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Force of Nature
Bold Strokes Books
1020 Livezey Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119
ISBN: 1933110236, $15.95, 235 pp.
Kim Baldwin returns with her second novel, Force of Nature, which is distinctly different from her award-winning debut work, Hunter's Pursuit. The wonderfully entertaining Pursuit was primarily an action/thriller with the focal point being the one main character's skill in survival at any cost. Force of Nature is action-packed, has fast-paced thrilling rescue scenes, but here the author has chosen to focus her character development on the two main characters.
Gable McCoy is a forty-six year-old pharmacist who is also in her rookie year as a volunteer firefighter in a rural Michigan community. After having survived a tornado, she begins her task of search and rescue in the area. She comes upon the devastated home of Erin Richards, a thirty-nine year-old teacher who has recently moved to the area. Erin is alive but unfortunately trapped in her basement bathroom. Completely surrounded by debris, Gable must await other rescuers before extricating Erin and taking her to safety. Throughout the long night, Gable keeps Erin occupied with conversational anecdotes and mutual family histories. This is no easy task since Erin is both claustrophobic and has a fear of the dark. However, as the hours wear on, a friendship develops, which, unbeknownst to either woman, will face even greater challenges as their story progresses.
Baldwin has a natural gift for creating a scene and immediately immersing the reader. Compelled by the tumultuous tornadic winds, both Gable and the reader hit that three-foot wide drainpipe just in time to escape almost certain death. "It was upon her in an instant, trying to suck her from the pipe, tugging at her with fierce determination" (p. 15). The reader can feel the vacuum inside that pipe, can experience the hands sliding helplessly along the narrow algae-covered walls, and can feel the pelting stones and sticks as they assault the exposed legs. The reality of the situation is skillfully conveyed through the concise syntax and expert word choice.
Another hallmark of this novel is the manner in which Baldwin takes the mundane and prosaic events of everyday living and juxtaposes them with that thankfully rare catastrophic natural occurrence. These are ordinary women with jobs and lives; they are not superheroes in any way, and this very credible casting delivers much more of an impact for the reader. The suspension of disbelief is admirably achieved. It is also refreshing to read a novel where comely twenty-somethings are not cavorting across the chapters. Both Gable and Erin are attractive, professional, and responsible older women. That the author has chosen to write about this demographic is much appreciated by this reader.
Creating the uncertainty about Erin's sexual identity and developing the necessary sexual tension between these two main characters could very easily have lent itself to the tried and cliche coming-out experience. However, Baldwin surpasses this hurdle with wonderfully humorous exchanges of dialogue. She has a gift for creating resonant and realistic conversations among her various characters as well as a genuine sense of what genuinely coincides with any given situation. There are many conflicts presented throughout the course of the novel, but Baldwin offers clear and appealing resolutions for all.
Force of Nature is an exciting and substantial reading experience which will long remain with the reader. Likeable characters with plausible problems and concerns, imaginative settings, engrossing events, and a well-tailored writing style all contribute to an exceptional novel. Baldwin's characterization is acutely and meticulously circumscribed and expansive. It is indeed gratifying to see a new author attempt and succeed in expanding her literary technique and writing style. Kim Baldwin is an author who has achieved both in Force of Nature.
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 0375412026, $35.00 US $47.00 CAN, 721 pp.
In 1951, our elementary school, located in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., conducted air raid drills to prepare us for the possibility of an atomic bomb attack. While our teacher led us single file across the entire campus, I worried that an atomic bomb would certainly not wait for us to reach a safe place. Once the student body assembled in the cafeteria, each of us crawled under a desk, pulled our legs up under us, and covered our eyes by burying them in the crook of an arm.
That bomb never did drop. I kept waiting for it. When I was in high school, my heart still thundered at the sound of any kind of whistling or whining from the skies above. As of now, 2005, it still hasn't dropped. Who and what protected us? Surely not the designers and manufacturers of the first atomic bombs, the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, ending WWII when Japan surrendered a few days later.
I was wrong. Reading American Prometheus (the name of the Greek god who took fire from Zeus and gave it to humans), I learned that the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904 - 1967), spearheaded the movement to contain this dangerous weapon after it was successfully used on Japan.
When a riveting and highly-acclaimed biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer reached the shelves, I bought it, read it, and chose to review it because I want to know happened behind the closed doors of government during the era of the gestation and birth of nuclear war technology.
American Prometheus greatly intrigued me by its tale of how Oppenheimer, during the aftermath of its use against Japan, advocated before Presidents and generals its control and containment through coordinated effort by all nations, in the end martyring his career as a prominent member of the government's scientific community.
Who was J. Robert Oppenheimer, this brilliant man of such stark contradictions? The authors paint a vivid portrait: rail thin, penetrating blue eyes, dark hair. He wore a porkpie hat. After he bummed a cigarette from a friend while a youth, he chained smoked for the rest of his life. To direct the development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, Oppenheimer earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, even though he failed the phyical because he was 27 pounds underweight.
His strength and stamina, however, showed that he was no weakling. He thrived on long, arduous workdays at Los Alamos, extended horseback rides on a horse named "Crisis" that only Oppenheimer could ride, and reckless sailboat excursions through tempestuous waters.
Surviving a painful, prolonged adolescence, the shy and awkward young man matured to become a captivating lecturer and conversationalist, his verbal generosity warm and sprinkled with dry wit, particularly at social gatherings where friends and colleagues considered him a marvelous entertainer.
At 36 years of age, he married Katherine Peuning Harrison, "Kitty", and they stayed married until the end of his life. Kitty, although plagued by emotional illness and alcoholism, stepped forward to help her husband very effectively through excruciating ordeals, particularly the Atomic Energy Commission's hearing in 1954 to determine whether or not the physicist's top security clearance should be extended. It was not. Her testimony during this hearing was truthful and articulate, while still shedding the best possible light on her husband.
Robert Oppenheimer enjoyed a close relationship with his younger brother Frank, an experimental physicist. The authors describe how Robert detested and avoided experimental physics, an area in which Frank excelled. Unlike Robert, Frank joined the Communist Party and admitted this later on to the government interrogators, getting himself blackballed from teaching and research positions. Frank became a cattle rancher.
For many years he and Frank leased the "Perro Caliente", a ranch in New Mexico, to use as a getaway for themselves and their friends and colleagues. It was here that Robert "adopted" the cantankerous horse, "Crisis", that he rode for days through treacherous mountainous terrain.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, brilliant and creative theoretical physicist, embraced two diametrically opposed sides to his personality, an inner conflict that could have splintered the average person. On the one hand, he was the scientist assigned by the government to direct the development of a combat weapon that would dwarf all others.
The other side of his personality revealed his strong sense of ethics ingrained in him as a youngster at the Ethical Culture School. When the Nazi government persecuted and slaughtered Jews, Robert arranged and paid for his parents' escape to the United States, as well as that for Jewish physicist friends and colleagues. These experiences made him despise fascist governments like Hitler's, compelling him to support left causes, all of which were being hijacked by the American Communist Party. These kinds of involvements would get him into trouble with government interrogators years later.
The physicist's love for and dedication to humankind extended to the literary arts. As a linguist he was fluent in several languages. He was an accomplished writer who immersed himself in such giants as Marcel Proust, Henry James, and Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, eventually quoting it after the birth of his atomic bomb, "Now I become death, the destroyer of worlds."
The authors describe Oppenheimer as naive, as if they are surprised in the light of his scientific genius. To me he seems naive in his dealings with government interrogators, but only from the standpoint of someone whose main interest is protecting his job. Knowing the dangers of the new nuclear war technology, Oppenheimer was most interested in protecting humankind, so he clung like a barnacle to high-level government positions as long as he could. From that standpoint, he was not in the least naive. I think he knew exactly what he was doing. He believed that, inside the system, he could most effectively wage his campaign to contain and control the technology, even at the expense of his career.
I feel that his work during this tenure halted the government's headlong thrust toward what he considered catastrophic destruction, ultimately helping to protect us from that bomb that I kept waiting for. Over time, even after Oppenheimer was banned from government employment, military officials, and Presidents, began to pay attention.
The authors give each of the many secondary characters a dimension you don't normally see in the minor figures of a story. President Harry Truman "wrote to (Dean) Acheson and described Oppenheimer as a 'cry-baby scientist' who had come to his office 'some five or six months ago and spent most of his time wringing his hands and telling me they had blood on them because of the discovery of atomic energy.'"
During the Atomic Energy Commission's hearings on whether or not to renew Oppenheimer's security clearance, its chairmen Lewis Strauss sent President Eisenhower progress reports. "Ike cabled him in a reply from his Augusta, Georgia retreat, thanking him for his 'interim report'. He also informed Strauss that he burned his interim report, apparently not wanting to leave any evidence that he or Strauss was inappropriately monitoring the security hearing."
The authors show a remarkable ability to incorporate facts and dates without interrupting the flow of the narrative, enriching for the general reader as well as the scholar. Reading about Oppenheimer, you learn what it is like to choose between obeying the dictates of those in power, with possibly disastrous consequences for the many, and protesting their decisions, risking your loss of position and reputation. You never know when you will be forced to make such a choice. Oppenheimer's experience can give you the courage to make the right one.
