norma Herr, was a pianist who suffered from schizophrenia and was homeless for much of her life. When Bartók was a child, her unpredictable mother tried to jump out of a second-floor window. After enduring years of painful uncertainty, Bartók and her sister made the difficult decision to cut off all ties to their mother, with only a post office address as a tenuous connection. They changed their names, too, and had unpublished telephone numbers and addresses. Only after Bartók suffered a debilitating brain injury in an automobile accident and discovered her mother's stored artifacts were she and her mother able to re-connect. After the accident, Bartók covered her computer with Post-it notes of things I can't remember anymore, yet memories of her childhood fill these pages as images come flooding back and she tries valiantly to make sense of them within a contemporary context that bridges the past and the present. By the time mother and daughter meet again, some 17 years later in 2006, her mother is dying from cancer. Poignant, powerful, disturbing, and exceedingly well-written, this is an unforgettable memoir of loss and recovery, love and forgiveness.--Sawyers, June Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A disturbing, mesmerizing personal narrative about growing up with a brilliant but schizophrenic mother.The book is comprised of two intertwining narratives. One concerns artist Bartk's mother, Norma Herr, and her struggle with mental illness. The other examines the author's midlife struggle with a traumatic brain injury. Norma was a gifted pianist whose musical career came to an unexpected end when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 19. In the lucid intervals between the debilitating episodes of her illness, Normawho married an equally gifted alcoholicfostered a love of art in her two daughters. In so doing, she gave both girls the tools to survive her illness and their father's abandonment. Throughout their childhood and adolescence, Bartk and her sister used art as a coping mechanism for dealing with their mother's illness. As Norma's condition worsened, escape from domestic turbulence became more difficult. In an act of radical self-preservation, the sisters changed their names and severed nearly all ties with Norma; letters sent via PO Box became the only way they communicated with her. As a young adult, Bartk forged a life as a peripatetic artist haunted by the fear that her mother would find her. At age 40, she was involved in a car accident that left her with a speech and memory-impairing brain injury. From that moment on, her greatest challenge became recollection, which manifested textually as a slightly exaggerated concern with descriptive detail. She and her sister then discovered that their now-homeless mother was dying of cancer, and both decided to see her, 17 years after their decision to disappear from Norma's life. By chance, Bartk found a storage unit filled with her mother's letters, journals and personal effectsa veritable palace of memories. The artifacts she uncovered helped her to better understand her mother, and herself, and find the beginnings of a physical and emotional healing that had eluded her for years.Richly textured, compassionate and heartbreaking.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781452630250 A memoir of the author's estrangement from and reunion with her schizophrenic mother; simultaneous release with the Free Pr. hc (100,000-copy first printing); Hillary Huber reads. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781452630250 See Major Audio Releases, LJ 12/10; the Free Pr: S. & S. hc received a starred review, BookSmack! 10/21/10; Hillary Huber reads. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2011 (Poetry)
Space, in Chains
Book Jacket   Laura Kasischke
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781556593338 Frightening in its confrontations with death-that of a father and, eventually, of everything-Kasischke's new work is also ambitiously exhilarating: everything in life and literature, it seems, could come before her eye, could end up in a poem-"the terror of foxes./ And the children's hospital./ And the hangman's alarm clock," even "Lazarus, who surely never dared/ to lay his head/ on a pillow/ and close his eyes again." Known for her representations of mothers and teenagers in her poems and in her many novels, Kasischke now takes equal interest in illness and old age: rightly celebrated for her irregular, spiky, and intricately rhyming lines, Kasischke has now extended her interest (begun with her last book, Lilies Without) in the prose poem, using its fragments for recollection-"the ridiculous cheerfulness of sunflowers, the drifting immemorial ashes of the blueprints, the soup grown cold." For all its length and all its lists, the volume ends up tightly, almost wrenchingly focused on the omnipresence of suffering, the fact of mortality and the persistence of grief. Some readers might call it melodramatic; many more ought to call it symphonic, perceptive, profound. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781556593338 The narrators in poet/novelist Kasischke's eighth collection (after Lilies Without) examine a fractured past in a tone both haunting and erotic. Winner of the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award as well as several Pushcart Prizes, Kasischke writes open-formed language poems set in the place where paradox meets mystery. She pursues a stream-of-consciousness style, using rhyme, repetition, and subliminal connections to hook the reader. Often her pieces seem more like paintings than poems; like impressionist works of art, they allow light to shine from various portals, then bring it all together to create a misty composition whose meanings seem to change before the reader's eyes. ("My Son Makes a Gesture My Mother Used To Make" does this extremely well.) VERDICT In the best poems here, memories of childhood and adolescence mingle with religious and philosophical questions as Kasischke deals with subjects both homey and exotic, from sex to smoking cigarettes to questions about the existence of God. What Kasischke says often doesn't matter as much as the hypnotic way she says it. Most readers of contemporary poetry will want to take a look.-Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2011 (Criticism)
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
 Geoff Dyer
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781555975791 In this new collection of previously published writings, Dyer (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi) traverses a broad territory stretching from photographers such as Richard Avedon and William Gedney ("His gaze is neither penetrating nor alert but, on reflection, we would amend that verdict to accepting"); musicians Miles Davis and Def Leppard; writers like D.H. Lawrence, Ian McEwan, and Richard Ford; as well as personal ruminations on, say, reader's block. In a fond tribute to the power and beauty of Albert Camus's life and work, Dyer reflects on his own encounters with the writer's work in Algeria: "Coming here and sitting by this monument, rereading these great essays, testaments to all that is the best in us, is a way of delivering personally my letter of thanks." In a masterful essay on W.G. Sebald and Thomas Bernhard, Dyer writes: "The comic obsessiveness and neurosis common to many of Sebald's characters is like a sedated version of the relentless, raging frenzy into which Bernhard's narrators habitually drive themselves." Dyer's writing does what the best critical writing always does, encouraging us to view, read, or listen closely to art, literature, and music as well as to pay close attention to various cultural forms and their impact on our personal lives. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781555975791 Breath-of-fresh-air Dyer takes a traveler's approach to essay writing, going wherever fancy takes him and reporting on his experiences with an artful blend of keen observations and droll disclosures. He celebrates his freewheeling freelance writing life in a lively introduction to this far-roaming gathering of larky, whip-smart essays from 1984 through 2009. A striking selection of Dyer's exceptional photography criticism, including deep looks at Robert Capa and Ruth Orkin, is found under Visuals. Verbals collects literary essays about Don DeLillo, Richard Ford, and the literatures of boxing and war. In Musicals, Dyer considers jazz and Def Leppard, while among the Variables are a search for Camus in Algiers and a flight in a MiG-29 fighter. Charming and frank essays about being an only child, marriage, and self-defining, possibly self-defeating, habits reside in the Personals section. Dyer may seem blithe, but he is an erudite and penetrating thinker as well as a dazzling stylist. The light and the dark, the buoyant and the weighty, Dyer's incisive pairings of opposites make for a finely textured, many-faceted, and enjoyably provocative collection.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A grab-bag of critical essays, reportage and personal stories from the irrepressibly curious Dyer (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, 2009, etc).The title of this hefty tome, featuring pieces published in two United Kingdomonly collections, suggests ponderous philosophizing. But though Dyer takes his art seriously, his prose is as relaxed and self-effacing as it is informed. Indeed, the title essay is about nothing more serious than his quest for a decent doughnut and cappuccino in New York City, from which he extracts some surprising insights about our need for routines, standards and sense of home. Though the book is wide-ranging, his command is consistent, whether he's writing about Richard Avedon or model airplanes. Dyer consistently expresses an appreciation for the way the idiosyncratic human being emerges despite our best efforts to suppress it. That's evident in the way he admires John Cheever's confessional journals more than his acclaimed short stories, and in his urge to uncover F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragic personal history when writing about his novels. It also shows in the subjects he chooses to write about. Consistently suspicious of slickness in art, he's drawn to photographers like Enrique Metinides, who documented disasters and accidents in Mexico City, and musicians like John Coltrane, whose "My Favorite Things" grows more appealing to Dyer the more decoupled it becomes from its Rodgers and Hammerstein source. In a few pieces, particularly in his first-person reportage, Dyer works a bit too hard to find something clever to say about subjects he wouldn't have pursued were he not assigned to write about theme.g., a Def Leppard concert or a flight in a decommissioned MiG. Also, a handful of book reviews are brief piecework of only moderate interest. But the book is chock-full of Dyer at his most open, thoughtful and lyrical, as in his study of photographs of Rodin sculptures, his appreciation of Rebecca West's neglected travel writings and a candid piece about the first time he was fired, where, in exposing his 20-something childishness, he finds the roots of the adult he became.Whether in sketches or rigorous studies, each piece bears the mark of Dyer's unique intelligence and wit.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2010 (Fiction)
A Visit from the Goon Squad
 Jennifer Egan
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780307592835 *Starred Review* Egan is a writer of cunning subtlety, embedding within the risky endeavors of seductively complicated characters a curious bending of time and escalation of technology's covert impact. Following her diabolically clever The Keep (2006), Egan tracks the members of a San Francisco punk band and their hangers-on over the decades as they wander out into the wider, bewildering world. Kleptomaniac Sasha survives the underworld of Naples, Italy. Her boss, New York music producer Bennie Salazar, is miserable in the suburbs, where his tattooed wife, Stephanie, sneaks off to play tennis with Republicans. Obese former rock-star Bosco wants Stephanie to help him with a Suicide Tour, while her all-powerful publicist boss eventually falls so low she takes a job rehabilitating the public image of a genocidal dictator. These are just a few of the faltering searchers in Egan's hilarious, melancholy, enrapturing, unnerving, and piercingly beautiful mosaic of a novel. As episodes surge forward and back in time, from the spitting aggression of a late-1970s punk-rock club to the obedient, socially networked herd gathered at the Footprint, Manhattan's 9/11 site 20 years after the attack, Egan evinces an acute sensitivity to the black holes of shame and despair and to the remote-control power of the gadgets that are reordering our world.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781602839151 In reading this novel of interconnected lives at the fringes of the music industry, Roxana Ortega freights her breathy voice with the moral confusion and sadness of Egan's disaffected, dismayed characters. A surprisingly supple instrument, Ortega's voice can drop to a gruff near-growl, and she craftily uses her range to convey the feeling of the bottom dropping out of the characters' lives. A Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 22). (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780792771746 National Book Award nominee Egan's (jenniferegan.com) fourth novel, following The Keep (2006), also available from AudioGO, received wide critical acclaim for its deft treatment of time, technology, and humanity. Here, the brilliantly structured postmodernist work receives the audio treatment. The novel skips around in time, covering several decades in the lives of a record executive/ex-rocker; his assistant, a compulsive thief; and others. The very human characters grow on one despite-or, perhaps, owing to-Egan's frequent skewering of them. Actress Roxana Ortega's narration is soothing; her steady voice gives listeners something to hold on to when chapters occasionally confuse. Ortega appears to be new to the audiobook narrating business-with more inflection she has the potential to become a popular reader. Recommended. ["Readers will enjoy seeing the disparate elements of this novel come full circle," read the review of the Knopf hc, LJ 4/15/10.-Ed.]-B. Allison Gray, Santa Barbara P.L., Goleta Branch, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780307592835 Readers will be pleased to discover that the star-crossed marriage of lucid prose and expertly deployed postmodern switcheroos that helped shoot Egan to the top of the genre-bending new school is alive in well in this graceful yet wild novel. We begin in contemporaryish New York with kleptomaniac Sasha and her boss, rising music producer Bennie Salazar, before flashing back, with Bennie, to the glory days of Bay Area punk rock, and eventually forward, with Sasha, to a settled life. By then, Egan has accrued tertiary characters, like Scotty Hausmann, Bennie's one-time bandmate who all but dropped out of society, and Alex, who goes on a date with Sasha and later witnesses the future of the music industry. Egan's overarching concerns are about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn. Or as one character asks, "How did I go from being a rock star to being a fat fuck no one cares about?" Egan answers the question elegantly, though not straight on, as this powerful novel chronicles how and why we change, even as the song stays the same. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307592835 Time changes both everything and nothing in this novel about former punk rocker-turned-music executive Bennie Salazar and Sasha, his indispensable secretary with an unhappy past. A host of characters from San Francisco's 1970s music scene collide in ways that are hard to summarize, with peripheral characters in one chapter more fully developed in others. These well-defined characters and the engaging narrative are hallmarks of Egan's earlier fiction, which include Look at Me, a National Book Award finalist, and the best-selling The Keep. Here, we learn that power is transient, authenticity is not all it's cracked up to be, and friendships are often fragile, but the connections among people matter terribly. Often, we survive the self-destructive tendencies of youth only to realize that we've just exchanged one set of problems for another. Verdict In the end, this novel does offer hope, but it is the grubby kind that keeps you going once you've been kicked to the curb. Readers will enjoy seeing the disparate elements of this novel come full circle. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/10.]-Gwen Vredevoogd, Marymount Univ., Arlington, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2010 (General Nonfiction)
The Warmth of Other Suns
Book Jacket   Isabel Wilkerson
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679444329 Readers of this book should be warned. This is not traditional history; it is, however, good history. Using the lives of three African Americans whose stories personified the migration of southern rural blacks to northern cities, Wilkerson (journalism, Boston Univ.) takes a known but seldom understood demographic transformation of the US and makes it a compelling narrative. Through the text, the author offers insight into the great migration between 1915 and 1970, US race relations, the dynamics of African American life both southern and northern, the civil rights movement, and the pervasive influence of kinship. The story puts the great migration clearly in the context of immigration, albeit with a significant twist, in that the migrants were Americans to begin with. Based on numerous interviews with not only the individuals whose story the author is telling, but also with those who added depth to those stories, the book is a good demonstration of the use of oral history. To historians accustomed to a crisper chronology, the book will be frustrating, but that should not negate the importance of this contribution. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduate and graduate readers as well as the general public. T. F. Armstrong Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, UAE
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679444329 Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679444329 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson's epic and intimate scholarly portrait of the Great Migration of southern African Americans to the North is the first comprehensive study of that movement. Previous works have focused on regional migrations and James N. Gregory's The Southern Diaspora deals with the comprehensive migration of both whites and African Americans to the North. Covering the time period from 1915 through 1970, Wilkerson (journalism, Boston Univ.) explains the Great Migration through oral histories, research from newspaper articles, and other scholarly works. She shatters previous scholarship that defined these migrants as poor, illiterate, jobless, and dependent on welfare through thorough research of demographic and census records. Wilkerson, whose mother was a part of the Great Migration, discusses the movement's effects on culture and politics through the oral histories she gathered from her three protagonists; they speak and simply tell their stories. Verdict A portrait that is rooted in scholarly research and gives this pivotal part of American history a personality, this will be a great addition for academics, historians, and researchers in Africana, as well as American cultural studies.-Suzan Alteri, Wayne State Univ., Detroit (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. In her ambitious debut, Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Wilkerson (Journalism, Narrative Nonfiction/Boston Univ.) examines the Great Migration of African-Americans from World War I to the 1970s.The author interviewed more than 1,200 people for this sweeping history, which focuses mainly on the personal stories of three Southern African-Americans who uprooted their lives to move to other parts of America: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife who moved from rural Mississippi in the midst of the Great Depression, eventually landing in Chicago; George Swanson Starling, who went from picking fruit in north Florida to becoming a train attendant in 1940s New York; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, an accomplished surgeon who moved from northern Louisiana to Los Angeles in the 1950s. Wilkerson uses their histories to tell the larger story of how institutionalized racism helped spur the Great Migration of millions of Southern African-Americans to northern, midwestern and western states. Gladney and her family decided to leave Mississippi after a relative, suspected of stealing turkeys, was nearly beaten to death by whites. Starling, after leading an attempted sit-down strike of some African-American fruit-pickers, fled Florida under threat of death. Foster moved to California because no Southern hospitals would hire an African-American surgeon; whites in the South wouldn't even call him "Dr. Foster," but "spat out 'Doc' as if they were addressing the cook." Though each of Wilkerson's subjects faced discrimination in the North as well, they felt a greater sense of freedom to pursue their own visions of the American dream. The author deftly intersperses their stories with short vignettes about other individuals and consistently provides the bigger picture without interrupting the flow of the narrative. While other fine books, such as Ira Berlin's The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations(2010), address many of the same themes, Wilkerson's focus on the personal aspect lends her book a markedly different, more accessible tone. Her powerful storytelling style, as well, gives this decades-spanning history a welcome novelistic flavor.An impressive take on the Great Migration, and a truly auspicious debut.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780679444329 *Starred Review* From the early twentieth century through its midpoint, some six million black southerners relocated themselves, their labor, and their lives, to the North, changing the course of civil, social, and economic life in the U.S. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson offers a broad and penetrating look at the Great Migration, a movement without leaders or precedent. Drawing on interviews and archival research, Wilkerson focuses on three individuals with varying reasons for leaving the South the relentless poverty of sharecropping with few other opportunities, escalating racial violence, and greater social and economic prospects in the North. She traces their particular life stories, the sometimes furtive leave-takings; the uncertainties they faced in Chicago, New York, and L.A.; and the excitement and longing for freer, more prosperous lives. She contrasts their hopes and aspirations with the realities of life in northern cities when the jobs eventually evaporated from the inner cities and new challenges arose. Wilkerson intersperses historical detail of the broader movement and the sparks that set off the civil rights era; challenging racial restrictions in the North and South; and the changing dynamics of race, class, geography, politics, and economics. A sweeping and stunning look at a watershed event in U.S. history.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2010 (Biography)
How to Live OR a life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty
Book Jacket   Sarah Bakewell
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781590514252 *Starred Review* In a wide-ranging intellectual career, Michel de Montaigne found no knowledge so hard to acquire as the knowledge of how to live this life well. By casting her biography of the writer as 20 chapters, each focused on a different answer to the question How to live? Bakewell limns Montaigne's ceaseless pursuit of this most elusive knowledge. Embedded in the 20 life-knowledge responses, readers will find essential facts when and where Montaigne was born, how and whom he married, how he became mayor of Bordeaux, how he managed a public life in a time of lethal religious and political passions. But Bakewell keeps the focus on the inner evolution of the acute mind informing Montaigne's charmingly digressive and tolerantly skeptical essays. Flexible and curious, this was a mind at home contemplating the morality of cannibals, the meaning of his own near-death experience, and the puzzlingly human behavior of animals. And though Montaigne has identified his own personality as his overarching topic, Bakewell marvels at the way Montaigne's prose has enchanted diverse readers Hazlitt and Sterne, Woolf and Gide with their own reflections. Because Montaigne's capacious mirror still captivates many, this insightful life study will win high praise from both scholars and general readers.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2010 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781590514252 At the beginning of this delightful book about Michel de Montaigne (1533-92), British author Bakewell (The English Dane) notes that Montaigne's essays "rarely offer to explain or teach anything." There's no moralizing. He wrote about how to live, not how one should live, unlike, for example, Francis Bacon, whose essays are from the same period. Using the question "How to live" as her framework, Bakewell gives us not only a biography of Montaigne but an exploration of the themes of his essays, a history of reaction to them both negative (e.g., Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal, T.S. Eliot) and positive (e.g., Denis Diderot, Stefan Zweig, Virginia Woolf), and their implications and value for us today. VERDICT This is a rich book, both because of its subject and because Bakewell has a wondrous way with words. It's an exceptionally readable explication of serious ideas, drawn from a man whom we could all benefit from knowing better. Readers who have appreciated Alain de Botton's popular excursions into philosophy, e.g., How Proust Can Change Your Life, will love this book as well.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Former Wellcome Library curator Bakewell (Creative Writing/City Univ. London; The English Dane: A Life of Jorgen Jorgenson, 2005, etc.) sketches the life of essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (15331592) and traces his evolving reputation.The author notes that Montaigne is particularly appropriate in our time, "[a century] full of people who are full of themselves." He was a revolutionary writer, the founding father of the personal essay and the man who realized that his own life could serve as a mirror for others. Bakewell identifies 20 Montaignian answers to her title's question, though her treatment of each answer varies both in length and focus. Some answers occasion major biographical attention; others are dense summaries of the philosophical positions of the day. Some comprise Bakewell's appealing summaries and analyses of the essays; others elicit her thoughts on Montaigne's stature in the literary world. By the end of the book, readers will have a good sense of the sweep of the subject's life and times and writing. Among the highlights: Montaigne's notion that reading ought to be pleasurable, even exciting (he loved Ovid, Virgil, Plutarch); Bakewell's account of the profound early friendship of Montaigne and fellow French philosopher tienne de La Botie, whose early death devastated Montaigne; Montaigne's careful choreography with the church and its leaders, kings and other dignitaries; his late-life relationship with Marie de Gournay, who became his posthumous editor and whose work remains both revered and disdained. Bakewell describes Montaigne's travels, his physical ailments (kidney stones killed his father and plagued Montaigne as well) and his fascinations with the ordinaryfrom eating habits to sexual practices to observations that cats and people occupy the same space and observe one another with interest.A bright, genial and generous introduction to the master's methods.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9781590514252 Winner of a 2010 National Book Critics Circle award, this book is a model of its genre: an elegantly written, thoroughly absorbing biography that captures its subject's idiosyncrasies and, in Montaigne's case, genius. Having discovered Montaigne's Essays while traveling abroad (it was the only English-language book she could find), Bakewell (City Univ., UK) spent five years in "voluntary servitude" to the French Renaissance writer and sage. Like the Essays, this illuminating portrait of the most modern of philosophers overflows with life. Divided into 20 beautifully illustrated chapters, it covers the joys and vicissitudes of Montaigne's public and private life and also the perilous, chaotic period in which he lived. Bakewell excels at re-creating what Montaigne might have felt over the course of his lifetime and at limning his striking shifts in thinking. She underscores the importance of his personal reflections for a 21st-century reader: he is an exemplar of independence of thought, suspension of judgment, and sense of moderation. Like Saul Frampton's When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know She Is Not Playing with Me? (CH, Aug'11, 48-6779), this powerful book celebrates the notion of existence, providing lessons on the art of living in harmony with one's ordinariness and imperfection. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. C. B. Kerr Vassar College
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781590514252 Bakewell's biography of Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), the French nobleman and father of the exploratory, free-floating essay, departs from chronology to present his life through questions and answers ("How to Live? Don't Worry About Death" and "Be Convivial: Live with Others") that consider "the man and writer" as well as the "long party"-the "accumulation of shared and private conversation over four hundred years." The author, a British book curator and cataloguer, begins with Montaigne's near-death after a fall from a horse, then traces back to his Latin education, his years in public service, his friendship with Etienne de La Boetie, his exploration of Hellenic philosophies, and his topics that would resonate with later Renaissance scholars and general readers alike. Blakewell (The Smart) enlivens Montaigne's hometown, 16th-century Bordeaux, with a wit that conveys genuine enchantment with her subject. Montaigne preferred biographers who tried to "reconstruct a person's inner world from the evidence." Blakewell honors that perspective by closely examining his writings as well as the context in which they were created, revealing one of literature's enduring figures as an idiosyncratic, humane, and surprisingly modern force. Illus. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2010 (Autobiography)
Half a Life
 Darin Strauss
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Redress and atonement mar a boy's adolescence after the accidental death of a classmate.In 1988, Strauss (Writing/New York Univ.; More Than It Hurts You, 2008, etc.), one month shy of his high-school graduation, struck Celine Zilke while out on a joyride with friends in his hometown of Glen Head, Long Island. Zilke, a popular 16-year-old girl who was the "lively athletic type," remained unconscious and succumbed to her injuries a day after the accident. "No charges were filed," and Strauss was deemed innocent by "unprovisional absolution." The author suffered through Celine's funeral and endured endless days of painful introspection and the shame of his classmates' collective shunning. Some of these early events may strike some readers as implausiblehis astonishingly indifferent parents' advice to go to the movies after the accident, or that the author "slept soundly" that same night. The complexity of his burgeoning emotions would be nothing compared to the million-dollar lawsuit Celine's once-forgiving parents shockingly filed while Strauss was in his first year at Tufts University. Before the trial, the author suspected that Celine had committed suicide since she'd foretold her death, to the exact day, in a journal. The lawsuit proceedings stalled for five years ("like when a dark sky decides not to rain") and eventually the case dissolved, but the lasting effects of the event haunted an obsessive Strauss for decades, with lasting emotional, sociological and physical implications. At age 30, his new wife Susannah offered the strength and levelheadedness needed for the author to cope with his overwhelming survivor's guilt. Strauss tells his "accident memoir" in economical, well-honed prose, oscillating between the remorseful and the glib, but benign platitudes about shock ("If everything couldn't continue as planned, no real plans could be made"), death, Manhattan and relationships often feel like filler.Genuinely remorseful and heartfelt, yet strangely unremarkable.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781934781708 Although the accident was what insurers call a no fault fatality, the moment Strauss' car struck and killed his classmate Celine, a girl he hardly knew, his life was understandably changed forever. Prompted to tell his story (he first told portions on This American Life) by new fatherhood and the realization that the earth-crumbling event had occurred half his lifetime ago, Strauss takes advantage of the perhaps unfortunate ability the accident gave him to introspect and proceeds to do so for 200 pages of conversational free-form essay. Remaining well on this side of overly sentimental, Strauss deconstructs the past 18 years and views them from every vantage point; he sees his embarrassingly self-centered thoughts immediately afterward and the premature graying of his hair and stress-related stomach problems of his late twenties. Name an experience. It's a good bet I've thought of Celine while experiencing it. Strauss already has a few well-received novels under his belt (Chang and Eng, 2000; The Real McCoy, 2002), and his turn to nonfiction of a highly personal nature, a slow-release mediation on grief, is no less symphonic.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2010 (Poetry)
One with Others
 CD Wright
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781556593246 Wright revisits her native Arkansas, during the 1960s, to pay homage to V, a friend and mentor. We learn in a percussively expressive mix of memories, testimonials, news, history, and ruminations that V was unhappily married, too often pregnant, forthright, flintily smart, and avidly literary. ( She had a brain like the Reading Room in the old British Museum. ) Much admired within her circle, bookish, card-playing, and bourbon-drinking V was an unlikely yet magnificent hero. MacArthur fellow Wright is known for her social consciousness and improvisational style, and she takes both qualities up a notch in this dramatically investigative and looping portrait of V, both in her prime--when she went against her overtly racist and staunchly segregationist neighbors to join a group of African Americans on a Walk against Fear and in her long subsequent exile and martyrdom. Such hate, such sorrow, such valor. Wright's sharply fractured, polyphonic, and suspenseful book-length poem is both a searing dissection of hate crimes and their malignant legacy and a lyric, droll, and fiery elegy to a woman of radiant resistance.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781556593246 In 1969, a Tennessean known as "Sweet Willie Wine led a small group of African-American men on a "walk against fear through smalltown Arkansas. This event grounds Wright's most recent blending of poetry and investigative journalism. A tribute to Wright's mentor "V-an autodidact, activist, and bourbon-swilling mother of eight, whose support for the march ("I would have followed Sweet Willie Wine into hell) made her "a disaffiliated member of her race-the book probes the limits and intersections of the personal and the political. Wright intersperses descriptions of the Arkansas landscape; her own journey researching; transcriptions from V, her family, and others who experienced the events of that violent summer; lists of prices ("the only sure thing in those days); the weather ("temperatures in the 90s even after a shower), newspaper headlines; and personal memories. Through juxtaposition and repetition, she weaves a compelling, disturbing, and often beautiful tapestry that at once questions the ability of language to get at the complicated truth of history ("because the warp is everywhere), and underscores the ethical imperative to try. As Wright learns from V, "To act, just to act. That was the glorious thing. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2010 (Criticism)
Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics
Book Jacket   Clare Cavanagh
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780300152968 Extraordinarily rich and sophisticated in its comparative grasp of poetry, this volume may establish a new standard in literary criticism. Cavanagh (Slavic languages and literature, Northwestern Univ.) implicitly affirms both the general view that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the universe and also Roman Jakobson's dictum that "poetry is language in its aesthetic function." With the objective of providing an "overview of twentieth-century Eastern-European poetry in its Russian and Polish incarnations," Cavanagh offers a "comparative study of modern poetry on both the Eastern and Western side of the great political divide that came to be known mid-century as the 'Iron Curtain.'" Her subjects include a broad range of eminent literary figures: Alekandr Blok, William Butler Yeats, Walt Whitman, Vladimir Mayakovsky, the Russian Acmeists (Anna Akhmatova, Nikolai Gumilev, Osip Mandelstam), Wisawa Szymborska, Adam Zagajewski, and Czesaw Miosz, among many others. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. V. D. Barooshian emeritus, Wells College
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2009 (Fiction)
Wolf Hall
Book Jacket   Hilary Mantel
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780805080681 Mantel fictionalizes the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, crafty architect of Henry VIII's annulment from Catherine of Aragon, the execution of Sir Thomas Moore, Henry's schism with the Church of Rome, and the Reformation. Delving deeply into the psychology of the man behind the throne, she paints a portrait of a brilliant schemer, bullied by his brutish blacksmith father determined to rise above his circumstances by dint of his own wits and the strength of his own resolve. Competent, complex, and the consummate behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealer, Mantel's Cromwell is not an unsympathetic character; in fact, readers will be surprised that he is presented in a far more favorable light than the sainted Thomas Moore. This wholly original and authentically detailed take on an often reviled real-life figure will appeal to fans of meaty historical dramas and fictional biographies.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2009 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780805080681 As Henry VIII's go-to man for his dirty work, Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) isn't a likely candidate for a sympathetic portrait. He dirtied his hands too often. In the end, Henry dropped him just as he had Cromwell's mentor, Cardinal Wolsey, who counseled the king before him. But as Mantel (Beyond Black) reminds us, Cromwell was a man of many parts, admirable in many respects though disturbing in others. Above all, he got things done and was deeply loyal to his masters, first Wolsey and then the king. Nor was Henry always bloated and egomaniacal: well into his forties, when in good spirits, the king shone brighter than all those around him. Verdict Longlisted for the Booker Prize, this is in all respects a superior work of fiction, peopled with appealing characters living through a period of tense high drama: Henry's abandonment of wife and church to marry Anne Boleyn. It should appeal to many readers, not just history buffs. And Mantel achieves this feat without violating the historical record! There will be few novels this year as good as this one. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/09; history buffs may also enjoy reading Robert Hutchinson's biography, Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII's Most Notorious Minister, reviewed on p. 66.-Ed.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Exhaustive examination of the circumstances surrounding Henry VIII's schism-inducing marriage to Anne Boleyn. Versatile British novelist Mantel (Giving Up the Ghost, 2006, etc.) forays into the saturated field of Tudor historicals to cover eight years (152735) of Henry's long, tumultuous reign. They're chronicled from the point of view of consummate courtier Thomas Cromwell, whose commentary on the doings of his irascible and inwardly tormented king is impressionistic, idiosyncratic and self-interested. The son of a cruel blacksmith, Cromwell fled his father's beatings to become a soldier of fortune in France and Italy, later a cloth trader and banker. He begins his political career as secretary to Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England. Having failed to secure the Pope's permission for Henry to divorce Queen Katherine, Wolsey falls out of favor with the monarch and is supplanted by Sir Thomas More, portrayed here as a domestic tyrant and enthusiastic torturer of Protestants. Unemployed, Cromwell is soon advising Henry himself and acting as confidante to Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary, former mistress of both Henry and King Francis I of France. When plague takes his wife and children, Cromwell creates a new family by taking in his late siblings' children and mentoring impoverished young men who remind him of his low-born, youthful self. The religious issues of the day swirl around the events at court, including the rise of Luther and the burgeoning movement to translate the Bible into vernacular languages. Anne is cast in an unsympathetic light as a petulant, calculating temptress who withholds her favors until Henry is willing to make her queen. Although Mantel's language is original, evocative and at times wittily anachronistic, this minute exegesis of a relatively brief, albeit momentous, period in English history occasionally grows tedious. The characters, including Cromwell, remain unknowable, their emotions closely guarded; this works well for court intrigues, less so for fiction. Masterfully written and researched but likely to appeal mainly to devotees of all things Tudor. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781427210166 Starred Review. The audiobook version of this deft portrait of antihero Thomas Cromwell is easier to parse than the printed book, thanks to the capable narration of Simon Slater. The sequel, Bring Up the Bodies (narrated by Simon Vance), also won an Audie in the literary fiction category in 2013. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780805080681 Henry VIII's challenge to the church's power with his desire to divorce his queen and marry Anne Boleyn set off a tidal wave of religious, political and societal turmoil that reverberated throughout 16th-century Europe. Mantel boldly attempts to capture the sweeping internecine machinations of the times from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, the lowborn man who became one of Henry's closest advisers. Cromwell's actual beginnings are historically ambiguous, and Mantel admirably fills in the blanks, portraying Cromwell as an oft-beaten son who fled his father's home, fought for the French, studied law and was fluent in French, Latin and Italian. Mixing fiction with fact, Mantel captures the atmosphere of the times and brings to life the important players: Henry VIII; his wife, Katherine of Aragon; the bewitching Boleyn sisters; and the difficult Thomas More, who opposes the king. Unfortunately, Mantel also includes a distracting abundance of dizzying detail and Henry's all too voluminous political defeats and triumphs, which overshadows the more winning story of Cromwell and his influence on the events that led to the creation of the Church of England. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781427210166 Set aside a full day to savor Simon Slater's delightful reading of the Booker Prize-winning tale of Henry VIII's court, seen through the eyes of his adviser Thomas Cromwell. Mantel's revisionist take turns Cromwell-so frequently vilified as in A Man for All Seasons-into a modern sort of hero, shrewd and adaptable. Slater's narration is nuanced and precise; he breathes feeling and subtle shades of emotion into every exchange of dialogue. His is a heroic undertaking, and he does admirable justice to Mantel's lucid prose and juicy plot. A Holt hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 17). (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2009 (General Nonfiction)
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
 Richard Holmes
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780375422225 As a researcher of British science during the Romantic period of English literature, Holmes suitably emphasizes the individual facing nature, so characteristic of the Romantic sensibility. Alighting on astronomer William Herschel (1738-1822) and chemist Humphrey Davy (1778-1829), both of whom were artistic (music and poetry, respectively), Holmes connects them via botanist Joseph Banks. In a precursor to a modern pattern, Banks moved from his youthful success as a naturalist on James Cook's voyages into administration president of the Royal Society and promoted both Herschel and Davy. They came to Banks' notice seemingly from nowhere, and their determination to discover is well told in Holmes' biographical narratives. Elevated to societal notice, Herschel and especially Davy excited popular interest in ultimate questions their scientific findings seemed to open up, questions whose ripples into the literature of Byron and Mary and Percy Shelley Holmes elaborates. Readers interested in any of these figures, or in the lives of astronomer Caroline Herschel and explorer Mungo Park, have in Holmes a fine guide to the arts and sciences, Romantic style.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2009 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375422225 While Romanticism in Great Britain is known mostly as an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement, rapid and revolutionary scientific discoveries were an underlying catalyst to the era's vaunted sense of "wonder." It was also a period when remarkable individuals working alone could make major contributions to knowledge. Historian and biographer Holmes (Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage) conveys the history of Romantic-era science through vivid biographies of a few such individuals. Notable among them are Joseph Banks, a botanist whose experiences in Tahiti were life-changing; William Herschel, the eccentric astronomer who (aided invaluably by his devoted sister, Caroline) discovered the planet Uranus; and Humphrey Davy, an intrepid chemist who conducted gas inhalation experiments on himself. These and others are depicted against the cultural tapestry of an age of idealism, which was both fueled and threatened by the advances of science. The subject makes this book most relevant for readers of general science and history of science, but its engaging narratives of the period could appeal to a broader readership. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/09.]-Gregg Sapp, Evergreen State Coll. Lib., Olympia, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved The Romantic imagination was inspired, not alienated, by scientific advances, argues this captivating history. Holmes, author of a much-admired biography of Coleridge, focuses on prominent British scientists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including the astronomer William Herschel and his accomplished assistant and sister, Caroline; Humphrey Davy, a leading chemist and amateur poet; and Joseph Banks, whose journal of a youthful voyage to Tahiti was a study in sexual libertinism. Holmes's biographical approach makes his obsessive protagonists (Davy's self-experimenting with laughing gas is an epic in itself) the prototypes of the Romantic genius absorbed in a Promethean quest for knowledge. Their discoveries, he argues, helped establish a new paradigm of "Romantic science" that saw the universe as vast, dynamic and full of marvels and celebrated mankind's power to not just describe but transform Nature. Holmes's treatment is sketchy on the actual science and heavy on the cultural impact, with wide-ranging discussions of the 1780s ballooning craze, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and scientific metaphors in Romantic poetry. It's an engrossing portrait of scientists as passionate adventurers, boldly laying claim to the intellectual leadership of society. Illus. (July 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780375422225 Authored by well-known writer/biographer Holmes, this interesting description of the "second scientific revolution" or "Romantic science" is an excellent history of both the onset of the Romantic period and the account of scientific discoveries. The first scientific revolution, late in the 17th century, can be considered to have been "private," practiced and known primarily by insiders. As the era's writers and artists (Romantics) became aware of these scientific discoveries, this second revolution became public, with writings often authored by women and shared with children. The primary actors in this scientific drama are astronomers/siblings William and Caroline Herschel and polymath Humphrey Davy. The period described is delineated by the voyages of Joseph Banks, who sailed around the world with Captain Cook in the 1760s, and of Charles Darwin on the Beagle in the 1830s. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley sowed the seeds of future unrest between science and literature, the arts, and religion, relationships that were initially quite favorable to all. A "Cast List" at the end of the book briefly describes additional influential individuals during this period. Of interest to readers in a number of disciplines as well as general readers for pleasure. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. R. E. Buntrock formerly, University of Maine
