National Book Critics Circle
2013 (Fiction)
Americanah
Click to search this book in our catalog   Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2013 (General Nonfiction)
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
Click to search this book in our catalog   Sheri Fink
2013 (Biography)
Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World
Click to search this book in our catalog   Leo Damrosch
 
2013 (Autobiography)
Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti
 Amy Wilentz

Library Journal 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.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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
 Frank Bidart

Publishers Weekly "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.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Publishers Weekly "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.

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Library Journal "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.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list 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
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2012 (Fiction)
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Click to search this book in our catalog   Ben Fountain

Library Journal 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.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list *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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly 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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Andrew Solomon

Publishers Weekly 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.

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Book list *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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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

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2012 (Biography)
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Click to search this book in our catalog   Robert Caro

Publishers Weekly 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.

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Library Journal 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.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list *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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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2012 (Autobiography)
Swimming Studies
 Leanne Shapton
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2012 (Poetry)
Useless Landscape/A Guide for Boys
 D. A. Powell

Library Journal 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.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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
 Marina Warner

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Edith Pearlman

Publishers Weekly 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.

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Book list *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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Maya Jasanoff

Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Book list 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

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Library Journal 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.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly 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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2011 (Biography)
George F. Kennan: An American Life
Click to search this book in our catalog   John Lewis Gaddis

Book list *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

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Publishers Weekly 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.

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Library Journal 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
 Mira Bartok

Publishers Weekly 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.

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Book list *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

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2011 (Poetry)
Space, in Chains
 Laura Kasischke

Publishers Weekly 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.

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Library Journal 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 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.

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Book list 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

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2010 (Fiction)
A Visit from the Goon Squad
Click to search this book in our catalog   Jennifer Egan

Book list *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

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Publishers Weekly 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

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Library Journal 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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Isabel Wilkerson

Publishers Weekly 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

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Library Journal 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.

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Book list *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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Sarah Bakewell

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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2010 (Autobiography)
Half a Life
 Darin Strauss

Book list 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 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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
 Clare Cavanagh

Choice 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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Hilary Mantel

Book list 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

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Library Journal 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 Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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2009 (General Nonfiction)
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
Click to search this book in our catalog   Richard Holmes

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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.

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Choice 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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Blake Bailey

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Book list *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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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
 Diana Athill

Publishers Weekly 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

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Book list 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

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2009 (Poetry)
Versed
 Rae Armantrout

Publishers Weekly 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

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Library Journal 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.

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Library Journal 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 *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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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.

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School Library Journal 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)
Click to search this book in our catalog   Seth Lerer

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Choice 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

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Book list 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)
Click to search this book in our catalog   August Kleinzahler

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal 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) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal 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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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2008 (Poetry)
Half the World in Light(University of Arizona Press)
Click to search this book in our catalog   Juan Felipe Herrera

Library Journal 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. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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2008 (Autobiography)
My Fathers Paradise: A Sons Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq
 Ariel Sabar

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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2008 (Biography)
The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul
 Patrick French

Book list *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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal 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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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2008 (General Nonfiction)
The Forever War
 Dexter Filkins

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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2008 (Fiction)
2666
Click to search this book in our catalog   Roberto Bolaño

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Book list *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

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2009 (Fiction)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Click to search this book in our catalog   Junot Diaz

Library Journal 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. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Matthew Sharpe is the author of the novels Jamestown and The Sleeping Father. He teaches at Wesleyan University. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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Book list "*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

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2008 (Nonfiction)
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experiments on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
Click to search this book in our catalog   Harriet Washington

Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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

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2008 (Biography)
Stanley, the Impossible Life of Africas Greatest Explorer
 Tim Jeal

Book list *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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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
 Kiran Desai

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal 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. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal 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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Library Journal 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. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal 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 Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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2007 (Biography)
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
Click to search this book in our catalog   Julie Phillips

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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
Click to search this book in our catalog   E. L. Doctorow

Library Journal 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. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal 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 Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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2006 (Nonfiction)
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of Nuclear Disaster
Click to search this book in our catalog   Svetlana Alexievich

Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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2006 (Biography)
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
 Kai Bird

Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal 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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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 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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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
 Diarmaid MacCulloch

Library Journal 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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal What made the Reformation so powerful? Ask this award-winning historian. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Mark Stevens

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal 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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal What made De Kooning tick? New York art critic Stevens joins with former Newsweek arts editor Swan to find out. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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
Click to search this book in our catalog   Edward P. Jones
2004 (Nonfiction)
Sons of Mississippi
Click to search this book in our catalog   Paul Hendrickson

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly "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. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal 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.