The author Martin J. Sherwin, who lives in Washington, D.C., began his research of Oppenheimer twenty-five years ago. Sherwin, the Walter S. Dickson Professor of English and American History at Tufts University, also wrote A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies, which won the Stuart L. Bernath Prize and the American History Book Prize.
Co-author Kae Bird, also a resident of Washington, D.C., wrote The Chairman: John J. McCloy, The Making of the American Establishment and The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy, Brothers in Arms, and he co-edited with Lawrence Lifschultz Hiroshima's Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy. Bird is a contributing editor of The Nation.
Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church
Colarado Springs USA
ISBN: 1578568188, $12.95, 330 pp.
Soul Survivor: how thirteen unlikely mentors helped my faith survive the church is a biographical tribute by Yancey to thirteen individuals who helped to shape his faith and work. I selected this book because I identify with Yancey's poor experiences of church and the title offered hope and an alternative to finding soul food in an institution I was ready to give up on. People with similar experiences will appreciate Yancey's self-proclaimed honest approach. He says, on page 270, "When I began writing openly about my faith, I concluded that I had only one thing to offer: honesty."
This book will speak to Christians who wrestle with intellectual doubts about their faith and who struggle within the confines of church fundamentalism. For two reasons it is also a book filled with hope. Firstly, because Yancey's 13 mentors, some found only in literature, provide an alternative to traditional thinking. Secondly, because those mentors, described in all their fallen humanity, teach lessons which build faith. Martin Luther King's life, for instance, helped Yancey face his own racism and repent of it. G K Chesterton provided an example of how to enjoy salvation and Dr Paul Brand prompted Yancey to consider a love for the poor and outcasts of society.
As the book progresses it is Jesus who emerges as the hero. Henri Nouwen, who gave up a successful career to live and work in a home for the mentally and physically disabled, posed a startling example of how not only to minister to the needy (p295) but "to find Jesus within them". Jesus' life, which displayed the principles of reconciliation, humility and vicarious sacrifice, was something Ghandi admired. Ghandi, however, could not reconcile the disparity he saw between Christ and Christians. Although Yancey does not 'church bash' his constant juxtaposition of church ideologies with the lives of real people casts the church, in this book, in a pharasaical light.
Soul Survivor, like other books by Yancey, is a journey with an open end. Although I appreciate Yancey's probing style some of his points are not succinct and this book would benefit by, if not providing a conclusion, at least an explanation of where the author is at. Yancey, by his own admission, "spent most of his life in recovery from the church." Having grown up in a racist, legalistic and fundamentalist church, much of his writing is a struggle to pursue a faith he cannot leave alone. Other titles by the same author include: Disappointment with God, Church: Why Bother? and What's so amazing about Grace?
Yancey provides book lists and a reading group companion for readers wishing to further their knowledge. I was prompted to make my own list of mentors and in so doing learnt to treasure my faith anew.
Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam
ISBN: 038551221X, $22.95, 243 pp.
Although it did not garner national attention or give rise to any widespread outpourings of remembrance, this past April marked the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of Saigon. The most lasting impression we have - aside from that gleaming granite commemorative engraved with 58,000 plus names on the Washington Mall - seems to be the quintessential "bug-out" photo of a chopper on the roof of the American embassy, a too-long tether of people desperate to clamber aboard.
As is often the case, the years have been kind to Vietnam annealing some of its sharpness, if not in the memories of the generation that served there, then at least in terms of the original stigma attached to it. Perhaps as a country we have mellowed enough to see that it had some unpleasant but necessary lessons to pass along. All wars do, though it is the young who must purchase that knowledge for us. But even with that, there remains the lasting stench of defeat, along with the awkward doling out and acceptance of blame by aging politicians, whenever the word Vietnam is uttered.
According to the record books, American soldiers were long gone by the time those frantic Vietnamese began queuing up for the last chopper out. But when it comes to war in general and Vietnam specifically, the records aren't always on mark. Which is why three decades later books like Heinemann's Black Virgin Mountain are still being written and read. We simply cannot get enough of the subject to affix it with a permanent, acceptable label and then hang it away like an out-of-fashion coat.
The mountain of the title was the focal point of Heinemann's year in hell. He had already returned to the country a number of times in the1990s, often in conjunction with writers' conferences, when he and another writer, Larry Rottmann, took the trip to what is known in Vietnam as Nui Ba Den.
The text crackles with an anger that, by Heinemann's own admission, remains unabated despite the passing of thirty-seven years since his tour in 'Nam. Having lost two brothers to those residual emotional conflicts that simmer long after the actual combat is over, he is brutally frank about his experiences ("Every human vitality is taken from you as if you'd been skinned; yanked out like you pull nails with a claw hammer; boiled off, the same as you would render a carcass at hog-killing") and his opinions concerning the conduct of the war. It is difficult to decide which leader bears the greater brunt of his scathing commentary - LBJ or William Westmoreland.
Happily, the entire book does not focus solely on the author's lingering revulsion for the war. There are large travelogue segments, life slices of rich imagery showing how the Vietnamese have moved along with far less lingering acrimony than have we since the end of what they call the "American War." Included is a wonderful description of the French colonial era bureaucrat's home-turned-guest-house at which they stayed in Hanoi. Its exotic past (koi pond, louvered windows with a dozen coats of paint) resonates like something straight out of 1940s cinema - Casablanca on a different continent. Anyone who has grown up in a large city like New York (this reviewer's birthplace) or Chicago (the author's) can appreciate the absurd notion of quiet at the center of a city with a million people but virtually no mechanized traffic. (Yes, Virginia, there are urban areas with no trucks, sirens, or 120 decibel music thudding from SUV speakers.)
Heinemann includes engaging snippets of a portion of one trip involving the Vietnam Railway and its sometimes idiosyncratic train station employees. Something we don't expect after all those plane loads of bombs and Agent Orange, is the spectacular scenery. Perhaps most revealing of some kind of personal transformation is a statement he makes after watching the Southeast Asian panorama from the train's window, "And there it was, the country at peace, the thing I had come to see."
In contrast to the many positive things Heinemann has to say about that nation - some critics feel he is too positive too often when it comes to all manner of things Vietnamese, but then this is his story, not theirs - in the latter part of the book there is the patently unnerving visit to the tunnels at Cu Chi. Juxtapositioned next to his own middle-aged physical discomfort at "duckwalking" through a small section of the enlarged-for-tourists-maze, Heinemann gives us a palpably frightening description of what it was like for an outfit's smallest soldier to be pressed into service as a tunnel rat. Fear, claustrophobia, the myriad things to remember to listen for, to smell, to see in order to scope out a tunnel and stay alive - if after reading it you don't come away with the distinct itch of something crawling on your skin, the feel of dirt sticking to the sweat on your bare back, then you may already be dead.
Language rampages back and forth between politely literate and gritty street talk, oftentimes within the same sentence. Normally this would be where a caution against placing it in the hands of middle school children doing history papers might be placed. But there is little early teens have not already heard. For obvious reasons, anything related to that period of time is best displayed in the lingo of the day. Heinemann's choice of words may have been his way of showing us that he can walk both sides of the line, i.e., that he is an accomplished writer with a well-developed, post-tour vocabulary, but whose awareness is forever etched with the earthy, peppery talk of men at war. He may also be enjoying his ability to keep the non-military reader a little off-balance: the seriously out-of-kilter, day-after-day world of the average soldier. And whoever predicted the pending demise of the semicolon, hasn't read Larry Heinemann.
But to the rest of those doing research on the embattled 60s and 70s, this is a seminal book, one that stands outside all the political posturing and sociological conjecture. It is an invaluable look into the dehumanizing influences of combat by someone who lived it.
So, once again to war and its lessons. Our unglamorous departure from Saigon over thirty years past remains a thorn in the side of many, though for an assortment of different reasons. It is a picture we need to keep close to us as we devise our exit strategy for Iraq after destroying their corrupt, sadistic, but functioning political infrastructure. It would be lamentable if history were to look back on our crucial departure from Baghdad only to have it described by some future Heinemann as "an agony, and an orgy of unambiguous betrayal … right to the end and still, a bungled tangle…"
In Too Deep
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
314 Conestoga Rd. Wayne, PA 19087
ISBN: 1933110171, $15.95, 336 pp.
Ronica Black's debut novel, In Too Deep, is the outstanding first effort of a gifted writer who has a promising career ahead of her. Black shows extraordinary command in weaving a thoroughly engrossing tale around multi-faceted characters, intricate action and character-driven plots and subplots, sizzling sex that jumps off the page and stimulates libidos effortlessly, amidst brilliant storytelling. A clever mystery writer, Black has the reader guessing until the end.