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2009 (Biography)
Cheever: A life
 Blake Bailey
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A comprehensive treatment of the tormented but artful life of one of fiction's modern masters. Bailey (A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates, 2004, etc.) plunges deeply into the murky, sometimes fetid stew of John Cheever's life (191282). Beginning with his 1982 appearance at Carnegie Hall to receive the National Medal for Literature (more details appear some 650 pages later), the author proceeds in chronological fashion to tell the story of a deeply needy, difficult man. Born into money that soon vanished, Cheever never graduated from high school. Yet he earned some of the country's most prestigious literary awards, in recognition of his brilliant short stories (more than 100 published in the New Yorker alone) and critically esteemed novels (especially Falconer, 1977). Despite all this acclaim, as Bailey shows in agonizing detail, Cheever's demons were destructive, even deadly. He smoked heavily and drank steadily, though he finally gave up both a few years before cancer killed him. He had unhappy, even bitter, relations with his wife and three children, and maintained uneasy, tense literary friendships with, among others, Bellow and Updike. Most seriously, argues Bailey, he could never accept his bisexuality. Always attracted to menan attraction he indulged more frequently, albeit always covertly, as he agedhe nonetheless pursued a variety of women, from Hollywood's Hope Lange to students in his classes. (He taught creative writing at several places, including the Iowa Writers' Workshop.) Cheever could be rude, snide, petty, selfish, jealous, vindictive, depressed, savage, pretentious and embarrassing. He made sexual advances to startled friends and dropped his pants at alarming moments. He was often, pathetically, a dipsomaniacal mess. But, oh, those sentences and stories! Bailey pauses continually to examine a tale or a novel, never in an obtrusive or esoteric way, and notes how his works today sell littlethough two Library of America volumes are forthcoming (both edited by Bailey). Superb work that shows Cheever wrestling with dark angels, but wresting from those encounters some celestial prose. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781400043941 Bailey, author of a biography of Richard Yates (A Tragic Honesty) and editor of the Library of America's John Cheever: Complete Novels and John Cheever: Collected Stories and Other Writings, presents a massively detailed biography of the man. Bailey had access to letters, journals, and other writings by the author as well as cooperation from Cheever's wife, children, and close friends and colleagues, which makes this biography more complete than Scott Donaldson's 1988 John Cheever. Bailey's portrait of Cheever as author, family man, lover, and public figure contains everything readers would want to know about this important figure in American literature. The biographer is sympathetic toward his subject but presents all sides of Cheever's complex character, including his alcoholism, bisexuality, fears, struggles, and often turbulent relationships with fellow writers and family. Bailey also provides close readings of all of Cheever's novels and many of his short stories. Highly recommended for all public and academic library collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/08.]-Morris Hounion, NYC Coll. of Technology Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781400043941 Rebellious Yankee son of a father who fell victim to the Depression and a doo-gooder-turned-businesswoman mother, father to three competitive children he rode mercilessly but adored, chronicler par excellence of the 1950s American suburban scene while deploring all forms of conformity: John Cheever (1912-1982) was a mass of contradictions. In this overlong but always entertaining biography, composed with a novelist's eye, Bailey, biographer of Richard Yates and editor of two volumes of Cheever's work for Library of America (also due in March), was given access to unpublished portions of Cheever's famous journals and to family members and friends. Bailey's book is fine in descriptions of Cheever's reactions to other writers, such as his adored Bellow and detested Salinger. Bailey is also sensitive in describing the prickly dynamic of Cheever's domestic life, lived through a haze of alcoholism and under the shadow of extramarital heterosexual and homosexual relationships. This "Ovid in Ossining," who published 121 stories in the New Yorker as well as several bestselling novels, has probably yet to find a definitive position in American letters among academicians. This thoroughly researched and heartfelt biography may help redress that situation. 24 pages of photos. (Mar. 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781400043941 *Starred Review* John Cheever is not widely read anymore. In his day during the 1950s and 1960s, his short stories appeared regularly in the New Yorker, and when his first novel, the long-labored-over Wapshot Chronicle, was published in 1957, he achieved recognition as one of the foremost American fiction writers. Now his stories, upon which his reputation had been based and several of which are universally regarded as masterpieces of the form, are no longer read even in college-level literature or creative-writing courses. Perhaps a Cheever renaissance of sorts will result from this magnificently understanding and understandable biography based on copious research and destined to be the definitive life treatment for many years to come. To hold up his life as a perfect example of that of the tortured artist would not be a mistake. Seen here, Cheever had troubled relationships with his family, which haunted him forever; wrestled with his abhorred homosexual tendencies all his adult life; and developed into a desperate alcoholic. His various therapists found him to be a narcissistic personality riddled with self-doubt, and from the detailed picture composed here, the reader can only concur. Riveting from page 1, this is the literary biography of the season and will be talked about for years to come; it will also, it is hoped, guide readers once again to his distinctive fiction, especially his short stories.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2008 Booklist
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9781400043941 Displaying empathy for Cheever (1912-82) as both man and artist, this is a biographical exploration of great depth. Also author of A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates (2003), Bailey begins this exploration of Cheever's life in the 1600s, with the Cheever family roots. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of one of contemporary literature's most compelling artists. Bailey has an uncanny ability to root out the truth while still presenting the popular legend. Navigating the seeming inconsistencies of a life lived in the limelight, he makes no attempt to conceal or gloss over Cheever's ills and discusses Cheever's alcoholism and his struggle with his own sexuality with grace and insight. Well researched and exquisitely written--Bailey writes nonfiction with the flair of a novelist--this biography will serve students interested in Cheever and in American letters more broadly. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. L. J. Kahler Mohawk Valley Community College
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2009 (Autobiography)
Somewhere Towards the End
Book Jacket   Diana Athill
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780393067705 When it comes to facing old age, writes Athill, "there are no lessons to be learnt, no discoveries to be made, no solutions to offer." As the acclaimed British memoirist (who wrote about her experiences as a book editor in Stet) pushes past 90, she realizes that "there is not much on record on falling away" and resolves to set down some of her observations. She is bluntly unconcerned with conventional wisdom, unapologetically recounting her extended role as "the Other Woman" in her companion's prior marriage--then explaining how he didn't move in with her until after they'd stopped having sex, which is why it was no big deal for her to invite his next mistress to move in with them to save expenses. She is equally frank in discussing how, as their life turns "sad and boring," she copes with his declining health, just as she cared for her mother in her final years. Firmly resolute that no afterlife awaits her, Athill finds just enough optimism in this world to keep her reflections from slipping into morbidity--she may not offer much comfort, but it's a bracing read. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780393067705 Noted British editor and writer Athill decided at 91 to have a go at writing about the process of getting old. In this refreshingly candid memoir, she traces some of the landmarks she has passed since her seventies faculties lost and gained, actions taken causing pleasure or regret. Her somewhat tardy discovery of adult-education classes led to a love of sewing, painting, and gardening, though dwindling energy finally curtailed that latter activity, much to her chagrin. Following a lengthy discussion of her lack of faith in an afterlife, which entails proceeding toward death without the support of religion, Athill recalls the deaths of her parents and grandparents, many of whom lived into their nineties with their mental faculties intact, leading her to conclude she has inherited a good chance of going fairly easily. One regret is not having the courage to escape the narrowness of her pleasant, easily navigable life. She concludes with what she terms random thoughts choice pearls sparkling with dry wit for the reader to ponder, reflect upon, and perhaps assimilate.--Donovan, Deborah Copyright 2008 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Now 91, one of England's notable book editors examines life, old age and approaching death with astonishing candor in 16 essays distinguished by her spare, direct prose. Athill (Yesterday Morning, 2002, etc.) does not shy away from uncomfortable subjects: the waning of sexual desire, her qualms about the physical act of dying and her atheism, which deprives her of a comforting belief in the hereafter. Although she knows that death cannot be far off, the present is full of quiet satisfactions. The tiny tree fern that she purchases in the opening essay will not provide shade for her backyard garden in her lifetime, but watching it unfurl its fronds becomes an unexpected and genuine pleasure. Athill vividly describes corpses she has seen and deaths she has witnessed, taking some comfort from the knowledge that among her close relatives the end has been relatively swift and peaceful. Having no children to care for her at the end of her life, she notes sadly but calmly that she will likely end her days in an impersonal institution. With no afterlife to look forward to, the present becomes more precious; hers is filled with reading, writing and reviewing books, gardening, drawing, pottering about and, surprisingly, driving her car. After a highway accident in which only the car was damaged, her love of the freedom provided by driving kept her behind the wheel. Erotic desire may have vanished, but Athill remembers it clearly and is quite candid about relationships with past lovers. Kindness and loving friendship are more important than sexual fidelity, she asserts, demonstrating this with brief anecdotes of her affairs. At the time of writing, she has reluctantly but dutifully become caretaker for a man she has lived with for nearly half a century. Their life now, she writes matter-of-factly, is "in about equal parts, both sad and boring." Fiercely intelligent, discomfortingly honest and never dull. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2009 (Poetry)
Versed
Book Jacket   Rae Armantrout
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780819568793 In recent years, Armantrout's reputation has soared-she began in the '70s as an obscure, early practitioner of language poetry, and now her poems regularly appear in the New Yorker. Her new book comprises two sequences-"Versed" and "Dark Matter"-of loosely interlinked poems dealing with the prolific poet's usual subjects (the body, contemporary society, violence) as well as more personal explorations of illness and mortality, all relayed in Armantrout's concentrated, crystalline voice, with a predilection for skipping some steps along the way to sense. The first sequence, peppered with pop culture references and quoted speech, features silly yet surprisingly serious poems on topics like "'[b]reaking/ Anna Nicole news// as she buries/ her son.'Å" In the playful "Scumble," the poet speculates as to "What if I were turned on by seemingly innocent words/ such as... 'extrapolate?'Å" The second section, "Dark Matter," is evasively intimate and occasionally, albeit characteristically, bleak, as Armantrout (Next Life) contemplates her own struggle with cancer "with a shocked smile,/ while an undiscovered tumor/squats on her kidney." In what may be moments of intense, sardonic honesty-"Chuck and I are pleased/ to have found a spot/where my ashes can be scattered"-the poet poses metaphysical questions with open endings: jarring moments in which the stakes are suddenly, impossibly high. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780819568793 What you see is what you get in Armantrout's ninth book of free-verse poetry. A professor at the University of California, San Diego, Armantrout (Next Life) was part of the West Coast poetry community of the 1970s, which gave rise to language poetry. At best, her latest work contains brief, impressionistic poems-a few words surrounded by white space-held together by a subtle tension in the connections between words and phrases. Armantrout's poems possess a fleeting light as opposed to an epiphany and a half-heard sound as opposed to rhyme and rhythm. Take, for example, the repetition in the second and final stanza of "Someone": "I'm looking for a/ heart to heart,/ a rhyme/ between the blankness of my/ "my/ and the blue emptiness." It's difficult to know whether Armantrout's sound is, say, a mouse inside the wall or a tree branch brushing the roof of the house. When these poems achieve beauty, it lies not so much in the craft as in the eyes-and ears-of the beholder. Recommended for academic libraries.-Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780819568793 It's been too long coming, but Armantrout finally shone as she should this year, receiving a nomination for the National Book Award and winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for this volume. Only apparently spare, her poems are in fact deeply distilled, glancing off reality in startling ways. With this work, she's achieved perfection. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2009 (Criticism)
Notes from No Mans Land: American Essays
 Eula Biss
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781555975180 *Starred Review* Biss calls our attention to things so intrinsic to our lives they have become invisible, such as telephone poles and our assumptions about race. Family was the focus of her first book, The Balloonists (2002). In her second, a collection of fishhook essays, she grabs readers with compelling personal disclosures, then heads into the rapids of racial identity. Whether she is writing about white and black dolls, her whiteness within a racially mixed family, or teaching in Harlem, Biss, inquisitive and buoyant, swings back and forth between the shores of nurture and nature, asking tough questions about which aspects of race and culture we inherit and which we acquire. With nods to Didion and Baldwin, her sinuous essays dart off and zigzag, and we hold on tight. Biss compares the lesson plans for freed slaves in Reconstruction-era public schools with what is taught to today's African American students, and chronicles her experiences as a minority in black worlds, including her stint as a reporter for an African American community newspaper in San Diego. Matters of race, sense of self, and belonging involve everyone, and Biss' crossing-the-line perspective will provoke fresh analysis of our fears and expectations.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2009 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781555975180 Biss is not as well known as she should be; given that writers like Sherman Alexie are praising her to the skies, it's only a matter of time, though. This essay collection won the 2008 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, which highlights outstanding literary nonfiction by a new writer. These essays are about many things, but the theme of race runs through them all. They are not "about" race, however, not in the way essays are usually "about" something. Instead of presenting her opening gambits and using the body of the essay to support her initial points, Biss finds her jumping-off point and examines her observations and experiences. Although her juxtapositions are occasionally forced, it is impossible to remain unmoved by Biss's work. These deeply personal essays should be as widely read as possible. Her examination of what it means to be American-examination, not conclusions-cannot fail to inspire reflection. Highly recommended for all collections.-Audrey Snowden, Cleveland P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781555975180 Adult/High School-Expository writing should always be this compelling, provocative, and intelligent. Biss explores race in America through multiple lenses, examining common issues through uncommon situations and events. She flawlessly weaves present-day experiences with historical research to create 13 essays that combine narrative appeal with fascinating facts. In "Time and Distance Overcome," the telephone pole is used to juxtapose lynching with technological intrusions and advancements. "Back to Buxton" examines the successes, sorrows, and current implications of a racially integrated mining camp in the early 1900s. The book closes with "All Apologies," which explores both the significance and opposing insignificance of national and personal statements of apology. Biss has a talent for pointing out hypocrisy without accusations. Her ability to expose seemingly subtle inequities and injustices forces readers to analyze their own actions, decisions, and relationships. Teens will find this collection both accessible and challenging, and English and social-studies teachers will find multiple ways to use these essays to enhance instruction. Whether students examine the author's craft or analyze historical and social relationships, many will take pleasure in seeing the world through a unique and refreshing perspective.-Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2008 (Criticism)
Childrens Literature: A Readers History from Aesop to Harry Potter (University of Chicago Press)
 Seth Lerer
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780226473000 Apropos of his subject matter, Lerer (English & comparative literature, Stanford; Inventing English) has accomplished something magical. Unlike the many handbooks to children's literature that synopsize, evaluate, or otherwise guide adults in the selection of materials for children, this work presents a true critical history of the genre, from Aesop to the present. Scholarly, erudite, and all but exhaustive, it is also entertaining and accessible. Lerer takes his subject seriously without making it dull. He asks important questions about writers' intentions and readers' reactions, about why some texts endure and others do not, about the influence of science and religion on children's literature, and even about the impact of libraries and literary prizes upon the genre. He traces the lineage from fairy tales to Philip Pullman, from comic books to anime, analyzing the appeal of the various forms of children's literature, the cultural forces that mold it, and its transformative effect on anyone who has ever been a child. Essential for academic libraries; highly recommended for public libraries.--Alison M. Lewis, Drexel Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780226473000 Splendidly well written, and both wide-ranging and comprehensive, this account of western European and American children's literature is, as Lerer (Stanford) writes, "a history of what children have heard and read" from classical antiquity to the current day. Covered are Homer, Aesop, and Virgil; medieval "alphabets, prayer books, Psalters and primers"; works that conveyed the Puritans' worldview (The New England Primer, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress) and the "moral growth centered on the sensory perception of the outer world" (e.g., Defoe's Robinson Crusoe); the Darwinian age (e.g., Kipling's The Jungle Book); and much more. Throughout, Lerer elucidates changing attitudes toward the child and childhood and especially the importance of books to children--as physical artifacts, possessions, and personal keys to knowledge. Lerer is a gifted interpreter not only of tales for children but also of the illustrations that so often shape the young reader's first (and lasting) impression of a text. He concludes that "the story of the child is the story of literature itself," and he reminds the reader that those who enter a work of fiction "step back into a childhood of 'what if' or 'once upon a time.'" Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. J. J. Benardete The New School
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780226473000 The erudite Lerer, whose Inventing English (2007) was enthusiastically reviewed in these pages, has now undertaken an ambitious, one-volume history of children's literature. He begins in classical antiquity and ends with the salutary likes of Weetzie Bat and the Time Warp Trio, giving particular attention along the way he being a philologist to the language of literature, whether critical or narrative. Always in search of large ideas and overarching themes, he has what many may find an annoying tendency to pronounce (The book now ends with bedtime as all great children's stories really do) and to presume his reader's tacit agreement, offering far too many propositions beginning How can we not . . . Nevertheless, Lerer does an extraordinary job of expanding our understanding of individual titles by richly contextualizing them in the world of their creation and stimulates readers' imaginations by some surprising juxtapositions (Darwin and Dr. Seuss!). Though the book's principal audience will be an academic one, general readers will find much of interest here as well.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2008 Booklist
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2008 (Poetry)
Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (Farrar, Strauss)
Book Jacket   August Kleinzahler
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374265830 The witty, gritty poet and memoirist Kleinzahler (The Strange Hours Travellers Keep) has produced chiseled, sometimes curt and finely observed free verse for decades. Kleinzahler has lived in Montreal, San Francisco, Vancouver, Portugal and Berlin; his sketches of characters and places from at least four continents include affectionately cynical portraits of hoodlums, odes to the autumn failures of baseball teams and swiftly cinematic depictions of Tartar hordes in medieval Europe, "ripping the ears off hussars." Hackensack, N.J.; the foggy Bay Area with its foggier ex-hippies; and northern European lakes and mountains all receive their due in a poetry that aspires to the feel of bebop and the delight of travel writing, that never bores and rarely repeats itself. New poems add to, rather than swerve away from, Kleinzahler's strengths in close observation and all-over-the-map diction, from slang to technical terms. Overheard speech in "Above Gower Street," a poem about the loneliness of international travel, ranges from an answering machine's anodyne messages to an explicit sexual come-on; in "Vancouver," "the neon mermaid over the fish place/ looks best that way, in the rain." This ninth book of poems and first trade press new-and-selected should bring this master of free verse lines even more admirers. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374265830 Kleinzahler's tone might be world-weary, his characters slightly frayed, but each poem in this retrospective collection is perfectly, breathtakingly balanced to deliver its own precise world-as it plunges, deceptively, into the deep heart of things. After decades, Kleinzahler got some deserved recognition with his NBCC win. (LJ 5/15/08) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374265830 Set firmly from the beginning in the Objectivist tradition, Kleinzahler's writing has assumed a density over time that approaches the philosophical meditations of Robert Duncan. But whereas Duncan wrote from the persona of Self, Kleinzahler focuses on a (sometimes imaginary) Other: "He wasn't English, of course/ The great man/ But that need not concern us, not here/ Rather, how that famous open plan of his/ Would abhor these little, closed-off rooms." After 70 pages of these unexpected and often abstract ruminations, it can be a relief to turn to some of the older poems. Astonishingly, Kleinzahler is capable of a concrete view influenced by what is not present: "There is a bureau and there is a wall/ and no one is beside you./ Beyond the curtains only silence/ broken now and again by a car or truck./ And if you are very still/ an occasional drip from the faucet/ Such are the room's acoustics./ It is difficult to place exactly where from." Featuring both old and newer work, this is a masterly, breakthrough collection and an important purchase for all libraries. [This is the final poetry review LJ will publish from Ratner, a contributor for over 30 years who died this past March. We'll miss her.--Ed.]--Rochelle Ratner, formerly with Soho Weekly News, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2008 (Poetry)
Half the World in Light(University of Arizona Press)
Book Jacket   Juan Felipe Herrera
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780816527038 Herrera has been honing his writing for 40 years, through 12 collections, so it's hardly surprising that it's so deep. Just how deep is for you to discover: open a page and your heart will break, or you'll bask in the wordplay, or you'll be charged by powerful political statement. This leading Chicano poet has something to tell us all; a cowinner of the NBCC poetry award. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2008 (Autobiography)
My Fathers Paradise: A Sons Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq
 Ariel Sabar
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. In a filial salute and show of contrition, D.C.-based journalist Sabar recounts his family's unusual history, reaching back to times before the Bible. The author's remarkable father, Yona, was born in remote Zakho, a dusty, isolated village not far from Mosul. The Jews of Kurdish Iraq, believed to be descended from one of the lost tribes of the Babylonian exile, were the last people to speak a form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus and lingua franca of much of the ancient world. In the 1950s, they emigrated en masse to Israel, where Yona and his family, with their strange costumes, customs and language, found themselves at the bottom of the ethnic and economic hierarchy. Unfolding the tale of their assimilation with the novelistic skill of a Levantine storyteller, Sabar traces his father's journey from poverty to professorship. Yona's diaspora story began with the end of Iraq Jewry, continued through scholarship in Jerusalem to a teaching post at Yale and reached fulfillment in a distinguished academic career at UCLA and the compilation of an Aramaic dictionary. A generational and cultural gap divided the immigrant father from the cool son who cared little for his heritage. Then, prompted by the birth of his own son, Sabar began to investigate his family's past. Eventually he and Yona visited a vastly altered Zakho, a town without Jews that now boasts a cybercaf. Describing their pilgrimage and the history that preceded it, the author spins a colorful tale inhabited by wonderful characters in billowing trousers and turbans. The distance between father and son is bridged as Sabar explores the conflicting demands of love and tradition, the burdens and blessings of an ancient culture encountering the 21st century. A well-researched text falling somewhere between journalism and memoir, sustained by Mesopotamian imagination. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781565124905 For almost 3,000 years, a tiny Jewish enclave existed in what is now the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The Jews and their Christian and Muslim neighbors spoke the ancient tongue of Aramaic, which had once been the lingua franca of the Middle East and was spoken by Jesus. Sabar's father, Yona, was born in that enclave but immigrated to the U.S. when the creation of the state of Israel created hostile conditions for Iraqi Jews in the 1950s. Yona, however, maintained strong emotional ties to his native language and culture even as he ascended to a prominent academic position at UCLA. Meanwhile, Sabar showed virtually no interest in his father's background; however, after the birth of his own son, he felt a desire to reconnect with his father and their shared cultural heritage. Their joint visit to their ancestral town of Zakho rekindles memories of the ancient community while strengthening the ties between father and son. An involving memoir that works as both a family saga and an examination of a lost but treasured community.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2008 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Starred Review. For his first 31 years Sabar considered his father, Yona, an embarrassing anachronism. Ours was a clash of civilizations, writ small. He was ancient Kurdistan. I was 1980s L.A. Yona was a UCLA professor whose passion was his native language, Aramaic. Ariel was an aspiring rock-and-roll drummer. The birth of Sabar's own son in 2002 was a turning point, prompting Sabar to try to understand his father on his own terms. Readers can only be grateful to him for unearthing the history of a family, a people and a very different image of Iraq. Sabar vividly depicts daily life in the remote village of Zahko, where Muslims, Jews and Christians banded together to ensure prosperity and survival, and in Israel (after the Jews' 1951 expulsion from Iraq), where Kurdish Jews were stereotyped as backward and simple. Sabar's career as an investigative reporter at the Baltimore Sun and elsewhere serves him well, particularly in his attempt to track down his father's oldest sister, who was kidnapped as an infant. Sabar offers something rare and precious—a tale of hope and continuity that can be passed on for generations. Photos. (Sept. 16) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781565124905 Sabar, a former political reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, grew up as a typical California kid. His father, a Kurdish Jew, is the foremost scholar of Aramaic, the language of Jesus, which most people think is extinct. The disconnect between his present and his past launched Sabar on a quest to understand the history of Kurdish Jews, who spent 2000 years in northern Iraq until the 1950s, when most of them emigrated to Israel. Interweaving the community's history with his family's stories, Sabar tells of his visits to Iraq and Israel to trace his father's journey from an isolated Kurdish village to UCLA, where at one point he provides Aramaic dialog for The X-Files. Although Sabar ultimately fails to discover the fate of his father's sister, who was kidnapped from their village in the 1930s, he does begin to understand his responsibility to his ancestry. Throughout the narrative, he focuses on identity and community and this central question: "When we carry our languages and stories from one generation to the next, from one country to another, what exactly do we gain?" Written with a reporter's flair for people and places, this is recommended for public libraries.--Diane Harvey, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
2008 (Biography)
The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul
 Patrick French
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Biography of the 2001 Nobel laureate assesses with equal acuity his creative accomplishments and profound character flaws. Although Naipaul cooperated with this biography, British writer French (Tibet, Tibet, 2003, etc.) declares that he did not intrude and did not insist on any changes after reading the manuscript. Born in Trinidad in 1932, Vidyadhar Naipaul was among the one-third of the island's population whose ancestors had come from India. His mother cared deeply for him; his mercurial father worked as a journalist. Vidia, as he has been known throughout adulthood, had a fierce intelligence and a powerful subterranean river of energy and creativity. He also had few friends and a broad vein of contrarian ore in his soul. French proceeds in fairly routine fashion through a history of Trinidad and Indian immigration, family background and childhood progress. The narrative follows young Vidia in 1950 to England, where he matriculated at Oxford, dealt with racial prejudice and began working for the BBC and freelancing. At Oxford, he met Patricia (Pat) Hale, whom he married in 1955 and repeatedly betrayed in spectacular fashion for years; her death in 1996 closes the biography. In 1972, Vidia became deeply involved with Margaret Gooding, carrying on a decades-long affair with her between periods of fidelity to Pat and visits to prostitutes. Frank about Naipaul's unedifying personal life, French attends responsibly to his literary achievements, highly praising his early work, occasionally condemning later efforts and concluding that A Bend in the River (1979) is his masterworkthough he also applauds A House for Mr. Biswas (1961). French admires Naipaul's nonfiction, recognizes the strengths and weaknesses in his journalism and believes that for the past decade he has been in decline. The text features many quotations from Naipaul's letters and diaries. Eloquent and scholarly evidence thatno surprisegreat writers need not be moral exemplars. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781400044054 *Starred Review* Nobel laureate Naipaul's readers know of his fierce intellect and literary prowess, his irascibility and pitiless condemnations. So how authorized was this living biography? And how did French cope? One should never underestimate a narcissist's craving for attention, and French is fearlessly inquisitive. He is also a superb stylist who combines sharp observations with judicial analysis, a skill much in demand in portraying such a contrary, celebrated, and controversial man of letters. French sensitively documents Naipaul's Trinidad childhood and the prejudice his immigrant Indian family faced as well as Naipaul's paralyzing depression as an outsider in England. To understand Naipaul, one must understand his father, and French perceptively recounts Seepersad's improbable rise as a journalist and his terrible fall. But it is the women in Naipul's life who have empowered him and who make this such a riveting, heartbreaking biography. Patricia Hale defied her family to marry Naipaul, and sacrificed everything to support his literary quest, only to have her Genius fall passionately in love with a woman who was his conspicuous mistress for more than two decades. French's deep respect for Pat infuses this sexually candid biography with sorrow, wonder, and dignity, and one can't help but assume that this was the ever-wily, truth-seeking Naipaul's secret intention.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2008 Booklist
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9781400044054 As Naipaul's authorized biographer, French's exclusive access, and perhaps his own temperament as a writer, allows him to push the edges of Naipaul's self-mythologizing accounts of his ancestry and his father's literary ambitions and mental breakdown, revealing the emotional resonance of a moment in ways that Naipaul himself avoids. For example, he renders the illness and death of Naipaul's first wife in a way that exposes Naipaul's emotional and physical distance. French uncovers how Naipaul has aestheticized the narrative of his life to the point that human anguish has become transparent to him. He struggles between precise reportage and the admiration he feels for Naipual's work. Quoting his 1998 review of Naipaul's Beyond Belief, French writes, "Although [Naipaul] often brings the reader to a moment of realisation elliptically, there is a candour to [Naipaul's] writing" that is the source of his "integrity," his ability to render "the close analysis of human conduct" and what "enables Naipaul's work to transcend the peculiarities of his general theories, as he narrates the extraordinary lives of ordinary people from his singular perspective." This biography reveals that candor and integrity are, for Naipaul, more often applied to the lives and material circumstances of others. Summing Up:: Recommended. All readers, all levels. E. M. Huergo Montgomery College--Rockville Campus
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781400044054 V.S. Naipaul's biographer aims not "to sit in judgment of the Nobel laureate, but to expose the subject with ruthless clarity to the calm eye of the reader." In this he succeeds admirably. Descendant of poor Brahmins, born in 1932 in Trinidad and educated in Oxford, Naipaul is haunted by matters of race, colonialism and sex. He is, says award-winning author French (Younghusband), both the racist (against those darker than he) and the victim of racial prejudice, tendencies that come through in his novels and in his treatment of friends and lovers. Haunting this biography are Naipaul's women. His wife, Pat, supported him, overlooked his affairs and his visits with prostitutes, and subordinated herself to his genius; Naipaul gave equally little to Margaret, his mistress. Naipaul and his books may be the subject of this work, but it is these and the other women whom he depended on and took for granted--from his editor to his mother--whose stories will keep that "calm eye of the reader" glued to the pages of this disturbing biography. 16 pages of photos. (Nov. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781400044054 This sweeping biography follows the Nobel laureate from his childhood in Trinidad to his college years at Oxford, through his struggles as a young writer, across continents, and eventually to the accomplished literary figure we know today. French (Tibet, Tibet) pulls extensively from private papers and personal recollections, having conducted five research trips to the University of Tulsa, where Naipaul's papers are located. Those familiar with Naipaul know he is controversial for his political and social views. What may not be as widely known, which French reveals at length, is the controversy of his private life. Naipaul married Patricia Hale at the age of 22. During the decadeslong marriage, he visited prostitutes and had an intense sexual relationship for 24 years with Margaret Gooding, whom he often treated harshly and physically abused. Hale, diagnosed with breast cancer, likely declined in health after learning of Naipaul's encounters with prostitutes. On the closing pages, French provides an empathetic image of Naipaul, leaving final judgments of this complex personality up to the reader. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.--Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2008 (General Nonfiction)
The Forever War
Book Jacket   Dexter Filkins
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780739370605 Author and narrator Filkins offers this jaw-dropping account of modern warfare and the events that led up to and followed September 11, 2001. Told through firsthand accounts from his days as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, Filkins follows the Taliban throughout the 1990s as well as the downfall of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Returning to the United States after 9/11, Filkins analyzes the nature of war and its modernity. Filkins's raw reading is drenched in experience and wisdom, making for an extraordinary listening experience. The stories are amazing, and Filkins displays his talent for storytelling. A Knopf hardcover (Reviews, June 20). (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A bleak litany of war's savage absurdity in Afghanistan and Iraq by accomplished New York Times correspondent Filkins. His dispatches from the front lines begin in September 1998, when he stealthily moved among the Taliban in Kabul and observed their murderous rule by fear, and continue through nearly four years of shadowing American maneuvers in Iraq, from "liberation" to anarchy. Filkins writes with candor and clarity of the brutality he witnessed, such as the execution of a criminal in a Kabul soccer field crowded with spectators. He imbues his narrative with galvanizing snapshots of Afghanistan's dramatic contrasts: An interview with Taliban's minister for the promotion of virtue, cheerfully describing the punishments doled out to women who fail to cover themselves, is followed by a woman's bitter whisper through the vent of her imprisoning burqa, "This is like a death." While he found that the Taliban waged war "like a game of pickup basketball" (constantly shifting sides and bargaining) and judged the typical fighter "dumb as a brick," Filkins was genuinely moved by the generosity of the Afghan people. Baghdad seemed to him like "a mental institution. One of the old ones, from the 19th century, where societies used to dump people and forget about them." The author records how the general euphoria over Saddam's fall gradually turned to disillusionment and lust for revenge. He toured Saddam's palace right before the Marines arrived; visited the family of the female politician Wijdan al-Khuzai, slain while campaigning for Iraq's first free elections; talked to scores of the maimed and bombing victims; trailed American field commander Nathan Sassaman and influential returned Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi. Filkins also joined a company of 150 Marines as they penetrated Fallujah and took it back from the jihadis. Nonetheless, in his judgment, looters, suicide bombers and kidnappers gained ascendancy, civil war between the Shiites and Sunnis accelerated and the country was lost. Sharing his deeply humbling, transforming journey, the author tempers numbing details of slaughter and carnage with affecting human stories. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Starred Review. Filkins, a New York Times prize–winning reporter, is widely regarded as among the finest war correspondents of this generation. His richly textured book is based on his work in Afghanistan and Iraq since 1998. It begins with a Taliban-staged execution in Kabul. It ends with Filkins musing on the names in a WWI British cemetery in Baghdad. In between, the work is a vivid kaleidoscope of vig-nettes. Individually, the strength of each story is its immediacy; together they portray a theater of the absurd, in which Filkins, an extraordinarily brave man, moves as both participant and observer. Filkins does not editorialize—a welcome change from the punditry that shapes most writing from these war zones. This book also differs essentially from traditional war correspondence because of its universal empathy, feelings enhanced by Filkins's spare prose. Saudi women in Kabul airport, clad in burqas and stylish shoes, bemoan their husbands' devotion to jihad. An Iraqi casually says to his friend, Let's go kill some Americans. A marine is shot dead escorting Filkins on a photo opportunity. Iraqi soldiers are disconcerted when he appears in running shorts (They looked at [my legs] in horror, as if I were naked). Carl von Clausewitz said war is a chameleon. In vividly illustrating the varied ways people in Afghanistan and iraq have been affected by ongoing war, Filkins demonstrates that truth in prose. 5 photos. (Sept. 17) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780307266392 Filkins, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, has covered the struggle against Islamic extremism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. He marshals his broad experience to present a wide-ranging view of this struggle, told through a series of intense, vivid, and startling vignettes. Embedded with marines during the struggle for Fallujah, Filkins describes an almost surreal scene of confusion and unvarnished violence. In Kabul, Filkins witnesses the amputation of a pickpocket's hand, followed by the execution of an accused murderer under the Taliban regime. At a press briefing, a Taliban minister of information recites a litany of forbidden activities that is both absurd and terrifying. An interview with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir, who bravely fought both the Soviets and the Taliban, is particularly poignant, since he would eventually be assassinated by al-Qaeda operatives. Filkins accompanies Americans searching a Sunni village for insurgents, where their insensitivity probably creates more enemies than they capture. A portrait of the difficulty, complexity, and savagery of a conflict that will be with us for some time.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2008 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307266392 The rise of the Taliban. The 9/11 attacks. Insurgency in Iraq. New York Times foreign correspondent Filkins gives us the big picture. With a 100,000-copy first printing; seven-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2008 (Fiction)
2666
Book Jacket   Roberto Bolaño