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2004 (Biography)
Khrushchev: The Man and His Era
 William Taubman

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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

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Choice 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
 Ian McEwan
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2003 (Nonfiction)
A Problem From Hell
 Samantha Power

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Choice 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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2003 (Biography)
Charles Darwin
Click to search this book in our catalog   Janet Browne

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal Browne completes her biography of Darwin, following up a first volume that appeared seven years ago. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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2002 (Fiction)
Austerlitz
Click to search this book in our catalog   W. G. Sebald

School Library Journal 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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal 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" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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2002 (Nonfiction)
Double Fold
Click to search this book in our catalog   Nicholson Baker

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal Baker keeps going after libraries, this time for microfilming old newspapers and brittle books. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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2002 (Biography)
Boswells Presumptious Task
 Adam Sisman

Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal Noted biographer Sisman (A.J.P. Taylor) here considers the most famous biographer of all. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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2001 (Fiction)
Being Dead
 Jim Crace

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal 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 Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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2001 (Nonfiction)
Newjack: Guarding Sing-Sing
 Ted Conover

Library Journal 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 Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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2001 (Biography)
Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan
Click to search this book in our catalog   Herbert Bix

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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2000 (Fiction)
Motherless Brooklyn
Click to search this book in our catalog   Jonathan Lethem

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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 Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal 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. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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2000 (Nonfiction)
Time, Love, Memory
Click to search this book in our catalog   Jonathan Weiner

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly 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)

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Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Library Journal 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 Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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2000 (Biography)
The Hairstons
 Henry Wiencek

Library Journal 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

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Publishers Weekly 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.)

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1999 (Fiction)
The Love of a Good Woman
 Alice Munro

Library Journal 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.

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Library Journal Eight new stories; a 50,000-copy first printing.

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Publishers Weekly 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.

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Book list 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 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

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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.)

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Library Journal 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.

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Choice 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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1999 (Biography)
A Beautiful MInd
Click to search this book in our catalog   Sylvia Nasar

Book list 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.

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Publishers Weekly 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)

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Book list 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

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Library Journal 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)

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Library Journal 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

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1998 (Fiction)
The Blue Flower
Click to search this book in our catalog   Penelope Fitzgerald

Library Journal 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"

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Publishers Weekly 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.)

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1998 (Nonfiction)
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
Click to search this book in our catalog   Anne Fadiman

Library Journal 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

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Publishers Weekly 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.)

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School Library Journal 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

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Book list 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

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1998 (Biography)
Ernie Pyles War
 James Tobin

Book list 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

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Choice 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

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Publishers Weekly 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)

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1997 (Fiction)
Women in their Beds
 Gina Berriault

Publishers Weekly 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.)

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Book list 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

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1997 (Nonfiction)
Bad Land
 Jonathan Raban

Library Journal 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

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Book list 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

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Publishers Weekly 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.)

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1997 (Biography)
Angelas Ashes
Click to search this book in our catalog   Frank McCourt

School Library Journal 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

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Library Journal The memoir of an impoverished childhood, from Brooklyn to Ireland and back.

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Library Journal 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.

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1996 (Fiction)
Mrs. Ted Bliss
Click to search this book in our catalog   Stanley Elkin

Library Journal 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

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Publishers Weekly 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.)

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1996 (Nonfiction)
A Civil Action
Click to search this book in our catalog   Jonathan Harr

Publishers Weekly 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.)

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Library Journal 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.

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Book list 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
 Robert Polito

Publishers Weekly 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.)

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Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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.

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1995 (Fiction)
The Stone Diaries
 Carol Shields

Publishers Weekly 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.)

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Library Journal 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.

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1995 (Nonfiction)
The Rape of Europa
 Lynn Nicholas

Publishers Weekly ``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)

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Choice 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

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Book list 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

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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.

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1995 (Biography)
Shot in the Heart
Click to search this book in our catalog   Mikal Gilmore

Publishers Weekly 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)

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Library Journal 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.

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Library Journal 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.

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