Called in to investigate a murder, newly appointed homicide detective Erin McKenzie of the Valle Luna, Arizona PD, ends up going undercover as bait to investigate a rash of serial murders. The suspect is none other than the affluent, powerful, sexy, skilled seductress and positively drop-dead gorgeous elite lesbian nightclub owner Elizabeth Adams. It is Erin's job to lure Liz hoping to get close enough to the woman for a confession. In addition, who better to teach a straight married woman how to be a "lesbian on the prowl" than a lesbian, namely, detective Patricia Henderson. Patricia knew Erin before the assignment but when she notices Erin's wedding ring is missing she is intrigued. In fact, Patricia can't help but notice everything about Erin, including her sexy vulnerability and good looks; she becomes more than just smitten--protective seems more like it. She even contemplates that a commitment would be a dream come true.
Patricia wonders if her attraction to Erin is just "…so desperate that a polite 'how are you feeling?' could leave her panting and ready to pounce" [p. 36] or is there really more to her feelings? It doesn't help that the two women have to work very closely on the case, which has Erin questioning her sexuality as new feelings surface. Emotional floodgates threaten to open after Erin meets and falls hopelessly in love or at least lust for Liz Adams, while still having feelings for Patricia. The fact that she is in the throes of divorce from her cheating husband, investigating a high-profile murder, all the while questioning her "previously unsuspected attraction to her own sex," [p. 76], and you have the makings of a complicated romance with Erin torn between two desirable women.
Erin searched Patricia's face, a note of desperation in her voice. "This doesn't mean I'm gay…does it" [p. 37]. She feels like she "had been given the key to a whole new world. The door had been unlocked and she was seeing what she had never noticed before--the allure of the female body…" [p. 46]. As if the investigation of a potentially dangerous murderer isn't enough, Erin has to deal with her own confused feelings.
Is Liz Adams really the calculated killer the police have made her out to be or is there a human and very innocent woman just hungering to be let out? Black does a convincing job of leaving plenty of room for doubt. The reader is on a merry-go-round when it comes to whom Erin should stick with, Patricia or Liz, but knowing that Erin's happiness is the most desired outcome.
Ronica Black uses metaphors like an Olympic swimmer gliding through water snatching up Gold. From the very first absorbing page to the last, there is a richness in the text that resonates in each sentence, bringing the reader that much closer to the character's actions, emotions, and the vivid setting in which they live. Black makes everything clearer when she describes Erin's attraction to Liz, "Liz swallowed hard, and Erin noticed. She was noticing everything now. The beauty of the woman before her, the fragility masked by indifference and distance, the delicate pulse that beat just beneath the damp skin on her neck. She was human. And that was something it seemed no one had ever considered before" [p. 163].
Every time the reader has a handle on what's happening, Black throws in a curve, successfully devising a good mystery. The romance and sex adds a special gift to the package rounding out the story for a totally satisfying read.
In Too Deep, by newcomer Ronica Black, is emotional, hot, gripping, raw, and a real turn-on from start to finish, with characters you will fall in love with, root for, and never forget. A truly five star novel, you will not want to miss In Too Deep and will look forward to Black's next novel, Wild Abandon, coming out in 2006.
The Wild Girl
77 W 66th St, New York, NY 10023
ISBN: 1401300545, $23.95, 348 pp.
This is an exciting story about events that took place in the early 20th century when a small band of Apaches still roamed the southwest with hate in their hearts for anyone not Apache.
Ned Giles is orphaned as a teenager and takes his father's written advice and buys a camera. Photography has been a huge interest in his life. He works for a wealthy gentlemen's club in Chicago and finds posted there an advertisement asking for volunteers to pledge to go on an expedition into Apache territory and rescue a child who had been abducted by the natives some years before. The posting about The Great Apache Expedition is directed at wealthy members as an interesting trip for which they are to pay. Ned writes to the address given asking if he might go as a paid member of the party. Before he can receive an answer he loses his job. He decides to buy a car and take his camera to Douglas, Arizona in hopes of signing on as an employee of the expedition. As luck would have it he manages to meet up with a photographer there who is looking for an assistant and he is hired.
He is settling into the routine there when a professional game hunter comes into town with an Apache girl he captured in the wilderness. This is the wild girl. "There I witnessed a sight such as I have never before seen. An Indian girl, maybe thirteen or fourteen years old, was tethered by a rope to a hitching post in front of the jailhouse. She sat on her haunches in the dirt, peering out at the crowd through fiercely tangled hair. . . . . The girl was filthy, streaked with dirt, sweat, and blood, dressed in a soiled man's shirt and high moccasins. Even from a distance I could smell her." (p122) She is young, filthy and ferocious as she bites and draws the blood of anyone who comes near her. The authorities manage to get her into a jail cell where she curls up and prepares to die. Ned's photography skills allows him to gain entrance into the jail where he takes pictures of her and there he becomes intrigued by her wildness.
The idea is formulated that the girl should be taken on the expedition as a trade for the young kidnapped boy. Ned convinces Joseph, an apache scout with the expedition, to talk the girl out of her resolve to die and convince her she should make the trip. They set out with the wild girl to find the Apache tribe who is holding the kidnapped child. After a few days on the trail the girl becomes less stressed and is freed from her bonds and she takes the opportunity to run off. They set out to find her and the adventure escalates.
The author's technique of telling the story in the form of Journals kept by Ned is especially fascinating as it pulls the reader into the action as if he himself were present. Action being the key word here. This is a tale full of hazards and risks as the last hold-out of wild people try to protect their way of life from invasion of the `white eyes'. It is an enjoyable read full of extraordinary events about a tribe of people who continue to fascinate Americans and Mexicans alike. It is not a story soon to be forgotten.
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
405 Murray Hill Parkway, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
ISBN: 0394432622, $44.95, 1088 pp.
Connie Gotsch, Reviewer
A Good Long Winter's Read.
Many novels set in the Middle Ages happen to have a few people and a few human values in them. Authors dwell upon the trappings of the times, ensnaring their characters in endless descriptions of clothing and castles, until the stories read like a 6th Grade history text, in which a child hero takes the reader through the facts and figures of the era by recreating A Day in the Life of A Knight. Or a Monk. Or a Serf.
Then, there's Sigrid Undsett's 'Kristin Lavransdatter,' written in the 1920s and winner of a Nobel Prize for Literature. This novel contains strong people with real attitudes, who happen to live in 14th Century Norway. Universal themes create a link between the Medieval era and modern times, the same way the motifs of 'Romeo and Juliet,' or 'Othello' link the Renaissance to the 21st Century.
The epic story (over 1100 pages) focuses on Kristin, the strong-willed and somewhat spoiled daughter of the knight, Lavran. Intelligent but impetuous, Kristin struggles through her teenage years, breaks an engagement to the embarrassment of her parents, and marries Erland, a man of whom they disapprove.
Kristin and Erland have a rocky, but at the same time joyous marriage. In some ways, he is a disappointing husband. He is a passionate lover, but cannot manage money or land, and has no common sense about people. Forced to become the brains of the family, Kristin constantly struggles between keeping her place as a woman, and managing finances and fields.
As her children grow up, Erland gets on the wrong side of national politics and plunges the family into poverty. She copes. Eventually he dies in a fight. She becomes a nun. .
Sigrid Undsett takes Kristin through every phase of development, from a little girl terrified when she thinks she sees a forest nymph, to a teen refusing to see the wisdom in guidance her parents are trying to give her, to becoming a mother and understanding exactly what they meant, to making peace with herself at the end of her life.
More exciting, the author places other characters, Erland, Kristin's parents, her children, siblings, family priests, in-laws, and friends, in situations very similar to hers. But they have their own ways of reacting, depending on their temperaments and backgrounds. This creates layers and layers of human thought and action for a reader to compare and contrast in 'Kristin Lavransdatter'.
Undsett also varies the pace of the book, balancing character action with contemplation. She holds the description of Kristin's surrounds to what she needs to drive plot and character, giving a picture of 14th Century material culture without excessive detail. She manages this in part because she grew up with an archaeologist father, who specialized in the Medieval Period. From early childhood she heard about artifacts of the Middle Ages and their uses. When she did her own research for 'Kristin Lavransdatter,' she had long passed infatuation with castles, and could concentrate on the humanity of the knights living in them.
'Kristinlavransdatter' was written in Norwegian. The original English translation, dating to 1951, imitated Medieval grammar and usage. The result was a dense and complex tangle of phrase, paragraph and sentence, which made the book difficult to read.
A translation finished this year by Albuquerque writer Tina Nunnally stripped away the faux Old English. Ms. Nunnally used simple, modern language with an occasional nod to earlier forms.
The combination of skillful author and sensitive translator makes 'Kristin Lavransdatter' an attention-holding read despite its length. Students of human nature will love the story. So will people who like historical fiction. Young adults will identify with 'Kristin Lavransdatter' as will their grandparents.
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
ISBN: 074142407X, $13.95, 162 pp.
Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer
"Butter Brown" is the latest of several short story compilations from Georgia writer Torrance Stephens (A Matter of Attention). The stories, mostly written in first person narrative, for the most part have a common theme of boy meets girl in an unfamiliar place and decides whether to pursue love (or lust) with her.