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374100148 This sprawling, digressive, Jamesian "loose, baggy monster" reads like five independent but interrelated novels, connected by a common link to an actual series of mostly unresolved murders of female factory workers in the area of Ciudad Juùrez (here called Santa Teresa), a topic also addressed in Margorie AgosIn's Secrets in the Sand. The first part follows four literary critics who wind up in Mexico in pursuit of the obscure (and imaginary) German writer Benno von Archimboldi, a scenario that recalls Bolano's The Savage Detectives. The second and third parts, respectively, focus on Professor Almafitano and African American reporter Quincy Williams (also called Oscar Fate), whose attempts to expose the murders are thwarted. The fourth, and by far the longest, section consists mostly of detached accounts of the hundreds of murders; culled from newspaper and police reports, they offer a relentless onslaught of the gruesome details and become increasingly tedious. The last section returns to Archimboldi. Boasting Bolano's trademark devices--ambiguity, open endings, characters that assume different names, and an enigmatic title, along with splashes of humor--this posthumously published work is consistently masterful until the last half of the final part, which shows some haste. The book is rightly praised as Bolano's masterpiece, but owing to its unorthodox length it will likely find greater favor among critics than among general readers. In fact, before he died, the author asked that it be published in five parts over just as many years; it's a pity his relatives refused to honor his request. [Also available in a three-volume slip-cased paperback edition.]--Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781433279485 Bolano composed this National Book Critics' Circle Award winner in the last years of his life; various readers. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Starred Review. Last year's The Savage Detectives by the late Chilean-Mexican novelist Bolaño (1953–2003) garnered extraordinary sales and critical plaudits for a complex novel in translation, and quickly became the object of a literary cult. This brilliant behemoth is grander in scope, ambition and sheer page count, and translator Wimmer has again done a masterful job. The novel is divided into five parts (Bolaño originally imagined it being published as five books) and begins with the adventures and love affairs of a small group of scholars dedicated to the work of Benno von Archimboldi, a reclusive German novelist. They trace the writer to the Mexican border town of Santa Teresa (read: Juarez), but there the trail runs dry, and it isn't until the final section that readers learn about Benno and why he went to Santa Teresa. The heart of the novel comes in the three middle parts: in The Part About Amalfitano, a professor from Spain moves to Santa Teresa with his beautiful daughter, Rosa, and begins to hear voices. The Part About Fate, the novel's weakest section, concerns Quincy Fate Williams, a black American reporter who is sent to Santa Teresa to cover a prizefight and ends up rescuing Rosa from her gun-toting ex-boyfriend. The Part About the Crimes, the longest and most haunting section, operates on a number of levels: it is a tormented catalogue of women murdered and raped in Santa Teresa; a panorama of the power system that is either covering up for the real criminals with its implausible story that the crimes were all connected to a German national, or too incompetent to find them (or maybe both); and it is a collection of the stories of journalists, cops, murderers, vengeful husbands, prisoners and tourists, among others, presided over by an old woman seer. It is safe to predict that no novel this year will have as powerful an effect on the reader as this one. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374100148 *Starred Review* Literature is of life and death significance in the fiction and poetry of ex-pat Chilean writer Bolaño, who passed away at age 50 in 2003, soon after completing this gyring novel of magnitude and vision. A storyteller with a global perspective, adept at juggling a dizzying array of voices, plotlines, allusions, emotions, and revelations with deadpan humor and utter seriousness, Bolaño begins this epic with a tale of four critics in search of a missing novelist. A Frenchman, a Spaniard, a wheelchair-bound Italian, and an Englishwoman discover their shared ardor for the German writer Benno von Archimboldi at a literary conference and join forces in a quest to find him. Their zigzag search, conveyed in sentences that run for pages, leads to the Mexican city of Santa Teresa, where a professor named Amalfitano is slowly losing his mind. He's not alone in his distress: hundreds of women have been killed and mutilated in Santa Teresa. As Bolaño fictionalizes the unsolved murders of the women of Juárez in a harrowing litany, yoking the macabre with the ludicrous, his journalists are helpless witnesses, including an African American named Oscar Fate, who is supposed to be covering a boxing match, and a local, Guadalupe, who tells him, No one pays attention to these killings, but the secret of the world is hidden in them. As the full story of Archimboldi rises to the surface of this vortex of bizarre connections and churning evil and links the genocide of World War II with the Santa Teresa murders, Bolaño injects irony and tragedy into this volcanic symphony of dreams, memories, dispatches, movies, news, confessions, hallucinations, and musings. Who is remembered and who is erased? How is coherence sustained when chaos rages? How do we live within the maelstrom of mass murder? Madness is contagious,  thinks Amalfitano. Life is unbearably sad, says Guadalupe. And girls jump rope, singing a song about a woman being dismembered. In this gorgeously translated inferno of a masterpiece, Bolaño's scope is cosmic, his artistry incendiary, his compassion universal.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2009 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374531553 Bolano's final masterpiece, featuring students, criminals, and other crazies in Santa Teresa (a stand-in for Juarez). With a three-volume paperback edition. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307475954 When this book was first published in 2004, it provoked an earthquake in the Spanish-speaking literary world. Hailed as Bolano's posthumous masterpiece (he died the year before), it canonized him as one of Latin America's greatest writers. Last year's English-language translation and that of Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives) in 2006 propelled the Chilean author into the international pantheon of literature. Recalling The Savage Detectives, this novel starts with a search: four European critics hope to find an obscure German author called Benno Von Archimboldi. From then on, all hell breaks loose. Five different sections (which Bolano had planned to publish as separate novels) move through different times and places, from northern Mexico to the United States and Europe during World War II. Along the way, the author chillingly evokes the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, here featured as the fictional town of Santa Teresa. For years, before dying of an illness that he knew was incurable, Bolano stared death in the face while conjuring an explosion of inventiveness and humor. Little can be said to prepare the reader for the experience of reading this book. Even spoilers are meaningless. No, the critics don't find Archimboldi. No, the murders are not solved. And no, it's impossible to figure out what the novel is actually about (critics will surely argue about it for decades to come). It doesn't matter. This should be required reading for anybody interested in modern Latin American literature. [The English translation won the National Book Critic Circle's Fiction Award for 2008 and was a New York Times Best Book of the Year. This is the first affordable paperback from a U.S. publisher.-Ed.]-Carlos Rodriguez Martorell, East Elmhurst, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2009 (Fiction)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
 Junot Diaz
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781415941942 Oscar de León, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey, is obsessed with sci-fi/fantasy novels, falling in love, and the fukú, a curse that has plagued his family for generations. Elements of magical realism enhance this stellar story. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781415941942 D!az's remarkable debut novel tells the story of a lonely outsider with zest rather than pathos. Oscar grows up in a Dominican neighborhood in Paterson, NJ, as an overweight, homely lover of sf and fantasy. Reading such books and trying to emulate them in his own writing provide Oscar's only pleasure. What he really wants is love, but his romantic overtures are constantly rejected. The author balances Oscar's story with glances at the history of the Dominican Republic, focusing on the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship and its effect on Oscar's family. D!az masterfully shifts between Oscar and his sister, mother, and grandfather to give this intimate character study an epic scale, showing that an individual life is the product of family history. Jonathan Davis's sensitive reading captures the romantic quest of the hero and the tragedy of life under Trujillo, and Staci Snell ably reads the alternating chapters dealing with Oscar's sister and mother. Also included is Drown, a collection of stories by D!az. Highly recommended for all collections. [This book is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.-Ed.]-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A rich, impassioned vision of the Dominican Republic and its diaspora, filtered through the destiny of a single family. After a noted debut volume of short stories (Drown, 1996), D"az pens a first novel that bursts alive in an ironic, confiding, exuberant voice. Its wider focus is an indictment of the terrible Trujillo regime and its aftermath, but the approach is oblique, traced backwards via the children (Oscar and Lola) of a larger-than-life but ruined Dominican matriarch, Beli. In earthy, streetwise, Spanish-interlaced prose, D"az links overweight, nerdy fantasist Oscar, his combative, majestic sister and their once Amazonian mother to the island of their ancestry. There, an aunt, La Inca, with strange, possibly supernatural powers, heals and saves Beli after her involvement with one of Trujillo's minor henchman, who was married to the dictator's sister. Beli, at age14, had naively hoped this affair would lead to marriage and family, but instead her pregnancy incurred a near-fatal beating, after which she fled to New Jersey to a life of drudgery, single parenting and illness. By placing sad, lovelorn, virginal Oscar at the book's heart, D"az softens the horrors visited on his antecedents, which began when Trujillo cast his predatory eye on wealthy Abelard Cabral's beautiful daughter. Was the heap of catastrophes that ensued fukú (accursed fate), D"az asks repeatedly, and can there be counterbalancing zafa (blessing)? The story comes full circle with Oscar's death in Santo Domingo's fateful cornfields, himself the victim of a post-Trujillo petty tyrant, but it's redeemed by the power of love. Despite a less sure-footed conclusion, D"az's reverse family saga, crossed with withering political satire, makes for a compelling, sex-fueled, 21st-century tragi-comedy with a magical twist. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781594489587 Having caught everyone's attention with his short stories, D!az offers a debut novel starring ghetto geek Oscar, whose family labors under a Fuk# (or curse) that delivers prison, tragic accidents, and, worst of all, bad luck in love. With a national tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780143142805 What a bargain to have D!az's short story collection, Drown, included (on the last five CDs) with the talented, emerging Dominican-American writer's first novel. Davis reads both superbly. He captures not only the fat, virginal, impractical Oscar, but he also gives a sexy vigor to Yunior, who serves as narrator and Oscar's polar opposite. Davis also gives voice to Oscar's mother, Beli, whose fuk# curse infects the entire family, except for Oscar's sister, Lola, performed in a flat voice by Snell, whose performance overlooks Lola's energy and resolve. Both Snell and Davis move easily from English to Spanish/Spanglish and back again, as easily as the characters emigrate from the Dominican Republic to Paterson, N.J., only to be drawn back inexorably to their native island. Listeners unfamiliar with Spanish may have difficulty following some of the dialogue. However, it's better to lose a few sentences than to miss Davis's riveting performance, perfect pace and rich voice, which are perfectly suited to D!az's brilliant work. Simultaneous release with the Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, June 18). (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781594489587 Matthew Sharpe is the author of the novels Jamestown and The Sleeping Father. He teaches at Wesleyan University. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781594489587 "*Starred Review* Díaz's gutsy short story collection Drown (1996) made the young Dominican American a literary star. Readers who have had to wait a decade for his first novel are now spectacularly rewarded. Paralleling his own experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, he has choreographed a family saga at once sanguinary and sexy that confronts the horrific brutality at loose during the reign of the dictator Trujillo. Díaz's besieged characters look to the supernatural for explanations and hope, from fukú, the curse unleashed when Europeans arrived on Hispaniola, to the forces dramatized in the works of science fiction and fantasy so beloved by the chubby ghetto nerd Oscar Wao, the brilliantly realized boy of conscience at the center of this whirlwind tale. Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Díaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow. And his characters Oscar, the hopeless romantic; Lola, his no-nonsense sister; their heartbroken mother; and the irresistible homeboy narrator cling to life with the magical strength of superheroes, yet how vibrantly human they are. Propelled by compassion, Díaz's novel is intrepid and radiant."--"Seaman, Donna" Copyright 2007 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780525493990 Lin-Manuel Miranda has another hit on his hands with this jaw-dropping performance of Diaz's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, originally published in 2007. With its lyrical mix of standard and slang English and Spanish and nonstop barrage of references to often obscure academic and pop culture topics, Diaz's phenomenal debut presents a distinct challenge to any narrator. Miranda's energy and melodious reading invigorates listeners and prevents them from feeling too overwhelmed by any unfamiliar allusions or phrases. While the novel centers on the struggles of three generations of the de Leon family under the brutal Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and their eventual immigration to the United States, the voice of the novel is Yunior, a bilingual Dominican American who roomed with Oscar de Leon at Rutgers University. Miranda is spot-on as the somewhat slippery, often raw Yunior-listeners are transported to his dorm room, hearing him spin these tragicomic tales over a beer or two. Karen Olivo chips in with a spirited performance of the chapter featuring Oscar's sister, Lola. Diaz's novel, sensational in print, is exponentially enriched by the performances of these Broadway stars. -VERDICT Essential for all libraries.- Beth -Farrell, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib. © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2008 (Nonfiction)
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experiments on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
 Harriet Washington
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385509930 This groundbreaking study documents that the infamous Tuskegee experiments, in which black syphilitic men were studied but not treated, was simply the most publicized in a long, and continuing, history of the American medical establishment using African-Americans as unwitting or unwilling human guinea pigs. Washington, a journalist and bioethicist who has worked at Harvard Medical School and Tuskegee University, has accumulated a wealth of documentation, beginning with Thomas Jefferson exposing hundreds of slaves to an untried smallpox vaccine before using it on whites, to the 1990s, when the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University ran drug experiments on African-American and black Dominican boys to determine a genetic predisposition for "disruptive behavior." Washington is a great storyteller, and in addition to giving us an abundance of information on "scientific racism," the book, even at its most distressing, is compulsively readable. It covers a wide range of topics the history of hospitals not charging black patients so that, after death, their bodies could be used for anatomy classes; the exhaustive research done on black prisoners throughout the 20th century and paints a powerful and disturbing portrait of medicine, race, sex and the abuse of power. (Dec. 26) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385509930 The shameful history of the physical and medical misuse of African Americans began long before the infamous Tuskegee experiment of the 1930s. Washington, a medical journalist, offers the first and only comprehensive history of medical experimentation on and mistreatment of black Americans. Starting with the racist pseudoscience that began when whites first encountered Africans, Washington traces practices from grave robbing to public display of black albinos and the Hottentot Venus, and theories from eugenics to social Darwinism, which have attempted to justify views of racial hierarchy and mistreatment and even enslavement of blacks. Washington draws on medical journals and previously unpublished reports that openly acknowledged racial attitudes and experimentation, protected by the fact that the public and the media rarely read or understood such reports and often shared similar feelings on the subject. Washington also details a litany of medical abuses and experimentation aimed at black men in the military and in prison, as well as women and children, all without proper notification or consent. This is a stunning work, broad in scope and well documented, revealing a history that reverberates in African Americans' continued distrust of the medical profession. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2006 Booklist
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780385509930 The legality of African American slavery in the US until the Civil War is the basis for the rabid segregationist policies that the American medical establishment followed until recently. Washington's documentation of the egregious treatment that black Americans received from physicians, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and government at all levels justifies the use of the term apartheid in her title. In addition to the Tuskegee Study, which is now widely known, Washington (independent scholar) provides rampant examples in which African Americans unwillingly have been used, as objects, for new surgical techniques, drug testing, nuclear radiation absorption, biased psychological testing, sterilization, and cadavers. In short, first-class white Americans benefited from medical experimentation on second-class African Americans. Medical Apartheid is well documented, and the author usually defines specialized terms in the text. In a few instances an expected footnote is not provided. The author overuses the guideline concerning the percentage of blacks in the US population when evaluating the composition of small experimental groups. An epilogue indicates the improved state of ethical standards in medical research for all Americans today. Summing Up: Recommended. All libraries; all levels. R. D. Arcari University of Connecticut School of Medicine
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Medical ethicist and journalist Washington details the abusive medical practices to which African-Americans have been subjected. She begins her shocking history in the colonial period, when owners would hire out or sell slaves to physicians for use as guinea pigs in medical experiments. Into the 19th century, black cadavers were routinely exploited for profit by whites who shipped them to medical schools for dissection and to museums and traveling shows for casual public display. The most notorious case here may be the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which about 600 syphilitic men were left untreated by the U.S. Public Health Service so it could study the progression of the disease, but Washington asserts that it was the forerunner to a host of similar medical abuses. Among her numerous examples is the radical brain surgery performed by a University of Mississippi neurosurgeon on African-American boys as young as six who were deemed aggressive or hyperactive, a procedure he recommended for urban rioters after Watts. And the abuses are not all buried in the distant past: During a 1992-1997 study of the biological basis of violent behavior conducted by the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University's Loewenstein Center, researchers intimidated parents of black juvenile offenders into permitting them to administer the dangerous drug fenfluramine to the offenders' younger brothers. African-Americans' reproductive rights have been trampled on; soldiers, prisoners and children have been coerced into becoming subjects of experiments without therapeutic value to themselves; the federal government and private companies have utilized unwitting blacks in large-scale experiments with radiation and biological weapons, she asserts. While the worst abuses have been eliminated, Washington concludes, African-American skepticism about the medical establishment and reluctance to participate in medical research is an unfortunate result. One of her goals in writing this book, aside from documenting a shameful past, is to convince them that they must participate actively in therapeutic medical research, especially in areas that most affect their community's health, while remaining ever alert to possible abuses. Sweeping and powerful. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2008 (Biography)
Stanley, the Impossible Life of Africas Greatest Explorer
Book Jacket   Tim Jeal
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780300126259 *Starred Review* The great European colonial empires are long gone, and imperialist is usually used as a pejorative term. So it is perhaps to be expected that recent biographies of Henry Morton Stanley have emphasized unsavory aspects of his career and personality, including his supposed racism, the brutal treatment of Africans on his expeditions, and even his difficult relations with women. But Jeal, who previously wrote a biography of the great explorer David Livingstone, has made an admirable effort to balance the scales. Jeal utilizes a conventional narrative style, beginning with Stanley's horrible childhood in Wales, where he was abandoned by his parents and forced to labor in a workhouse. After his emigration to the U.S. at 18, he served in both the Confederate and Union armies and then made his mark as a risk-taking journalist during the Plains Indian wars. Of course, the heart of this story is Stanley's career as an African explorer, launched by his famed search for Livingstone. As Jeal illustrates, Stanley was terribly scarred by his childhood traumas, was ambitious to a fault, had a casual relationship with the truth, and was often ruthless in driving subordinates on African expeditions. But, as an examination of his letters shows, he was quite capable of compassion, even tenderness for Africa and Africans, and his reputation for cruelty is unwarranted. Jeal has provided a fine, counterrevisionist look at a flawed but still admirable character.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2007 Booklist
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780300126259 Jeal, the first biographer to have access to the hitherto unavailable 7,000 personal letters, journals, diaries, and other materials in the Stanley archives of the Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale in Brussels, has produced a meticulously detailed, thoroughly documented, definitive biography of Henry Stanley (born John Rowlands). Jeal traces Stanley's illegitimate birth and workhouse youth in Wales, his migration at 18 to the US, and his transformation from store clerk, steamboat hand, Civil War soldier, P.O.W., and deserter into the New York Herald's roving world reporter and discoverer of Livingstone. Subsequent exploits made Stanley the most famous African explorer of his era, a bestselling author, member of Parliament, and unofficial founder of the Congo Free State. Despite immense fame and extensive writings by and about Stanley, this biography repudiates the conventional perceptions about the explorer. Jeal shows that Stanley's marriage wasn't a sham and that he wasn't a repressed homosexual. The author totally refutes the long-held view of Stanley as egotistic, paranoid, violent, ruthless, racist, and as an obsessively driven explorer manipulated by King Leopold of Belgium. Jeal's fascinating biography will not be the last word on Stanley, but it should be the starting place for years to come. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. G. M. Stearns Elizabethtown Community College
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2007 (Fiction)
The Inheritance of Loss
Book Jacket   Kiran Desai
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780871139290 This stunning second novel from Desai (Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard) is set in mid-1980s India, on the cusp of the Nepalese movement for an independent state. Jemubhai Popatlal, a retired Cambridge-educated judge, lives in Kalimpong, at the foot of the Himalayas, with his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and his cook. The makeshift family's neighbors include a coterie of Anglophiles who might be savvy readers of V.S. Naipaul but who are, perhaps, less aware of how fragile their own social standing is-at least until a surge of unrest disturbs the region. Jemubhai, with his hunting rifles and English biscuits, becomes an obvious target. Besides threatening their very lives, the revolution also stymies the fledgling romance between 16-year-old Sai and her Nepalese tutor, Gyan. The cook's son, Biju, meanwhile, lives miserably as an illegal alien in New York. All of these characters struggle with their cultural identity and the forces of modernization while trying to maintain their emotional connection to one another. In this alternately comical and contemplative novel, Desai deftly shuttles between first and third worlds, illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a "better life," when one person's wealth means another's poverty. Agent, Michael Carlisle. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780871139290 Having triumphed with Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Desai returns with the tale of a crusty old judge whose retirement to a desolate house near Mount Kanchenjunga is disrupted by an orphaned granddaughter and, eventually, Nepalese insurgency. With a 12-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780871139290 A shell of his once imposing self, retired magistrate Patel retreats from society to live on what was previously a magnificent estate in India's Himalayas. Cho Oyu is as far away from the real world as the embittered Patel can get. Owing to neglect and apathy, its once beautiful wooden floors are rotted, mice run about freely, and extreme cold permeates everything. The old man isn't blind to the decay that surrounds him and in fact embraces it. But the outside world intrudes with the arrival of his young granddaughter-a girl he never even knew existed. Predictably, the relationship between the two builds throughout the narrative. A parallel story about love and loss is told through the voice of Patel's cook. After the success of her debut, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Desai-the daughter of one of India's most gifted writers, Anita Desai-falls short in her second attempt at fiction. She fails to get readers to connect and identify with the characters, much less care for them. The story lines don't run together smoothly, and the switching between character narratives is very abrupt. Not recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/05.]-Marika Zemke, West Bloomfield Twp. P.L., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780871139290 Desai's Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard (1998) introduced an astute observer of human nature and a delectably sensuous satirist. In her second novel, Desai is even more perceptive and bewitching. Set in India in a small Himalayan community along the border with Nepal, its center is the once grand, now decaying home of a melancholy retired judge, his valiant cook, and beloved dog. Sai, the judge's teenage granddaughter, has just moved in, and she finds herself enmeshed in a shadowy fairy tale-like life in a majestic landscape where nature is so rambunctious it threatens to overwhelm every human quest for order. Add violent political unrest fomented by poor young men enraged by the persistence of colonial-rooted prejudice, and this is a paradise under siege. Just as things grow desperate, the cook's son, who has been suffering the cruelties accorded illegal aliens in the States, returns home. Desai is superbly insightful in her rendering of compelling characters and in her wisdom regarding the perverse dynamics of society. Like Salman Rushdie in Shalimar the Clown (2005), Desai imaginatively dramatizes the wonders and tragedies of Himalayan life and, by extension, the fragility of peace and elusiveness of justice, albeit with her own powerful blend of tenderness and wit. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2005 Booklist
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2007 (Nonfiction)
Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution
 Simon Schama
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780060539160 This powerful, engaging narrative tells the rich story of African American loyalists, their British supporters, and their adversaries from the onset of the American Revolution to 1808, when the British Crown assumed formal control over Sierra Leone, where perhaps a thousand of these loyalists settled after a sojourn in Nova Scotia. Specialists knew many portions of this saga, but its complexity--not to mention US racism--has kept it outside the mainstream. Weaving the stories of freedom-seeking African Americans--Thomas Peters, David George, and Phyllis Halstead, among others--with the actions of British abolitionists Granville Sharp and John Clarkson, Schama (Columbia Univ.) illustrates how African Americans used their understanding of law, including the Somerset case, and their belief in British proclamations of liberty in exchange for loyalty to gain freedom and ultimately, in many cases, their own land. Frustrated by slaveholding loyalists, southern interests impacting the Treaty of Paris, British racism, and the vicissitudes of climate and weather, black loyalists experienced hardship and cruelty, but consistently acted on their preference for freedom over comfort. Schama's story serves as a powerful corrective for any who seek a simplistic meaning of the American Revolution. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. E. R. Crowther Adams State College
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060539160 Promised freedom if they served King George, slaves fled Southern plantations en masse during the American Revolution. A new look at our country's beginnings from a celebrated historian. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Was the England of King George less racist than the America of George Washington? Yes, for which reason thousands of Africans and African-Americans cast their lot with England when revolution came. "All men are created equal"—but not in America. As Schama (A History of Britain, 2001, etc.) notes in this lucid history, though the Americans made pious noises about the indignity of slavery, they blamed the trade on the crown even as England was all but done with slavery. Indeed, a common scare tactic used during the Revolution was claiming that King George had ordered the slaves to rise up against their American masters, which set American hearts pounding and militia to mustering. Meanwhile, runaway slaves in England benefited from the largess of crown courts and the widespread (though by no means universal) view that "all subjects in the land, irrespective of rank, were equally subject to the king's laws and equally entitled to his protection." Word soon filtered back to America, and freedmen and slaves alike swarmed to join the British Army, where they were put "on the march against America and slavery" and performed heroically at places like Fort Murray and Charleston. After the Revolution, British reformers worked to establish colonies of black refugees, as in Sierra Leone, while social and political pressures finally forced Thomas Jefferson to sign a "bill outlawing the importation of slaves" in 1807—only to be trumped by Britain, which abolished slavery altogether. An important contribution to the history of the Revolution, and of slavery in America. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060539160 Given his popularity, Schama, widely known for his 15-part BBC documentary, A History of Britain, might bring more attention to this important topic: the African American slave struggle, during and after the American Revolution, to achieve freedom in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone and the British citizens who supported them. Schama's is not a complete history-readers will wonder, for instance, how word spread so fast about Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore's declaration that slaves would be granted their freedom if they bore arms against the rebels. Also, Schama does not provide a detailed account of African Americans as soldiers, for which readers might turn to Benjamin Quarles's The Negro in the American Revolution. But he effectively gives enough information to move the story. The book's strength is the discussion of Sierra Leone, in which Schama uses original source material to create an absorbing real-life tale. It is here that he hits his stride. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/06.]-Bryan Craig, Ursuline Coll., Pepper Pike, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780060539160 African-American history, as well as American history, is too often geographically restricted in focus and content, lacking larger global context. Schama, a much-hailed Columbia University history professor and writer, frees us from those debilitating limitations. In the American Revolution, he exposes the complex dimensions of black interests associated with both the loyalist and patriot forces. For those of slave status, the American quest for liberty had hollow virtue without its companion of freedom. The slavery issue impacted both the revolution and our nations' early formation far more than is commonly known. Schama takes the reader to Nova Scotia, where Britain's promise of freedom to black loyalists conflicted with the interest of white loyalists whose sense of a loss of privilege added to more material losses they suffered during the war. Although pragmatism may have been at the root of loyalists' promise of freedom, Britain also contained strong abolitionist forces in the personalities of Granville Sharp, Thomas and John Clarkson, as well as others. However, these three sought to facilitate their nations' promise to African-American loyalist blacks by creation of Sierra Leone in West Africa. This important book reveals the interplay between American and British ideals and hypocritical practices in impacting the plight of black Americans' freedom quest. --Vernon Ford Copyright 2006 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780060539160 Has there ever been a patch of history more celebrated than the American Revolution? The torrent is endless: volume after volume about the glory of 1776, the miracle of 1787 and enough biographies of the Founding Fathers to stretch from the Liberty Bell to Bunker Hill and back again. The Library of Congress catalogue lists 271 books or other items to do with George Washington's death and burial alone. Enough! By contrast with the usual hagiography, distinguished historian Schama has found a little-known story from this era that makes the Founding Fathers look not so glorious. The Revolution saw the first mass emancipation of slaves in the AmericasAan emancipation, however, not done by the revolutionaries but by their enemies. Many American rebel leaders were slave owners. To hit them where it most hurt, Britain proclaimed freedom for all slaves of rebel masters who could make their way to British-controlled territory. Slaves deserted their horrified owners by the tens of thousands. One, who used his master's last name, was Henry Washington; another renamed himself British Freedom. The most subversive news in this book is that the British move so shocked many undecided Southern whites that it actually pushed them into the rebel camp: "Theirs was a revolution, first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery." Even though they lost the war, most British officers honored their promise to the escaped slaves. The British commander in New York at the war's end, where some 3,000 runaway slaves had taken refuge, adamantly refused an irate Washington's demand to give them back. Instead, he put them on ships for Nova Scotia. And there, nearly a decade later, another saga began. More than a thousand ex-slaves accepted a British offer of land in Sierra Leone, a utopian colony newly founded by abolitionists, which for a few years in the 1790s was the first place on earth where women could vote. Sadly, however, financial problems and the British government's dismay at so much democracy soon brought an end to the self-rule the former slaves had been promised. Schama once again gives his readers something rare: history that is both well told and well documented. In this wonderfully sprawling epic, there are a few small errors about dates and the like, and perhaps a few more characters than we can easily keep track of, but again and again he manages to bring a scene, a person, a conversation dramatically to life. Would that more historians wrote like this. (On sale Apr. 25) Adam Hochschild is the author of, most recently, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, a National Book Award finalist. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2007 (Biography)
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
 Julie Phillips
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780312203856 Journalist Phillips has achieved a wonder: an evenhanded, scrupulously documented, objective yet sympathetic portrait of a deliberately elusive personality: Alice Sheldon (1915-1987), who adopted the persona of science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr. Working from Sheldon's (and Tiptree's) few interviews; Sheldon's professional papers, many unpublished; and the papers of Sheldon's writer-explorer-socialite mother, Phillips has crafted an absorbing melange of several disparate lives besides Sheldon's, each impacting hers like a deadly off-course asteroid. From Sheldon's sad poor-little-rich-girlhood to her sadder suicide (by a prior pact first shooting her blind and bedridden husband), Sheldon, perpetually wishing she'd been born a boy, made what she called "endless makeshift" attempts to express her tormenting creativity as, among others, a debutante, a flamboyant bohemian, a WAC officer, a CIA photoanalyst, and a research scientist before producing Tiptree's "haunting, subversive, many-layered [science] fiction" at 51. Sheldon masked her authorship until 1976, and afterward produced little fiction, feeling that a woman writing as a man could not be convincing. Through all the ironic sorrows of a life Sheldon wished she hadn't had to live as a woman, Phillips steadfastly and elegantly allows one star, bright as the Sirius Sheldon loved, to gleam. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Finely detailed biography of a woman whose ascension as a cult figure writing as a man was the most visible facet of her fascinating and, in the end, tragic life. Journalist Phillips's (Ms., Village Voice, etc.) superb depiction of Alice B. Sheldon (1915–87) as the woman behind the persona of science-fiction writer James Tiptree is an extraordinary achievement. A Chicago debutante who survived a quickie society marriage and divorce, "Alli" Bradley enlisted in the army and became a WWII intelligence officer. After the war, she married fellow veteran Huntingdon Sheldon, and they both joined the fledgling CIA. She also dabbled in graphic art and eventually earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology. After more than a decade of publishing as "Tiptree," Sheldon's secret was revealed. Her life ended in a double suicide with her ailing husband. Apart from the basic facts of her life, Sheldon's innermost thoughts were revealed to the world through her stories and the voluminous correspondence "he" exchanged with close friends, who, like Tiptree's readers, had no idea that it was a woman speaking to them. Most, Phillips says, saw him as a manly man's writer, dealing with issues of sex and death—her writing was sometimes compared to Hemingway's—but one with an unusual talent for creating sympathetic female characters. Phillips is more than adept at plumbing Sheldon's writing to expose her anger at the role gender plays in sex, creativity and power. A compelling portrait of a conflicted feminist. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780312203856 Over the course of an abbreviated but prolific 20-year career, the late James Tiptree Jr. earned a well-deserved place in the pantheon of sf with a series of brilliantly original tales featuring a distinctive, apocalyptic flavor. Stories such as The Girl Who Was Plugged In and The Women Men Don't See have become staples of sf anthologies and university literature classes. Despite frequently featuring well-rounded female protagonists, Tiptree kept his true, female identity as Alice B. Sheldon (1915-87) a closely guarded secret until relatively late in her life. Phillips' long-overdue biography probes the mystery behind Sheldon's clandestine lifestyle while mapping out the many adventurous turns in her continuously reinvented identity as she changed roles from graphic artist and CIA agent to psychologist and award-winning author. Beginning with Sheldon's childhood spent tagging along to Africa with her mother, noted travel writer Mary Bradley, Phillips follows Alli from her formative years in a Swiss girls' school to her years working in a Pentagon subbasement to, finally, her almost whimsical turn as an sf author and eventual, premeditated suicide with her husband. Phillips draws on extensive interviews with surviving relatives and literary colleagues as well as Alli's revealing letters to write a compelling, sympathetic portrait of one of speculative fiction's most gifted and fascinating figures. --Carl Hays Copyright 2006 Booklist
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2006 (Fiction)
The March
Book Jacket   E. L. Doctorow
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375506710 The author who made the historical novel a real literary event returns with the story of General Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas. With a seven-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375506710 Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas produced hundreds of thousands of deaths and untold collateral damage. In this powerful novel, Doctorow gets deep inside the pillage, cruelty and destruction-as well as the care and burgeoning love that sprung up in their wake. William Tecumseh Sherman ("Uncle Billy" to his troops) is depicted as a man of complex moods and varying abilities, whose need for glory sometimes obscures his military acumen. Most of the many characters are equally well-drawn and psychologically deep, but the two most engaging are Pearl, a plantation owner's despised daughter who is passing as a drummer boy, and Arly, a cocksure Reb soldier whose belief that God dictates the events in his life is combined with the cunning of a wily opportunist. Their lives provide irony, humor and strange coincidences. Though his lyrical prose sometimes shades into sentimentality when it strays from what people are feeling or saying, Doctorow's gift for getting into the heads of a remarkable variety of characters, famous or ordinary, make this a kind of grim Civil War Canterbury Tales. On reaching the novel's last pages, the reader feels wonder that this nation was ever able to heal after so brutal, and personal, a conflict. 7-city author tour. (Sept. 20) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780739321355 America's greatest internal conflict is brought startlingly to life in this masterful fictional exploration of the slaves, soldiers and leaders who lived through it all. The action focuses on Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's 1864 march through Georgia and the Carolinas-a march that led more than 60,000 Union troops across the land, leaving a swath of destruction and ruin in its wake. Morton handles the voices of the diverse cast with incredible variety and precision. He shifts seamlessly from the cold, proper dialect of the surgeon Colonel Sartorius, to the lowborn speech of Pearl, a light-skinned slave who is passing as a drummer boy in Sherman's army. Morton's narration, like Doctorow's prose, is quietly powerful, and propels the story forward as relentlessly as Sherman's advancing armies. Morton has always been a terrific character actor onscreen, and he brings those same outstanding qualities to this audiobook production. His performances does more than simply translate a book to audio; it truly enhances the reading experience. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, July 18). (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780375506710 American history is the wellspring of Doctorow's prevailing fiction, but never before has he so fully occupied the past, or so gorgeously evoked its generation of the forces that seeded our times. The march in question is that of General William Tecumseh Sherman and his Union soldiers as they slash and burn their way through Georgia and the Carolinas, and the "march to freedom" as liberated slaves fall in step with the liberating army. But it is also, given the poetic depth of Doctorow's vision, the great march of time and of humanity in all its cruelty and glory. As Doctorow dramatizes the fury, conviction, and chaos of the Civil War, he portrays historical figures, as he is wont to do, most electrifyingly Sherman himself. But he focuses most on brilliantly imagined characters who embody the epic conflicts of that cataclysmic era, including Pearl, the smart and courageous daughter of a slave and slave owner; an excessively clinical military surgeon; the valiant daughter of a Southern judge; a freed slave who becomes a war photographer; and Arly, a scheming Rebel soldier who provides shrewdly comic relief. Doctorow writes with blazing clarity about the "brutal romance" of war and its gruesome realities, with lyrical splendor about nature, and with wry wisdom and nimble satire about human folly. Heir to Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage,0 Doctorow's masterpiece uncovers the roots of today's racial and political conundrums, and taps into the deep and abiding realm of myth in its illumination of sorrow and beauty, the continuity of human existence, and the transcendence of tenacity, compassion, and love. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2005 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Doctorow portrays William Tecumseh Sherman's army, which devastated Georgia and the Carolinas during the Civil War, as a living organism, several miles long, moving forward, devouring everything in its path. He paradoxically achieves a panoramic view by focusing on the stories of a wide variety of individuals, from freed slaves and soldiers of both sides to physicians tending the wounded, displaced widows and orphans, and even Sherman himself. As in Ragtime, Doctorow cuts back and forth among these fascinating stories, achieving a rhythm that echoes the chaos of the historic events. The March educates as it entertains and finds laughter amidst tragedy. Such a wide spectrum of characters gives reader Joe Morton a nearly unique opportunity, and he excels, voicing characters of varying races, ages, genders, and regions with aplomb. Nominated for a National Book Award, this is clearly one of the best novels of 2005; every library will want it.-John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375506710 Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's long and bloody march to the sea remains one of the most enigmatic and fascinating chapters of Civil War history. Yet Ragtime author Doctorow's fictional re-creation of the event lacks compelling characters, forceful structure, and dominant themes and so fails to make it much more than a romp in the park. A sort of Canterbury Tales of the Civil War, the novel allows numerous characters to amble onto the scene and tell their stories, which the novel then generally follows until Lee surrenders and Sherman's march is finished. Among them are Pearl, a black child who passes for white because her color comes from her plantation master father; Stephen Walsh, a lieutenant in Sherman's army, who falls in love with Pearl and sweeps her away; Wrede Sartorius, a grim and businesslike field doctor for whom medicine is life; Emily Thompson, a young Southern plantation belle who becomes Sartorius's nurse and momentary lover; and General Sherman himself, for whom war is the only life worth living. Doctorow paints his canvas with his typical attention to period detail, but he is no Shelby Foote (Shiloh), Howard Bahr (The Black Flower), or Madison Jones (Nashville 1864), and this effort simply fails to engage. Still, his fans will be clamoring for it; be prepared. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/05.]-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375506710 Adult/High School-A Civil War tale with much to engage teens. The title refers to a climactic event, General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea. Using a nonlinear (but not especially challenging) structure that recalls his groundbreaking Ragtime, Doctorow narrates events through multiple Union and Confederate perspectives. A rich variety of individuals, both fictional and historical, populates a moving world of more than 60,000 troops accompanied by thousands of former slaves and assorted civilian refugees who follow Sherman on his ruthless progress through Georgia and the Carolinas. While many characters are essentially entertaining sketches, there are a few memorable standouts, particularly 15-year-old Pearl, a so-called "white Negro" fathered by her owner. Taking advantage of the chaos after war disrupts her tightly controlled existence, she flees her looted plantation home, disguises herself as a drummer boy, and joins the march, determined to reach freedom and create a life worth living. On the way, she experiences moments of violence, love, irony, and even humor in the midst of horror. Short cinematic episodes illuminate and interpret history with meticulous attention to period settings, from terrifying battlefields to desperate field hospitals to once-grand mansions, all described in lyrical language crafted by a skilled writer.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. William Tecumseh Sherman's legendary "march" (1864–65) through Georgia and the Carolinas—toward Appomattox, and victory—is the subject of Doctorow's panoramic tenth novel. As he did in his classic Ragtime (1991), Doctorow juxtaposes grand historical events with the lives of people caught up in them—here, nearly two dozen Union and Confederate soldiers and officers and support personnel; plantation owners and their families; and freed slaves unsure where their futures lie. The story begins in Georgia, where John Jameson's homestead "Fieldstone" becomes a casualty of Sherman's "scorched earth" tactics (earlier applied during the destruction of Atlanta). The narrative expands as Sherman moves north, adding characters and subtly entwining their destinies with that of the nation. Emily Thompson, daughter of a Georgia Chief Justice, finds her calling as a battlefield nurse working alongside Union Army surgeon Wrede Sartorius (who'll later be reassigned to Washington, where an incident at Ford's Theater demands his services). "Rebel" soldiers Will Kirkland and Arly Wilcox move duplicitously from one army to another, and the Falstaffian pragmatist Arly later courts survival by usurping the identity of a battlefield photographer. John Jameson's "white Negro" bastard daughter Pearl becomes her former mistress's keeper—and the last best hope for melancholy "replacement" northern soldier Stephen Walsh. Sherman's war-loving subordinate Justin "Kil" Kilpatrick blithely rapes and loots, finding a boy's excitement in bloody exigencies. There's even a brief appearance by indignantly independent black "Coalhouse" Walker (a graceful nod to the aforementioned Ragtime). Doctorow patiently weaves these and several other stories together, while presenting military strategies (e.g., the "vise" formed by Sherman's gradual meeting with Grant's Army) with exemplary clarity. Behind it all stalks the brilliant, conflicted, "volatile" Sherman, to whom Doctorow gives this stunning climactic statement: "our civil war . . . is but a war after a war, a war before a war." Doctorow's previous novels have earned multiple major literary awards. The March should do so as well. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2006 (Nonfiction)