In "Butter Brown," we meet characters that could just as easily be found in a Walter Mosley or Langston Hughes novel, such as Gas Pump who is frustrated with racism and class issues and Sabrina who is engaged to be married but still has feelings for another man. The stories in this compilation are easy to read and the reader should empathize with at least one of the characters.
"Butter Brown" is one of the best short story collections Stephens has written. His writing is uniquely descriptive, intellectually written, and even humorous at times. Although some of the stories take too long to develop, and the author has an uncanny habit of using footnotes in his fiction, the vivid writing (which allows readers to escape to far off places without having to leave home) manages to overcome these minor flaws. Expect great things from this author in the near future. Highly Recommended.
The Dream of the Decade, The London Novels
ISBN: 1419616862, $23.99 US 19.99 GBP, 620 pp.
"The Dream of the Decade" comes with high praise. Dan Franklin, publisher of Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan is an admirer of the book and says that 30-something Rattansi "captures the atmosphere of the late 1980s." But with the first British publication of this quartet, it's easy to see that these characters are very much living with us today.
It's always difficult for a new novelist to break through the household literary name strata. And, often, more difficult for the aspiring writer is answering questions as to what their work is about. J. D. Salinger would have found it difficult to describe immediately why the plot of "Catcher in the Rye" was inherently interesting. Norman Mailer would have had trouble with "An American Dream". It's the "hook" books like "A Handmaiden's Tale" or "The Satanic Verses" that are altogether easier.
There are hooks in Afshin Rattansi's debut novels, four of them published in one volume and all loosely connected, not least that they centre on life in London. The first book is about the growing divide between rich and poor just as balsamic vinegar was becoming fashionable amongst the new yuppie class. There follows a book on how Londoners respond to a terrorist bomb scare and another on how property prices began to dominate life in London. The final book is a very thinly disguised satire, or what looks like a satire, on news values at the BBC. But what unites the quartet is an ineluctable quality of the writing.
The thirty something British-born writer, whose Kenyan father is an expert on Sir Isaac Newton and alchemy, is slightly dismissive of the publication of the book.
"I went through two agencies, Curtis Brown and A.P. Watt and I can't say I was helped much and now it's twenty years on," he says about to pull another cigarette from a packet on the table and then replacing it. "I think publishers in the eighties and earlier nineties were more interested in my Indian origin than the subject matter of the book."
The first chapters of the first book were written at a time of resurgent Commonwealth writing. Rattansi, himself, worked on stories about Salman Rushdie during the Satanic Verses affair when he was on Tariq Ali's groundbreaking Channel 4 series, Bandung File.
Dressed in fashionable jeans and a black T-shirt, Rattansi is sitting in a Chateau Marmont seat after being interviewed by Los Angeles' most progressive radio station, KPFK. On the same programme was the now dead activist and former co-founder of LA's notorious Crips gang, Stanley "Tookie" Williams whose clemency pleas didn't prevent him from being injected with Sodium Pentothal.
"Los Angeles has always fascinated me and it was Mike Davis' book, City of Quartz, that enlightened me so much as to why. Whereas London is two organisms, the centre and the suburbs, Los Angeles is a myriad directly opposing entities. It has a sophisticated left, a developing world level population, a strong harbour union, fabulous colonies of wealth and it creates rightwing propaganda. And natural disasters have repeatedly shocked and devastated the area."
The prologue begins with one of the lead women characters of the books, now settled in marriage, relocating to the site of the 2005 Asian Tsunami. It is as if the person who most embraced the new opportunities that privatisation and a city that encouraged entrepreneurship is most shattered by its consequences.
"There is even a theory that the reason why Diego Garcia wasn't affected by the tsunami was because there was no commercial prawn fishing there. In Sri Lanka and Aceh, increasing commercialisation of the shrimp industry destroyed the protective reefs."
Rattansi sees politics in everything. He worked as a chief risk analyst at the insurers' Lloyd's of London after they had lost billions of pounds. His expertise was in catastrophe analysis, both environmental and political. But the books are in no way political tracts.
"One of the most moving letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald is the one he writes to his daughter, urging her to read Marx. His novels may be liked by criminal conservatives like Jeffrey Archer but whether a novel is political one way or another is in the eye of the beholder.
"What animates the title novel, I hope, is that I was part of a generation which was convinced that the social fabric that was ripped apart by Mrs. Thatcher would take a long time to mend. It's perhaps difficult to remember for those in their twenties that there was a time when music and politics were incredibly sophisticated and polarised. Well, perhaps popular music is still as polarised. And it was a time when one section of society leapfrogged at the expense of another."
Despite looking in his later twenties, Rattansi is on Jonathan Coe's eighties' territory about the post-punk, post-New Romantic time of The Smiths and the Orgreave battle of the Miners' Strike. But The Dream of the Decade is much more international than Coe.
"I always envisaged that the four main themes or even obstacles that the characters would have to circumnavigate were class, political terrorism, property and the media. They are vague but actually impact on everyday life. Well, at the time, terrorism didn't impact on daily life and the book rather explodes the myth that it does. But certainly, property does. As for the media, its place is an education system for adults - a dangerously flawed education system. I actually wrote a novel about education but it wasn't up to scratch."
Rattansi's first job was at The Guardian and he has a younger brother who followed him into journalism, now anchoring world news from CNN in the U.S.
The novels do have a distinctly American feel about them even though they capture the texture of London, something that many publishers commented on as he received his rejection slips. Rattansi was born in Cambridge but has lived all over the world, covering wars and political stories and just writing. Among the places he's lived in are Vancouver in Canada, in Los Angeles and in Havana and Caracas. In Dubai, for two years, he headed up the developing world's first 24 hour English language news station, devoted to an incredible remit that at times, according to Rattansi "made Al Jazeera look like Fox News."
"It was a station devoted to issues of globalisation and international capital except 'from below' and the brother of the Crown Prince of Dubai footed the bill. Someone obviously told someone that this station was very much not in the mould of Bloomberg and the station was closed down. I sometimes feel as if my approach as editor of the channel was just as it was in setting about writing the novels."
From there, it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. Returning to the BBC where he had worked as a producer for a number of years, he found himself at the Today programme under one editor - Rod Liddle - who resigned and then under no editor, just as the question of Weapons of Mass Destruction led up to unprecedented resignations by the Director General and Governor's Chairman of the BBC.
"Today was a hell of a place to work. Liddle may have been quite mad but he was a startlingly original editor. When I came back after being editor of a whole station, I was dreading Television Centre. I expected it to be staffed full of the usual wire-copiers whose idea of originality in journalism stretched as far as a vox pop. Rod was very different and he recruited staff that were inspired enough to take on the Government spin machine with relish. The whole David Kelly disaster was terrible. Even more so for our realising how little power the Today programme could, in the end, exert when it came to stopping the madness of the Iraq war."
Apart from the final novel, which reads as a Scoop for the twenty-first century, Rattansi's characters are usually doomed in love, either because of distances, class or the overpowering pressures of life in London. But this isn't Bridget Jones. There's a real anomie in the characters - whether they are drinking champagne or sitting injured in cardboard boxes - which recalls Beckett as much as F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Christopher MacLehose, the publisher of Richard Ford, Haruki Murakami, Georges Perec and Jose Saramago, said that he could still feel the force of "The Dream of the Decade." The novels are not historical. The evocation of London, in particular, is as palpable as in Peter Ackroyd's biography of the city. Sometimes, it is to the capital city as Bukowski's prose was to Los Angeles - indeed the Barfly himself read it and found it uplifting. At other times it is strictly Waugh. Whereas most journalists' fiction demonstrates that being a hack is an Enemy of Promise, Rattansi creates big characters which we feel for because he examines the minutiae of their emotions. But, as one would expect from someone who covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and who worked at the controversial Arabic satellite TV station, Al Jazeera, the themes are far from small.
Scotland and its Whiskies
Photography by Harry Cory Wright
Simon & Schuster (Australia) Pty Ltd
PO Box 33, PYMBLE NSW 2073
ISBN: 1884831221, AU $39.95, 144 pages
Rose Glavas, Reviewer
An excellent book about my favourite all time drink! That's how I would describe this well written, beautifully photographed and intricate journey through Scotland, describing its whiskies.
The author, Michael Jackson, has won numerous awards for his writing in various publications. He has actually written many articles, including ones about beer and sake as well as single malt whiskies.
Harry Cory Wright is a leading landscape photographer who continues his fabulous work in 'Scotland and its Whiskies'. I have never been to Scotland, but through Wright's photography I not only see what it looks like but I can feel the type of atmosphere the various locations would have.
His work is internationally celebrated and is sold in London, Paris, Tokyo and New York. Harry Cory Wright's work covers many genres of photography, from advertising to publishing, to public and private commissions; from gallery exhibitions to editorial work.
Working together, Jackson and Wright have put together a combined piece of verbal and photographic artwork. The information provided is very educational, but enjoyable, with historic and technical information entwined with Jackson's fireside conversational style making this a pleasure to read. I can't reproduce the photography but I can give you a sample of the style of writing from page 63:
"After I had breathed the air of early Christianity and Celtic myth, the journey back was slow. It was not just the two hours' drive from Fionnphort to Tobermory, the main town of Mull, but also the otherworldliness of the landscape."
This book has been broken up with the chapters as follows: Overture; The Islands; The East; Coda; Directory of distilleries; Glossary, Index and Acknowledgements. I liked the maps each section had that showed where distilleries were either operating, operating with visitor centre, mothballed or operating intermittently; or closed. This information would come in handy if you are planning on visiting the areas yourself.
'Scotland and its Whiskies' is the perfect gift for that special person who has everything (including you!). It is an informative and enjoyable read; while pleasing the eye at the same time.
Ping: A Frog In Search of a New Pond
Stuart Avery Gold
18 East 48th Street, New York, NY 10017
ISBN: 1557046824, $15.00, 90 pages
If you enjoyed Who Moved My Cheese?, you'll love Ping: A Frog In Search of a New Pond. Ping is about a frog who loves to jump and spash around but whose pond dries up. Ping sets out to find a new pond. But he's foiled by the dense forest.
Avery writes: "He felt defeated and disheartened, a sad, inept creature, doomed to a miserable life with no possibility for tomorrow, and that, quite simply was that. …Who was he to think he possessed the abilities to get what he wanted out of life? …it's probably safe to say there are limits to what a frog's psyche can endure…."
Just as he was most dejected, Ping meets a wise old owl who teaches him about life. Owl helps prepare Ping for a dangerous journey across Spat River. According to Owl, beyond Splat River is Emperor's Garden, a frog paradise.
Owl advises, "If the path you travel has no obstacles, it leads nowhere." (Oh, yeah, great advice coming from a bird). Owl says, "Too many wait for just the right time and just the right place to act. The very act of waiting actually pushes the desired events away. You must do in order to be."
Owl then gives Ping a crash course in risk analysis. "Owl explained that in order to experience wonder you have to experience the taking of risks. Risk converts opportunity into reality."
Then, it gets a bit weird. Owl puts Ping on a serious Rocky-type exercise regimen to get him into shape for swimming Splat River. Ping hangs from a tree with one pound rocks between his toes. And, of course, Ping does plenty of jumping jacks. Eventually, Ping is ready to brave Splat River. Avery surprises us with a twist in the ending.
Ping: A Frog In Search of a New Pond is a well-written and clever book. It's illustrated with cute drawings of Ping. My favorite shows Ping sitting in a yoga-meditation position on a tree stump. This book is a great inspirational gift idea for the holidays.
P.O. Box 1456, New York, NY 10009
ISBN: 1888451777, $13.95, 142 pp.
"the wack, the tang, the brassiere / the poop eye candle-flame / slick and cold banana popsicle fuck / in the face the eye the prick slit of it"
If you like nonsensical poetry, excessive philosophical wonderings, and plotless novels, then you'll love Richard Hell's new book.
GODLIKE tells the story of Paul Vaughn, a middle aged married poet who becomes infatuated with a Kentucky runaway teenage boy, Randall Terrance Wode ("T") in the late 1960's, early 70's. At first, T worships the work of Paul, but as the novel progresses, the relationship flips, Paul is soon submissive to T through the powers of sexual youth. After a dramatic scene in which the legitimacy of the word "turd" in a poem is argued between T and Paul, T triumphs and then considers himself the better poet as well as the "man" of the relationship. Paul is almost irrevocably drawn into a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship by a boy almost half his age. This relationship is the main focus of the meager plot stuffed between Paul's lengthy philosophical debates with himself.
T's character provided the only trace amounts of entertainment I received from the novel. His comical behavior in bars, snappy dialogue, and ponderings (which almost seem to mock Vaughn's) are scattered sparingly throughout Paul's rambling, providing a few good laughs. Even though T is supposedly the main focus of the narration through Paul's eyes, these instances unfortunately few and far between.
The novel is told completely through Paul's memoirs written some thirty years later in a nursing home. His writings are sometimes in first person, other times in third, but always in the same overly poetic voice that typically conveys nothing at all. For example, a whole paragraph early on is spent describing soap and pop bottles ("…the soft gleamings, the complexity of the light, the humility, the blue labels, the uniform bottle shape in the random blob of clustering…"). Important scenes where the plot actually progresses often take place in a blank space with barely any description. Generic places and forgettable, faceless characters continually fade in and out of the background with no real purpose in the plot whatsoever.
Unlike many other authors (like Lauren Sanders or Jamie O'Neil) who can depict the love and sheer beauty of a gay or lesbian relationship, Hell manages to make his narrative as repulsive as possible. He constantly describes gruesome details that do anything but heighten our perception of the love Paul apparently feels for T. For example a description of Paul's anus after weeks without showering and frequent anal intercourse brings nothing to the reader besides disgust.
Through the countless pages of intellectual theories about the idiocy of America, poetry, art, modern societies, and the fear of death, (just to name a few) Hell projected through his narrator, as well as senseless metaphors ("They call me the Chinese Monkey. Smear me like icing.") I found very little entertainment. Paul's character was nearly impossible to relate to. His decisions as the story progressed seemed under motivated or just plain extreme in my eyes. His attitude on life and love ("I'm not a faggot. I just have a queer streak.") was frustrating to say the least. And his pompously pretentious tone of narration made him near unbearable. His style seemed to be directly ripped off of Sartre's classic NAUSEA except without any sound philosophical arguments presented.
The end of the novel addressed none of the issues I, as a reader, was waiting for it to get around to. Nothing is said of moral ramifications, Paul's wife and child (who disappeared halfway through) or even the circumstances that landed him in the nursing home. I put down GODLIKE with no connection to a story, characters, emotions, or location. But only a sigh of relief to finally be rid of Richard Hell's ramblings.
On the Ice
Open Book Building, Suite 300, 1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415-1246
ISBN: 157131282X, $15.95, 207 pp.
Kelly Kristine Zavala
Gretchen Legler is a PhD wielding, two-time Pushcart Prize winning, teacher/ journalist/ author. Already the author of All the Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportswoman's Notebook, Legler is often praised for her "beautifully written and eloquent chronicles of outdoor life." Continuing in this trend is On the Ice.
On the Ice strives to explore the glacial deserts and warm hearts of a little known land, Antarctica. Legler is flown in and set down in the bitter cold at bustling McMurdo Station to observe and record information for the National Science Foundation. She immediately sets forth to gather history of the land, of the first brave people who inhabited the unknown continent of ice, and of the scientists who devote their lives to scientific discovery and understanding. While deeply involved in her work, Legler is unexpectedly confronted with romantic feelings for a new friend. She struggles to understand the recent break-up that sent her to the ice, and to find and take courage from the land to enter and explore the waters of this new relationship.
From the very first page, Legler provokes a sense of wonder at the land. The first building she sees when she arrives is a church, which she describes as "something you might expect to see on a hill in rural New Hampshire with cows grazing nearby, but here, instead, … it's unlikely backdrop a barren, sweeping plain of ice and the far-off dark arc of the Transarctic Mountains." She continues with this wonderful imagery throughout the book. On an expedition one day, she says, "I drove out onto a horizon like I had never seen. The snowy wind moved like a fog over the ground, like a slinky, elegant, snaky thing, throwing off my sense of balance, blurring the edges of my vision."
Also noteworthy, is Legler's brevity. The whole book reads like journalism. The scenes are all very beautiful and poignant, like poetry, and yet most of them don't last more then half a page. The result is a brief, yet engaging, scene or sentence that doesn't easily escape the mind.
Gretchen Legler is a master weaver. She succeeds in weaving together the cold, clinical data necessary for the scientific atmosphere of McMurdo Station and the legend-esque stories and data of previous adventurers and explorers. Added into the mix are the stories of her co-habitants, most of whom fled to Antarctica to escape their off-ice lives. She also works into her narrative braid bits and pieces of her family life, and how in a dream she "went to visit [her] parents and their house was entirely bare, echoing hollowly," explaining further that her family was never close. Though the slightly dreamy, haunted way she slips in the ghosts of her past does pull at one's curiosity, her near lack of detail here fails to draw one in completely. Even so, she transitions her passages beautifully. In one sentence she can be talking about how her family life felt frozen. In the next, she is comparing her "frozen family life" to the frozen tundra, and how it is all barren and lonely.
Still, Legler falls short on her earnest attempt to hook the reader. Legler promises stories of love, of revealing the beauty of Antarctica, and of her own personal story and why she fled. Unfortunately, she doesn't follow through. Except for a brief mention of her barren and lacking family, Legler doesn't get into her own story until halfway through the novel.
Legler is a tease until then, skirting her own personal story for whole paragraphs of thought-filled self-questioning. These reflective passages are far from convincing. Legler attempts the philosophical, often asking questions like "What will Antarctica teach me," followed by a quote from Thoreau, or Shelley, or another dead poet or essayist. The story gets lost in the middle of these meanderings, and these portions of the book end up sounding like the beginning of a bad essay. Combine this with an indiscernible plotline and very little story arc, and frustration with the reading comes easy.