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of Nuclear Disaster
Book Jacket   Svetlana Alexievich
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781564784018 A chorus of fatalism, stoic bravery and black, black humor is sounded in this haunting oral history of the 1986 nuclear reactor catastrophe in what is now northeastern Ukraine. Russian journalist Alexievich records a wide array of voices: a woman who clings to her irradiated, dying husband though nurses warn her "that's not a person anymore, that's a nuclear reactor"; a hunter dispatched to evacuated villages to exterminate the household pets; soldiers sent in to clean up the mess, bitter at the callous, incompetent Soviet authorities who "flung us there, like sand on the reactor," but accepting their lot as a test of manhood; an idealistic nuclear engineer whose faith in communism is shattered. And there are the local peasants who take this latest in a long line of disasters in stride, filtering back to their homes to harvest their contaminated potatoes, shrugging that if they survived the Germans, they'll survive radiation. Alexievich shapes these testimonies into novelistic "monologues" that convey a vivid portrait of late-Communist malaise, in which bullying party bosses, paranoid propaganda and chaotic mobilizations are resisted with bleak sarcasm ("It wasn't milk, it was a radioactive byproduct"), mournful philosophizing ("[t]he mechanism of evil will work under conditions of apocalypse") and lots of vodka. The result is an indelible X-ray of the Russian soul. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781564784018 Chernobyl is like the war of all wars. There's nowhere to hide. On April 26, 1986, the people of Belarus lost everything when a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded. Many people died outright, and many were evacuated, forced to leave behind everything from pets to family photographs. Millions of acres remain contaminated, and thousands of people continue to be afflicted with diseases caused by radiation as 20 tons of nuclear fuel sit in a reactor shielded by a leaking sarcophagus known as the Cover. For three years, journalist Alexievich spoke with scores of survivors--the widow of a first responder, an on-the-scene cameraman, teachers, doctors, farmers, Party bureaucrats, a historian, scientists, evacuees, resettlers, grandmothers, mothers--and she now presents their shocking accounts of life in a poisoned world. And what quintessentially human stories these are, as each distinct voice expresses anger, fear, ignorance, stoicism, valor, compassion, and love. Alexievich put her own health at risk to gather these invaluable frontline testimonies, which she has transmuted into a haunting and essential work of literature that one can only hope documents a never-to-be-repeated catastrophe. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2005 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781564784018 A chorus of fatalism, stoic bravery and black, black humor is sounded in this haunting oral history of the 1986 nuclear reactor catastrophe in what is now northeastern Ukraine. Russian journalist Alexievich records a wide array of voices: a woman who clings to her irradiated, dying husband though nurses warn her "that's not a person anymore, that's a nuclear reactor"; a hunter dispatched to evacuated villages to exterminate the household pets; soldiers sent in to clean up the mess, bitter at the callous, incompetent Soviet authorities who "flung us there, like sand on the reactor," but accepting their lot as a test of manhood; an idealistic nuclear engineer whose faith in communism is shattered. And there are the local peasants who take this latest in a long line of disasters in stride, filtering back to their homes to harvest their contaminated potatoes, shrugging that if they survived the Germans, they'll survive radiation. Alexievich shapes these testimonies into novelistic "monologues" that convey a vivid portrait of late-Communist malaise, in which bullying party bosses, paranoid propaganda and chaotic mobilizations are resisted with bleak sarcasm ("It wasn't milk, it was a radioactive byproduct"), mournful philosophizing ("[t]he mechanism of evil will work under conditions of apocalypse") and lots of vodka. The result is an indelible X-ray of the Russian soul. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781564784018 Chernobyl is like the war of all wars. There's nowhere to hide. On April 26, 1986, the people of Belarus lost everything when a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded. Many people died outright, and many were evacuated, forced to leave behind everything from pets to family photographs. Millions of acres remain contaminated, and thousands of people continue to be afflicted with diseases caused by radiation as 20 tons of nuclear fuel sit in a reactor shielded by a leaking sarcophagus known as the Cover. For three years, journalist Alexievich spoke with scores of survivors--the widow of a first responder, an on-the-scene cameraman, teachers, doctors, farmers, Party bureaucrats, a historian, scientists, evacuees, resettlers, grandmothers, mothers--and she now presents their shocking accounts of life in a poisoned world. And what quintessentially human stories these are, as each distinct voice expresses anger, fear, ignorance, stoicism, valor, compassion, and love. Alexievich put her own health at risk to gather these invaluable frontline testimonies, which she has transmuted into a haunting and essential work of literature that one can only hope documents a never-to-be-repeated catastrophe. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2005 Booklist
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2006 (Biography)
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
 Kai Bird
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375412028 Though many recognize Oppenheimer (1904-1967) as the father of the atomic bomb, few are as familiar with his career before and after Los Alamos. Sherwin (A World Destroyed) has spent 25 years researching every facet of Oppenheimer's life, from his childhood on Manhattan's Upper West Side and his prewar years as a Berkeley physicist to his public humiliation when he was branded a security risk at the height of anticommunist hysteria in 1954. Teaming up with Bird, an acclaimed Cold War historian (The Color of Truth), Sherwin examines the evidence surrounding Oppenheimer's "hazy and vague" connections to the Communist Party in the 1930sAloose interactions consistent with the activities of contemporary progressives. But those politics, in combination with Oppenheimer's abrasive personality, were enough for conservatives, from fellow scientist Edward Teller to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, to work at destroying Oppenheimer's postwar reputation and prevent him from swaying public opinion against the development of a hydrogen bomb. Bird and Sherwin identify Atomic Energy Commission head Lewis Strauss as the ringleader of a "conspiracy" that culminated in a security clearance hearing designed as a "show trial." Strauss's tactics included illegal wiretaps of Oppenheimer's attorney; those transcripts and other government documents are invaluable in debunking the charges against Oppenheimer. The political drama is enhanced by the close attention to Oppenheimer's personal life, and Bird and Sherwin do not conceal their occasional frustration with his arrogant stonewalling and panicky blunders, even as they shed light on the psychological roots for those failures, restoring human complexity to a man who had been both elevated and demonized. 32 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Apr. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375412028 Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in the life, career, achievements, and trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "father" of the atomic bomb. In 2004, there were two new biographies by significant science writers-Jeremy Bernstein's Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma and David C. Cassidy's J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century. In addition to this current title, another is scheduled for publication in 2005, Abraham Pais and Robert Crease's Shatterer of Worlds: A Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer. This collaboration between writer Bird and English professor Sherwin is an expansive but fast-paced and engrossing work that draws its strength from the insights provided into Oppenheimer's thoughts and motives and the many anecdotes. The book's five parts cover his youth and education, his early career and dalliance with communism, the Manhattan Project, his return to academe and growing political influence, and, finally, his dealings with the FBI and eventual retreat from public life. The emphasis throughout is on Oppenheimer's personality and how he navigated the sociopolitical minefields of the era, with relatively less discussion of his scientific work. For a readable and well-researched biography of the man, this suffices quite well. However, with so many other biographies available, not to mention histories of the Manhattan Project, it provides little new information here. For general readers in larger public and academic libraries.-Gregg Sapp, Science Lib., SUNY at Albany (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The second greatest scientific mind of the atomic era gets respectful but revealing treatment by political journalist Bird (The Color of Truth, 1998) and literary scholar Sherwin (A World Destroyed, 1975). That Oppenheimer (1904–67) was a rare genius is beyond doubt; his colleagues at CalTech, GÖttingen and Los Alamos were impressed to the point of being cowed by his intellect, and "Oppie" was far ahead of even his professors in the new world of quantum theory. He was a rare bird in other ways as well. A child of privilege whose very luggage excited discussion among his cash-strapped European colleagues, he identified early with left-wing causes and was reportedly better read in the classics of Marxism than most Communist theoreticians; and, though a leftist, he expressed enough fondness for the U.S. that those European colleagues sometimes thought him a chauvinist. Worldly in many ways, he was something of a naïf. In time, he shed some of his clumsiness and became the model of a committed intellectual, unusually generous in sharing credit with students and colleagues and able to wear his achievements lightly. ("I can make it clearer," he once remarked of a thorny physics problem, "but I can't make it simpler.") The authors lucidly explain Oppenheimer's many scientific accomplishments and the finer points of quantum mechanics. More, they examine his life in a political context, for, though one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer warned against its proliferation and noted, as early as 1946, that our major cities were now susceptible to terrorist attack, the only defense being a screwdriver—to open "each and every crate or suitcase." His prescience and conscience cost him dearly: Oppie was effectively blacklisted for more than a decade and rehabilitated only at the end of his too-short life. A swiftly moving narrative full of morality tales and juicy gossip. One of the best scientific biographies to appear in recent years. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780375412028 Robert Oppenheimer's work as director of the Manhattan Project--bringing hundreds of iconoclastic nuclear physicists together in the New Mexico desert to design and build the first atomic bomb--remains one of the most remarkable feats, both triumphant and tragic, of the twentieth century, but as this definitive biography makes clear, it was only one chapter in a profoundly fascinating, richly complex, and ineffably sad American life. Bird and Sherwin set the stage beautifully, detailing Oppenheimer's young life as a multidisciplinary child prodigy at the progressive Ethical Culture School in Manhattan. The young Oppenheimer was a tangled mix of precocity and insecurity--a far cry from the charismatic leader who would emerge at Los Alamos. Funneling more than 25 years of research into a captivating narrative, the authors bring needed perspective to Oppenheimer's radical activities in the 1930s, and they reprise the familiar story of the Manhattan Project thoroughly, though without attempting the scope and scientific detail of Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb 0 (1987) .0 Where Bird and Sherwin are without peer, however, is in capturing the humanity of the man behind the porkpie hat, both at Los Alamos and in the tragic aftermath, when Oppenheimer's tireless efforts to promote arms control made him the target of politicians and bureaucrats, leading to the revoking of his security clearance by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1954, during a hearing that the authors portray convincingly as a kangaroo court. That Oppenheimer both helped father the bomb and was crucified for lobbying against the arms race remains the fundamental irony in a supremely ironic story. That irony as well as the ambiguity and tortured emotions behind it are captured in all their intensity in this compelling life story. --Bill Ott Copyright 2005 Booklist
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780375412028 Oppenheimer became one of the world's best-known physicists in 1945 when the public learned that he had successfully led the effort to design and construct the first nuclear fission bombs. He and other researchers worked hard after WW II trying to convince the government to place nuclear materials under international control. Oppenheimer lobbied against a program to produce a nuclear fusion bomb on the grounds that it would be massively destructive. In order to squelch his influence, some of his opponents instigated a hearing before a board of the Atomic Energy Commission; as a result, Oppenheimer lost his security clearance in 1954. He spent the rest of his career at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton, where he had been director since 1947. Writer Bird and Sherwin (English; American history, Tufts Univ.) offer this comprehensive biography based on analysis of masses of documentation and many interviews. Their book stimulates thinking about key issues--international control of nuclear materials, openness in science and politics, freedom of debate, and discussion of ideas--that are as important today as they were then. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All levels. M. Dickinson Maine Maritime Academy
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2005 (Fiction)
Gilead
 Marilynne Robinson
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374153892 As his life winds down, Rev. John Ames relates the story of his own father and grandfather, both preachers but one a pacifist and one a gun-toting abolitionist. Amazingly, just Robinson's second novel. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The wait since 1981 and Housekeeping is over. Robinson returns with a second novel that, however quiet in tone and however delicate of step, will do no less than tell the story of America—and break your heart. A reverend in tiny Gilead, Iowa, John Ames is 74, and his life is at its best—and at its end. Half a century ago, Ames's first wife died in childbirth, followed by her new baby daughter, and Ames, seemingly destined to live alone, devoted himself to his town, church, and people—until the Pentecost Sunday when a young stranger named Lila walked into the church out of the rain and, from in back, listened to Ames's sermon, then returned each Sunday after. The two married—Ames was 67—had a son, and life began all over again. But not for long. In the novel's present (mid-1950s), Ames is suffering from the heart trouble that will soon bring his death. And so he embarks upon the writing of a long diary, or daily letter—the pages of Gilead—addressed to his seven-year-old son so he can read it when he's grown and know not only about his absent father but his own history, family, and heritage. And what a letter it is! Not only is John Ames the most kind, observant, sensitive, and companionable of men to spend time with, but his story reaches back to his patriarchal Civil War great-grandfather, fiery preacher and abolitionist; comes up to his grandfather, also a reverend and in the War; to his father; and to his own life, spent in his father's church. This long story of daily life in deep Middle America—addressed to an unknown and doubting future—is never in the slightest way parochial or small, but instead it evokes on the pulse the richest imaginable identifying truths of what America was. Robinson has composed, with its cascading perfections of symbols, a novel as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374153892 Fans of Robinson's acclaimed debut Housekeeping (1981) will find that the long wait has been worth it. From the first page of her second novel, the voice of Rev. John Ames mesmerizes with his account of his life-and that of his father and grandfather. Ames is 77 years old in 1956, in failing health, with a much younger wife and six-year-old son; as a preacher in the small Iowa town where he spent his entire life, he has produced volumes and volumes of sermons and prayers, "[t]rying to say what was true." But it is in this mesmerizing account-in the form of a letter to his young son, who he imagines reading it when he is grown-that his meditations on creation and existence are fully illumined. Ames details the often harsh conditions of perishing Midwestern prairie towns, the Spanish influenza and two world wars. He relates the death of his first wife and child, and his long years alone attempting to live up to the legacy of his fiery grandfather, a man who saw visions of Christ and became a controversial figure in the Kansas abolitionist movement, and his own father's embittered pacifism. During the course of Ames's writing, he is confronted with one of his most difficult and long-simmering crises of personal resentment when John Ames Boughton (his namesake and son of his best friend) returns to his hometown, trailing with him the actions of a callous past and precarious future. In attempting to find a way to comprehend and forgive, Ames finds that he must face a final comprehension of self-as well as the worth of his life's reflections. Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering and precise; the revelations are subtle but never muted when they come, and the careful telling carries the breath of suspense. There is no simple redemption here; despite the meditations on faith, even readers with no religious inclinations will be captivated. Many writers try to capture life's universals of strength, struggle, joy and forgiveness-but Robinson truly succeeds in what is destined to become her second classic. Agent, Ellen Levine. 5-city author tour. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374153892 Robinson's first book, Housekeeping (1981), remains an astonishment, leading to high expectations for her longed-for second novel, which is, joyfully, a work of profound beauty and wonder. Reverend John Ames of Gilead, Iowa, a grandson and son of preachers, now in his seventies, is afraid he hasn't much time left to tell his young son about his heritage. And so he takes up his pen, as he has for decades--he estimates that he's written more than 2,000 sermons--and vividly describes his prophetlike grandfather, who had a vision that inspired him to go to Kansas and make himself useful to the cause of abolition, and the epic conflict between his fiery grandfather and his pacifist father. He recounts the death of his first wife and child, marvels over the variegated splendors of earth and sky, and offers moving interpretations of the Gospel. And then, as he struggles with his disapproval and fear of his namesake and shadow son, Jack, the reprobate offspring of his closest friend, his letter evolves into a full-blown apologia punctuated by the disturbing revelation of Jack's wrenching predicament, one inexorably tied to the toxic legacy of slavery. For me writing has always felt like praying, discloses Robinson's contemplative hero, and, indeed, John has nearly as much reverence for language and thought as he does for life itself. Millennia of philosophical musings and a century of American history are refracted through the prism of Robinson's exquisite and uplifting novel as she illuminates the heart of a mystic, poet, and humanist. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist
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2005 (Nonfiction)
The Reformation: A History
Book Jacket   Diarmaid MacCulloch
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780670032969 Does the world really need another general history of the Reformation? MacCulloch (history of the Church, Oxford Univ.; Thomas Cranmer: A Life, etc.) thinks so, believing that contemporary scholarship needs wider dissemination. To that end, he has produced the definitive survey for this generation. As in similar studies, religious and political disputes are covered thoroughly. What sets this work apart is the sweep of its coverage, both geographically (from Britain and Ireland in the west to Poland and Lithuania in the east) and chronologically (1490-1700). Also noteworthy is the attention to the movement's social impact on such diverse topics as calendar reform, colonization, family life and sex roles, homosexuality, witchcraft, and more. This well-written book is a joy to read, with new facts and interpretations on nearly every page; still, the work's size and information density will make it slow going for those without a basic knowledge of the subject. With that caveat, this is highly recommended for larger public libraries and academic library collections in European and Christian history. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/03.]-Christopher Brennan, SUNY Coll. at Brockport Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780670032969 Many standard histories of Christianity chronicle the Reformation as a single, momentous period in the history of the Church. According to those accounts, a number of competing groups of reformers challenged a monolithic and corrupt Roman Catholicism over issues ranging from authority and the role of the priests to the interpretation of the Eucharist and the use of the Bible in church. In this wide-ranging, richly layered and captivating study of the Reformation, MacCulloch challenges traditional interpretations, arguing instead that there were many reformations. Arranging his history in chronological fashion, MacCulloch provides in-depth studies of reform movements in central, northern and southern Europe and examines the influences that politics and geography had on such groups. He challenges common assumptions about the relationships between Catholic priests and laity, arguing that in some cases Protestantism actually took away religious authority from laypeople rather than putting it in their hands. In addition, he helpfully points out that even within various groups of reformers there was scarcely agreement about ways to change the Church. MacCulloch offers valuable and engaging portraits of key personalities of the Reformation, including Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. More than a history of the Reformation, MacCulloch's study examines its legacy of individual religious authority and autonomous biblical interpretation. This spectacular intellectual history reminds us that the Reformation grew out of the Renaissance, and provides a compelling glimpse of the cultural currents that formed the background to reform. MacCulloch's magisterial book should become the definitive history of the Reformation. (May 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780670032969 What made the Reformation so powerful? Ask this award-winning historian. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A monumental study of the clash between late medieval Christianity and early modern Protestantism, both "religions of fear, anxiety, and guilt." And both, writes MacCulloch (History/Oxford Univ.), also claimed "remedy and comfort for anxiety and guilt through the love exhibited by God and humanity in Jesus Christ." The remark points to one of MacCulloch's constantly unfolding themes, and one of the great contributions of this superb narrative: that the Protestant revolution and the Catholic counterrevolution marked a clash between many breeds and conceptions of Christianity, so many that it might be well to speak of Reformations and Counterreformations in the plural. MacCulloch points to any number of doctrinal and, as it were, dialectal differences: the Franciscan hatred for Jews, an ironic subversion of St. Francis's urging that Christians consider the life of Christ on earth (which "had the logical consequence of making the faithful also think about the death of Christ on the Cross," which led, of course, to dark thoughts about Jews); the rise of Maristic devotion, which emphasized the Queen of Heaven without much scriptural support, and which served as a key point of Erasmus's contributions to the Protestant revolution; the obsession of some strands of Catholicism—particularly at the edges of Christendom, in places such as Denmark and Galicia—with purgatory, another point of Protestant rejection. Against such deeply and widely held beliefs, matters like papal infallibility and the sale of dispensations seem almost rarefied, though they of course figure strongly in MacCulloch's account of Martin Luther's signal contribution to that revolution, as well as those of Luther's near contemporaries and sometime rivals such as Zwingli and Calvin. MacCulloch adds much to our understanding of why the "Lutheran heresy" was not immediately crushed (he was protected by an important elector within the Holy Roman Empire). He also offers a lucid view of the Reformation and Counterreformation as ongoing struggles—not in Europe, where Christianity has become largely secular, but in the US, where the rate of church-going and fundamentalist belief would do the Middle Ages proud. An essential work of religious history. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780670032969 In the West, religious conviction is generally viewed as a private matter, and tolerance is enshrined in our secular creed. So it may seem incomprehensible that a few centuries ago Europeans enthusiastically slaughtered each other over what, today, seem trivial doctrinal differences. MacCullouch, an Oxford University professor, makes clear in this comprehensive and superbly written history of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation that men of the sixteenth century did not regard these differences as trivial. He seamlessly weaves his account of religious differences into the fabric of political disputes between German princes, the papacy, and monarchs of nation-states. In his portraits of the major personalities, including Luther, Calvin, and Ignatius of Loyola, it is striking that most of them claimed to desire a return to a purer or more catholic Christianity as envisioned by the church fathers. This is an outstanding work that examines fairly and objectively a definitive epoch in the history and spiritual development of the Western world. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2004 Booklist
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780670032969 This book is expansive in both size and scope. MacCulloch (Oxford Univ.) attempts in one volume to reclaim the broad strokes of narrative history and examine one of the key moments in the history of the West. He looks not only at Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, but also at the impact of the Reformation in Poland and Hungary and other less-well-known places. The scope of the book is one of its best selling points, but also one of its great weaknesses. The book is, frankly, too long for practical use as a text in an undergraduate class and not in-depth enough in any one area to be of use in a graduate course. For example, MacCulloch makes a one-sentence reference to the fact that the idea of Reformation verses Reformations is quite current in scholarly fields, but then says that he's going to stick with convention. Why? No explanation is given. Likewise the footnotes and the bibliography leave much to be desired. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers. D. M. Whitford Claflin University
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2005 (Biography)
De Kooning: An American Master
Book Jacket   Mark Stevens
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781400041756 This sweeping biography, 10 years in the making, chronicles in fastidious detail de Kooning's rise from his humble beginnings in Rotterdam to his fame as an abstract expressionist and his descent into alcoholism and Alzheimer's. Emigrating to New York in 1926, de Kooning (1904-1997) situated himself among fellow artists and role models like Arshile Gorky. In 1938, he met and later married painter Elaine Fried; the two remained married despite de Kooning's predilection for bed hopping. (An affair with Joan Ward resulted in a daughter, Lisa, and indeed, the authors spend more ink on de Kooning's womanizing than his art making.) In the early 1940s, de Kooning's work appeared in group shows; his first solo show was a commercial failure. The artist did not meet with real success until the 1950s, when his paintings Excavation and Woman 1 made him "first among equals" in the art world. Stevens, New York magazine's art critic, and Swan, a former senior arts editor at Newsweek, see in de Kooning's life the realization of classic stories-the triumph of the immigrant, the man consumed by his success, the nonexistence of life's second acts-and this comprehensive biography, which attempts to explain de Kooning's art through a careful catalogue of his personal life, is a must read for his admirers. Illus. Agent, Molly Friedrich at Aaron Priest. 40,000 first printing; author tour. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781400041756 At age 12, Willem de Kooning was working at a decorating firm to help support his family while studying the masters at Rotterdam's art academy by night. Ten years later, in 1926, when he stowed away on the British freighter SS Shelley, he knew only one word of English-yes-but was determined to become an American. His classical northern European training and his determination to succeed in this country-along with his tremendous talent and imagination-helped him become an American Master of the 20th century. In this pioneering biography, we learn that his personal life was troubled by alcoholism and infidelity but that his artistic life set him at the forefront of the New York art scene: he founded the New York School and was associated with the likes of Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. New York magazine art critic Stevens and Newsweek arts editor Swan conducted scores of interviews and spent ten years poring over de Kooning's writings (published and unpublished), as well as his films and videotapes, plus statements by those who knew him to produce this masterly biography. A fascinating and dynamic look at the artist, his work, and his world; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/04.]-Marcia Welsh, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781400041756 What made De Kooning tick? New York art critic Stevens joins with former Newsweek arts editor Swan to find out. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781400041756 It took de Kooning many years to achieve recognition, a sustained struggle given its full due in this unfailingly attentive biography, the first of this controversial American master. Distinguished critics Stevens and Swan are indefatigable in their factual chronicling, vivid in their characterization of an immense cast of colorful characters, measured in their psychological interpretations, and sharp in their explications of the visions and politics that drove New York's striving art world from 1926, when the handsome young Dutchman arrived as a stowaway, to his death in 1997. Stevens and Swan tell wild stories about de Kooning's part in the much mythologized Cedar Tavern-anchored, abstract-art heyday, and they cover in painful detail his many affairs and complicated marriage to the vivacious, talented, and pragmatic Elaine. But what is most valuable here is the light shed on de Kooning's rough Rotterdam childhood and early commercial art training, his insistence on painting vehement and unnerving portraits of women, and his mysterious last years at his Long Island studio. Here are rival artists, dueling critics, rampant promiscuity, heroic intentions, demoralizing poverty, heavy drinking, depression, and through it all de Kooning's quest for powerful and authentic expression. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist
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2004 (Fiction)
The Known World
 Edward P. Jones
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. This ambitious first novel by National Book Award nominee Jones (Lost in the City: Stories) looks at slavery from an unusual angle. Henry Townsend is a former slave who was purchased and freed by his own father. Through hard work, he has acquired 50 acres of farmland in Virginia. Given the slave-based agricultural economy, Townsend believes that the logical (and legal) way to work the land is with slaves, and, eventually, he owns more than 30. Although he is less brutal than his neighbors, most of his slaves dream of escaping north. When they try, Townsend must pay the white patrollers to return them or be seen as irresponsible. But as rumors of bloody slave rebellions spread through the South, unscrupulous bounty hunters begin to round up free blacks, Native Americans, and white orphans along with the escapees. By focusing on an African American slaveholder, Jones forcefully demonstrates how institutionalized slavery jeopardized all levels of civilized society so that no one was really free. A fascinating look at a painful theme, this book is an ideal choice for book clubs. Highly recommended.-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060557546 This ambitious first novel by National Book Award nominee Jones (Lost in the City: Stories) looks at slavery from an unusual angle. Henry Townsend is a former slave who was purchased and freed by his own father. Through hard work, he has acquired 50 acres of farmland in Virginia. Given the slave-based agricultural economy, Townsend believes that the logical (and legal) way to work the land is with slaves, and, eventually, he owns more than 30. Although he is less brutal than his neighbors, most of his slaves dream of escaping north. When they try, Townsend must pay the white patrollers to return them or be seen as irresponsible. But as rumors of bloody slave rebellions spread through the South, unscrupulous bounty hunters begin to round up free blacks, Native Americans, and white orphans along with the escapees. By focusing on an African American slaveholder, Jones forcefully demonstrates how institutionalized slavery jeopardized all levels of civilized society so that no one was really free. A fascinating look at a painful theme, this book is an ideal choice for book clubs. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/03.]-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. Henry Townsend, born a slave, is purchased and freed by his father, yet he remains attached to his former owner, even taking lessons in slave owning when he eventually buys his own slaves. Townsend is part of a small enclave of free blacks who own slaves, thus offering another angle on the complexities of slavery and social relations in a Virginia town just before the Civil War. His widow, Caldonia, grief-stricken and more conflicted about slavery than Henry was, fails to maintain the social order. Also caught in the miasma of slavery is Sheriff John Skiffington, an honorable man who, when presented with a slave as a marriage gift, spends the remainder of his marriage, along with his wife, dithering about how to deal with the girl and ends up treating her like a daughter. These are only a few of the deftly portrayed characters in this elegantly written novel that explores the interweaving of sex, race, and class. Jones moves back and forth in time, making the reader omniscient, knowing what will eventually befall the characters despite their best and worst efforts, their aspirations and their moral failings. This is a profoundly beautiful and insightful look at American slavery and human nature. VanessaBush.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060557546 The author of National Book Award nominee Lost in the City, Jones ventures into fiction with this story of antebellum Virginia, where freed slave Henry Townsend has a plantation-and slaves of his own. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780060557546 In a crabbed, powerful follow-up to his National Book Award-nominated short story collection (Lost in the City), Jones explores an oft-neglected chapter of American history, the world of blacks who owned blacks in the antebellum South. His fictional examination of this unusual phenomenon starts with the dying 31-year-old Henry Townsend, a former slave-now master of 33 slaves of his own and more than 50 acres of land in Manchester County, Va.-worried about the fate of his holdings upon his early death. As a slave in his youth, Henry makes himself indispensable to his master, William Robbins. Even after Henry's parents purchase the family's freedom, Henry retains his allegiance to Robbins, who patronizes him when he sets up shop as a shoemaker and helps him buy his first slaves and his plantation. Jones's thorough knowledge of the legal and social intricacies of slaveholding allows him to paint a complex, often startling picture of life in the region. His richest characterizations-of Robbins and Henry-are particularly revealing. Though he is a cruel master to his slaves, Robbins is desperately in love with a black woman and feels as much fondness for Henry as for his own children; Henry, meanwhile, reads Milton, but beats his slaves as readily as Robbins does. Henry's wife, Caldonia, is not as disciplined as her husband, and when he dies, his worst fears are realized: the plantation falls into chaos. Jones's prose can be rather static and his phrasings ponderous, but his narrative achieves crushing momentum through sheer accumulation of detail, unusual historical insight and generous character writing. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (Sept.) Forecast: This is a new tack for Jones, whose collection Lost in the City was set in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s and '70s. Amistad is sending the novel off with a bang-a 10-city author tour, a 20-city national radio campaign-and it should attract considerable review attention. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved In a crabbed, powerful follow-up to his National Book Award-nominated short story collection (Lost in the City), Jones explores an oft-neglected chapter of American history, the world of blacks who owned blacks in the antebellum South. His fictional examination of this unusual phenomenon starts with the dying 31-year-old Henry Townsend, a former slave-now master of 33 slaves of his own and more than 50 acres of land in Manchester County, Va.-worried about the fate of his holdings upon his early death. As a slave in his youth, Henry makes himself indispensable to his master, William Robbins. Even after Henry's parents purchase the family's freedom, Henry retains his allegiance to Robbins, who patronizes him when he sets up shop as a shoemaker and helps him buy his first slaves and his plantation. Jones's thorough knowledge of the legal and social intricacies of slaveholding allows him to paint a complex, often startling picture of life in the region. His richest characterizations-of Robbins and Henry-are particularly revealing. Though he is a cruel master to his slaves, Robbins is desperately in love with a black woman and feels as much fondness for Henry as for his own children; Henry, meanwhile, reads Milton, but beats his slaves as readily as Robbins does. Henry's wife, Caldonia, is not as disciplined as her husband, and when he dies, his worst fears are realized: the plantation falls into chaos. Jones's prose can be rather static and his phrasings ponderous, but his narrative achieves crushing momentum through sheer accumulation of detail, unusual historical insight and generous character writing.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780060557546 Henry Townsend, born a slave, is purchased and freed by his father, yet he remains attached to his former owner, even taking lessons in slave owning when he eventually buys his own slaves. Townsend is part of a small enclave of free blacks who own slaves, thus offering another angle on the complexities of slavery and social relations in a Virginia town just before the Civil War. His widow, Caldonia, grief-stricken and more conflicted about slavery than Henry was, fails to maintain the social order. Also caught in the miasma of slavery is Sheriff John Skiffington, an honorable man who, when presented with a slave as a marriage gift, spends the remainder of his marriage, along with his wife, dithering about how to deal with the girl and ends up treating her like a daughter. These are only a few of the deftly portrayed characters in this elegantly written novel that explores the interweaving of sex, race, and class. Jones moves back and forth in time, making the reader omniscient, knowing what will eventually befall the characters despite their best and worst efforts, their aspirations and their moral failings. This is a profoundly beautiful and insightful look at American slavery and human nature. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2003 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Slave-owning by free blacks in antebellum America is the astonishingly rich subject of this impressively researched, challenging novel debut by Faulkner Award–winning Jones (stories: Lost in the City, 1992). Set mostly in the period 1830–50, many nested and interrelated stories revolve around the death of black Virginia farmer and slaveholder Henry Townsend, himself a former slave who had purchased his own freedom, as was—and did—his father Augustus, a gifted woodcarver. Jones's flexible narrative moves from the travail of Augustus and his wife Mildred through Henry's conflicted life as both servant and master, to survey as well the lives of Armstrong slaves, from their early years on to many decades after Henry's passing. The first hundred pages are daunting, as the reader struggles to sort out initially quickly glimpsed characters and absorb Jones's handling of historical background information (which virtually never feels obtrusive or oppressive, thanks to his eloquent prose and palpable high seriousness). The story steadily gathers overpowering momentum, as we learn more about such vibrant figures as Henry's introspective spouse Caldonia, his wily overseer Moses, the long-suffering mutilated slave Elias and his crippled wife Celeste, the brutal "patrollers" charged with hunting down runaways (one of whom, duplicitous Harvey Travis, is a villain for the ages), and county sheriff John Skiffington, a decent man who nevertheless cannot shrug off "responsibilities" with which his culture has provisioned, and burdened, him. The particulars and consequences of the "right" of humans to own other humans are dramatized with unprecedented ingenuity and intensity, in a harrowing tale that scarcely ever raises its voice—even during a prolonged climax when two searches produce bitter results and presage the vanishing of a "known world" unable to isolate itself from the shaping power of time and change. This will mean a great deal to a great many people. It should be a major prize contender, and it won't be forgotten. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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  Book Jacket
2004 (Nonfiction)
Sons of Mississippi
 Paul Hendrickson
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375404610 Hendrickson (The Living and the Dead) uses a photograph published in the July 1962 Life magazine as a focus for examining race and racism in late 20th-century American society. The picture, taken in Oxford, MI, by Charles Moore, centers on seven white law enforcement officers. One, Sheriff Billy Ferrell, holds a billy club, while the other four look on smiling. These men were called to Oxford with others to curb anticipated violence accompanying the integration of the University of Mississippi by James Meredith. All seven participated in the riots that left two people dead and hundreds injured. Hendrickson uses the lives of these men to explore Southern racial attitudes of the period, giving us biographies of photographer Moore and of Meredith, whose interesting life since has included working as an aide to Sen. Jesse Helms. Hendrickson then extends the study to examine contemporary racial views through portraits of the lawmen's grandchildren and Meredith's son, Joe. Hendrickson uses a large number of interviews as well as archival materials and periodical literature to create a thoughtful and illuminating portrait of American racial attitudes. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/02.]-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Parkesburg (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780375404610 The author was on the staff of the Washington Post for 23 years, and his journalistic experience stood him in good stead in preparing this fascinating, creative, and deeply resonant look at the civil rights struggle in the U.S. from the perspective of white opposition. Hendrickson uses as his metaphor, as his jumping-off point, a photograph that appeared in Life magazine in 1962, in which seven white sheriffs, standing in a frightening group, are preparing for the violence anticipated on the morrow, when James Meredith would integrate the University of Mississippi. Certainly, these men did not congregate there out of support for racial integration. The photograph struck Hendrickson, when he found it, as an indelible image of the racism of the times. He looked the men up and talked to them, their sons, and a grandson to learn whether the racism the seven sheriffs represented had been carried, like a gene, to their descendants. In his words, "Where did the hatred and the sorrow go that flowed out of the moment?" --Brad Hooper
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780375404610 Former journalist and writing teacher Hendrickson weaves an elaborate narrative of southern racial attitudes around Charles Moore's photo of seven Mississippi sheriffs taken shortly before James Meredith attempted to enter the University of Mississippi in 1962. The photo, published in Life magazine, shows smiling Sheriff Billy Ferrell holding a billy club with his colleagues looking on approvingly. Haunted by this photo, Hendrickson asks, "How did a gene of intolerance and racial fear mutate as it passed sinuously through time and family bloodstreams?" To answer his question, he interviewed two of the surviving lawmen and their sons and grandsons, as well as James Meredith and his sons. Hendrickson's detailed biographies suggest genetics provides no answer to racial attitudes. Despite his familial legacy, Ferrell's grandson Ty, a US border control agent, shows no zeal for arresting illegal aliens. James Meredith went to work for archconservative Senator Jesse Helms and supported David Duke's political candidacy, while Meredith's son Joe disagrees with his father's views. In the end, though, Hendrickson's riveting individual biographies leave readers wondering why poor working-class men like Billy Ferrell embraced white supremacy and revered the Ku Klux Klan. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/collections. M. Greenwald University of Pittsburgh