When Legler stops trying to impress and just gets to the narrative, the book is more engaging. She succeeds in showing the "achingly beautiful prairie of ice" that is Antarctica, but falls short in presenting a polished piece of work. On the Ice reads like a first draft: fit and interesting, but not necessarily complete.
The Dao of the Press: A Humanocentric Theory
Shelton A. Gunaratne
Hampton Press Communication Series
Hampton Press, Inc.
23 Broadway, Cresskill, NJ 07626
ISBN: 1572736178, $23.95, 194 pages
The American press views itself as an enlightened, democratic, reason-based medium for promulgating truth. In fact, all Western press considers itself bedrock for accuracy, authenticity and validity. This appears to be perfectly acceptable. After all, the incorruptible principles of Western media stand upon everything Descartes, Newton, Locke, Voltaire and the constructors of the Constitution held fit. Individualism, free will, reason-based science and human rights are all fundamentally etched in the mindsets and standards of the Western press. Therefore, when Shelton Gunaratne takes it upon himself to assail the adherents of these core press ideas, accusing them of Eurocentric bias and obliviousness to complete world history, he seems to be unjustly negating their importance. On the other hand, is he?
In his new book, "The Dao of the Press: A Humanocentric Theory," the Minnesota State University Moorhead professor proposes a framework that takes into account the relationship between Eastern philosophy and Western rationality. He argues Western "systems of communications outlets," or his preferred term for the mass media, are not so enlightened as outwardly presumed to be.
Gunaratne begins by probing different theories of Western and Eastern democracy for the purpose of contrast, so he may bind Eastern democracy and philosophy reflected in Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Daoism with Western democracy and science. He does so to offer an intriguing view on Eastern philosophy's congruence with quantum physics: that they share an inherent oneness. Gunaratne uses this oneness argument to venture into a philosophical vantage point. He compares quantum physics' subatomic relationships, the clash of the positive and negative charge of particles, with the Chinese yin and yang to show polar opposites are present throughout all of nature.
In "Dao," Gunaratne contends both elements need each another to maintain balance and this paradoxical opposition is ubiquitous. Therefore, the opposing philosophies of libertarianism and authoritarianism are actually the companions of one another and need each other to subsist - and together produce "various shades of social responsibility." Next, Gunaratne employs the living systems theory as a framework to devise a bold communications theory, one which accounts for Western and non-Western history. This is especially germane as Gunaratne claims the widely accepted four press theories are Western biased. According to Gunaratne, the four press theories were concocted out of ignorance of Eastern history. Gunaratne balances Eastern and Western cultural differences in an elaborate attempt to stitch one, cohesive press theory and one that integrates all of world history. Using the holistic view that the world itself bears more importance than its community and nation-state parts, Gunaratne partitions the world into an entire world system, the nation-states that comprise it and the individuals contained in the nation-states. Gunaratne matches this holistic view with and against Eastern ontology and Western epistemology, as well as other ideas, to articulate why the whole is more crucial than the sum of its parts.
Gunaratne now arrives at a humanocentric outlook, or an overall and coalesced view of history, which embraces both East and West in its systems of communications outlets. He incorporates all the elements he discusses and shows how they are relevant to the world system as a whole as well as the Western "individual" and the Eastern "individual-in-network." Before concluding with direction for further application of his theory, Gunaratne reverts to the topic with which he began his book, democracy. Gunaratne claims there is an inevitable link between the governmental system of country and its system of communication outlets. This also relates to his yin-yang explication, joining the media and government through the same transmuting process. He argues there is no such thing as the Fourth Estate, that it is nonexistent in the West due to capitalism and has always been unneeded in the East due to trust in government. Gunaratne points to the conglomeration of American media as evidence of this point.
In the end, "Dao" proffers a new and pivotal view of the media. As world markets merge and technology races onward - as the world becomes smaller and flatter - a more integrative mass media theory will be essential to analyzing the press. It is guaranteed Gunaratne proposes a complex theory, one that raises as many questions as it gives answers. Gunaratne means for "Dao" to be looked upon from a Western angle, intended to change the West to accommodate more for Eastern philosophy than vice versa, although it applies to both. By utilizing quantum physics as a basis for his argument, Gunaratne puts forward a back-and-forth view of libertarian and authoritarian forces, probably the most interesting facet of his book.
"Dao" is not a trouncing of the West and its values but an introduction of humanocentrism, a more incorporating press theory. If Western and Eastern media are ever reconciled, Gunaratne can take some credit. The book could not have been written by a Westerner, it took someone with Gunaratne's unique tutelage and outlook to create.
The Final Crumpet (A Royal Tunbridge Wells Mystery)
Ron and Janet Benrey
1810 Barbour Drive Uhrichsville, OH 44683
ISBN: 1593108702, $9.97, 348 pages
Nancy Mehl, Reviewer
"The Final Crumpet" is the second offering in the marvelous "Royal Tunbridge Wells Mystery" series written by Ron and Janet Benrey. Once again, the Benreys allow us to share the adventures of Nigel Owens and Flick Adams, the director and the curator of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Tea Museum in Tunbridge Wells, England.
While tending to some rather sick Assam bushes in the museum's garden, a body is uncovered. It turns out to be the remains of Britain's noted "Tea Sage," Etienne Makepeace, missing for forty years. When news gets out that the famous tea expert has been found, the media descend like locusts upon the hapless museum staff. As Nigel and Flick try valiantly to handle the situation, the bank that funds the museum threatens to withdraw their support, appalled by the unwelcome notoriety. Nigel and Flick, who are falling in love, must discover just how Makepeace found his way into their garden. It is clear that solving the mystery might be their only chance to save the museum. But the secrets that may have led to the tea expert's early demise are not the love struck pair's only problem. They each house their own deeply held secrets. The real mystery lies not only in the truth about Etienne Makepeace but in the ability of the wily sleuths to handle the truth about each other.
Written in a style reminiscent of Agatha Christie, this cozy is a mystery lover's delight. Nigel's British sensibilities create the perfect foil for his American partner's lovable spontaneity. "The Final Crumpet" is a novel that requires a cozy fire, a comfy chair, and a delicious cuppa. It is highly recommended.
Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0743284798, $15.00, 432 pp.
Mona Lisa Safai
In 1979, Elaine Sciolino, then Newsweek reporter boards an Air France Boeing 747 jet amidst fellow journalists, reporters, photographers, and soon-to-be Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on a journey that would take her through Iran and back for two decades. "Persian Mirrors" chronicles U.S. and Iran relations, examines the veneer and restrictions of private and public realms, and enhances one's understanding of Iranian society and culture.
Although, Sciolino's book, "Persian Mirrors" illuminates many Iranian facets, one solid portrait does not emerge. Many political, economic, and sociological paradoxes and contradictions arise in Iranian culture. Compared to Americans, Iranians live in a much more fluid and complex environment; "knowing how to improvise is the only way to get things done-and sometimes even to survive." The lines between public and private realms are constantly changing; sometimes without any notice, without just cause. Iranians must be ready to adapt immediately and resilience, strength, and innovation are core features of their culture.
By observing the key events Sciolino has laid witness to remarkable changes in Iranian society. She comments on the women's struggle and "their growing political clout to press for more rights, more important jobs in government, and the same pay, work benefits, and promotions as men." Most intriguing might be the misconceptions that accompany Iranian women. Their level of education, duty, and fundamental desire to succeed is in no way inferior to their counter gender. Rather, women "want power." Daily, they rebel through fashion, challenging the limits with how much hair they show, the length of their garment, colors of their scarves. All their actions impact societal impositions.
In Iran, religious and economic systems have all undergone dramatic changes which affect the entire population. But, the younger population (under 35 years old), experiences Iran through freedom deprived eyes. In an interview with Ali-Reza Shiravi from the Ministry of Guidance, when asked what the Iranian youth wanted he replied: "When you know there's more out there, you want more." Iran is a politically charged country. The youth clearly understands their dilemma. Sciolino notes the political position that many young take. A revolution is not underway. Rather, a democratic movement is through the rule of law. She discusses the governmental changes from pre-Shah, Shah, Khomeini, Khatami to Ahmadinejad's recent upset victory.
As an American correspondent to the New York Times, Sciolino's access into the far reaches of Iranian society grant her advantages which many simply do not have to delve into the misconceptions and mysteries of Iran. "Persian Mirrors" is a compilation of researched information, anecdotes, and touching tales of Iranians about their world which Americans remain removed from, even Elaine Sciolino. Despite Sciolino's treks into Iran, one cannot help but sense the distance between Sciolino and her subjects' views. While she appears intrigued by Iranians, a feeling of detachment fills her pages as well. The book resembles many newspaper feature stories weaved together as if to create a front page story. The strengths of her book is the subject-Iran and exemplary research on the author's part. Iran's portrait shines, in part, without boundaries because of constant movement. The enigmatic nature of Iran strengthens its progression forward.