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375404610 "Nothing is ever escaped," is the woeful reminder Hendrickson imparts in this magisterial group biography-cum-social history, a powerful, unsettling, and beautifully told account of Mississippi's still painful past. Hendrickson, author of the searching Robert McNamara chronicle The Living and the Dead (an NBA finalist), sets out to profile seven Mississippi sheriffs photographed while one of their number postures with a billy club just before the 1962 riots against the integration of the University of Mississippi at Oxford ("Ole Miss"). The picture, shot by freelance photographer Charlie Moore, was published in Life magazine soon after, and it captured Hendrickson's imagination when he came upon it decades later. Chapter by chapter, Hendrickson reconstructs the everyday existences of the seven sheriffs, concentrating on the time of the photo, but taking his subjects through to their deaths. None are now living, but Hendrickson interviewed former Natchez sheriff John Ed Cothram in the early '90s, and the Cothram chapters comprise a paradigmatically subtle and eerie portrait of the intelligence and banality of evil, and how it destroys individuals. The number of telling quotes, interviews with friends and family, primary and secondary sources, allusions to art and history, and gut reactions Hendrickson offers are what really make the book. He begins with a wrenching retelling of the Emmett Till lynching-seven years before James Meredith fought for and finally won admission to Ole Miss, a bloody story Hendrickson also recounts (in addition to a fascinating recent interview with Meredith himself). The book's final third tries to get at the legacy of Mississippi's particular brand of segregation-the whites and blacks Hendrickson interviews throughout articulate it masterfully-by profiling the children of the men in the photo and of Meredith, with sad and inconclusive results. While Hendrickson can be intrusive in telling readers how to interpret his subjects, he repeatedly comes up with electric interview material, and deftly places these men within the defining events of their times, when "a 100-year-old way of life was cracking beneath them." (Mar. 24) Forecast: Fallout from Trent Lott's remarks have refocused national attention on Mississippi, evidenced by a spate of recent New York Times articles on the state of the State. This hybrid "whiteness studies" style analysis offers some answers to the "whys" of Lott's remarks, and its 50,000 copy first printing anticipates a stint on the bestseller list, and major award nominations. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375404610 To help us understand racism in America, former Washington Post journalist Hendrickson tells the story of the seven white Mississippi sheriffs shown admiring a billy club in a famed 1962 photograph. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
 
2004 (Biography)
Khrushchev: The Man and His Era
Book Jacket   William Taubman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780393051445 Amherst College political science professor Taubman's thorough and nuanced account is the first full-length American biography of Khrushchev-and will likely be the definitive one for a long time. Russians, Taubman explains, are still divided by Khrushchev's legacy, largely because of the great contradiction at the heart of his career: he worked closely with Stalin for nearly 20 years, approved thousands of arrests and executions, and continued to idolize the dictator until the latter's death. Yet it was Khrushchev who publicly revealed the enormity of Stalin's crimes, denounced him, and introduced reforms that, Taubman argues, "allowed a nascent civil society to take shape"-eventually making way for perestroika. Taubman untangles the fascinating layers of deception and self-deception in Khrushchev's own memoir, weighing just how much the leader was likely to have known about the purges and his own culpability in them. He also shows that shadows of Stalinism lingered through Khrushchev's 11 years in power: his fourth-grade education left him both awed and threatened by the Russian intelligentsia, which he persecuted; intending to de-escalate the Cold War, the mercurial, blustering first secretary ended up provoking dangerous standoffs with the U.S. The bumbling, equivocal speeches quoted here make Khrushchev seem a rank amateur in international affairs-or, as Taubman politely puts it, he had trouble "thinking things through." Working closely with Khrushchev's children, and interviewing his surviving top-level Central Committee colleagues and aides, Taubman has pieced together a remarkably detailed chronicle, complete with riveting scenes of Kremlin intrigue and acute psychological analysis that further illuminates some of the nightmarish episodes of Soviet history. 32 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780393051445 Taubman masterfully replicates in his biography of Krushchev the career contrasts expressed by his grave marker--a bust framed half by black stone, half by white. Up to his elbows in blood, Khrushchev will nevertheless go down in history as the denouncer of Stalin. He partially denounced Stalin in the celebrated "secret speech" of 1956, and did so as a maneuver in a power struggle with inveterate Stalinists; however, his revulsion for Stalin's rule was genuine. The paradox of Khrushchev's complicity in the repression and his natural humanity induces Taubman to treat his life as a mirror of the entire Soviet experience. The author observes that the young Khrushchev might have been a successful factory manager but for the revolution. After initial hesitation, he joined the Bolsheviks in 1918 and in a dozen years ascended to Stalin's inner circle, enforcing the boss' edicts in various posts. Ambition, guilt, a true belief in Communism, and self-doubt churned within him, and the effects of his exuberant, tension-filled character, on the cold war and on Soviet domestic affairs up to his overthrow in 1964, close out Taubman's outstandingly composed work, assuredly the reference point for future writings on Khrushchev. --Gilbert Taylor
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780393051445 There has been a surprising paucity of information produced about the baby boomers' biggest bogeyman. During the 1960s, Khrushchev's bluster and missile rattling jangled the nerves of a generation of Americans fearing a nuclear holocaust. Khrushchev's antics and methods provided the basis for Soviet behavior for the next 20 years and sowed the seeds of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Taubman (political science, Amherst Coll.; Stalin's America Policy, Moscow Spring) has produced a massive biography that is both psychologically and politically revealing. According to Taubman, Khrushchev's rise in the Bolshevik party and patronage by Stalin can be partially laid to Stalin's diminutive stature. Though only 5'6", he still towered comfortably over Khrushchev at 5'1". Drawing on newly opened archives, Taubman threads together all the unanswered questions that Americans have, e.g., why did Khrushchev de-Stalinize Russia, and was Khrushchev himself implicated in Stalin's terrors? The shoe-banging incident, the Berlin Wall, Sputnik, and the Cuban Missile Crisis are all woven together with the accuracy of an academic and the style of a writer. Recommended for all public, academic, and special libraries.-Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780393051445 Communist murderer, reluctant despot-or pretty good guy? The answer that emerges from this complex, massive, but engagingly written study: all of the above. Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971), suggests Taubman (Political Science/Amherst College), was less paradoxical than opportunistic. "A study in unresolved contrasts," he had a survivor's gift for being in the right place at the right time and a strong sense of how to avoid trouble though constantly beset by it. Indeed, he was frequently in danger during the first decades of his long career; amazingly, as Taubman documents, he was one of the few one-time (if short-time) followers of Trotsky not to have been murdered at Stalin's orders, and despite remarkable failures at many turns-including the disastrous Kharkov feint against the invading Nazi forces, which cost the Red Army 267,000 casualties-he managed to avoid the firing squad time and again. Khrushchev enthusiastically endorsed the liquidation of the regime's enemies, though he was tormented in his final years by his complicity in murder; he crushed freedom movements in Hungary, Poland, and East Germany, though he set in motion some democratizing efforts in his own country that Gorbachev and Yeltsin would fulfill three decades later; and he made every effort to educate and cultivate himself, fostering the arts even while heavily censoring the likes of Boris Pasternak, another of many acts he would come to regret. Taubman shows us Khrushchev in all his guises, revealing a man far different from the shoe-banging clod of Western media caricature. The account of Khrushchev's masterful destruction of secret policeman Lavrenty Beria, his chief rival to become Stalin's successor, reveals astonishing Machiavellian powers that Khrushchev had hitherto carefully concealed. Taubman's analysis of Khrushchev's eventual fall before what amounted to a right-wing coup is similarly masterful, supplementing the partial record Khrushchev left in his own memoirs and making good use of newly declassified documents from Soviet archives. Altogether superb: an essential study of power and its corruptions and contradictions.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780393051445 This is the first scholarly biography of Khrushchev. Generally, if Taubman (political science, Amherst College) errs, he errs on the side of kindness towards his subject. Although nothing is hidden, the sharp edges of this controversial and at times brutal man are smoothed off. Taubman shows that Khrushchev was as capable of knifing an opponent as was Stalin himself. Otherwise, he would not have ended up by the side of the dictator's deathbed in 1953. Stalin's brutal regime allowed Khrushchev to rise from humble beginnings, with limited education, to the top of world power. Yet, once he reached the pinnacle as ruler of Russia from 1956 to 1964, he more than anybody else was responsible for the collapse of the system that created him. Taubman sees Khrushchev as a gatekeeper of a historical epoch, with one foot in the bloody Soviet revolution and the other in the perestroika of Gorbachev. The study is an exemplar of scholarship, with an extensive bibliography and index. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. For all public and college libraries. A. Ezergailis Ithaca College
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2003 (Fiction)
Atonement
Book Jacket   Ian McEwan
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385503952 The major events of Booker Prize winner McEwan's new novel occur one day in the summer of 1935. Briony Tallis, a precocious 13-year-old with an overactive imagination, witnesses an incident between Cecilia, her older sister, and Robbie Turner, son of the Tallis family's charwoman. Already startled by the sexual overtones of what she has seen, she is completely shocked that evening when she surreptitiously reads a suggestive note Robbie has mistakenly sent Cecilia. It then becomes easy for her to believe that the shadowy figure who assaults her cousin Lola late that night is Robbie. Briony's testimony sends Robbie to prison and, through an early release, into the army on the eve of World War II. Gradually understanding what she has done, Briony seeks atonement first through a career in nursing and then through writing, with the novel itself framed as a literary confession it has taken her a lifetime to write. Moving deftly between styles, this is a compelling exploration of guilt and the struggle for forgiveness. Recommended for most public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/01.] Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385503952 McEwan, a master of psychologically acute and elegantly gothic tales, won the Booker Prize for Amsterdam (1998) and now weighs in with an even more polished and entrancing novel. It's 1935, and England is experiencing a heat wave, while chaos rules at the Tallis country estate. Mr. Tallis is always at the office; his lovely wife, suffering from migraines, is usually in her darkened bedroom. Their youngest, 13-year-old Briony, a budding writer, keeps busy composing silly romances while waiting for her visiting older siblings and displaced cousins. Brother Leon, a bank clerk, arrives with an unattractive but wealthy friend. Sister Cecilia is home after finishing up at Cambridge, as is the sharp and ambitious Robbie Turner, their cleaning lady's son. The cousins, freckly twin boys and the newly nubile and wholly untrustworthy Lola, are unhappy victims of an impending divorce. All are hoping for a soothing holiday, but things quickly turn bizarrely catastrophic thanks to the highly imaginative but utterly naive and histrionic Briony, who sees something sinister occur between Cecilia and Robbie and wildly overreacts. McEwan's instantly addictive story line is of the bad-to-worse variety as he moves on to the harrowing vicissitudes of World War II. Every lustrously rendered, commanding scene is charged with both despair and diabolical wit, and McEwan's Jamesian prose covers the emotional spectrum from searing eroticism to toxic guilt. In sum, he excels brilliantly at depicting moral dilemmas and stressed minds in action without losing a keen sense of the body's terrible fragility, the touching absurdity of desire, and time's obstinacy. Donna Seaman
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780385503952 McEwan's latest, both powerful and equisite, considers the making of a writer, the dangers and rewards of imagination, and the juncture between innocence and awareness, all set against the late afternoon of an England soon to disappear. In the first, longest, and most compelling of four parts, McEwan (the Booker-winning Amsterdam, 1998) captures the inner lives of three characters in a moment in 1935: upper-class 13-year-old Briony Tallis; her 18-year-old sister, Cecilia; and Robbie Turner, son of the family's charlady, whose Cambridge education has been subsidized by their father. Briony is a penetrating look at the nascent artist, vain and inspired, her imagination seizing on everything that comes her way to create stories, numinous but still childish. She witnesses an angry, erotic encounter between her sister and Robbie, sees an improper note, and later finds them hungrily coupling; misunderstanding all of it, when a visiting cousin is sexually assaulted, Briony falsely brings blame to bear on Robbie, setting the course for all their lives. A few years later, we see a wounded and feverish Robbie stumbling across the French countryside in retreat with the rest of the British forces at Dunkirk, while in London Briony and Cecilia, long estranged, have joined the regiment of nurses who treat broken men back from war. At 18, Briony understands and regrets her crime: it is the touchstone event of her life, and she yearns for atonement. Seeking out Cecilia, she inconclusively confronts her and a war-scarred Robbie. In an epilogue, we meet Briony a final time as a 77-year-old novelist facing oblivion, whose confessions reframe everything we've read. With a sweeping bow to Virginia Woolf, McEwan combines insight, penetrating historical understanding, and sure-handed storytelling despite a conclusion that borrows from early postmodern narrative trickery. Masterful. (N.B.:Atonement was on the shortlist for this year's Booker, and is favored to win the Whitbread in January.) Author tour
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385503952 McEwan typically writes scathing little fables, but this book sounds almost sagalike: it sweeps from prewar Britain to Dunkirk to a family reunion in 1999, propelled by a dark moment when three children lost their innocence. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385503952 This haunting novel, which just failed to win the Booker this year, is at once McEwan at his most closely observed and psychologically penetrating, and his most sweeping and expansive. It is in effect two, or even three, books in one, all masterfully crafted. The first part ushers us into a domestic crisis that becomes a crime story centered around an event that changes the lives of half a dozen people in an upper-middle-class country home on a hot English summer's day in 1935. Young Briony Tallis, a hyperimaginative 13-year-old who sees her older sister, Cecilia, mysteriously involved with their neighbor Robbie Turner, a fellow Cambridge student subsidized by the Tallis family, points a finger at Robbie when her young cousin is assaulted in the grounds that night; on her testimony alone, Robbie is jailed. The second part of the book moves forward five years to focus on Robbie, now freed and part of the British Army that was cornered and eventually evacuated by a fleet of small boats at Dunkirk during the early days of WWII. This is an astonishingly imagined fresco that bares the full anguish of what Britain in later years came to see as a kind of victory. In the third part, Briony becomes a nurse amid wonderfully observed scenes of London as the nation mobilizes. No, she doesn't have Robbie as a patient, but she begins to come to terms with what she has done and offers to make amends to him and Cecilia, now together as lovers. In an ironic epilogue that is yet another coup de the tre, McEwan offers Briony as an elderly novelist today, revisiting her past in fact and fancy and contributing a moving windup to the sustained flight of a deeply novelistic imagination. With each book McEwan ranges wider, and his powers have never been more fully in evidence than here. Author tour. (Mar. 19) Forecast: McEwan's work has been building a strong literary readership, and the brilliantly evoked prewar and wartime scenes here should extend that; expect strong results from handselling to the faithful. The cover photo of a stately English home nicely establishes the novel's atmosphere (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385503952 Adult/High School-Set during the seemingly idyllic summer of 1935 at the country estate of the Tallis family, the first section of this thought-provoking novel ambles through one scorchingly hot day that changes the lives of almost everyone present. The catalyst is overly imaginative 13-year-old Briony, who accuses Robbie, her sister's childhood friend and their housemaid's son, of raping her cousin Lola. The young man is sent to prison and Cecilia, heartbroken, abandons her family and becomes a nursing sister in London. In the second part, McEwan vividly describes another single day, this time Robbie's experiences during the ignominious British retreat to Dunkirk early in World War II. Finally, readers meet Briony again, now a nursing student. She is aware that she might have been wrong that day five years earlier and begins to seek atonement, having clearly ruined two lives. In a story within a story, McEwan brilliantly engages readers in a tour de force of what ifs and might have beens until they begin to wonder what actually happened. The story is compelling, the characters well drawn and engaging, and the outcome is almost always in doubt. The descriptions of the retreat and the subsequent hospitalization of the soldiers are grim and realistic. Readers are spared little, yet the journey is worth the observed pain and distress. Well-read teens will find much to think about in this novel.-Susan H. Woodcock, Chantilly Regional Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385721790 Ian McEwan's Atonement opens in an upper-middle-class English home on the eve of World War II and revolves around Briony Tallis, a 13-year-old with an active and creative imagination. The novel traces the effects of Briony's rash actions on her sister -Cecilia and Robbie Turner, the son of the family's cleaning lady, and concludes with an epilog in which Briony, now a writer, looks back on her efforts at atonement. The movie, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley, is a faithful and loving adaptation that brilliantly evokes the settings and scenes McEwan took such care to bring to life. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2003 (Nonfiction)
A Problem From Hell
 Samantha Power
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780465061501 The executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy presents a superb analysis of the US government's evident unwillingness to intervene in ethnic slaughter. Based on centuries-old hatreds all but inexplicable to outside observers, genocide is indeed "a problem from hell," as then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher put it. In Bosnia, which inspired Christopher's remark, those hatreds resulted in untold thousands of deaths, televised and reported for the world to see. Even so, writes Power (who covered the Balkan conflict for U.S. News and World Report), the Clinton administration was reluctant to characterize the butchery as genocide, preferring instead to cast it in terms of "tragedy" and "civil war" and thus "downplaying public expectations that there was anything the United States could do." The author argues that the Clinton administration's failure to act was entirely consistent with earlier American responses to genocide, which turned on the assumption of policymakers, journalists, and citizens that human beings are rational and in the event of war, innocent civilians can insure their safety merely by keeping out of the line of fire. That failure also fits in with the American government's isolationist tendencies, strong even at a time when the US is the world's sole superpower. Power examines genocide after genocide, including the Turkish slaughter of Armenians during WWI, the Holocaust, and the Cambodian bloodbath of the 1970s, assuring her readers that US officials knew very well what was happening and chose to look the other way. She closes by suggesting that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, "might enhance the empathy of Americans . . . toward peoples victimized by genocide," although she also guesses that the government may view intervention as an untenable diversion of resources away from homeland defense. A well-reasoned argument for the moral necessity of halting genocide wherever it occurs, and an unpleasant reminder of our role in enabling it, however unwittingly. Author tour; radio satellite tour
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780465061501 Power, a former journalist for U.S. News and World Report and the Economist and now the executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights, offers an uncompromising and disturbing examination of 20th-century acts of genocide and U.S responses to them. In clean, unadorned prose, Power revisits the Turkish genocide directed at Armenians in 1915-1916, the Holocaust, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Iraqi attacks on Kurdish populations, Rwanda, and Bosnian "ethnic cleansing," and in doing so, argues that U.S. intervention has been shamefully inadequate. The emotional force of Power's argument is carried by moving, sometimes almost unbearable stories of the victims and survivors of such brutality. Her analysis of U.S. politics what she casts as the State Department's unwritten rule that nonaction is better than action with a PR backlash; the Pentagon's unwillingness to see a moral imperative; an isolationist right; a suspicious left and a population unconcerned with distant nations aims to show how ingrained inertia is, even as she argues that the U.S. must reevaluate the principles it applies to foreign policy choices. In the face of firsthand accounts of genocide, invocations of geopolitical considerations and studied and repeated refusals to accept the reality of genocidal campaigns simply fail to convince, she insists. But Power also sees signs that the fight against genocide has made progress. Prominent among those who made a difference are Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who invented the word genocide and who lobbied the U.N. to make genocide the subject of an international treaty, and Senator William Proxmire, who for 19 years spoke every day on the floor of the U.S. Senate to urge the U.S. to ratify the U.N. treaty inspired by Lemkin's work. This is a well-researched and powerful study that is both a history and a call to action. Photos. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780465061501 Power's convincing and forceful tome goes to the heart of a central paradox of US foreign policy--the interplay of, and conflict between, self-interest, idealism, and reason in pursuing objectives. To some degree, the tension is apparent in the current debate over possible US war with Iraq, in which Iraqi treatment of the national Kurdish minority figures in rationales for this significant US policy shift, along with the more highly touted issues of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. An experienced journalist, Power examines official US reactions to mass murder of Armenians by Turks, of Jews and others by Nazis, and of Cambodians by the Pol Pot gang, as well as other fully documented mass homicidal obscenities in Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo. Separate tales come out similarly. The US has been consistently noninterventionist about genocide. No US chief executive has either "made genocide prevention a priority" or "suffered politically for ... indifference to [genocide's] occurrence." Power concludes by shredding arguments supporting US inaction. She contends that the US must now choose a different, contrasting approach to genocide, even if it has seemed unreasonable to policymakers, politicians, and the public up to this point. All levels and collections. R. N. Seidel emeritus, SUNY Empire State College
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  Book Jacket
2003 (Biography)
Charles Darwin
 Janet Browne
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679429326 When Browne published her first volume on the life of Darwin seven years ago (Charles Darwin: Voyaging), she secured her reputation as the last word on the Victorian naturalist. Now she has published the much-anticipated second half, and it is more spellbinding than the first, which ended on a cliffhanger of sorts. Darwin was back from his Beagle voyages, his famous evolutionary principles were distilled in his mind and the Bible-centered science of his day was about to be convulsed forever. Here, Browne picks up the story a year before the publication of On the Origin of Species, with the arrival of a package from Alfred Russel Wallace, whose own ideas on natural selection virtually mirrored Darwin's, forcing him to go public; as Browne shows, he proved himself a master tactician of institutional and media spin. Browne's subject is monumental, but her writing style is never overburdened by the weight. Rather, her prose is elegant in its clarity of thought, her craftsmanship impeccable in the way it weaves a coherent whole from the innumerable threads of thought, experience and persona that comprised this colossal life. Darwin's science, Browne contends, was characterized by his systematic use of correspondence, which the author puts to effective use in her narrative, again illustrating how the naturalist's thought was as much the collective product of his day as it was its single-most intellectual catalyst. Readers are left with the image of the sailor returned home to dig in his garden, stare into the past and, in dying, slip into legend. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679429326 This fascinating account of Darwin's later years (1858-82) continues where the first volume (Charles Darwin: A Biography. v.1: Voyaging, CH, Oct'95) ended, successfully weaving together details of Darwin's life so readers are drawn irresistibly into his world. Living the life of a country squire in Downe and happily married to his cousin Emma, Darwin enjoyed a solid reputation as a naturalist. When full explication of his evolutionary theory was published (1859), he received accolades from peers although some did not completely accept his chief mechanism of evolution, natural selection. Browne understands Darwin's role in presenting a coherent evolutionary theory to a society growing more receptive to such ideas and recognizes that Darwin's long and productive life bridged the England of Jane Austen and Victorian times, but does not assume that Darwin was shaped exclusively by the later period. There is much in this captivating and well-documented book for general readers and scholars alike--e.g., how Darwin negotiated an advance against royalties so his publisher, John Murray, would not make "an unfair profit out of his hard work"--and it is supported by many fine photographs and illustrations depicting individuals and events in Darwin's life and career. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. J. S. Schwartz CUNY College of Staten Island
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780679429326 This is Browne's second book in her two-volume biography of Charles Darwin, and it begins where Charles Darwin: Voyaging (1995) left off--with the arrival of the legendary letter from Alfred Russel Wallace. Famous though it is, this missive's praise of Darwin, prompting his writing of On the Origin of Species, still yields fresh insights as a result of Browne's discerning, thorough research. Most interesting is her account of the close interest Darwin took in the financial arrangements made with the publisher of his revolutionary book and in the reviews it received. The portrait that emerges is less the wealthy, unworldly squire in the shire, and more the modern author who participates in the marketing of his books and in refuting negative reviews. In this respect, Browne presents Darwin as a bridge figure between the eras of the scientist-as-amateur and the scientist-as-celebrity. Much as he preferred puttering in his greenhouse and playing the pater familias, Darwin was keenly involved in promoting himself to the public--albeit through behind-the-scenes means. An authoritative capstone to Browne's opus. --Gilbert Taylor
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780679429326 Continuing where Charles Darwin: Voyaging (1995) left off, the British science historian completes her brilliant two-volume biography. The narrative opens in 1858, when Darwin received a letter posted by Alfred Russel Wallace from a faraway Indonesian island. Though it reinforced Darwin's long-held (but unpublished) evolutionary views, the letter destroyed any hope that he was the sole originator of those ideas. The shock prompted the writing and reluctant publication of The Origin of Species in 1859, but Darwin shouldn't have been surprised, writes Browne (History of Biology/Wellcome Inst., London). Anticipations of natural selection and speciation abounded in contemporary scientific literature; he had simply "closed his mind to the possibility that other thinkers might be moving along the same road as he and that any one of them might come up with the same answer." To his credit, Darwin accommodated the views of Wallace and others, which had the effect of unifying disparate parties in what amounted to a scientific revolution. At a time of unfettered empire, aggressively expanding markets, and "carboniferous capitalism," Darwin's exploration of the struggle for survival and the necessity of adaptation seemed very apt, even though it overturned Victorians' notions that nature "mirrored the social stability they thought they saw around them." On the contrary, Darwin quietly insisted, the world had no moral purpose or validity. He himself was not inclined to rely on fate, Brown demonstrates: for all his apparent desire to be left alone to lead the life of a country gentleman, Darwin was a shrewd self-promoter, vigorously publicizing his work even in the depths of a long illness that she suggests may have been brought on in part by his tireless labors. An overlooked magazine questionnaire from 1874 reveals that he considered himself something of a failure except as a businessman. A richly detailed, vivid, and definitive portrait with not a word wasted: the best life of Charles Darwin in the modern literature.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679429326 This volume concludes a magisterial biography. The first volume, Charles Darwin: Voyaging, examined how the young Darwin formed his ideas. Now Browne, a zoologist and historian of science, offers a frank, comprehensive, and detailed account of the last half of Darwin's life (l858-82), focusing on both his major contributions to natural history and his pioneering researches into many biological subjects, ranging from orchids and insectivorous plants to the inheritance of characteristics and earthworms. She stresses the serious scientific and theological controversies that surrounded the publication of On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (l871) and emphasizes the great value Darwin found in his relationships with like-minded naturalists such as Charles Lyell, Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley, and Alfred Wallace. Besides all the facts, ideas, and events, the reader also discovers the human side of the scientific father of organic evolution. Of special interest is Browne's attention to Darwin's quiet family life at Down House, including insights into his voluminous correspondence and debilitating ill health. In this very impressive volume, Darwin emerges as a modest and private genius consumed with the need to understand the complexities of life forms through critical observation and persistent experimentation. Highly recommended for all academic and public science collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/02.] H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679429326 Browne completes her biography of Darwin, following up a first volume that appeared seven years ago. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2002 (Fiction)
Austerlitz
Book Jacket   W. G. Sebald
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375504839 Winner of the Berlin Literature and Literatur Nord prizes and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, Sebald has previously been published here by New Directions but now jumps to a bigger house. The narrator recounts the story of his friend, Jacques Austerlitz, who came to Britain on a kindertransport and as an adult must painfully reconstruct his past. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375504839 The ghost of what historian Peter Gay calls "the bourgeois experience," molded in the liberalism and neurasthenia of the 19th century and destroyed in the wars and concentration camps of the 20th century, haunts W.G. Sebald's unique novels. His latest concerns the melancholic life of Jacques Austerlitz who, justifiably, exclaims, "At some point in the past, I thought, I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life." The unnamed narrator met Austerlitz, an architectural historian, in Belgium in the '60s, then lost track of his friend in the '70s. When they accidentally run into each other in 1996, Austerlitz tells the story that occupies the rest of the book the story of Austerlitz's life. For a long time, Austerlitz did not know his real mother and father were Prague Jews his first memories were of his foster parents, a joyless Welsh couple. While exploring the Liverpool Street railroad station in London, Austerlitz experiences a flashback of himself as a four-year-old. Gradually, he tracks his history, from his birth in Prague to a cultivated couple through his flight to England, on the eve of WWII, on a train filled with refugee children. His mother, Agata, was deported first to Theresienstadt and then, presumably, to Auschwitz. His father disappeared in Paris. Austerlitz's isolation and depression deepen after learning these facts. As Sebald's readers will expect, the novel is filled with scholarly digressions, ranging from the natural history of moths to the typically overbearing architecture of the Central European spas. In this novel as in previous ones, Sebald writes as if Walter Benjamin's terrible "angel of history" were perched on his shoulder. B&w photos. (Oct.) Forecast: Gambling (safely) on Sebald's progress from cult favorite to major figure, Random House has picked up the author from former publisher New Directions and is sending him on an author tour. Though his latest isn't as startling and exciting as The Emigrants or The Rings of Saturn, it is a significant achievement, and Sebald should continue to attract ever more attention. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780375504839 Another haunting mixture of history, memoir, and photo album from the author of The Rings of Saturn (1998) and Vertigo (2000). Sebald's fourth novel, like its predecessors, is a melancholy meditation on the dark side of human history. The unnamed narrator recounts the life story of Jacques Austerlitz, a polymath whose erudition, like the author's, runs the gamut from his chosen field of architectural history to his avocation of zoology. Meeting by chance in the Antwerp railroad station, Austerlitz and the narrator fall easily into a learned conversation about the building itself that gradually leads to a discussion of the history and mysteries of Europe's fortified cities. A friendship of sorts develops and the two meet from time to time, at first apparently without planning, to continue their chat as if no time had elapsed in between. Gradually, Austerlitz begins to reveal his personal history. In 1939, at the age of five, he was adopted and raised by an austere Welsh cleric and his equally forbidding wife. He knows nothing of his past until he is encouraged to explore history by an inspirational teacher. Eventually, Austerlitz discovers that he is a child of a Jewish couple who vanished in the Holocaust after sending him to England to escape-no surprise to those who are familiar with Sebald's earlier work. Austerlitz recounts his story in a low-key, slow-moving, but utterly engrossing prose style, with almost no paragraph or chapter breaks, interrupted only by a series of eerie photographs of landscapes, architectural features, and hazily glimpsed faces. The tale is cunningly constructed around internal echoes, phrases repeated many pages apart, whose larger significance can be grasped only on repetition, and a complex, multilayered set of thematic correspondences that cannot be unraveled on a single reading. Superbly translated, hypnotically written, a volume that requires and rewards slow, careful reading.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375504839 This tremendously emotional novel is far easier to sum up than to evaluate: Jacques Austerlitz, an architectural historian, tells his life story to the unnamed narrator over the course of 30 years. What unfolds is the tale of one man's search for the truth behind his identity after he learned that the Welsh couple who raised him are not his real parents. He discovers that his birth parents were Prague Jews who sent him to England in 1939 on a Kindertransport before being deported to concentration camps. Contrary to what some say, Sebald is not an easy read. In fact, this novel, much like his previous ones (The Emigrants, Vertigo), cries to be reread before it even ends. Sebald constructs the narrative as if to convey that even the mundane seems more meaningful if we are unaware of the facts. The black-and-white photographs scattered throughout do not add to the depth of the story, but they do add to its genuineness, serving to validate the events and reconstruct the novel as a tangible historical document. Ultimately, the narrative transcends fiction and becomes history. The overbearing details of architectural history that saturate much of the text are the only distractions. Ultimately, this is a work of rare originality. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/01.] Mirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2002 (Nonfiction)
Double Fold
Book Jacket   Nicholson Baker
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780375504440 Is it the librarian's job to preserve books as intrinsically valuable objects in themselves, or is it more important for a librarian to create and preserve access to the information contained within those books' texts? How one answers that question will in large part predict that reader's reaction to Baker's provocative volume outlining libraries' recent attempts to control the ever-increasing amount of paper in their collections. Baker focuses on libraries' conversion of newspaper collections from their bulky original formats to technologically efficient microform. Baker sides with those who believe that the medium is just as important as the message, and he takes library managers to task for exaggerating the destruction wrought by acid paper in their rush to embrace microforms' putative space-saving and reproduction advantages. Along the way he reveals startling, suspect links between leading twentieth-century librarians and the Central Intelligence Agency. Baker's retelling of the Library of Congress' sorry mass-deacidification program makes readers wonder if a library-industrial complex exists paralleling the military version. Over the course of his library investigations, Baker evolved from dispassionate reporter to vocal advocate for preservation of newspapers, culminating in his establishment of his own corporation to buy and preserve libraries' discarded newspaper folios. Librarians and their public supporters will find Baker's controversial allegations disturbing and not glibly answered. --Mark Knoblauch
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375504440 Pulling no punches, novelist Baker (Vox) is a romantic, passionate troublemaker who questions the smug assumptions of library professionals and weeps at the potential loss of an extensive, pristine run of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. For him, the wholesale destruction of books and newspapers to the twin gods of microfilming and digitization is an issue of administrators seeking storage space not of preserving a heritage. He contends that the alarmist slogans "brittle books" and "slow fires" are intended to obscure the reality and the destruction. Throughout his book, Baker hammers away at the Orwellian notion that we must destroy books and newspapers in order, supposedly, to save them. Particularly singled out for opprobrium are University Microfilms Inc. and the Library of Congress. This extremely well-written book is not a paranoid rant. Just this past October, Werner Gundersheimer, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said at LC's "Preserve and Protect" symposium that, amid all the smoke and fury, Baker was essentially pleading for "a last copy effort of some kind." Double Fold is the narrative of a heroic struggle: Picture Baker as "Offisa Pup" defending "Krazy Kat," of the printed word, against the villainous "Ignatz Mouse" of the library establishment all in glorious, vivid color on brittle (but unbowed) newsprint. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/00.] Barry Chad, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780375504440 In a passionate cri de coeur sure to raise controversy and alarm, novelist Baker ( The Everlasting Story of Nory , 1998, etc.) accuses America?s librarians of betraying the public trust as they rush to microfilm and digitize. Since the 1950s, writes Baker, American libraries have been microfilming newspapers and discarding the originals because, they claimed, paper manufactured since 1850 from wood pulp (more acidic than its rag-based predecessor) was rapidly crumbling to dust and would soon be unreadable. ?Absolute nonsense,? retorts Baker, quoting a paper conservation scholar who claims that, when properly stored, old newspapers and books do not disintegrate. The real agenda of the ?reformatters??and among Baker?s principle villains are such respected library names as Fremont Rider, Verner Clapp, Peter Sparks, and Patricia Battin?is to save shelf space and cut costs. That?s why they also manufactured a ?brittle books? crisis (based largely on the inappropriate double-fold test that gives this work its title) to convince Congress and the public that old books also should be filmed or computer-scanned and thrown away. In a blistering point-by-point rebuttal, Baker points out that microfilming costs more in the long term than building additional storage facilities; that library users loathe microfilm, which is hard to read at best and undecipherable at worst; that quality control has been so sketchy that whole months are missing from newspaper runs supposedly filmed in their entirety; and that it's inexcusable to destroy books? bindings in order to film them when spring-balanced book cradles have been available since the 1930s. Digital storage is also ridiculously expensive, and the image comes nowhere near matching the paper original. Due to the author?s eagerness to dismember every justification offered by his opponents, the narrative has a relentless comprehensiveness that may weary even the most sympathetic reader. It?s leavened by acid humor: Baker remarks of one librarian?s metaphor comparing microfilming to chemotherapy, ?radiation therapy . . . has a reasonable chance of keeping a patient alive [while] your typical late-eighties preservation-reformatter disposed of the patient after a last afternoon on the X-ray table.? If even half of what Baker alleges is true, some of America's most honored librarians have a lot of explaining to do.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375504440 All writers of course love the printed word, but few are those willing to start foundations in order to preserve it. Not only has noted novelist Baker (The Mezzanine; Vox; etc.) done so, he's also written a startling expos of an ugly conspiracy perpetuated by the very people entrusted to preserve our history librarians. Baker started the American Newspaper Repository in 1999, when he discovered that the only existing copies of several major U.S. newspapers were going to be auctioned off by the British Library. Not only were U.S. libraries not interested, it turned out that they'd tossed their own copies years before. Why? Baker uncovered an Orwellian universe in our midst in which preservation equals destruction, and millions of tax dollars have funded and continue to fund the destruction of irreplaceable books, newspapers and other print media. The instruments of that destruction microfilm, microfiche, image readers and toxic chemicals are less to blame than the cadre of former CIA and military operatives at the Library of Congress in the 1950s who refused to acknowledge that those technologies were, in fact, inferior to preserving and storing the originals. They were more concerned with ways to (in the words of one) "extract profit and usefulness from" old books while at the same time "prevent [them] from clogging the channels of the present." Baker details these events in one horrifying chapter after another, and he doesn't mince words. One can only gasp in outraged disbelief as he describes the men and women who, while supposedly serving as responsible custodians of our history, have chosen instead to decimate it. (on-sale Apr. 10) Forecast: The genesis of this book, an article in the New Yorker, generated quite a fuss, and this book is bound to receive attention in the print media. The subject and the passion with which the case is made guarantee healthy sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375504440 Baker keeps going after libraries, this time for microfilming old newspapers and brittle books. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2002 (Biography)
Boswells Presumptious Task
 Adam Sisman
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780374115616 Sisman's biography of the famous biographer invites comparison with Peter Martin's A Life of James Boswell (CH, Apr'01). Whereas Martin gives roughly equal attention to all the phases of Boswell's life, Sisman dispenses with the years before his meeting with Johnson in a mere 19 pages, and the years he spent with Johnson in another 40. The author devotes the rest of the book to the years during which Boswell wrote Journal of a Tour (published in 1785) and especially The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791): the endless delays, the quests for inaccessible information, the personal disputes, the rivalries with other biographers, the emotional crises, and the frequent career disappointments. Sisman's Boswell is no mindless tape recorder but a dedicated (if too easily sidetracked) literary craftsman, working to shape a life into a narrative--and sometimes struggling with things that do not fit in a biography. Nothing here will be news to scholars, but the book is lively and accessible, and complements Martin's Life well. Highly recommended for general readers and undergraduates. J. T. Lynch Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374115616 Sisman, a former publisher and author of A.J.P. Taylor: A Biography, notes in his introduction that "Boswell was the first biographer to attempt to tell the whole truth about his subject...an aim we take for granted today, but in Boswell's time a startling innovation." One might consider Sisman's study an innovation as well. Unlike Peter Martin's A Life of James Boswell (LJ 1/90), it focuses not on reassessing a gifted writer considered by his contemporaries to be a "foolish failure" but on recounting the epic story of Boswell's seven-year struggle to write the book for which he would become famous. Noting that "it was not Boswell the man that interested meso much as Boswell the biographer," Sisman seeks to answer such professional questions as "What drew Boswell to Johnson in the first place?" and "Did his ideas change as his writing progressed?" The result is an intriguing study of how Boswell translated a life into art. Under Sisman's sympathetic hand, Dr. Johnson's "lackey" emerges as a brilliant storyteller who, with "meticulous care, with long-practiced skill, and with a generous imagination...crafted a character who lived and breathed." Recommended for public and academic libraries. Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780374115616 Deconstructing Boswell?s classic Life of Johnson, former publisher Sisman reveals the process of making of this unique book and addresses fundamental questions about the nature of biography. Sisman presents Boswell primarily in his role as friend and biographer of Samuel Johnson. Born into a family of Scottish gentry, educated in law, and craving recognition as a writer, Boswell met the renowned author when he was 22, and this fateful meeting became a turning point in his life. Gradually, Johnson became for Boswell a means of making sense of his own life, of achieving popularity for himself in the glow shed by his celebrity friend, and of gaining access to the heart of London?s literary and artistic circles. Over the course of their 21-year relationship, Boswell and Johnson repeatedly met in London, traveled in Scotland together, and exchanged many letters. Although distressed by the fact that his mentor did not mention him in his will, Boswell nevertheless eagerly volunteered to be Johnson?s biographer after his death. He initially published his journal documenting their tour of the Hebrides, which was marked by a strikingly innovative, informal tone?as well as surprisingly coarse details. This new style of biographical writing culminated in 1791 with the monumental Life of Johnson. Sisman describes the many obstacles that arose on Boswell?s path toward the completion of this project: uncontrollable bouts of drinking, whoring, and gambling, the death of his wife, and the failure of his political career. Throughout the text, Boswell accorded his own persona an unabashedly prominent position beside his main subject. Overall, the Life was a success, but the same characteristics that made the book so entertaining also provoked criticism: Boswell was reprimanded by many a prudish biographer of the day for going overboard in exposing Johnson?s idiosyncrasies, slovenly behavior, and hot temper. Over time, however, such probing into the great author?s inner life elicited increasing appreciation, as Boswell?s new breed of biography took root in European letters. Sisman draws inspiration from Boswell, exposing for the reader the inner mechanism of a masterpiece creation, and never hesitating to provide lurid details about Boswell himself.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374115616 Noted biographer Sisman (A.J.P. Taylor) here considers the most famous biographer of all. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374115616 Of course, this is a biography of James Boswell, the feckless Scotsman long conceived of as trailing after Samuel Johnson, literary dictator of eighteenth-century London, scribbling down whatever the great man said. But it is primarily the biography of that towering masterpiece of biography, Boswell's Life of Johnson (1791). The Life consumed Boswell, and he survived it by only four years. As inheritor of a prudent Scottish judge's land and acquisitions, Boswell fancied himself a laird, but he disliked Scotland's provincialism and spent as much time in London as he could. He was 23 when he met Johnson, who took a liking to him as to few others; indeed, Boswell was roundly liked, despite his bad habits--drinking and wenching. Sisman doesn't touch his vices much, emphasizing Boswell's bouts of depression as his most substantial handicap. For the Life, Boswell created the procedures of the modern biographer: tirelessly writing up his own experience with Johnson; collecting every letter and recollection of his subject; striving to verify every incident in Johnson's life; and shaping what he had gathered into a literary creation. He needed a partner, Edmund Malone, to coach and edit him, and the hectoring of friends to finish. But he did it, though it took another 200 years before his artistic accomplishment was fully recognized. Writing with immense assurance and suavity, Sisman has fashioned his own work of art in telling the story of Boswell's. --Ray Olson
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374115616 Aged 45, health waning from alcoholism, beaten to the press by rivals quick to exploit the death of literary icon Samuel Johnson in 1784, James Boswell finally began his ambitious biography two years later, in June 1786. For 21 years Boswell had been the acolyte of the creator of the great Dictionary and author of the influential Lives of the Poets. Boswell reconstructed his subject's life largely from his own proximity and other people's memories and documents. But, as Sisman points out, only the first fifth of the biography covers the 53 years of Johnson's life before master and pupil met. From that point on, the biographer is a major character in his own book. Evidently, as Sisman shows in analyzing the relationship of the two very different men, Johnson realized that he spoke for posterity each time he talked to the adoring Boswell, and that every particularity of his slovenly dress and gross behavior would be recorded. Indeed, Johnson comes alive in those and other minute details. Sisman (A.J.P. Taylor: A Life) focuses on the seven years late in Boswell's career when he finally disciplined himself to write the early masterpiece of biography. Even so, much of the credit, according to Sisman, is due not to the bibulous, prostitute-chasing Boswell, who often abandoned his tubercular, dying wife as well as his book, but to Shakespeare scholar Edmund Malone, Boswell's devoted friend. Malone kept the faltering biographer on task and despite failing eyesight painstakingly revised the ever-lengthening manuscript. When Malone was unavailable, the project languished. "I go sluggishly and comfortless about my work," Boswell confesses. "As I pass your door I cast many a longing look." While the pathos of Boswell's life lingers, Sisman's study will appeal largely to Boswell and Johnson aficionados. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2001 (Fiction)
Being Dead
 Jim Crace
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374110130 In his latest novel, Crace (author of Quarantine, 1998) archly explores life and death and the effect of chance upon the two. From the very beginning we learn that Celice and Joseph, two married, middle-aged zoologists, are murder victims. From there the book moves backward and forward in time, changing points of view along the way, to show why they came to be where they were when they were murdered and what happened after their deaths. Thus, we are not only privy to Celice's and Joseph's thoughts and feelings but to those of their daughter, whose rebellious period is suddenly cut short, and even the murderer. However, the narrative's most arresting scenes, occurring during the days between the murders and the discovery of the dead couple, involve a macabre, though detached, description (worthy of the zoologists themselves) of how their bodies are returned to the ecosystem of the dunes, where they had briefly made love before being assaulted. Yet nothing is strained, for Crace pulls off a remarkable fusion of chaos theory and natural order in telling this story. --Frank Caso
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374110130 Crace is a brilliant British writer whose novels are always varied in historical setting, voice, theme and writing style, and are surprising in content. Those very factors may have contributed to his failure to establish a literary identity and to attain his deserved audience here. This latest, sixth effort (after Quarantine), a stunning look at two people at the moment of their deaths, is the riskiest of his works, the most mesmerizing and the most deeply felt. Joseph and Celice, middle-aged doctors of zoology married to each other for almost 30 years, revisit the seaside where they first met and made love "in the singing salt dunes of Baritone Bay." They are surprised on the dunes, murdered and robbed, and their bodies lie undiscovered for days. In alternating chapters of chronological counterpoint, Crace traces their last day, working backwards from the moment of their murders to their awakening that morning, innocent of what is to come. At the same time, he recreates the day they were introduced, in the 1970s, when they were researching their doctoral dissertations. By the time these chronological vignettes converge, Crace has created two distinctive personalities who sustain a marriage and careers and parent a rebellious, nihilistic daughter, Syl. His finesse in drawing character is matched by the depth of his knowledge and imagination, and the honesty of his bleak vision. Some readers may be horrified by the brutal imagery ("Her scalp hung open like a fish's mouth. The white roots at her crown were stoplight red") or the matter-of-fact details of the body's putrefaction: the first predators "in the wet and ragged centres of their wounds" are a beetle, swag flies, crabs and a gull, and their activities in each corpse are described with detached scientific accuracy. The profession of the deceased, of course, adds irony to the situation. Celice taught that the natural sciences are the study of violence and death, while Joseph maintained that "humankind is only marginal. We hardly count in the natural orders of zoology." In juxtaposing the remorselessness of nature against the hopes, desires and conflicted emotions of individuals, Crace gracefully integrates the facts and myths about the end of human life, and its transcendence (in Syl's epiphanic vision), into a narrative of dazzling virtuosity. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374110130 While not well known in this country, Crace (Quarantine) is established in Britain, where this naturalistic meditation on life and death was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize. Set contemporaneously in an unspecified country, it concerns Joseph and Celice, middle-aged zoologists murdered while on a nostalgic visit to the place they first met. Crace alternates between detailing the brutal circumstances of their deaths and reconstructing the quiet regularity of their everyday lives. He dwells on the process of their physical decomposition among the seaside dunes in a tone that is at once coolly scientific and highly poetic. A side plot concerns the effect the couple's disappearance and death have on Syl, their estranged adult daughter. This is undeniably a tour de force, but Crace's unrelenting emphasis on "rot and putrefaction" (to quote the novel's flip epigraph) may put off some readers. For larger libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/99.]--Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2001 (Nonfiction)
Newjack: Guarding Sing-Sing
Book Jacket   Ted Conover
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375501777 Having already documented the lives of illegal aliens (Coyotes) and hoboes (Rolling Nowhere), journalist Conover gives a compelling firsthand account of life as a corrections officer. The site is Sing Sing, once widely known for housing the electric chair that killed 614 inmates but now unremarkable among New York State's prisons. Refused entry as a journalist, Conover actually attended the training academy and became a bona fide officer for a year. Once on the job, he appears to have identified completely with the persona of a prison guard: He feels his head swim as he tries to enforce rules that are routinely ignored to avoid confrontations. He braces himself to walk the galleries amid catcalls and threats of violence and tries to keep on top of the games inmates play. Given the monotony, dehumanization, and imminent dangers, why would anyone choose this profession? A good accompanying volume is Lucien X. Lombardo's Guards Imprisoned (1981. o.p.), which points out that, in areas of high unemployment, these are the most lucrative jobs requiring a minimal amount of education. Furthermore, some officersDnot allDcan wield a kind of power hard to emulate in the outside world. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [Excerpted in the New Yorker.DEd.]DFrances Sandiford, Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780375501777 Journalist Conover wanted to follow the life of a rookie prison guard for a year. Denied access as a reporter, he enrolled in the guard training program to see "America's incarceration crisis" close up. He immersed himself in the dehumanization and mindless bureaucracy of one of the largest, best-known U.S. prisons. There he struggled with the pressure on guards to be loyal to one another, even in the face of the brutal egoism of some and their inherently unequal relations with prisoners. He limns the guile and manipulativeness of prisoners and conjures the constant undercurrent of violence in the prison. He tells of strip searches, cell searches, lockdowns, and the daily tension and frustration of guarding hostile prisoners. He notes the racial imbalance in the larger penal system, with one out of three black men being incarcerated at some time in his life. He makes an engaging report on the prison system and the strategy of responding to get-tough posturing on crime by building more prisons in which fewer training programs are provided. --Vanessa Bush
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780375501777 The literature on prisons, including accounts by inmates, is large. Conover, a journalist, observes that most of that writing focuses on the experience of inmates, not on prison guards (or correctional officers); and when prison guards are portrayed in films, they are often stereotyped as brutal. Unable to obtain permission as a journalist for access to the famous old New York prison Sing Sing, Conover applied successfully for a position as a prison guard. This book provides a detailed, unsentimental account of his experiences during the course of a year as a prison guard, beginning with his training at the academy for correctional officers. The world of the prison is complex, dreary, and dangerous, and Conover has the journalistic skills to produce a vivid and nuanced portrayal of this world. In a chapter in the middle of the book Conover includes a brief but informative history of Sing Sing. Altogether, this book makes a worthwhile (and eminently readable) contribution to the literature on prisons. In view of the immense growth of prisons in recent years, readers have good reason to want to understand what they are really like. Selected bibliography. General, undergraduate, and faculty readers. D. O. Friedrichs; University of Scranton
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375501777 In books like Rolling Nowhere (about hoboes) and Coyotes (about illegal aliens), Conover distinguished himself with brave, empathetic reporting. This riveting book goes further. Stymied by both the union and prison brass in his effort to report on correctional officers, Conover instead applied for a job, and spent nearly a year in the system, mostly at Sing Sing, the storied prison in the New York City suburbs. Fascinated and fearful, the author in training grasps some troubling truths: "we rule with the inmates' consent," says one instructor, while another acknowledges that "rehabilitation is not our job." As a Sing Sing "newjack" (or new guard), Conover learns the folly of going by the book; the best officers recognize "the inevitability of a kind of relationship" with inmates. Whether working the gallery, the mess hall or transportation detail, the job is both a personal and moral challenge: at the isolation unit ("the Box"), Conover begins to write up his first "use of force" incident when a fellow officer waves him away. He steps back to offer a history of the prison, the "hopelessly compromised" work of prison staff and the unspoken idealism he senses in fellow guards. Stressed by his double life and the demands of the job, caught between the warring impulses of anthropological inquiry and "the incuriosity that made the job easier," Conover struggles but nevertheless captures scenes of horror and grace. With its nuanced portraits of officers and inmates, the book never preaches, yet it conveys that we ignore our prisons--an explosive (and expensive) microcosm of race and class tensions--at our collective peril. Agent, Kathy Robbins. First serial to the New Yorker. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2001 (Biography)
Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan
Book Jacket   Herbert Bix
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780060193140 Most postwar histories have portrayed Emperor Hirohito in one of two ways: a shy, hands-off monarch who preferred marine biology to affairs of state or a pacifistic but weak ruler who was dragged by militarists into a war of conquest against his better judgment. Bix has written extensively on Japanese history and is currently a professor in the graduate school of social sciences at Tokyo's Hitotsubasbi University. In this provocative and disturbing work, he paints a far more complex portrait of Hirohito. Aided by newly available material from Japanese archives, Bix convincingly asserts that the emperor was deeply involved in most aspects of the Pacific war, from start to finish, and he voiced few objections to the most brutal outrages of his military. It is particularly disturbing to see how the cocoon of lies spun around Hirohito has been used by conservative and especially reactionary politicians in Japan to advance their nationalistic agenda. This book will undoubtedly cause a storm of controversy, especially in Japan. However, it is a vital contribution to an ongoing and critical debate. --Jay Freeman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780060193140 Bix penetrates decades of "public opacity" to offer a stunning portrait of the controversial Japanese emperor, "one of the most disingenuous persons ever to occupy the modern throne." Hirohito ascended to the Japanese throne in 1926 (at the age of 25) and ruled until his death in 1989. Bix closely examines his long, eventful reign, concentrating on the extent of the emperor's influence-which was greater than he admitted-over the political and military life of Japan during WWII. Bix's command of primary sources is apparent throughout the book, especially in the voluminous endnotes. From these sources, the author, a veteran scholar on modern Japanese history, draws a nuanced and balanced portrayal of an emperor who did not seek out war, but who demanded victories once war began and never took action to stop Japan's reckless descent into defeat. Bix makes Hirohito's later career intelligible by a careful exposition of the conflicting influences imposed on the emperor as a child: a passion for hard science coexisted with the myths of his own divine origin and destiny; he was taught benevolence along with belief in military supremacy. These influences unfolded as Hirohito was drawn into Japan's long conflict with China, its alliance with the fascist states of Europe, and its unwinnable war against the Allies. The dominant interest of the Showa ("radiant peace") Emperor, Bix convincingly explains, was to perpetuate the imperial system against more democratic opponents, no matter what the cost. Bix gives a meticulous account of his subject, delivers measured judgements about his accomplishments and failures, and reveals the subtlety of the emperor's character as a man who, while seemingly detached and remote, is in fact controlling events from behind the imperial screen. This is political biography at its most compelling. Agent, Susan Rabiner. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780060193140 A lengthy exploration of the role of Emperor Hirohito in 20th-century Japanese politics that draws on an impressive array of fresh sources. Bix (Social Sciences/Hitosubashi Univ.) has written what is essentially a 700-page indictment of the Japanese emperor, arguing that he should bear more blame, responsibility, and consequences than he has for Japan?s aggression in the first half of this century. Far from being a detached figurehead and tool for Japan?s militarist factions, Hirohito was closely involved behind closed doors in all facets of Japanese politics, especially its military forays. ?From the very start of the Asia-Pacific war, the emperor was a major protagonist of the events going on around him,? Bix writes. In this portrayal, Hirohito played no small part in the rise of nationalism, Japan?s aggressiveness in Manchuria, the disastrous prolongation of the war against the Allies (leading to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings), and Japan?s ongoing struggle to display adequate repentance to the rest of the world. The author has intentionally made his subject complex to debunk ?the myth of Japan as tightly unified and monolithic state.? Though the writing is glib, the result is a trying puzzle of multitudinous pieces that requires some fortitude on behalf of the reader. Bix?s research is thorough, but, as he points out, Hirohito left little documentation behind and his peers have been loath to write badly of him. The author, therefore, had to rely a great deal on reading between the lines. For example, Bix immediately comes to surmise that Hirohito?s abilities had been doubted when his teachers went out of their way to priase the emperor?s speaking abilities. He nestles his speculations firmly between facts, however, and in the end is very convincing. A deeply satisfying immersion into modern Japanese history that also serves to warn against facile approaches to the machinery of states. History Book Club selection
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2000 (Fiction)
Motherless Brooklyn
 Jonathan Lethem
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385491839 Here's a detective story with a unique twist: the narrator-protagonist, Lionel Essrog, out to solve the murder of his boss and mentor, suffers from Tourette's syndrome. Lethem's latest novel is a seriocomic takeoff on the genre that breaks down barriers by getting inside Lionel's head. It also tosses Zen Buddhism and the Mafia into the mix, treating both with a serious irreverence that other writers often shy away from. The plot's a simple one: someone has set up Frank Minna, the shady owner of a Brooklyn car service cum detective agency, for a hit. Years earlier, Minna had plucked four misfit teenagers from St. Vincent's Orphanage and chose them to be his errand boys. Now, as grown men, they work, or rather worked, for Minna as drivers/detectives. (Minna Men, declares Lionel.) One night, Lionel and another of the four, Gilbert Coney, stake out a Zen center on New York's Upper East Side while Minna, wearing a wire, goes in for a conversation. The upshot is that they screw up and Minna is "taken for a ride" and murdered in Brooklyn. Who ordered the hit? Was it the Zen abbot or perhaps two ancient Brooklyn godfathers who may or may not be homosexual lovers? Lionel's description of the investigation--complete with Tourette tics and observations--is a tour de force of language. The descriptions of the buildups to the tics are masterful, and the tics themselves, especially the verbal ones, are in the best tradition of the Zen non sequitur--thus neatly, and securely, tying the narrative and the plot. But the interesting thing is the subtle way in which the verbal outbursts work upon the reader: at first you are stunned, but in time, as with his colleagues, Lionel's strange behavior and outbursts merely extend the boundary of normal behavior. --Frank Caso
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780694523641 This entertaining play on the hardboiled detective tale features an unlikely gumshoe with Tourette's syndrome, which compels him to count, tap and make strange vocalizations at inopportune moments. Such ticks could seem gimmicky, but Lethem writes it, and Buscemi performs it, with such styles that the compulsions seem an endearing idiosyncrazy (though not to the Tourettic's cohorts, who call him "Freakshow"). Regretfully, it's hard to grasp Lethem's wordplay as it goes whizzing by-Buscemi enunciates at great speed to convey the frenetic activity inside the man's head. Lionel Essrog works with three other young men for Frank Minna's small time detective agency ("Minna men," Lionel calls them) masquerading as car service ("No cars!" the boys respond whenever the phone rings). Lionel was saved from an orphanage by Minna, so when his mentor is killed on the job, Lionel is devastated and determines to solve the crime. The chase takes him from a zendo on Manhattan's Upper East Side to a resort on the Maine coast as he follows a character he can identify only as "the giant." Buscemi convincingly conveys the accents of Japanese Zen masters and Brooklyn mobsters, along with Lionel's verbal acrobatics, all without losing the noirish ambience Lethem is gently riffing. Listeners may find themselves unable to turn off their walkmen and put this one down. Based on the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 16, 1999). (Oct. 2000) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780385491839 A brilliantly imagined riff on the classic detective tale: the fifth high-energy novel in five years from the rapidly maturing prodigy whose bizarre black-comic fiction includes, most recently, Girl in Landscape (1998). Lethem's delirious yarn about crime, pursuit, and punishment, is narrated in a unique voice by its embattled protagonist, Brooklynite (and orphan) Lionel Essrog, a.k.a. ``Freakshow.'' Lionel's moniker denotes the Tourette's syndrome that twists his speech into weird aslant approximations (his own name, for example, is apt to come out ``Larval Pushbug'' or ``Unreliable Chessgrub'') and induces a tendency to compulsive behavior (``reaching, tapping, grabbing and kissing urges'') that makes him useful putty in the hands of Frank Minna, an enterprising hood who recruits teenagers (like Lionel) from St. Vincent's Home for Boys, to move stolen goods and otherwise function as apprentice-criminal ``Minna Men.'' The daft plot'which disappears for a while somewhere around the middle of the novel'concerns Minna's murder and Lionel's crazily courageous search for the killer, an odyssey that brings him into increasingly dangerous contact with two elderly Italian men (``The Clients'') who have previously employed the Minna Men and now pointedly advise Lionel to abandon his quest; Frank's not-quite-bereaved widow Julia (a tough-talking dame who seems to have dropped in from a Raymond Chandler novel) at the Zendo, a dilapidated commune where meditation and other Buddhist techniques are taught; a menacing ``Polish giant''; and, on Maine's Muscongus Island, a lobster pound and Japanese restaurant that front for a sinister Oriental conglomerate. The resulting complications are hilariously enhanced by Lionel's ``verbal Tourette's flowering'''a barrage of sheer rhetorical invention that has tour de force written all over it; it's an amazing stunt, and, just when you think the well is running dry, Lethem keeps on topping himself. Another terrific entertainment from Lethem, one of contemporary fiction's most inspired risk-takers. Don't miss this one.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385491839 The short and shady life of Frank Minna ends in murder, shocking the four young men employed by his dysfunctional Brooklyn detective agency/limo service. The "Minna Men" have centered their lives around Frank, ever since he selected them as errand boys from the orphaned teen population at St. Vincent's Home. Most grateful is narrator Lionel. While not exactly well treatedÄhis nickname is "Freakshow"ÄTourette's-afflicted Lionel has found security as a Minna Man and is shattered by Frank's death. Lionel determines to become a genuine sleuth and find the killer. The ensuing plot twists are marked by clever wordplay, fast-paced dialog, and nonstop irony. The novel pays amusing homage to, and plays with the conventions of, classic hard-boiled detective tales and movies while standing on its own as a convincing whole. The author has applied his trademark genre-bending style to fine effect. Already well known among critics for his literary gifts, Lethem should gain a wider readership with this appealing book's debut. Recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/99.]ÄStarr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385491839 Hard-boiled crime fiction has never seen the likes of Lionel Essrog, the barking, grunting, spasmodically twitching hero of Lethem's gonzo detective novel that unfolds amidst the detritus of contemporary Brooklyn. As he did in his convention-smashing last novel, Girl in Landscape, Lethem uses a blueprint from genre fiction as a springboard for something entirely different, a story of betrayal and lost innocence that in both novels centers on an orphan struggling to make sense of an alien world. Raised in a boys home that straddles an off-ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge, Lionel is a misfit among misfits: an intellectually sensitive loner with a bad case of Tourette's syndrome, bristling with odd habits and compulsions, his mind continuously revolting against him in lurid outbursts of strange verbiage. When the novel opens, Lionel has long since been rescued from the orphanage by a small-time wiseguy, Frank Minna, who hired Lionel and three other maladjusted boys to do odd jobs and to staff a dubious limo service/detective agency on a Brooklyn main drag, creating a ragtag surrogate family for the four outcasts, each fiercely loyal to Minna. When Minna is abducted during a stakeout in uptown Manhattan and turns up stabbed to death in a dumpster, Lionel resolves to find his killer. It's a quest that leads him from a meditation center in Manhattan to a dusty Brooklyn townhouse owned by a couple of aging mobsters who just might be gay, to a zen retreat and sea urchin harvesting operation in Maine run by a nefarious Japanese corporation, and into the clutches of a Polish giant with a fondness for kumquats. In the process, Lionel finds that his compulsions actually make him a better detective, as he obsessively teases out plots within plots and clues within clues. Lethem's title suggests a dense urban panorama, but this novel is more cartoonish and less startlingly original than his last. Lethem's sixth sense for the secret enchantments of language and the psyche nevertheless make this heady adventure well worth the ride. Author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385491839 Lethem follows up the successful Girl in Landscape with another on-the-edge tale: hero Lionel Essrog, a victim of Tourette's syndrome (which has been showing up a lot in fiction lately), comes under the protection of a local tough named Frank Minna and then must investigate Minna's mysterious death. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2000 (Nonfiction)
Time, Love, Memory
 Jonathan Weiner
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780679444350 Geneticist Seymour Benzer is little known outside his specialty, but Weiner lifts him from obscurity in this exploration of Benzer's study of the genetic contribution to behavior. The effort antedates Benzer's entry onto the molecular biological stage in the late 1940s. Weiner narrates the discovery of the gene in the 1910s by T. H. Morgan. Morgan's "Fly Room" became the generic label for the labs of geneticists, since that is where they studied their favorite organism, fruit flies. Following the discovery of DNA's double-helix structure, Benzer made a revolutionary impact by showing how genes could be split, and, further, how they could be mapped. But because Benzer was not a self-promoter and didn't write popular books, his achievements weren't widely trumpeted, as were those of James Watson, an accomplished self-promoter. Content as a pure researcher, Benzer became interested in the nature-versus-nurture question, and he and the young researchers he mentored established the principle that some behaviors in flies, such as a sense of time (they've got one), reproduction, and memory, are directed by identifiable genes. Weiner explains how these ideas enmeshed Benzer in the sociobiology controversy of the late 1970s, but more importantly, Weiner presents a lucid narrative of how genetic research is conducted. His skill at simplifying without "dumbifying" a dauntingly complex science stands Weiner in good stead with the readership of his estimable The Beak of the Finch (1994). --Gilbert Taylor
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679444350 Armed with only a few test tubes, a light bulb, and 100 fruit flies, physicist-turned-biologist Seymour Bezmour revolutionized molecular biology. Weiner's fascinating book recounts how Bezmour's beautifully simple experiments revealed the genetic origins of human behavior. (LJ 5/15/99) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679444350 From the winner of the 1995 Pulitzer for nonfiction (for The Beak of the Finch) comes a vigorously engrossing scientific biography that brings out from the shadows one of the unsung pioneers of molecular biology: brash, eccentric, Brooklyn-born California Institute of Technology physicist-turned-biologist Seymour Benzer. In 1953Äthe year Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNAÄBenzer, then at Purdue, invented a way to use viral DNA to map the interior of a gene. Benzer's mapping techniques would help Crick crack the genetic code in the early 1960s. Forsaking viruses and E. coli bacteria for the fruit fly, in the mid-1960s, Benzer began tracking tiny genetic mutations in scores of generations passing through his contraptionÄa maze of test-tube tunnels with a light source to which the flies instinctively gravitated. With his wife, neuropathologist Carol Miller, Benzer discovered that the fly brain and the human brain surprisingly share nearly identical genetic sequences. Today their fellow scientists, using mutant fruit flies or mice, attempt to throw light on the genetic coding of memory, learning, courtship, sex assignment, disease and aging. An unresolved question hangs over this enterprise: Will solid links between genes and human behavior ever be established? Weiner answers with a cautious "yes" in this elegantly written scientific detective story told with panache and great lucidity. Benzer, a free spirit with a taste for crashing Hollywood funerals and eating strange food (filet of snake, crocodile tail), may lack the charisma of his Caltech colleague, the late physicist Richard Feynman, but, through Weiner's absorbing presentation, his unorthodox ways in and out of the laboratory will grow on readers. 50 illustrations. Agent, Victoria Pryor. BOMC dual main selection; first serial to the New Yorker. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679444350 Although primarily a biography of Seymour Benzer, this well-researched and entertaining book also includes the history and stories inside the field of genetics, from the time of T.R. Morgan and the chromosomal theory of inheritance to current-day techniques in molecular and behavioral genetics. Benzer is an extraordinary character who introduced genetic dissection of behavior and revolutionized behavioral science. Using this methodology, scientists start with the gene and work their way outward to determine the resulting behavior. The book outlines Benzer's scientific contributions from his work with bacteriophage to the present day. Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, spent almost five years in Benzer's lab, and describes Benzer and his colleagues as they studied behavior and eventually the discovery of genes that control such behavioral characteristics as sleep/wake cycles, courtship rituals, and learning. In addition to Benzer, the reader is introduced to legends Watson and Crick, who deciphered the structure of DNA, and many other Nobel-winning scientists. Their entertaining and educational stories will interest all students of science. General readers; undergraduates through faculty. B. W. Auclair; St. Joseph College
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780679444350 It's a biography of a scientist, a summary of 20th-century genetics, and a fly's-eye (i.e., multifaceted) view of trends and controversies in biology'all told by an expert science writer with one Pulitizer Prize already to his credit (The Beak of the Finch, 1994). Seymour Benzer is the fly man par excellence and a dream subject for profiling. Curious and restless, he made his mark in physics and phage genetics (phage are viruses that infect bacteria) before turning to the fruit fly and launching a second wave of fly genetics that not only sparked a revolution in developmental biology but now has turned to the study of behavior. Yes, flies behave. They have courtship songs; they have circadian rhythms; they can learn and remember. Indeed, time, love, and memory (and thus learning) have become associated with specific fly genes. And these genes have counterparts in mammals, including humans. Benzer et al. are saying that behavior as well as the housekeeping rules that govern cellular metabolism get encoded in living organisms as products of evolutionary adaptation. It's not that there is a gene for this or that, but rather complex sets of interacting genes affected by environment. But some, like Richard Lewontin and Jonathan Beckwith, will have none of that, categorically denying the relevance of fly genetics to human behavior. Weiner gives them a fair hearing, as well as E.O. Wilson and others on either side of the nature-nurture fence. Fair play aside, the momentum of the new studies could play out in the 21st century with the rich opting for ``favored'' genes for their offspring, Weiner says, a phenomenon that could eventually split the species. There is thus plenty of food for thought in the volume. But Weiner's great gift lies in explaining the science with you-are-there descriptions of lab life and personalities; reporting what scientists say and what they do. He provides telling anecdotes that reveal the humor, quirks, frustration, anger, and rewards of being a scientist. (Book-of-the-Month Club dual main selection)
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679444350 Seymour Benzer is not likely to be mentioned by members of the general public as being among the great scientists of the 20th century, but his work revolutionized molecular biology as much as anybody's. After contributing to the proof of a genetic basis for physical inheritance, Benzer was among a very few scientists who began wondering if there might not be a biological explanation for behavior as well. The idea was controversial and unpopular in post-World War II America, but the results of Benzer's brilliant experiments involving fruit flies could not be denied. Weiner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Beak of the Finch (LJ 5/15/94), focuses on Benzer's research as a vehicle for exploring the amazing discoveries in the field and how profoundly they have altered how we view ourselves, our instincts, and our actions. Weiner spent hundreds of hours interviewing Benzer and many of his colleagues. In this age of cloning, DNA fingerprinting, and genetic engineering, Weiner's personal approach to a sometimes coldly impersonal subject humanizes the scientific process. Recommended for all libraries.ÄGregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2000 (Biography)
The Hairstons
Book Jacket   Henry Wiencek
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780312192778 This profile of the Hairstons, a large family of planters and slaves spreading from Virginia and North Carolina to Mississippi, examines the intricate situations forged by interracial relationships and reveals the fate of the family in the crucible of war, emancipation, and the struggle for equality. Journalist Wiencek's conversational narrative, based both on archival research and a series of encounters with family members, highlights the contingent construction of historical accounts while revealing the complex and contradictory beliefs and emotions that characterized these tangled relationships, filled with guilt, anger, and ultimately forgiveness without absolution. The result is a voyage of discovery down the stream of history. Wiencek reminds us that no such story, especially one as compelling as this, can be rendered simply in terms of black and white. Recommended for most libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/98.]?Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780312192778 Covering similar ground as Edward Ball's National Book Award-winning Slaves in the Family, Wiencek steps gracefully through the intricate web that links two family trees, one white and one black. Because it's not his own family history he explores, Wiencek doesn't labor under the burden of personal moral accountability that made Ball's book so powerful. He intends his book as a national "parable of redemption"?and he succeeds, admirably, in presenting the Hairstons as a metaphor for the nation while also presenting the specificity of their history, which he learned by traveling through three Southern states in search of interviews and courthouse records. He attempts a balance between the two stories over centuries of ignored heritage and denied kin. At one point, the founding Hairston family owned several plantations and hundreds of slave families over three states. Master Peter Hairston and his former slave Thomas Harston fought on opposite sides in the Civil War, and "the success of one brought the other low." As Wiencek follows the Hairstons from Reconstruction through the civil rights era, he paints a picture of the declining fortunes of the descendants of the slave master and the rise and wisdom of the descendants of the slaves. And yet the name itself is treasured among both family branches, and some of the white descendants can't resist the desire to make contact with the other branch. Commonalities emerge among black and white Hairstons; earnest, if partial, gestures of reconciliation are made. Throughout, Wiencek writes without sentimentality but with great feeling. "I heard history," he writes, "not as a historian would write it but as a novelist would imagine it.... I felt all the moral confusion of a spy." Maps, photographs and extended family trees not seen by PW. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780312192778 A look at the largest slaveholders in the South and black and white families they spawned. Once they ruled over a pre'Civil War kingdom that spanned 45 plantations spread out over four states and included 10,000 slaves. To keep it all intact, they did what European aristocracy did: they married their own. And as one might imagine, this created a huge and maddeningly complex genealogical configuration, hard to decipher, to say the least. Undaunted, Wiencek, hwo has written for Smithsonian and American Heritage magazines, has spent eight years unraveling the mystery of the Hairstons (pronounced Harston), said to be ``the largest family in America.'' What Wiencek has turned up is nothing if not intriguing, including aspects which are worthy of further exploration. But perhaps not wishing to appear sensational nor to feed prurient interests, he has gone in the opposite direction, taken a subdued approach to his subject that often has the effect of heavy sedation. Wiencek says his research points up that the family touched every aspect of American endeavor from Hollywood to Wall Street and from the coal fields of West Virginia to Europe during WWII. And that may be true. But his approach is so very genteel that it's easy to miss key elements, including some that read like something out of William Faulkner. Amid these huge plantations, for example, are unacknowledged children of their masters who become enslaved butlers, servants, and housekeepers, or children who were forced to keep their mother's maiden name to disguise their heritage. Wiencek does not have a dramatic flair for language, making this a very slow read indeed. But those with an interest in the subject will tough out this eerily fascinating account. (Author tour)
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1999 (Fiction)
The Love of a Good Woman
Book Jacket   Alice Munro
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375403958 In the title story, set in the early spring of 1951, three young boys on a lark make a grim discovery?the drowned body of the town optometrist. Their secret knowledge gives them a sense of purpose and self-importance. But this secret pales beside the darker one that emerges late in the story of how the man came to die. In "Before the Change," a woman recovering from the breakup of her engagement to a theology student is filled with conflicting emotions on a visit home with her father, the town abortionist. In the closing story, "My Mother's Dream," the pregnant widow of a World War II pilot is left to cope with his dotty family. In their home on her own with an irritable baby on an impossibly hot, pre-air-conditioning day, she is forced to close all the windows lest the neighbors assume she is an unfit mother. Munro's stories are always afforded the luxury of space and the weight of detail. Like carefully preserved home movies, they capture moments of the past that are at once intensely recognizable and profoundly revealing. These exquisite stories, some never before published, are highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/98.]?Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780375403958 The Canadian Chekhov's ninth book (after her recent triumphs Friend of My Youth, 1990, and Open Secrets, 1994) contains eight long stories that resemble Munro's mature work in their tendency toward leisurely development and complex narrative. As always, their province is both the author's native Ontario and the experiential territory denoted by the title of an earlier volume, Lives of Girls and Women (1973). The inchoate understanding possessed by husbands and wives whose intimacies never fully accommodate their unshared histories, siblings who have inevitably endured (or imagined) imbalance and unfairness, parents and children unhinged by the emotional variations to which their one flesh is susceptible?all are central to these elaborately woven tales of people's disillusioning plunges into the depths of their own and others' lives. But this time around the stories seem overloaded, distended by successive disclosures that move us unconvincingly away from their thematic and structural centers. In ``Save the Reaper,'' for instance, essential details about its characters' relationships are withheld for so long that we never empathize sufficiently with the harried, lonely grandmother whose momentary impulsiveness endangers her family and herself. ``My Mother's Dream'' reimagines from a daughter's perspective?and in almost ludicrously melodramatic terms?her mother's ordeal among her late husband's controlling family. ``The Children stay'' overemphatically delineates the moral unraveling of an adulterous wife who unwisely makes ``the choice of fantasy.'' To be fair, a few of the stories are, even by Munro's high standards, exemplary: notably ``Cortes Island,'' in which a bored housewife's vivid imagination may or may not have exaggerated incriminating facts about her odd landlords; and especially the fine title novella, about the death of a small-town optometrist, the extremities to which well-meaning ordinary people are driven, and the burden helplessly shouldered by a ``practical nurse'' (there's a lovely irony therein) caught between ``Trying to ease people. Trying to be good'' and telling what she wishes not to know. A mixed bag, then, through which we too often sense Munro straining to extend and intensify her stories. The unfortunate result is her weakest book yet.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375403958 Eight new stories; a 50,000-copy first printing. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375403958 Again mining the silences and dark discretions of provincial Canadian life, Munro shines in her ninth collection, peopled with characters whose sin is the original one: to have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The good woman of the title story?a practical nurse who has already sacrificed her happiness to keep a deathbed promise?must choose whether to believe another moribund patient's confession or to ignore it and seize a second chance at the life she has missed. The drama of deathbed revelation is acted out, again, between a dying man and the woman at his bedside in "Cortes Island," when a stroke victim exposes his deepest secret to his part-time caretaker, in what may be the last act of intimacy left to him, and in the process puts his finger on the fault lines in her marriage. In the extraordinary "Before the Change," a young woman confronts her father with the open secret of his life and reveals the hidden facts of hers; she is unprepared, however, for the final irony of his legacy. The powerful closing story, "My Mother's Dream," is about a secret in the making, showing how a young mother almost kills her baby and how that near fatality, revealed at last to the daughter when she is 50, binds mother and daughter. Compressing the arc of a novella, Munro's long, spare stories?there are eight here? span decades and lay bare not only the strata of the solitary life but also the seamless connections and shared guilt that bind together even the loneliest of individuals. First serial to the New Yorker. (Nov.) FYI: Four of Munro's previous collections are available in Vintage paperback. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780375403958 To read Munro's stories is to enter dense woods at the height of summer, so rich are they in spiky detail, shifting patterns of light and shadow, rustlings of unseen beings, and fecund smells, but the path is easily found, and it leads to wondrous sights and surprising disclosures. It is a tribute to Munro's virtuosity and vitality that a collection of stories as rich, varied, and substantial as this one has appeared so soon after publication of her capacious Selected Stories (1996). Here, as is her wont, Munro packs each paragraph with a wealth of significant details, articulates the thoughts of a wide array of curious characters, and captures the mixed signals embedded in exchanges between women friends, husbands and wives, or children and parents. In the riveting title story, a timeless tale set in Munro-country, that is, a small town along the Canada shore of Lake Huron, Munro tells a complex story about three boys who discover a drowned optometrist and the nurse who cares for the woman who inadvertently caused his death. In "Jakarta," a woman who has dutifully married and had her first child finds herself attracted to and upset by an American acquaintance whose life seems much freer and more passionate. Each story has a distinct mood and movement as Munro roams across the Canadian and American border over the course of the last few decades, discerning exactly what is most poignant about each place, each time frame, and each heart. --Donna Seaman