There is some peculiar suppleness, some inherent flexibility in the Iranian character which has enabled it to withstand shocks which would have sent more rigid people reeling or would have broken their national spirit.
-- Roger Stevens, the Land of the Great Sophy
P.O. Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
ISBN: 1591134579, $12.95, 132 pages
These are dark times for the people of the Golden Circle Alliance. The elves, dwarves and humans have been defeated by a nameless enemy from the north, shattering the alliance. Just before the end, King Thine, leader of the alliance, hid his daughter (and heir) so well that many thorough searches have failed to find her.
This might not be so significant, except for the fact that the end of the Golden Circle Alliance had long been prophesied. Also prophesied was the emergence of a human heir, King Thine's daughter, that would re-forge the bonds between the races. After many years of fear and distrust between former allies, few are willing to consider this alleged savior as anything more than a folk legend. Does Pax really exist, or is this just a tale to raise people's spirits?
This story may seem a little basic, but keep in mind that at the time of publication, the author was only 16 years old. If this is the work of a teenager, then keep an eye on this author, for in the future she will be a force to be reckoned with. This is a good story to introduce people to fantasy fiction, and fantasy veterans will enjoy it.
German English Words
Robbin D. Knapp
PO Box 1038, Capitola CA 95010
ISBN: 1411658957, $14.95, 171 pages
As the World Wide Web becomes more and more prevalent, as language is shared among nations and people, it is blending and changing the words we use, the lexicon is altering. In addition, American English has always been a fluid language that adopts the words of its many varied people as they join our culture. So it is becoming imperative to the history of language to study and keep record of these changes.
Robbin Knapp has done just this with his book German English Words. In a readable format he has chosen to explore 300 words that have made their way from German into American English use. Each word includes the meaning in German, its meaning in English and then the fun begins. He has researched the use of each word and included many actual quotes using the words. The quotes are fascinating as he uses such a variety of sources from books to magazines to current TV shows. The alphabetical format, with chosen words in bold italic, make this an easy book to read in small, relaxing sittings but also makes it hard to put down. Each word creates a curiosity in the reader to see which word Knapp chooses to investigate next.
By selecting a variety of words such as common ones (hamster, hamburger), specific terms such as (rinderpest-cattle disease) with surprises such as "Pez." Knapp has written a book for both the serious linguist, the hobbyist and the everyday reader to equally enjoy. Based on his popular website, GermanEnglishWords.com, this self published book is a fun read for all.
Daniel A. Olivas
Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State University
P.O. Box 872702, Tempe, AZ 85287
ISBN: 1931010277, $13.00, 170 pages
Daniel A. Olivas is an uncanny writer. And not just because he seems to get inside characters' heads and talk like young women, old people, and even children. He's uncanny because he writes like people I know talk - not just my Hispanic-American family, but my friends who hail from Los Angeles. How does he know people so well, who he doesn't even know?
This collection of short stories is part Bradbury, part Kafke, but Olivas' tales of modern life in L.A. are peopled by a predominantly Chicano cast. This is not a limitation: From the main characters to the "extras" who walk in and out of the narratives, these are mini movies of contemporary American life - it is written from a Mexican-American angle, yes, but all of us will relate. The issues range from the angst of middle age; the daily strife of love relationships, the hell of dealing with aging parents, and how to go about figuring out one's basic priorities in a hectic, over-stressed life.
The settings are ordinary and everyday - an office, car, gym or suburban home in the San Fernando Valley, but the awful wonder and magic comes in at odd angles - in one case, right into the kitchen through the back door. The crises (large and small, real and imagined, petty and profound) hit suddenly, often unpredictably, and often are not so much resolved as simply dealt with, or managed. The writing is deceptively simple, but when the characters began to speak, both internally and out loud, I was hooked.
Writing in a foreign language is always a challenge - how much to add, how much to translate, and how exactly to decide what the readers will understand. I don't speak fluent Spanish - I grew up hearing the language and graduated to mangling it - and very few phrases baffled me for long. Part of it is context, of course, but mostly it's a kind of literary osmosis. The words just seep right in.
All collections have an emotional arc; I felt this one started rather high and then leveled out a bit, with the last stories being the least dramatic, but those came as a welcome respite from the stormy emotions that preceded them. People often use the phrase "page-turner" about books, but I was definitely turning pages as fast as I could read - In fact, I read all of the stories but the last in one sitting, something I did not intend to do.
My only (minor) complaint is that the somewhat lurid cover makes the collection look like standard Southwestern-Borderlands-Magical Realism, which it is not. However, these are not stories for the prudish or the faint of heart either; there is no exploitation in these pages, but language is not timid at all and there is plenty of hot, sweaty sex, not to mention a few incisions into the flesh and spurts of the blood of real people. This is life in Southern California today - a hi-tech, hi-speed, driven world - so hang on!
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
ISBN: 0064409422, $8.99
Robyn Gioia, Reviewer
I had my teacher hat on when I read this book aloud to my fourth grade students. It had been twenty years since reading the series in college and the experience was even more delightful this time around. I would even say magical. For those not familiar with the plot, a group of four children find themselves embroiled in a fight of good verses evil in a land called Narnia. An evil witch has cast a spell over Narnia, causing winter to appear year round until Aslan the Lion appears. To make matters worse, the witch uses her magic wand to turn subjects into stone if they displease her. I have read some criticism about the language being dated and the voice of a storyteller taking the reader out of the story. My opinion happens to be quite the contrary. The "dated" language was very charming and added a touch of British culture to the story. We chuckled over the rich assortment of slang words and metaphors. Interestingly enough, most students understood the gist behind the words without any explanation. They could even correlate it to phrases common today. The storyteller voice was interesting. Parentheses appear in the middle of many sentences, as the author whispers little details on the side. It was odd at first until we adjusted to the style, and then we rather enjoyed the sidebars. If there is one comment to make, it's the author's penchant for never-ending sentences. I had to quickly abandon the practice of only taking a breath at commas. The logical debate present in the dialog contrasted nicely to the gentle storytelling. The book has depth and merits the attention it has been given. Ages 8 to adult.
Sondra Rice Newman
Robert D. Reed
ISBN: 1931741565, $24.95
Shirley Roe, Reviewer
Leigh Meredith, advertising executive leaves the glamour and hype of Manhattan and moves to the slower paced Virginia town of Fox Creek. After finding a job at the local newspaper she follows an eccentric rancher's suggestion and buys a horse. Silver Dreams is a one eyed, gelding with a history of abuse and Leigh immediately falls in love with him.
Rancher, Bibs and Leigh soon discover that Silver Dreams has some potential as a race horse and Leigh decides to hire a trainer. Lecherous farrier Tom Watkins would like not only the job but a chance to get to know Leigh intimately. Whit Riley, drunkard and recluse is hardly anyone's idea of the ideal trainer but he does know his horses. Soon sober and enthusiastic, Whit and Leigh have Silver Dreams entered in his first race and history is made on that day. Will Bib's lose her ranch for non-payment? Will Whit return to the bottle for consolation or will he succumb to the wealthy widow? Will Silver Dreams really become a champion? Where is Leigh's life heading?
Author, Sondra Rice Newman grew up in Xenia, Ohio where she became enthralled with horses and thoroughbred racing. This experience combined with her journalism career, have contributed to the realistic approach to her characters, settings and equine behavior in an enjoyable read.
This reviewer's only criticism is that the villain could have had a larger part in the story, but otherwise this is a pleasant well-written read for a lazy afternoon. Good character structure, emotional turmoil is included without overpowering and the plot moves along at a good pace. Horse lovers will find this novel well researched and genuine. This is a pre-pub review, no cover was supplied.
Trust the Children: Games and Guidelines for Home and School
992 Litchfield Ave., Sebastapol CA 95472
ISBN: 0964482959, $TBA, 274 pages
Trust this book! Anna Kealoha is clearly a connoisseur of teaching and learning, and she is happy to share her "secret recipes" for joyful and successful home education. This encyclopedic cookbook of recipes for learning is jam-packed with creative ideas that will appeal to parents and children of all ages. It is incredibly comprehensive, with a wide variety of games, curriculum outlines, inspirational essays, lists of resources, and more.
My husband likes the logic puzzles and book lists. My older daughter likes the math section, where she finds endless inspiration for charting, graphing, and calendarizing her life. My youngest finds the word games exciting. And I find a welcome surprise on every page! So, like Grandma's recipe book, this wise and wonderful guidebook has never yet made it onto the bookshelf at our house -- because someone is always using it!
The Woodsman's Daughter
Gwyn Hyman Rubio
ISBN: 0670033219, $24.95, 416 pages
This review appeared first in Peace Corps Writers November 2005 issue.
When your first novel is an Oprah Book Club Selection and a New York Times Notable Book of the year, it's a daunting task to come up with an encore. So if you're wise, you create a novel different enough from the first that makes it unfair to invite comparison. Icy Sparks author Gwyn Hyman Rubio succeeds both with this and with the tale in her latest, an epic multigenerational family saga.