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1999 (Nonfiction)
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families
 Philip Gourevitch
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374286972 In 1994, the world was informed of the inexplicable mass killings in Rwanda, in which over 800,000 were killed in 100 days. Gourevitch, a staff writer for The New Yorker, spent over three years putting together an oral history of the mass killing that occurred in this small country. He interviewed the survivors, who told him their horror stories of violence. Most of the killings were done with a machete. Friends killed friends, teachers killed students, and professional workers killed co-workers. The United Nations was slow in reacting to this crisis and refused to classify the incident as genocide. The title of this book comes from a Tutsi pastor's letter to his church president, a Hutu. While this is a powerful book, it sometimes bogs down in the details of Rwandan politics. It is doubtful the average reader will want to pick it up, but the history of this genocide must be told. This book should find itself on the shelves of academic libraries where African history collections are strong. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/98.]?Michael Sawyer, Northwestern Regional Lib., Elkin, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374286972 The West's conventional wisdom blames ancient hatreds--"ethnic" in the former Yugoslavia, "tribal" in central Africa--for a kind and degree of savagery few can comprehend. It is an easy explanation, justifying inaction. But was it really so mindless and simple, New Yorker staff writer Gourevitch wondered? In 1994, Rwanda's Hutus, egged on by government, media, and the ruling class, killed 800,000 in 100 days, mostly members of the Tutsi minority but also Hutus who helped Tutsis rather than murdering them. After the massacre, Gourevitch spent months in a Rwanda struggling to recover from the horror; in Zaire, where some refugee camps trained Hutus for continued genocide; and in other African states whose leaders were convinced, by the international community's fecklessness in Rwanda, to help overthrow Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. With a new rebellion brewing in Zaire, Gourevitch offers vital historical context. In a world where too many groups seek their enemies' extermination, his conversations with central Africans shed light on the worst and best of which humans are capable. --Mary Carroll
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374286972 What courage must it have required to research and write this book? And who will read such a ghastly chronicle? Gourevitch, who reported from Rwanda for the New Yorker, faces these questions up front: "The best reason I have come up with for looking more closely into Rwanda's stories is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it." The stories are unrelentingly horrifying and filled with "the idiocy, the waste, the sheer wrongness" of one group of Rwandans (Hutus) methodically exterminating another (Tutsis). With 800,000 people killed in 100 days, Gourevitch found many numbed Rwandans who had lost whole families to the machete. He discovered a few admirable characters, including hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who, "armed with nothing but a liquor cabinet, a phone line, an internationally famous address, and his spirit of resistance," managed to save refugees in his Hôtel des Milles Collines in Kigali. General Paul Kagame, one of Gourevitch's main sources in the new government, offers another bleak and consistent voice of truth. But failure is everywhere. Gourevitch excoriates the French for supporting the Hutus for essentially racist reasons; the international relief agencies, which he characterizes as largely devoid of moral courage; and the surrounding countries that preyed on the millions of refugees?many fleeing the consequences of their part in the killings. As the Rwandans try to rebuild their lives while awaiting the slow-moving justice system, the careful yet passionate advocacy of reporters like Gourevitch serves to remind both Rwandans and others that genocide occurred in this decade while the world looked on. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374286972 A staff writer for The New Yorker offers his first book: a dissection of the genocidal violence in Rwanda, where 800,000 Tutsi were killed by the Hutu majority in 100 days. The title is taken from a letter by a Tutsi pastor to his church president, a Hutu. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780374286972 A probing chronicle of the mass ethnic slaughter in Rwanda that raises questions about human survival and coexistence in that country and everywhere. In a period of 100 days during 1994, at least 800,000 Rwandans died in government-sanctioned mass killings. The government, dominated by Rwanda's Hutu majority group, decided that it was necessary to rid the country of its Tutsi minority and called on its Hutu citizens to carry out this collective charge. Further slaughter ensued in a horrific aftermath, when victims and perpetrators found themselves together in Zairian refugee camps. Gourevitch, a regular writer for the New Yorker, responded to the Rwandan massacres both professionally and personally. As a child of Holocaust survivors, he felt himself relentlessly drawn to a country where T-shirts read ``Genocide. Bury the dead, not the truth.? The result of Gourevitch's repeated trips to Rwanda during and after the massacres is a book that is less a history lesson (though it is that, too) than a series of meditative essays on the deeper meanings of the Rwandan genocide. Gourevitch deftly weaves together historical background to the massacres (arguing against the oft-invoked theory of ancient rivalries), firsthand accounts of the killings, stories of survival and loss related by a handful of Rwandans, and cynical criticism of international agencies? handling of the situation. Without invoking Bosnia or multiethnic societies worldwide, Gourevitch shapes his discussion of Rwanda into a broader inquiry into human psychology and collective identity (``Genocide, after all, is an exercise in community building''). Despite the cruelty and injustice of the situation he describes, Gourevitch remains an optimist, closing with the courageous example of Hutu and Tutsi girls under attack who risked their lives by refusing to separate themselves by ethnicity. Gourevitch?s first book should be required reading for those seeking a better understanding of Rwanda's massacres; it?s also a thoughtful investigation of ethnic conflict and its aftermath.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780374286972 About 800,000 Tutsi were murdered by Hutu in a frenzy of orchestrated killings that began with widespread massacres in April 1994 and continued for two months until an army of Tutsi from Uganda gained the upper hand. Gourevitch is an acute journalistic observer. His interviews with survivors convey the enormous brutality of the genocide in a way impossible in an academic account. He visited the churches where Tutsi took refuge and were slaughtered. He visited the mass graves. He found the older persons or children who somehow escaped. But his is much more than a recitation of horror. By piling detail on detail and personal account on personal account, Gourevitch conveys the extent to which Hutu extremists induced villagers to destroy their compatriots, all of whom spoke the same language, shared the same religions, and had common physical characteristics. But they were identifiable as Tutsi, or they were Hutu who refused to kill. And so they were destroyed. The messages of this moving account are several: that the UN and the West could have intervened to prevent the massacres from becoming a genocide; that fear of "the other" is capable of turning apathetic villagers into butchers; that genocides are directed and serve powerful political ends. General readers; undergraduates. R. I. Rotberg; Harvard University
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  Book Jacket
1999 (Biography)
A Beautiful MInd
 Sylvia Nasar
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780684819068 The shadowy line between genius and madness is exemplified in the life of mathematician John Nash, Strangelovian game theorist of nuclear war, 1994 Nobelist in economics, and schizophrenic. Nasar is a rare author who explicates both calculus and mental disease.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780684819068 Nasar has written a notable biography of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash (b. 1928), a founder of game theory, a RAND Cold War strategist and winner of a 1994 Nobel Prize in economics. She charts his plunge into paranoid schizophrenia beginning at age 30 and his spontaneous recovery in the early 1990s after decades of torment. He attributes his remission to will power; he stopped taking antipsychotic drugs in 1970 but underwent a half-dozen involuntary hospitalizations. Born in West Virginia, the flamboyant mathematical wizard rubbed elbows at Princeton and MIT with Einstein, John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener. He compartmentalized his secret personal life, shows Nasar, hiding his homosexual affairs with colleagues from his mistress, a nurse who bore him a son out of wedlock, while he also courted Alicia Larde, an MIT physics student whom he married in 1957. Their son, John, born in 1959, became a mathematician and suffers from episodic schizophrenia. Alicia divorced Nash in 1963, but they began living together again as a couple around 1970. Today Nash, whose mathematical contributions span cosmology, geometry, computer architecture and international trade, devotes himself to caring for his son. Nasar, an economics correspondent for the New York Times, is equally adept at probing the puzzle of schizophrenia and giving a nontechnical context for Nash's mathematical and scientific ideas. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780684819068 A biography about a mathematical genius who suffered from schizophrenia, miraculously recovered, and later received the Nobel Prize in 1994. Nasar, an economics correspondent for the New York Times, opens her book with the spectral image of John Forbes Nash Jr., who haunted the Princeton University campus where he had once been a promising graduate student. Nash, the son of conservative southern parents, rose rapidly through the ranks of equally brilliant mathematicians during the 1950s. Then, at the age of 31 and at the height of his career, Nash experienced the first of many breakdowns and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. Nasar attempts to write an ambitious biography. It is, on one level, an in-depth look at this mysterious figure and his milieu and, on another level, a meditation on the nature of genius and madness. On the first level, Nasar succeeds, providing a sense of the rarefied and competitive atmosphere of mathematics departments in the nation's leading universities during the height of the Cold War. The peripheral characters of the book are vividly drawn, and episodes in Nash's life are painted with an extraordinary attention to detail. She also presents advanced mathematical theories in an accessible and palatable way. However, her efforts to get at the heart of Nash's disease fall short. A great deal of speculation is made about his early childhood, his homosexual liaisons, and his arrest for solicitation in this pre-Stonewall era. And even more is made of his bizarre and generally antisocial behavior before the breakdown. By the time Nasar reaches Nash's first psychotic episode, the reader is struck, not by his genius, but by his maladjusted behavior. By the end of the book, Nash remains as much of an enigma as he was before. Impressively researched and detailed, but still fails to shed much light on the mysteries of genius and insanity.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780684819068 Rarely has the fragility of the boundary separating genius from madness been illustrated with more compelling insight than in this biography of John Nash, a Nobel laureate in economics and one of this century's greatest mathematicians. Untangling the strands of this perplexing life requires the rare author who can explicate the complex rationality of differential calculus and also plumb the bizarre illogic of schizophrenia. Nasar identifies the earliest signs of a prodigy in the sloppy and introverted child who played with magnets and found shortcuts for doing fourth-grade arithmetic. She diagnoses the first symptoms of mental instability in the MIT scholar who astonishes the world with his bold solutions to impossible problems. And she detects the first stirrings of recovery in the pathetic specter wandering the halls of Princeton. To fully appreciate Nash's career accomplishments, readers must have some grasp of advanced mathematics. But Nasar tells the story of a great mind broken and then healed with subtle sympathy, which will touch any reader who understands what it means to hope--or to fear. --Bryce Christensen
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780684819068 John Forbes Nash's mathematical research would eventually win him a Nobel prize, but only after he recovered from decades of mental illness. Nasar tells a story of triumph, tragedy, and enduring love. (LJ 5/15/98) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780684819068 During the 1970s and 1980s, John Forbes Nash Jr. wandered the Princeton campus, where he had once taught, a gaunt, disheveled figure mocked by students and pitied by faculty. At 21, before the onset of his schizophrenia, Nash developed a brilliant theorem that revolutionized mathematics and economics. Within a decade, though, he had become delusional, and 30 years would pass before he would recover his mind. In 1994, his early work was recognized with a Nobel prize. Drawing extensively from interviews with people close to Nash, Nasar, an economics reporter for the New York Times, explores the rare, extraordinary, and fragile nature of his genius. An engrossing, ultimately uplifting book for all libraries.ÄGregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780684819068 The shadowy line between genius and madness is exemplified in the life of mathematician John Nash, Strangelovian game theorist of nuclear war, 1994 Nobelist in economics, and schizophrenic. Nasar is a rare author who explicates both calculus and mental disease.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780684819068 Nasar has written a notable biography of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash (b. 1928), a founder of game theory, a RAND Cold War strategist and winner of a 1994 Nobel Prize in economics. She charts his plunge into paranoid schizophrenia beginning at age 30 and his spontaneous recovery in the early 1990s after decades of torment. He attributes his remission to will power; he stopped taking antipsychotic drugs in 1970 but underwent a half-dozen involuntary hospitalizations. Born in West Virginia, the flamboyant mathematical wizard rubbed elbows at Princeton and MIT with Einstein, John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener. He compartmentalized his secret personal life, shows Nasar, hiding his homosexual affairs with colleagues from his mistress, a nurse who bore him a son out of wedlock, while he also courted Alicia Larde, an MIT physics student whom he married in 1957. Their son, John, born in 1959, became a mathematician and suffers from episodic schizophrenia. Alicia divorced Nash in 1963, but they began living together again as a couple around 1970. Today Nash, whose mathematical contributions span cosmology, geometry, computer architecture and international trade, devotes himself to caring for his son. Nasar, an economics correspondent for the New York Times, is equally adept at probing the puzzle of schizophrenia and giving a nontechnical context for Nash's mathematical and scientific ideas. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780684819068 A biography about a mathematical genius who suffered from schizophrenia, miraculously recovered, and later received the Nobel Prize in 1994. Nasar, an economics correspondent for the New York Times, opens her book with the spectral image of John Forbes Nash Jr., who haunted the Princeton University campus where he had once been a promising graduate student. Nash, the son of conservative southern parents, rose rapidly through the ranks of equally brilliant mathematicians during the 1950s. Then, at the age of 31 and at the height of his career, Nash experienced the first of many breakdowns and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. Nasar attempts to write an ambitious biography. It is, on one level, an in-depth look at this mysterious figure and his milieu and, on another level, a meditation on the nature of genius and madness. On the first level, Nasar succeeds, providing a sense of the rarefied and competitive atmosphere of mathematics departments in the nation's leading universities during the height of the Cold War. The peripheral characters of the book are vividly drawn, and episodes in Nash's life are painted with an extraordinary attention to detail. She also presents advanced mathematical theories in an accessible and palatable way. However, her efforts to get at the heart of Nash's disease fall short. A great deal of speculation is made about his early childhood, his homosexual liaisons, and his arrest for solicitation in this pre-Stonewall era. And even more is made of his bizarre and generally antisocial behavior before the breakdown. By the time Nasar reaches Nash's first psychotic episode, the reader is struck, not by his genius, but by his maladjusted behavior. By the end of the book, Nash remains as much of an enigma as he was before. Impressively researched and detailed, but still fails to shed much light on the mysteries of genius and insanity.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780684819068 Rarely has the fragility of the boundary separating genius from madness been illustrated with more compelling insight than in this biography of John Nash, a Nobel laureate in economics and one of this century's greatest mathematicians. Untangling the strands of this perplexing life requires the rare author who can explicate the complex rationality of differential calculus and also plumb the bizarre illogic of schizophrenia. Nasar identifies the earliest signs of a prodigy in the sloppy and introverted child who played with magnets and found shortcuts for doing fourth-grade arithmetic. She diagnoses the first symptoms of mental instability in the MIT scholar who astonishes the world with his bold solutions to impossible problems. And she detects the first stirrings of recovery in the pathetic specter wandering the halls of Princeton. To fully appreciate Nash's career accomplishments, readers must have some grasp of advanced mathematics. But Nasar tells the story of a great mind broken and then healed with subtle sympathy, which will touch any reader who understands what it means to hope--or to fear. --Bryce Christensen
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780684819068 John Forbes Nash's mathematical research would eventually win him a Nobel prize, but only after he recovered from decades of mental illness. Nasar tells a story of triumph, tragedy, and enduring love. (LJ 5/15/98) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780684819068 During the 1970s and 1980s, John Forbes Nash Jr. wandered the Princeton campus, where he had once taught, a gaunt, disheveled figure mocked by students and pitied by faculty. At 21, before the onset of his schizophrenia, Nash developed a brilliant theorem that revolutionized mathematics and economics. Within a decade, though, he had become delusional, and 30 years would pass before he would recover his mind. In 1994, his early work was recognized with a Nobel prize. Drawing extensively from interviews with people close to Nash, Nasar, an economics reporter for the New York Times, explores the rare, extraordinary, and fragile nature of his genius. An engrossing, ultimately uplifting book for all libraries.ÄGregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780743509886 Those who enjoyed the compelling story of John Nash as presented in the Academy Award-winning film may wish to know more about the real mathematical genius. This audiobook will give the listener a deeper insight into Nash's mind a mind that fired with flashes of intuition, that saw the answers first and then worked out their proofs, a mind that came to believe that aliens from outer space were sending him messages. A Beautiful Mind tells the story of a man who faces the greatest foe of that genius schizophrenia. It's about the horrors that Nash endured at the hands of the psychiatric profession and in the grip of his delusions. It also relates how Nash was helped by his colleagues at Princeton and his wife, Alicia, and how perhaps this stability and sheltering care allowed him to rationalize away his delusions. An enthralling tale, masterfully performed by Edward Herrmann. Highly recommended for all libraries. Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1998 (Fiction)
The Blue Flower
Book Jacket   Penelope Fitzgerald
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780395859971 Fitzgerald never repeats herself, and her latest novel, named Book of the Year by 19 British newspapers in 1995, is her most original book yet. Here she reconstructs the life of 18th-century German romantic poet Novalis, focusing on his boisterous family, his struggle to articulate his longings, and, most tellingly, his passion for 12-year-old Sophie, a simple child he intends to marry despite the furious reservations of family and friends. Fitzgerald doesn't make it entirely clear what draws Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis's real name) to little Sophie?but that is precisely the point. Throughout, he is carried aloft by an inchoate desire for something beyond that is summed up in his little story of the blue flower: "I have no craving to be rich, but I long to see the blue flower....I can imagine and think about nothing else." As a counterpoint to her protagonist's beautifully captured romanticism, Fitzgerald successfully evokes the sights, sound, and smells?and the constant sorrows?of domestic life in 18th-century Germany. A little treasure; highly recommended.?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780395859971 In the introduction to his translation of Novalis's Henry von Ofterdingen, Palmer Hilty described Sophie von Kühn as "a callow, undistinguished girl of Thuringia." Not a terribly inspiring subject, unless the writer is Fitzgerald, the author of the 1979 Booker Prize winner Offshore and a shortlist perennial for the prize. Fitzgerald presents a brilliant, subtly ironic portrayal of Friedrich von Hardenberg (aka Novalis) as an anti-Pygmalion who takes an unformed, all-too-human girl and fires her into an image of chaste muse. After a strict Saxon upbringing and an education at Jena that revolved around Fichte's idealism, Hardenberg meets the 12-year-old Sophie and falls immediately in love. Sophie is neither particularly pretty nor smart (her diary entries run to "We began pickling the raspberries" or "Today no-one came and nothing happened"), but she is optimistic, innocent, malleable. Their three-year courtship parallels her losing battle with tuberculosis; when she dies at 15, she is petrified as the vulnerable, ethereal and pure muse. There's scads of research here, into daily life in Enlightenment-era Saxony, German reactions to the French Revolution and Napoleon, early 19th-century German philosophy (by page two, a fellow Fichte devotee announces, "there is no such concept as a thing in itself!"). But history aside, this is a smart novel. Fitzgerald is alternately witty and poignant, especially in her portrayal of the intelligent, capable women who are too often taken for granted by the oblivious poets. Fitzgerald has created an alternately biting and touching exploration of the nature of Romanticism?capital "R" and small. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780395859971 The German poet Novalis (17721801) was really Friedrich Leopold von Hardenberg: and Fitzgerald (The Gates of Angels, 1992; Offshore, 1987, etc.) here re-creates him, his family, his doomed young lover Sophie von Kühn, and Sophie's huge family--not to mention the era all of them lived in--in the most human-sized and yet intellectually capacious narrative a reader could wish for. Times were once better for the Hardenbergs, who've sold two estates, may have to sell another, and meanwhile live in a more manageable house in town. The pious and old (he's 56) father of the many-childrened family is Director of the Salt Mining Administration of Saxony, one of the few vocations (the military is another) not forbidden to members of the aristocracy, and the same calling the oldest Hardenberg son, Fritz, will follow upon conclusion of his studies at the universities of Jena, Leipzig, and Wittenberg. To say he's a salt inspector, though, is a little like saying Shakespeare was an actor. Not only have Fritz's studies brought him among faculty the likes of Fichte, Schiller, and Schlegel--but he himself is already a visionary poet helping bring the 18th century to its close (`` `The universe, after all, is within us. The way leads inwards, always inwards' ''). What transpires, then, in the inward universe, when Fritz first sees 12-year- old Sophie von Kühn standing at a window looking out? Says he: `` `Something happened to me.' '' This cheerful, careless, laughing child-woman becomes Fritz's star, his guide, ``his Philosophy.'' Against all precedent (Sophie isn't of the real nobility), and in keeping with the changing times (there's been the revolution in France), he gets his father's permission to become engaged--but dreadful sorrow lies just ahead. A historical novel that's touching, funny, unflinchingly tragic, and at the same time uncompromising in its accuracy, learning, and detail: a book that brings its subject entirely alive, almost nothing seeming beyond its grasp.
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1998 (Nonfiction)
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
Book Jacket   Anne Fadiman
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374267810 Award-winning reporter Fadiman has turned what began as a magazine assignment into a riveting, cross-cultural medicine classic in this anthropological exploration of the Hmong population in Merced County, California. Following the case of Lia (a Hmong child with a progressive and unpredictable form of epilepsy), Fadiman maps out the controversies raised by the collision between Western medicine and holistic healing traditions of Hmong immigrants. Unable to enter the Laotian forest to find herbs for Lia that will "fix her spirit," her family becomes resigned to the Merced County emergency system, which has little understanding of Hmong animist traditions. Fadiman reveals the rigidity and weaknesses of these two ethnographically separated cultures. In a shrinking world, this painstakingly researched account of cultural dislocation has a haunting lesson for every healthcare provider. Highly recommended for all collections.?Rebecca Cress-Ingebo, Fordham Health Sciences Lib., Wright State Univ., Dayton, Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374267810 When two divergent cultures collide, unbridgeable gaps of language, religion, social customs may remain between them. This poignant account by Fadiman, editor of the American Scholar, of the clash between a Hmong family and the American medical community reveals that among the gaps yawns the attitude toward medicine and healing. The story focuses on Lia Lee, whose family immigrated to Merced, Calif., from Laos in 1980. At three months of age, Lia was diagnosed with what American doctors called epilepsy, and what her family called quag dab peg or, "the spirit catches you and you fall down." Fadiman traces the treatments for Lia's illness, observing the sharp differences between Eastern and Western healing methods. Whereas the doctors prescribed Depakene and Valium to control her seizures, Lia's family believed that her soul was lost but could be found by sacrificing animals and hiring shamans to intervene. While some of Lia's doctors attempted to understand the Hmong beliefs, many interpreted the cultural difference as ignorance on the part of Lia's parents. Fadiman shows how the American ideal of assimilation was challenged by a headstrong Hmong ethnicity. She discloses the unilateralness of Western medicine, and divulges its potential failings. In Lia's case, the two cultures never melded and, after a massive seizure, she was declared brain dead. This book is a moving cautionary tale about the importance of practicing "cross-cultural medicine," and of acknowledging, without condemning, differences in medical attitudes of various cultures. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374267810 YA?A compelling anthropological study. The Hmong people in America are mainly refugee families who supported the CIA militaristic efforts in Laos. They are a clannish group with a firmly established culture that combines issues of health care with a deep spirituality that may be deemed primitive by Western standards. In Merced, CA, which has a large Hmong community, Lia Lee was born, the 13th child in a family coping with their plunge into a modern and mechanized way of life. The child suffered an initial seizure at the age of three months. Her family attributed it to the slamming of the front door by an older sister. They felt the fright had caused the baby's soul to flee her body and become lost to a malignant spirit. The report of the family's attempts to cure Lia through shamanistic intervention and the home sacrifices of pigs and chickens is balanced by the intervention of the medical community that insisted upon the removal of the child from deeply loving parents with disastrous results. This compassionate and understanding account fairly represents the positions of all the parties involved. The suspense of the child's precarious health, the understanding characterization of the parents and doctors, and especially the insights into Hmong culture make this a very worthwhile read.?Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374267810 The Lee family had suffered much in Laos and Thailand before coming to the U.S. and settling in Merced, California, among an already large Hmong population. Fadiman explores relations between young Lia Lee, her parents, and various physicians. She brings Hmong culture vividly to life and shows how naturally misunderstandings arise when American health-care providers deal with Hmong patients and their families. For example, the Hmong feel that soul strings must be tied around parts of the body when the individual is endangered; American nurses understandably but insensitively cut off these dirty ties. Fadiman's brief history of the Hmong also explains Lia's parents' desire to be independent and in charge, in the process filling a gap in many a reader's knowledge. Her book has a scope much broader than that of a medical case history, and it could well spark discussion of such questions as whether an immigrant lacks intelligence if she cannot express herself quickly and clearly in English and whether a foreign culture is always inferior. --William Beatty
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780374267810 A vivid, deeply felt, and meticulously researched account of the disastrous encounter between two disparate cultures: Western medicine and Eastern spirituality, in this case, of Hmong immigrants from Laos. Fadiman, a columnist for Civilization and the new editor of the American Scholar, met the Lees, a Hmong refugee family in Merced, Calif., in 1988, when their daughter Lia was already seven years old and, in the eyes of her American doctors, brain dead. In the Lees' view, Lia's soul had fled her body and become lost. At age three months Lia had had her first epileptic seizure--as the Lees put it, ``the spirit catches you and you fall down.'' Lia's treatment was complex--her anticonvulsant prescriptions changed 23 times in four years--and the Lees were sure the medicines were bad for their daughter. Believing that the family's failure to comply with his instructions constituted child abuse, Lia's doctor had her placed in foster care. A few months after returning home, Lia was hospitalized with a massive seizure that effectively destroyed her brain. With death believed to be imminent, the Lees were permitted to take her home. Two years later, Fadiman found Lia being lovingly cared for by her parents. Still hoping to reunite her soul with her body, they arranged for a Hmong shaman to perform a healing ceremony featuring the sacrifice of a live pig in their apartment. Into this heart-wrenching story, Fadiman weaves an account of Hmong history from ancient times to the present, including their work for the CIA in Laos and their resettlement in the US, their culture, spiritual beliefs, ethics, and etiquette. While Fadiman is keenly aware of the frustrations of doctors striving to provide medical care to those with such a radically different worldview, she urges that physicians at least acknowledge their patients' realities. A brilliant study in cross-cultural medicine.
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1998 (Biography)
Ernie Pyles War
 James Tobin
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780684836423 Tobin pays homage to Ernie Pyle, America's most celebrated and beloved war correspondent. Living and working among the troops he so vividly chronicled, Pyle offered a unique insider's perspective of the harsh reality experienced by the common soldier during World War II. His superlative front-line coverage was devoured by citizens on the home front, who hungered for news of their "boys" in uniform. Unlike most other war correspondents, Pyle gave faces and voices to the ordinary GIs who populated the horrific battlefields of Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific Islands. Pyle's death in combat, alongside the ordinary soldiers he admired and extolled, served as an especially fitting postscript to his extraordinary career as an eyewitness to war. A respectful and insightful biography of a giant among journalists. Margaret Flanagan
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780684836423 Tobin argues that Ernie Pyle, an insecure and anxious man, struggled all his life with inner demons and a tortured marriage. War, in fact, offered Pyle an escape from his own personal hell. The author does a masterful job of interweaving pertinent portions of Pyle's many columns within a very helpful chronological and historical context of WW II as the correspondent followed the troops from North Africa to Italy to Normandy and then across the Pacific to Okinawa, where he was killed. Through Tobin, one observes in Pyle's writing a person with a shrewd understanding of human nature, an unexcelled eye for detail, and a profound ability to identify with the suffering and privation of the ordinary foot soldiers. This book adds significantly to knowledge of the "Good War." The work is based mainly on Pyle's columns. Endnotes and photographs included. For further reading see Pyle's three books: Here Is Your War (1943), Brave Men (1944), and Last Chapter (1946). All levels. R. E. Marcello; University of North Texas
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780684836423 From Detroit News reporter Tobin, the definitive biography of this country's great WW II war correspondent. There was little in Ernie Pyle's background to suggest greatness. Born in 1900 in Indiana to an unsuccessful farmer, Pyle grew into a small, quiet man with a tendency to hypochondria. He dropped out of Indiana University in 1923 to accept a job as a reporter for the LaPorte Herald. Later that year, he made the leap to big-city journalism with a job at the Washington Daily News. In the capital, he met Geraldine Siebolds, whom he married in 1925. After a peripatetic period, he became a widely read roving columnist for the Scripps-Howard papers. According to Tobin, covering the war allowed Pyle to escape from a disintegrating marriage. Reporting on Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa, he swiftly became a favorite of the soldiers, as his columns portrayed the war from the standpoint of the average GI rather than that of the generals: Pyle faithfully relayed messages from soldiers to their families, mentioned soldiers by name in his columns, and shaped America's image of the Good War (as Tobin shows, Pyle was both oppressed and exhilarated by the war but was often unable to get his darker images of war past the military censors). Exhausted after several years in the European theater, he basked in homefront glory (he wrote two bestselling books, had an audience with Eleanor Roosevelt, and a movie was made about his life) before leaving again to report on the Pacific War. Insisting on covering the invasion of Okinawa from the front lines, he was killed by a Japanese machine gun on the beach at Ie Shima on April 18, 1945. Tobin's account is a balanced tribute to the quintessential war correspondent: In his ability to make war come alive and at the same time show its human side, Pyle was never to be bettered by any of the generation of war correspondents that followed.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780684836423 No one on the flat plains of western Indiana could have foretold that a small, homely, self-deprecating farm boy would experience a meteoric rise to folk hero status, but that is what WWII war correspondent Ernie Pyle (1900-1945) did. Tobin, a reporter for the Detroit News, has written an superbly documented and compassionate account of Pyle's war encounters and his poignant newspaper columns that brought frontline life to the folks back home. Beloved by G.I.s and the American reading masses, Pyle was the champion of the long suffering G.I., a type who was portrayed by Pyle as being akin to Bill Mauldin's cartoon G.I., "Sad Sack," but who, in Pyle's words, "triumphed over death through dogged perseverance." His columns were crucial to morale. Slogging with the infantry through North Africa, Italy and France, Pyle, who was eventually killed on an island near Okinawa, avoided reporting on all the bloody brutality he saw, as he knew that such frankness would lead to discouragement and despair. He managed, however, to convey that horrors lay beneath his rhythmic, conversational depictions of ordinary Joes: "These are just guys from Broadway and Main Street, but you wouldn't remember them. They are too far away now. They are too tired. Their world can never be known to you." The day-by-day feel of Tobin's narrative nearly matches the immediacy of the dispatches themselves, and he does an excellent job of recreating "The Pyle Phenomenon"?the extraordinary grip the columns had over America's wartime imagination. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1997 (Fiction)
Women in their Beds
 Gina Berriault
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781887178105 Whether focusing on yuppies or drifters, social workers or Indian restaurateurs, heroin addicts or teenage baby-sitters, Berriault (The Lights of Earth) writes with great psychological acuity and a compassion that comes always from observation, never from sentimentality. These 35 short stories have been published in magazines ranging from the Paris Review to Harper's Bazaar; 10 of them are here issued in book form for the first time. In "Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am?" the dapper Alberto Perera, "a librarian who did not look like one," fears that the young drifter who has befriended him, wishing to discuss the Spanish poetry he carries in his pockets, is out to kill him; but the drifter is only trying to understand how?both literally and philosophically?to live. A 79-year-old psychologist woos a young, pragmatic waitress in "The Infinite Passion of Expectation." When she meets his ex-wife and witnesses the selfishness spawned by a life spent in deferment, she flees. In the clever "The Search for J. Kruper," an extremely famous and narcissistic novelist, noted for writing grand, poorly disguised autobiographical confessions, learns of the possible whereabouts of one of the few remaining living novelists as famous as he, a recluse who betrays nothing of himself in his writings. Each story is constructed so gracefully that it's easy to overlook how carefully crafted Berriault's writing is. Her lilting, musical prose adds a sophisticated sheen to the truths she mines. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A generous selection of 35 stories containing many from Berriault's earlier collections (The Infinite Passion of Expectation, 1982, etc.) and ten previously uncollected. Of the newer work, the standouts are: an astringent tale of marital infidelity (""A Dream of Fair Women""); a wonderfully complex analysis of the relationship between a famous sculptor and the son whom he abandons and, in so doing, paradoxically empowers; and the superb title story, about a would-be actress, employed as a hospital social worker, who gains unwelcome and frightening knowledge about the variety, and extremities, of human behavior. Berriault's tense, probing stories, sometimes inelegantly fashioned or unaccountably abrasive, nevertheless dig deeply inside her troubled characters, and they stay with you long after. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781887178105 Berriault's title story contains all the key elements of her metaphysical, compassionate fiction. Angela is deeply affected by the women she works with in a city hospital. Their fates make her think not only about her own sorrows, but about all the complex consequences of what happens to women in beds, from dreaming to sex, childbirth, and death. This elevation from the particular to the universal is a hallmark of Berriault's finely wrought stories. Another motif is a life-altering confrontation with a stranger, such as when a librarian talks about poetry with a homeless man in "Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am?" and a magazine writer attempts to interview a recalcitrant physicist in "God and the Article Writer." Outsiders intrigue Berriault; her insights intrigue us. Bradfield's novels, including Animal Planet [BKL O 1 95], veer toward the anarchistic. In his meticulously structured, high-voltage, surprising short stories, he explores the more instinctive, less "civilized" aspects of our enigmatic natures. Bradfield is a virtuoso of dialogue and a connoisseur of personality, and his narrators are steeped in stress, from the homicidal jilted lover in "Sweet Ladies, Good Night, Good Night," to the brooding loner in "The Wind Box," and the little girl who can't speak in "Closer to You." These are very much tales of our time, sharp-edged yet seething with ambiguity. Petrushevskaya writes from a completely different world, giving voice to the frustrations of Soviet Russia during the 1970s and 1980s. Banned for 30 years for being "unSoviet," she finally achieved recognition with her acclaimed novel, The Time: Night (1994). Her seemingly direct but quite shrewd and ironic stories portray women struggling to achieve love, respect, and peace of mind. Petrushevskaya is keenly aware of the vacillations, hypocrisy, and opacity present in all kinds of relationships, and her fictional universe is rich in mockery and melancholy, and short on privacy and trust. As her characters seek escape from the cruel, colorless confines of their lives, resiliency and the courage to carry on become heroic. --Donna Seaman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781887178389 Launching Counterpoint's Classic Short Fiction series are Berricault's 1996 NBCC prize winner and a collection of 56 stories from the author of Mrs. Bridge. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1997 (Nonfiction)
Bad Land
Book Jacket   Jonathan Raban
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679442547 Hunting Mister Heartbreak (LJ 4/15/91) told of British-born Raban's last journey through the United States. Bad Land, emanating from his latest travels, might have been titled "Finding Mister Heartbreak," as he examines the 1910-20 diaspora of homesteaders to the badlands of southeastern Montana. Attracted by free land and glowing promotional pamphlets distributed by the railroads, settlers flocked to this semi-arid region to try their hand at dry-land farming. Their dreams too often turned to nightmares featuring drought, cold, grasshoppers, and isolation, and by the end of the "Dirty Thirties" many were gone. Raban shows a travel writer's eye and a social critic's sensibilities while probing the land, homesteaders' journals and letters, and the reminiscences of their descendants. Recommended. [Portions of this book were excerpted in the May 20, 1996, issue of the New Yorker.?Ed.]?Jim Burns, Ottumwa P.L., Iowa (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780679442547 Raban, a Briton who offered an outsider's view of the U.S. in Old Glory (1981) and Hunting Mr. Heartbreak (1991), moved to Seattle six years ago, but his survey of life in eastern Montana's "bad land" in this century still benefits from his knowledge of the places European settlers who came to Montana's Prairie and Custer Counties had left. They (and Americans coming from the East and Midwest) were drawn to the "Great American Desert" by the 320 acres of land promised by the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909; by pamphlets and ads from the Milwaukee Road Railroad, new to the territory and anxious to build up its market; and by the pseudoscience of "dry land farming." In 1915, after a few lush years, Montana's erratic rain stopped; two years later--and again in the "Dirty Thirties" --failed homesteaders moved on: to the Rockies, Washington state, and California. Bad Land is history sans footnotes, geography sans maps: Raban wallowed in eastern Montana, talking to homesteaders' descendants, reading memoirs and schoolbooks, exploring abandoned buildings, living through gulleywashers, lightning storms, and bitterly cold winters, and examining complex links between the region's past and present. --Mary Carroll
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679759065 This account of the author's travels through homesteaded Montana won the NBCC nonfiction prize. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780679442547 As seen in the punning title, travel writer Raban (Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America, 1991, etc.) adds a second, more sinister meaning to the legendary Montana-Dakota stretch of the Great Plains. Raban focuses on the town of Ismay, Mont., and its role in a seldom-discussed chapter of the modern American West. Ismay's settlers were lured by the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909, by misleading advertising by railroad companies, and by pseudoscientific claims about the benefits of dry-land farming. Before long, however, this inhospitable land had wrecked the hopes of these latter-day homesteaders. Instead of the American Eden they were promised, they encountered something more akin to the Egyptian plagues: subzero winter temperatures, dust, dying cattle, large grasshoppers, and above all, scant rainfall. Raban skillfully evokes the landscape's stark immensity, which defeated the attempts of photographers who tried to transform it into a romantic panorama. As settlers gradually deserted Ismay, they left behind signs of their failure, so that when Raban passed through, ``for every surviving ranch, I passed a dozen ruined houses.'' Yet Ismay, conceived by advertising, still could not resist making a bundle off a promotion, as seen in a hilarious recounting of its attempt to recast itself as a tourist trap by renaming itself Joe, Montana, after the quarterback (who is neither native son nor resident). Ultimately, Raban produces a startling revision of traditional Western myth: not the hopeful cowboys and farmers so often found in children's school primers, but solitaries, religious zealots, and even sociopaths. In Randy Weaver, Theodore Kaczynski, and Timothy McVeigh, Raban discovers spiritual descendants of the homesteaders in ``their resentment of government, their notion of property rights, their harping on self-sufficiency, and self-defence, [and] in their sense of enraged Scriptural entitlement.'' A powerful, grim new slant on those who took the way west--and of the terrible consequences when their dreams curdled and died. (First serial to the New Yorker)
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679442547 Raban (Old Glory), an Englishman now settled in Seattle, has written a vivid and utterly idiosyncratic social history of the homesteading movement in eastern Montana that went boom and bust during the first three decades of this century. It is the story of a dream turned sour that still echoes in the western American consciousness. Lured by free land from the government and a deceptive publicity campaign mounted by the local railroad, thousands from all over the eastern United States and northern Europe went to Montana to make their fortune as farmers. Raban follows the stories of several families, most of which end in heartbreak. He examines the literature that lured them there and the how-to books they read once they arrived. He tells the story of an early photographer, a woman, who recorded life on the prairie. He covers the weather, the homegrown school system, the early bankrupting fad of replacing horses with tractors, a Depression-era town built by the WPA and?most recently?the failed attempt of the dying community of Ismay to revive itself by changing its name to Joe, Montana, in the vain hope of luring football fans. Raban combines his personal experiences during the two years he traveled in Montana with historical research to argue that, given the land and the weather, the homesteading scheme was doomed to failure. The legacy today, seen most dramatically in the anti-government militia movement, is the belief, rooted in family memory, that government and big business conspire together against the little folk. This seemingly informal yet careful blend of chronicle and personal reportage is social history at its best. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1997 (Biography)
Angelas Ashes
Book Jacket   Frank McCourt
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780684874357 A powerful, exquisitely written debut, a recollection of the author's miserable childhood in the slums of Limerick, Ireland, during the Depression and WW II. McCourt was born in Brooklyn in 1930 but returned to Ireland with his family at the age of four. He describes, not without humor, scenes of hunger, illness, filth, and deprivation that would have given Dickens pause. His ``shiftless loquacious alcoholic father,'' Malachy, rarely worked; when he did he usually drank his wages, leaving his wife, Angela, to beg from local churches and charity organizations. McCourt remembers his little sister dying in his mother's arms. Then Oliver, one of the twins, got sick and died. McCourt himself nearly died of typhoid fever when he was ten. As awful and neglectful as his father could be, there were also heartrendingly tender moments: Unable to pay for a doctor and fearful of losing yet another child when the youngest is almost suffocating from a cold, his father places ``his mouth on the little nose . . . sucking the bad stuff out of Michael's head.'' Malachy fled to do war work in England but failed to send any money home, leaving his wife and children, already living in squalor, to further fend for themselves. They stole and begged and tore wood from the walls to burn in the stove. Forced to move in with an abusive cousin, McCourt became aware that the man and his mother were having ``the excitement'' up there in their grubby loft. After taking a beating from the man, McCourt ran away to stay with an uncle and spent his teens alternating between petty crime and odd jobs. Eventually he made his way, once again, to America. An extraordinary work in every way. McCourt magically retrieves love, dignity, and humor from a childhood of hunger, loss, and pain. (First serial to the New Yorker; Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selections; author tour)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. It is a wonder that McCourt survived his childhood in the slums of Depression-era Limerick, Ireland: three of his siblings did not, dying of minor illnesses complicated by near starvation. Even more astonishing is how generous of spirit he became and remains. His family lived--barely--in a flat so miserable that every year they had to cram themselves into an upstairs room when winter floods made the place only half-habitable. That upstairs room was "Italy" --warm and dry. Downstairs was Ireland--wet and cold. Father sat up there drinking tea, while mother Angela often could not rise from bed, so depressed was she. Or mother sat by the fire, waiting for father to return; when he did, frequently drunk on their little money, he would line up the boys and extract promises that they would die for Ireland. Dying was what everyone seemed to do best: the little sister, the twins, the girl with whom Frank first had sex, the old man Frank read to, too many boys from school, too many neighbors, too many relatives. McCourt spares us no details: the stench of the one toilet shared by an entire street, the insults of the charity officers, the maurauding rats, the street fights, the infected eyes, the fleas in the mattress . . . Yet he found a way to love in that miserable Limerick, and it is love one remembers as the dominant flavor in this Irish stew. Many a lesser book gets the kind of publicity push that McCourt's memoir is happily slated to receive. Expect demand, not only from those seduced by blurbs and interviews, but from word-of-mouth thereafter. (Reviewed Aug. 1996)0684874350Patricia Monaghan
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780684874357 YA?Despite impoverishing his family because of his alcoholism, McCourt's father passed on to his son a gift for superb storytelling. He told him about the great Irish heroes, the old days in Ireland, the people in their Limerick neighborhood, and the world beyond their shores. McCourt writes in the voice of the child?with no self-pity or review of events?and just retells the tales. He recounts his desperately poor early years, living on public assistance and losing three siblings, but manages to make the book funny and uplifting. Stories of trying on his parents' false teeth and his adventures as a post-office delivery boy will have readers laughing out loud. Young people will recognize the truth in these compelling tales; the emotions expressed; the descriptions of teachers, relatives, neighbors; and the casual cruelty adults show toward children. Readers will enjoy the humor and the music in the language. A vivid, wonderfully readable memoir.?Patricia Noonan, Prince William Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780684874357 The memoir of an impoverished childhood, from Brooklyn to Ireland and back. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780788711725 This volume deserves nomination for the best recorded book of the year. Author McCourt reads and sings the story of his childhood in Limerick. The book is on best sellers lists in the United States and Ireland, has won the Pulitzer Prize, and has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner award. McCourt faithfully renders an almost nightmarish youth on the dole in Depression-era Ireland, infusing the tale with exceptional humor and grace. His ability to rise above squalor, cruelty, and neglect and achieve the American dream is an inspiration for all?not just those with an alcoholic parent and more siblings than the family can handle. For McCourt, today a teacher and actor in New York, his debut as a narrator is truly a phenomenon. This amazing story of triumph over adversity belongs in every collection.?James Dudley, Copiague, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780684874357 McCourt is the eldest of eight children born to Angela Sheehan and Malachy McCourt in the 1920s. The McCourts began their family in poverty in Brooklyn, yet when Angela slipped into depression after the death of her only daughter (four of eight children survived), the family reversed the tide of emigration and returned to Ireland, living on public assistance in Limerick. McCourt's story is laced with the pain of extreme poverty, aggravated by an alcoholic father who abandoned the family during World War II. Given the burdens of grief and starvation, it's a tribute to his skill that he can serve the reader a tale of love, some sadness, but at least as much laughter as the McCourts' "Yankee" children knew growing up in the streets of Limerick. His story, almost impossible to put down, may well become a classic. A wonderful book; strongly recommended for readers of any age. [Previewed in Prebub Alert, LJ 5/1/96.]?Robert Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals, Framingham, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1996 (Fiction)
Mrs. Ted Bliss
 Stanley Elkin
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780380728961 Elkin's last novel, about a Jewish widow's waning years in a Miami condo, won the NBCC fiction prize. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780786861040 An extremely vexing if entertaining novel about an 80-year-old Jewish widow, by the late master of obsessive dark humor (Van Gogh's Room at Arles, 1993, etc.). Dorothy Bliss is a recent widow who moved with her husband to Miami after he retired as a butcher 20 years ago. Through the course of the story Elkin reveals in great detail every nuance of the rather dull life of Mrs. Bliss, a devoted homemaker who never dared to ``color outside the lines.'' We learn of her two living children and numerous grandchildren and other minor relativesMrs. Bliss keeps careful records of how much money she gives to each of them on every holiday, making sure that no one gets more than any of the others. We hear of the trauma of her oldest son's death from cancer at an early age. And we learn all about her fastidious cleaning habits. She leads such an ordinary, predictable life that her drug-smuggling South American neighbors conspire to use her and her dead husband's car as a front for their operation. But the amusing drug-running bit is only a ruse to tease you into thinking there's a plot. In fact, there's isn't so much a plot as an accumulation of detail about Mrs. Bliss. At first the repetitive, seemingly trivial anecdotes are grating, but Elkin's long poetic sentences about seemingly mundane minutiae subtly compound, and his central character gradually takes on a profound weight. By the end, when she's alone in her condo waiting for the killer hurricane that is bearing down on Miami, Mrs. Ted Bliss seems like a mythic character, the scene the Götterdämmerung of the Jewish-American Mother. A fiendish and, by end, thoroughly engrossing life study. (Author tour)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. When Elkin died earlier this summer, we lost one of America's most original and perceptive voices. A great critic of society, Elkin created a host of vivid and compelling characters, and his final heroine, the unflappable Mrs. Ted Bliss, may well be one of his most enduring. Elkin was always fascinated by the conflict between brain and heart, between what we think and what we feel, yet in Dorothy Bliss, he forged a consciousness notable for its steadfastness of spirit. A Russian Jewish beauty who immigrated to America in her early teens, Dorothy married a butcher, had children, and elevated cleanliness to an art form. Her carefully circumscribed life was all about duty. We meet the immaculate and sweet-natured Mrs. Bliss just after the death of her husband. Alone now in her Miami Beach condo and nearly deaf, Dorothy has to learn how to do basic things like write checks. When she sells her husband's car (she never learned to drive) to a handsome South American neighbor, she soon finds herself in some rather odd company. The neighbor turns out to be a drug dealer, and Dorothy helps the state put him in jail. With each page, our admiration for Dorothy grows. Amused by the bluster of men and surprisingly sanguine for a gal enamored of pastel polyester, Mrs. Bliss is wise beyond her sphere. Elkin's heartbreaking last lines reverberate like an epitaph for both character and author: "Family, friends, love fall away. Even madness stilled at last. Until all that's left is obligation." (Reviewed August 1995)0786861045Donna Seaman
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786861040 After her husband's death, Dorothy Bliss stays on alone in The Towers, their Miami Beach retirement condo. Everyone continues to address her as Mrs. Ted Bliss, as if she had no identity of her own. But Dorothy adapts quickly to change, and soon she is on The Towers's A-list, hobnobbing with "Tommy Overeasy," an elegant South American drug lord, and the building's chief engineer, a Yiddish-speaking Aztec. By the time Hurricane Andrew bears down on southern Florida, a fully self-sufficient Mrs. Bliss simply barricades herself inside and rides out the storm. Elkin has a highly developed sense of the absurd and a wonderful ear for spoken language. Multicultural Miami Beach provides him with plenty of comic material. However, as in his heartbreaking Magic Kingdom (LJ 4/15/85), death is such a strong presence that the comedy comes across as gallows humor. Still, Elkin's many fans will be waiting for this posthumously published final novel. For larger fiction collections.?Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780786861040 The title of Elkin's latest could not be more apt: it refers to the book's main character and, with a minimum of fuss, connotes a good deal of the woman's identity, self-image and history. Dorothy Bliss, a Russian-born Jew whose mother bribed an immigration official to add three years to young Dorothy's age so she could get work on Manhattan's Lower East Side, married the butcher Ted Bliss and lived a full life in Chicago: ``She was a mother, she and Ted had married a daughter, bar mitzvahed two sons, buried one of them.'' And now she has buried a husband. When the book opens, Ted has died of cancer after their retirement to Miami, and thus begins the last stages of Mrs. Ted Bliss's life on earth, a lonely but spirited, comic existence in a condominium overlooking Biscayne Bay. Elkin (George Mills) is at his best here, blessed with the gift of one-liner insight and a definite, if reluctantly exercised, ability to tug on a reader's heartstrings. His Dorothy Bliss is an unreflective woman wholly mundane in her ways, and therefore an outrageous subject for a novel: she likes cards, food?``Supper, coffee, dessert. Cooking.''?and television. ``What she remembered of being a kid,'' observes the narrator, ``was what she remembered of being an adult: her family.'' And the family is as ordinary as they come, replete with the kind of dramas that fill lives commonly enough, but seldom live in books. If T.S. Eliot saw a modern alienation being measured out in coffee spoons, Elkin's Mrs. Ted Bliss measures hers out in perceived slights and jai alai tickets. This is not to say there is not at least the threat of exoticism in Dorothy's waning years?her condo neighbors are a colorful lot, including some shady South American gents. But as they age, they seem as defanged as Dorothy is resigned to the dimming light of her world. In the end, it is the trenchant quips about the way of all flesh, and memory, that will give Dorothy Bliss a life after death: ``The same thing that gives us wisdom gives us plaque,'' she observes. Countless retirees in America?Jewish and otherwise?will recognize themselves and people they know in Dorothy Bliss. But finding her in a novel?Who would have thought? 1500 signed copies of limited edition as ABA giveaways; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1996 (Nonfiction)
A Civil Action
 Jonathan Harr
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780394563497 This tale of a somewhat quixotic quest by an idealistic young lawyer concerns his efforts to secure damages from two corporate giants, Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace, for allegedly polluting the water in Woburn, Mass., a Boston suburb, with carcinogens. Jan Schlichtmann had hoped that a victory would send a message to the boardrooms of America and felt that the cluster of leukemia victims in Woburn (the disease had claimed the lives of at least six children) guaranteed his success. But he reckoned without certain developments: first, the case went to a federal court, a less sympathetic venue for damage suits than state courts; second, the trial judge appears to have been unsympathetic to his case; third, at least one of the defense witnesses lied; four, defense attorneys evidently failed to deliver all relevant documents to Schlichtmann's team. The case against Beatrice was thrown out, and the plaintiffs accepted a settlement of $8 million from Grace. Personally bankrupt, Schlichtmann considered himself a failure. Former New England Monthly staffer Harr has told the story expertly, although more exhaustively than most readers may wish. Author tour; movie rights to Disney. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A crash course in big-bucks tort litigation, as rich as any novel on the scene. In the mid-'70s, the small industrial town of Woburn, Mass., found itself afflicted with a plague of biblical dimensions: 12 local children, 8 of them close neighbors, had died (or were dying) of leukemia. The parents suspected the water supply, which was foul-smelling, rusty, and undrinkable, but they had no hard evidence of a link to the cancers. But in 1979, the accidental discovery of carcinogenic industrial wastes in the town's wells led the grieving parents to hire personal-injury lawyer Jan Schlichtmann, new to the profession but intoxicated with the sizable damages he'd won so far. This is magazine journalist Hafts first book, but his complex portrait of Schlichtmann is the work of a master. Egomaniacal, quixotic, workaholic, greedy, altruistic, and naive, Schlichtmann is Everylawyer, and as he allows the Woburn case to consume his practice, he almost loses his license and his life. Harr wisely downplays the dying-children angle, focusing instead on Schlichtmann's case against the two corporate Goliaths who dumped the waste: Beatrice Foods (represented by Jerome Facher of Boston's Hale & Dorr) and W.R. Grace (represented by William Cheeseman of Boston's Foley, Hoag & Eliot). Despite their white-shoe lineage, Facher and Cheeseman play dirty, withholding evidence and repeatedly seeking Schlichtmann's suspension for having filed a ""frivolous"" lawsuit. But the real villain of the story is Federal District Judge Walter J. Skinner, whose personal dislike of Schlichtmann (and camaraderie with Facher) leads him to grant the defense's motion to split the trial into two protracted phases. By the time Judge Skinner submits four incomprehensible questions to be bewildered jury, Woburn's young victims have been forgotten--and the whole legal system has suffered a tragic loss. A paranoid legal thriller as readable as Grisham, but important and illuminating. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780394563497 Harr, a former staff writer at New England Monthly, describes a case that is to the civil justice system what the O.J. Simpson case is to the criminal justice system?fascinating, compelling at times, but not representative. Beginning with stories of leukemia-stricken children from the same neighborhood in Woburn, Massachusetts, he takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride along the tortuous path of a groundwater contamination case in which there were ultimately no winners. Harr also traces how the demands of the case coupled with self-delusion and sometimes poor professional judgment bankrupted the plaintiffs' lead attorney emotionally and financially. His book is weakened considerably by its lack of analysis and failure to fit these events and individuals into a larger context. Nonetheless, the author's ability to evoke atmosphere and create suspense makes this an engrossing read. Recommended for general adult nonfiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/95.]?Susan Pierce Dyer, Alameda Cty. Law Lib., Oakland, Cal. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. In the 1970s, it became painfully apparent that the town of Woburn, MA, was the site of a leukemia cluster. No one, however, initially linked the illness to the water supply or to the chemicals dumped there by the town's two largest corporations. As determined parents began to delve into the cause of their childrens' deaths, they found legal help in the form of the self-assured, no-holds-barred Jan Schlichtmann. What began as a pesky assignment for Schlichtmann becomes a compelling and intricate web of justice, money, big business, and emotion underscored by the notion that this could happen anywhere. Harr's skillful empathy in bringing the listener along on this roller coaster of emotion is enhanced by Alan Sklar's smooth handling of the many legal and medical terms. This best seller will be popular everywhere, even in this lengthy unabridged format. [The recent feature film starring John Travolta received critical acclaim.Ed.]--Susan McCaffrey, Haslett H.S., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780394563497 Eyeing readers who flock to fictionalized courtroom drama, Harr bets that dramatized nonfiction can compete for their attention. The case he selected, the standard cancer-caused-by-chemicals charge, is less about the validity of the suit than about the snarling courtroom combat between lawyers. While he spoke with both sides, he spoke most with the plaintiffs' maniacally energetic lawyer, Jan Schlichtmann, who took on the case of families who blamed their leukemia tragedies on city water polluted by two deep pockets, W. R. Grace and the Beatrice Corp., whose experienced trial attorneys usually appear in the narrative whenever Schlichtmann meets them while handling the business of the trial. Schlichtmann is definitely, and defiantly, a high-wire act, as he rejects offer after offer even as his creditors crowd closer to his accountant. Drawn as vividly as a character in a mystery novel, Harr's hero walks the precipice of bankruptcy, pushed toward the edge and pulled back by a carnival of forces, not the least his own ambition and brashness. Entertaining insight to litigation that any law-minded reader will follow from first filing to last appeal. --Gilbert Taylor
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1996 (Biography)
Savage Art
Book Jacket   Robert Polito
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780394584072 A series of Vintage reprints and Hollywood films like The Getaway and The Grifters have helped develop a wider popular and critical following for crime author Jim Thompson (1906-1977) than he sustained while alive. More twisted, sadistic and nihilistic than Chandler or Caine, Thompson's trademarks were his fiendish first-person psychopaths and lowlifes and his grim tales of failed lives and thwarted crimes. Polito, director of the writing program at Manhattan's New School, here untangles the man from his two-volume autobiography (Bad Boy and Roughneck), revealing a maverick alcoholic who was dogged by spells of depression and missed opportunities throughout his hand-to-mouth career. The son of a corrupt Oklahoma sheriff who lost his money speculating in oil, Thompson had his first alcohol-induced nervous breakdown as a hotel busboy in Ft. Worth while still in high school. He oscillated between low-wage jobs, hack journalism and literary circles for the rest of his life; joined the Communist Party in 1936; briefly became director of the Oklahoma Writer's Project; and struggled to publish novels that were often either too dark or slapdash for the mainstream. He enjoyed his most prolific period under editor Arnold Halo at Lion Books in the 1950s, eventually landing in Hollywood as a part-time film and television writer. This meticulous study adroitly evokes the rise of pulp adventure and crime magazines like Saga and True Detective, where Thompson honed his style, and the seedy underworld of hoboes and grifters who formed the models for his ``savage art.'' Photos. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780394584072 A triple-decker biography of the darkest of all practitioners of noir fiction (The Stranger Inside Me, The Grifters, etc.). After a brisk, incisive critical overview of Thompson's work, Polito, editor of Fireworks: The Lost Writings of Jim Thompson (1988), launches into a hard-driving account, based largely on interviews, of the novelist's life that makes it sound like a hellish parody of a cautionary pulp fable. Like a Hollywood writer, Thompson cherished an oedipal ambivalence toward his charming, irresponsible father, an Oklahoma sheriff. He also had, in the best Hollywood manner, a shy, courtly, hypersensitive demeanor that belied both the anarchic fury that simmered inside and the rough, rolling-stone background that took him from work as a knowing bellboy to jobs in the Texas oilfields, with time out for marriage, children, and a stint as a hobo before the Depression turned him into a radical, a WPA writer, and finally a poet of failure (``Thompson's great subject''). Although Polito emphasizes his subject's formative apprenticeship in true-crime writing, Thompson, again in approved movie-hero fashion, churned out millions of words in a dizzying variety of assignmentsarticles for agricultural and industrial journals, short stories and memoirs, labor news and interviewsbefore publishing, at the age of 42, Nothing More Than Murder, the first of his jet-black studies of doomed criminal sociopaths. Finally finding his niche, Thompson produced, in a miraculous year and a half (195254), 12 paperback novels, including most of the work by which he is best known, before beginning a long, painful slide toward piecework (TV episodes, novelizations, a hundred abortive projects), premature aging, and oblivion. Polito not only takes Thompson's measure as a man and writer, but makes you feel what it must have been like to be this quiet, raging man in a biography nearly as dark as its subject's own fiction.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780394584072 Jim Thompson--author of The Killer inside Me and many other noir classics--suffered from the artistic curse of being ahead of his time. Though he made a living of sorts as a writer, it was only long after his death in April 1977 that his work received the acclaim it deserved. Polito, who edited an anthology of Thompson's uncollected work entitled Fireworks (1988), examines both the life and the work in this satisfying biography. He moves chronologically through Thompson's life, offering parallel critiques of his writings, from the early true-crime magazine work through the later, now-celebrated novels. The critical analysis is perceptive and focuses on Thompson's influence on succeeding crime writers, but it is the personal biography that will entrance readers. Thompson led a troubled life, beset by chronic alcoholism and associated physical ailments, and it seems at times as if he couldn't maintain a deep emotional relationship with anyone over a long period. Somehow that loneliness and isolation flowed through Thompson's pen and transformed itself into a fictional world in which only greed and lust and jealousy motivate human behavior. It makes compelling reading, but it must have been hell to live there. --Wes Lukowsky
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780394584072 Polito, who directs the writing program at New York City's New School for Social Research and who edited and wrote the introduction for the Thompson anthology Fireworks (Donald I. Fine, 1988), presents an intimate, meticulously researched portrait of the author of such classic noir novels as The Killer Inside Me, Pop 1280, and The Grifters. Polito interviewed members of Thompson's family, researched historical records, and carefully combed Thompson's own autobiographical writing to provide insight into his character and development as a writer. Thompson's readers will recognize here the wellspring of his art: his peripatetic childhood, his tormented young manhood, and his ultimately disappointing adulthood. Polito described Thompson's struggles with alcohol and his associations with an amalgamation of grifters and hobos, but he also presents fond reminiscences from people who knew Thompson as a loving brother, mentor, and friend. Thompson's life, like his book, makes wrenching reading. Recommended where biographies or crime fiction are collected.?Denise Johnson, Bradley Univ. Lib., Peoria, Ill. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1995 (Fiction)
The Stone Diaries
Book Jacket   Carol Shields
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780670853090 Canadian writer Shields's novels and short stories ( Swann ; The Republic of Love , etc.) are intensely imagined, humanely generous, beautifully sustained and impeccably detailed. Despite rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, she has yet to achieve an audience here; one hopes this latest effort, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, will be her breakthrough. It is at once a playful sendup of the art of biography and a serious exploration of the essential mystery of human lives; the gist of this many-faceted story is that all biographies are only versions of the facts. Shields follows her heroine, Daisy Goodwill Hoad Flett, from her birth--and her mother's death--on the kitchen floor of a stonemason's cottage in a small quarry town in Manitoba through childhood in Winnipeg, adolescence and young womanhood in Bloomington, Ind. (another quarry town), two marriages, motherhood, widowhood, a brief, exhilarating career in Ottawa--and eventually to old age and death in Florida. Stone is the unifying image here: it affects the geography of Daisy's life, and ultimately her vision of herself. Wittily, ironically, touchingly, Shields gives us Daisy's version of her life and contrasting interpretations of events from her friends, children and extended family. (She even provides ostensible photographs of Daisy's family and friends.) Shields's prose is succint, clear and graceful, and she is wizardly with description, summarizing appearance, disposition and inner lives with elegant imagery. Secondary characters are equally compelling, especially Daisy's obese, phlegmatic mother; her meek, obsessive father, who transforms himself into an overbearing executive; her adoptive mother, her stubborn father-in-law. Readers who discover Shields with this book can also pick up a simultaneously published paperback version of an early first novel, Happenstance . Author tour. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780670853090 Shields (The Republic of Love, The Orange Fish, Swan, plus see above) offers epic material in this century-long story of a woman's life told from many points of view. Short-listed for the Booker Prize, the novel dazzles with its deft touch and ironic wisdom. Daisy Goodwill is born in 1905 in Manitoba and dies early in the 1990's in a Florida nursing home. Chapter headings are archetypal: ``Birth, 1905,'' ``Childhood, 1916,'' ``Marriage, 1927,'' ``Love, 1936,'' ``Motherhood, 1947,'' until, finally, ``Illness and Decline, 1985'' and ``Death.'' In fact, the novel even includes 16 pages of photos to mimic the usual pattern of a biography. In this case, however, the point of view switches frequently: ``Life is an endless recruiting of witnesses,'' Daisy says in ``Birth,'' and the narrative structure bears out this theme. Daisy's mother dies in childbirth, and her father, a stonecutter, forgets for days at a time ``that he is the father of a child....'' Her father moves to Indiana, where she marries a man who quickly commits suicide and then, in 1936, she marries Barker Flett, a professor whose mother had brought her up. Her life plays itself out. Shields's quiet touch, gossipy and affectionate, re- creates Daisy's poignant decline and death with dollops of humorous distance, including obituaries, recipes, and overheard snippets of conversation. Shields, who began as a miniaturist, has come full bloom with this latest exploration of domestic plenitude and paucity; she's entered a mature, luminous period, devising a style that develops an earlier whimsical fabulism into a hard-edged lyricism perfect for the ambitious bicultural exploration she undertakes here.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780788704659 Behind Shields's Pulitzer Prize-winning best seller lies an unusual novel of great power. The story chronicles and celebrates the life of a fictional everywoman, Daisy Goodwill Plett, born in 1905 and living into the 1990s. Lack of chronology permits a third-person narrative to elevate incidents into historical events. For example, the fetus describes mother's world before its birth, traces father's family as he walks home, and more. We probe Daisy's psyche through her thoughts and those of elders, friends, spouses, children, and grandchildren, who leave and enter her life, which we experience from a dramatic birth to a chilling death. Alyssa Bresnahan's vibrant narration complements the author's skillful tribute to an ordinary life. This recording will enhance every collection.-James Dudley, Copiague, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780670853090 Author of the ``most satisfying'' The Republic of Love ( LJ 1/92), Canadian novelist Shields here details the hard life of Daisy Stone Goodwill from her 1905 birth in Manitoba through old age. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780140233131 An aged woman discovers herself as she reflects upon her life, which spans much of the 20th century. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780864924681 Any performer has her work cut out for her when a novel takes place in several settings with inhabitants possessing distinctive regional accents. Shield's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel takes the listener from the plains of central Canada to Bloomington, Ind., and the Orkney Islands. Botsford is an excellent performer with a smooth and easy-to-listen-to reading voice, but she doesn't have a gift for imitating linguistic variations. The women of Daisy's Bloomington circle have Southern lilts worthy of Gone with the Wind. Readers would expect the voices of this coterie to age as Daisy does, but no accommodation is made for this possibility. Within each locale the voices are quite distinct, though the voice of Daisy, the center of the novel, stands out least of all, appropriately enough, for in this work we see her life through the eyes of others. This is an important and deft novel and it's about time that it was recorded, even in this overly abridged version. Shields's writing still makes this worth a listen. Available as a Penguin paperback. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1995 (Nonfiction)
The Rape of Europa
 Lynn Nicholas
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780679400691 A sprawling, vivid look at the fate of Europe's artworks during WW II. ``Never,'' states Nicholas in her admirably accomplished first book, ``had works of art been so important to a political movement and never had they been moved about on such a vast scale....'' Charting this unprecedented movement, Nicholas begins with the Nazis' twofold ``purification'' effort to ban ``degenerate'' culture and to scour public and private collections of enemy lands and races for nobly Germanic art. Backed always by astonishing statistics, the author recounts not only the brutal pursuit of both goals in western continental Europe and the even harsher, racially motivated pillage of Russian and Polish art treasures, but also the baffling exceptions to rules: the modernist ``garbage'' (Goebbels) imported into Germany and auctioned for hard foreign currency; the Jewish experts in Nordic art made ``Honorary Aryans''; the hands of Jewish women kissed by Goering in his quest for favorite canvases. As a former researcher at Washington's National Gallery who made a childhood visit through the devastated Germany of 1948, Nicholas is well equipped to elucidate the technicalities and vivify the chaos of wartime Europe's emergency storage sites, their improvised safety and climate controls, the economics and legalities of the art trade and postwar reclamations, and America's interests during and after the war in custodianship, reparation politics, and efforts to protect its own collections. Nonetheless, Nicholas does not, so to speak, lose the big picture, duly prefacing each country-by-country account with background history of the war. One interesting Cold War issue she considers is the politically sensitive return to newly Communist countries of plundered religious relics. The book abounds in poignant and bizarre details, from masterpieces traded for everything from human lives to ``8 kilograms of millet,'' to Chinese bronzes found holding manure in East German pigsties. Nicholas restores harrowing political contexts to ``safe,'' pristinely displayed museum masterpieces. (87 b&w illustrations and 3 maps)
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679400691 ``Never had works of art been so important to a political movement and never had they been moved about on such a vast scale.'' Nicholas's lavishly illustrated work chronicles the transfer, trading and looting of a large proportion of Europe's cultural treasures by the Nazis and the recovery of most of them during the Allied counterattack and early postwar years. She describes the Nazis' attempt to ``purify'' the world of ``degenerate'' art and their orgy of destruction, confiscation and theft, and reveals how curators at the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi in Florence and other great museums supervised the removal of objects d'art to places of safety that included mine shafts and remote chateaux in anticipation of the German onslaught. Among these treasures were such masterpieces of sculpture and oils as Winged Victory of Samothrace and Van Gogh's Dr. Gachet , tapestries, church altars, crown jewels, literary manuscripts and symphonic scores. Nicholas's detailed account, meticulously researched in museum archives and supplemented with interviews, brings into focus the men and women who took responsibility for the protection, preservation, rescue and restoration of the artistic patrimony of Europe. Ambitious and fully realized, the book is a major contribution to the history of art; and first-time author Nicholas, an academic researcher of European history, shows herself to be a writer of notable talent. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679400691 Nicholas ably surveys and details the Nazi plundering, destruction, and sale of modern art in the 1930s, and the large-scale confiscations in the occupied territories during the war. Her account is richly detailed and full of anecdotal insights regarding Nazi acquisitiveness. Allied personnel, many of them museum curators or art historians, often heroically spared objects from expropriation by soldiers and civilians at war's end, or from damage through deterioration in the postwar chaos. On occasion, the amount of detail overwhelms the narrative. One wishes for more analysis and reflection of the role of culture in the determined effort of the Nazis to loot Europe's patrimony. How was art used as an instrument of political legitimation? This key question is left unanswered. Nonetheless, the book's wonderfully textured descriptions, based on oral testimonies, archival research, and the key secondary literature, provides an insight into incredible human greed and determined cultural politics during the catastrophic middle years of the 20th century. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. M. Deshmukh; George Mason University
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780679400691 The world is still trying to fathom the enormity of the violence perpetrated by the Nazis. While the unending horror of the Holocaust continues to shock and baffle us, other facets of this unprecedented attempt at ethnic and cultural annihilation are still being revealed. One such facet consists of the mind-boggling facts about the Germans' wholesale pillaging of the art treasures of Europe. Nicholas painstakingly reconstructs the entire art debacle, relating one improbable but fully documented tale after another of systematic confiscation, outright theft, shameful deal-making, and fiendish destruction. The flip side to these atrocities is a litany of heroic efforts by curators, art historians, and many others to conceal, preserve, and protect the art of their land. Nicholas chronicles dozens of risky and dramatic struggles to keep the treasures of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, France, Russia, and Italy out of the hands of their mad conquerors. While thousands upon thousands of precious paintings, sculptures, medieval manuscripts, and other invaluable objects were torn from churches, homes, libraries, and museums and shipped to Germany, hundreds more were frantically buried, camouflaged, or stashed in basements, country estates, salt mines, or quarry tunnels. Nicholas is in full command of a daunting amount of detailed information. She eloquently and efficiently introduces a huge cast of characters and artworks and manages to cover both the terrifying war years and the curatorial and logistical nightmare of their aftermath, when the Allies' overworked "Monument men" labored against all odds and in spite of many controversies to return recovered masterpieces to their rightful owners. Nicholas, a first-time author, has constructed a momentous and riveting work. ~--Donna Seaman
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679400691 First-time author Nicholas presents a poorly written survey of the traffic in art under the Nazi regime, first in Germany and then in occupied Europe. She has a great deal of information, but it is not presented clearly or consistently. Nicholas has worked extensively with original documents and secondary works to reconstruct the German confiscation of art across the Continent, not just from Jews but from individuals and institutions in every country. Part cultural policy, part individual cupidity-especially by Goering-part egomania (Hitler's plans for a great museum in Linz), the ``rape of Europe'' makes for an engrossing story, but it is beyond the author's powers to deal with this story at more than an anecdotal level. While more limited in scope, firsthand accounts like Craig Smyth's Repatriation of Art from the Collecting Point in Munich After World War II (Abner Schram, 1988) are preferable. Pass on this.-Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1995 (Biography)
Shot in the Heart
 Mikal Gilmore
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385422932 Executed by firing squad in Utah in 1977 after murdering two young Mormon men, Gary Gilmore, who insisted he be put to death, gained notoriety through Norman Mailer's book The Executioner's Song and a TV film. In a haunting portrait of a dysfunctional family that molded a murderer, rock music journalist Mikal Gilmore, Gary's brother, fills in multiple gaps in Mailer's account by unearthing family secrets, traumas and horrors. Gary, frequently whipped and abandoned by his con man father, Frank Sr. (who later became a respectable publisher in Oregon), had an extensive history of robberies, arrests, suicide attempts and drug and alcohol abuse before his rage exploded in murder. We learn that Frank Sr. mistakenly suspected Gary was not his own son but the offspring of his embittered wife, Bessie, and Robert Ingram, Frank Sr.'s estranged son by a previous marriage. We also learn that Frank Jr.--long believed to be Mikal's full brother--was the issue of that long-suspected union. Mikal, who covered the case for Rolling Stone, writes with sensitivity and probing intelligence, exorcising family secrets and the stigma of being a murderer's brother. Photos. Author tour. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385422932 Gary Gilmore murdered two men and was himself executed for his crime. One of Gilmore's brothers was murdered under unexplained circumstances. Here, a third brother considers 300 years of family history to try to explain the violence that has haunted them. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385422932 The last months of lifetime criminal Gary Gilmore, who murdered two Mormon store clerks and then demanded that the state of Utah execute him, were painstakingly chronicled in Norman Mailer's classic The Executioner's Song (LJ 11/1/79). Shot in the Heart, by Gilmore's youngest brother, is even more harrowing. Not a ``tell-all'' work about growing up with a killer, it offers a broader account of a family gone haywire-a family of hauntings, beatings, hate, and, almost shockingly, love. Gilmore's book reminds us that the sins of the fathers, mothers, and brothers-our sins-can be passed on with the same devastating effect of a rogue gene that carries a dread disease. This book is not pretty, but it is highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/94.]-Jim Burns, Ottumwa, Ia. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. A startling book by a senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine, who, more relevantly, is the youngest brother of Gary Gilmore, the convicted murderer (and subject of Norman Mailer's Executioner's Song who was executed by firing squad in Utah in 1977 amid tremendous publicity. Younger brother Gilmore has come out of the closet, so to speak, after all these years neither to excuse his older sibling nor to cash in on his notoriety. He does so as catharsis, to finally reestablish a connection to a family, however dysfunctional it was and however distanced from it he felt at one time, who spawned a killer. His book is overlong but effective nonetheless, as Mikal seeks to identify and understand the family environment that engendered Gary's violent nature. Both parents came to their marriage with considerable psychological baggage, but it was Gary's father's violent behavior that seems to have been the primary ingredient contributing to the kind of man Gary became. This is not a book of pat answers, but rather, a sad, sensitive, well-written account from the heart. (Reviewed Apr. 15, 1994)0385422938Brad Hooper
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780385422932 In a narrative that holds all the morbid fascination of a bad car wreck, the kid brother of Gary Gilmore--immortalized in Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, he campaigned for his own death and became the first person to be executed in America after the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s--details a sickening family history of violence, rage, and lies that spans several generations. Mother Bessie, who was traumatized by her unforgiving Mormon parents (her father who was beaten with his own father's wooden leg, in turn would batter Bessie's brother until the gawky boy passed out), married Frank Gilmore, a Catholic 20-some years her senior. Frank neglected to mention that he had six ex-wives and several abandoned children. The son of a mother who withheld her love, Frank became a drunk and a thief who left home for months at a time and moved his family frequently to evade the law. To get back at him, Bessie had an affair and became pregnant by one of his sons from a previous marriage. He suspected Gary was not his (in fact, the oldest, Frank, Jr., wasn't) and particularly disdained him. Frank regularly and savagely beat Bessie, and Mikal's older brothers Gary, Frank, Jr., and Gaylen, and robbed them of all shreds of security and self-esteem. Gary, a gifted artist and very intelligent teenager, was sent to reform school because of his father's recalcitrance, and there he became a criminal. His stints in jail further turned him into the monster who senselessly murdered two young Mormon men. Mikal humanizes Gary, and tells of the wrenching legacy he and his other brothers inherited: alcoholic Gaylen died of knife wounds, probably inflicted by a jealous husband; Frank, Jr., cared for the mother who hated him until her death, and then became a recluse; and the youngest, Mikal, now a senior editor at Rolling Stone, lives with the guilt of being his father's favorite and the shame of being Gary's brother. Articulate, brave, and heartbreaking. (15 b&w photos, not seen) (First serial to Rolling Stone; film rights to Alan Pakula; Book-of-the-Month Club featured selection; Quality Paperback Book Club selection; author tour)
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385478007 This L.A. Times award winner by the brother of murderer Gary Gilmore tells a multigenerational tale of familial abuse. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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