The story, set in the longleaf pine country of post-Civil War south Georgia, revolves around Dalia, the daughter of Monroe Miller, a prosperous turpentine business owner. Monroe loves his family in his own bumbling way, but all is not well at the family's lavish home. Dalia's sister Nellie Ann, blind from birth, joins Dalia in alternately loving and scorning their father, a heavy drinker who spends long periods away at his turpentine camps. The girls' mother, a well-bred women contemptuous of her husband's coarse, unrefined ways, hides away most the day in a laudanum-induced fog. Beneath these family conflicts, however, lurks a darker, more devastating secret.
The discovery of this secret and the tragic consequences that play out deliver the reader into Part II, where, four years later, Dalia has moved on to settle in Samson, a small town where she hopes to recreate a new life for herself. The canny, resourceful Dalia initially achieves all she set out to do, but finds that it comes with a price. She has two children, first Marion, a boy she finds difficult to love due to his resemblance to his father, whom Dalia has grown to despise. When Clara Nell, a longed-for daughter arrives years later, Dalia smothers her with excessive love and attention.
Part III, narrated mostly from Clara Nell's perspective, chronicles Clara Nell's coming of age and her subsequent forays into independence. This creates rather predictable dissent in the family and conflict ensues. Ultimately, Dalia learns the hard way that you cannot protect the ones you love from life and what it brings.
Rubio, a Georgia native, excels in vividly detailing the longleaf pine country, as well as late 19th century daily life. The description of a shantytown commissary - its apothecary jars filled with herbs; barrels of dried beans and black-eyed peas; drums of flour, grits, cornmeal lined up against the wall - paint a vivid portrait, as does the description of the cured hams, "dotted with so many flies that they could have been mistaken for cloves if not for the buzzing."
She lyrically describes the pastoral scenery: The scuppernong arbor glittered in the sun. The slick, copper-colored skin of the grapes peeked out from among the leaves like a blanket of cat's-eye marbles. A soft-spoken breeze tickled the moss in the grand oak trees.
Characters are well-portrayed, like a child from the turpentine camps, with "his patched dungarees and flour sack shirt," his dirt-creased neck and his eyes, "too close together, of no pure color, grayish brown like the bark of one of [the] trees." As well, there's the deliciously unlikable Dr. McKee, with skin "as blanched as peeled almonds; his fingers, long and delicate, like those of a pianist, not a dentist." He spoke "in a voice that wasn't exactly effeminate, yet bleached of virility, as though it had crept into the soul of a male fetus by mistake."
Another standout is Katie Mae, an African-American who served the Miller family and now rejoins Dalia, providing both her and the story with wisdom and sass. Clarice, Dr. McKee's housekeeper and cook, is another compelling character, a potential source of conflict for Delia and the story, but one that never fully actualizes.
This takes me to my greatest complaint. The first two-thirds of the story succeeds with its rich, memorable characters and its swirling undercurrents of tension and haunting emotion. Thereafter, however, the antagonists - and thus vital tension - disappear. Rubio's smooth plotting and excellent detail still drive the story forward and make it interesting to read. The story here is not without conflict, but it seems to settle into more commercial fodder that lacks startling turns of events and difficult choices that trouble both character and reader. Granted, the issues of the past still haunt Dalia and manifest themselves in her efforts to control and protect her daughter, but they didn't haunt me as the reader. Instead, her compulsive, predictable behavior rather annoyed me, heralding the approaching conflict with the subtlety of a marching band in a living room.
Part of this could stem from the fact that I did just what I claimed would be unfair to do - I compared this work to Icy Sparks, Rubio's first novel, a luminous, highly original work that seemed to breathe life with its characterization and heartbreaking premise. In The Woodsman's Daughter, Rubio's intention seemed to be to cast a broader scope, that of a flawed family whose problems come full circle. And in this she succeeds, lyrically and descriptively. While fans of Icy Sparks might not find the story they long to see repeated, they'll find a new facet to Rubio's writing that should win her new readers, particularly those who like Southern and/or family-saga fiction.
Family Traditions in Hawai'i
The Bess Press
3565 Harding Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816
1573062278 $14.95 1-800-910-2377 www.besspress.com
Beautifully illustrated with full color photography throughout, Family Traditions in Hawai'i is a basic primer concerning birthday, marriage, funeral and cultural customs in Hawai'i. Covering a wide range of ethnic groups - Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese/Okinawan, Korean, Filipino, Samoan, Tongan, Vietnamese, and Laotian - Family Traditions in Hawai'i offers succinct summaries of different worldviews and practices, and the occasional wry comment on how mixed marriages may deal with clashing traditions. Although Family Traditions in Hawai'i is brief, it is a superb and fascinating introduction for non-specialist general readers to the richness and variety of ways in which the people of Hawai'i celebrate and commemorate life.
Jumby Bay Studios/Vat19.com
11783 Borman Drive, St. Louis, MO 63146
8-26058-03342-6 $29.95 1-800-476-1991 www.vat19.com
The "Ambient Art" series are nine individually themed DVDs designed for television sets, and based on the concept of turning that TV screen into a simulated fireplace, aquarium, or other calming, mood-setting, or sleep-inducing experience for the viewer. Ambient Flowers: The Ultimate Video Garden and Reference DVD is the newest addition to this enthusiastically recommended series. The pictorial images present a flower garden which bursts into bloom with over 325 gorgeous flowers presented in a high definition format with customizable audio track that features nature sounds, classical guitar, classical music, or a combination of music and SFX.. Ambient Flowers is also packed with invaluable reference and botanical information for each of the flowers. This information can be readily accessed by simply hitting the "enter" button on the DVD remote control when that particular flower is on the screen. Viewers can also use the multiple angles feature of their DVD player and enjoy Ambient Flowers with a lower third providing the background information details. The Ambient Flowers DVD also comes filed with more than 150 PDFs that provide detailed reference information about the flowers. The DVD technology of Ambient Flowers allows the viewer to enjoy the flowers in seven different ways: five scenes divided up by bloom color, an informative narrated scene that provides fun facts about the flowers, or a video montage of the entire garden with or without botanical information. With a total running time of 121 minutes, Ambient Flowers is optimized for both standard and widescreen television sets. Also highly recommended are the previous titles in this unique, technologically flawless, thoroughly "user friendly", and simply outstanding DVD series: Ambient Art (8-26058-00132-3, $19.95, 68 minutes; Ambient Calm: The Ultimate Relaxation DVD (8-26056-00292-4, $14.95, 120 minutes); Ambient Fire: The Ultimate Video Fireplace DVD (8-26058-00262-7, $14.95, 190 minutes); Ambient Kittens: (8-26058-00302-0, $14.95, 63 minutes); Ambient Party (8-26058-00142-2, $14.95, 118 minutes); Ambient Sleep (8-26058-00102-6, $14.95, 95 minutes); and Ambient Water: The Ultimate Video Aquarium DVD (8-26058-00272-6, $14.95, 190 minutes).
PO Box 848, Woodruff, WI 54568
1930596359 $15.95 1-800-333-8122 www.theguestcottage.com
Enthusiastically recommended, "Celebrate Breakfast!" is an impressive compendium of delicious, nutritious, "kitchen cook friendly", breakfast oriented recipes contributed by members of the Innkeepers of the Michigan Lake to Lake Bed & Breakfast Association combined with travel guide information for visitors to the Lake Michigan area. A handy and quite portable cookbook/travel guide combination, "Celebrate Breakfast!" includes succinct descriptions of the participating inns (including a black and white sketches of them), a State Map pinpointing their respective locations, a guide by city of the participating inns, Michigan facts, "Innkeeper's Tips for Breakfast Preparation and Presentation", a Directory of Michigan Lake to Lake Bed & Breakfast Association Membership, and an index of the recipes. From Honey-baked Shrimp; Versatile Make-ahead Crepes; and The Torch Lake Almond Chocolate Bliss; to Glen Arbor Honey Vanilla Granola; Baked Caramel French Toast; and Spicy Pears in Cranberry Sauce, "Celebrate Breakfast!" offers easy-to-prepare, gourmet quality, appetite satisfying dishes that would grace any family's breakfast table. Also highly recommended and published by Guest Cottage is the Minnesota Bed & Breakfast Associations" combination cookbook and travel guide, "More Minnesota Mornings And Beyond" (1930596375, $15.95).
Living It Up At National Review
Priscilla L. Buckley
Spence Publishing Company
111 Cole Street, Dallas, TX 75207
1890626597 $27.95 1-888-773-6782 www.spencepublishing.com
Living It Up At National Review is a memoir by Priscilla L. Buckley, who spent forty-three years as an editor at National Review. The exploits of her brother William F. Buckley among many other "brilliant but highly combustible" characters come alive in this engaging and folksy collection of true tales of daily life amid a national icon of conservatism. An index allows for quick reference in this highly readable and enjoyable reflection on the highs, lows, and weirdness present in the author's remarkable and vivacious working life.
Betsy L. Hogan
Dealing In Murder
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022-5299
ISBN: 0060545798, $6.50, 368 pp.
Dealing in Murder is Elaine Flinn's first novel. Really. It says so in the back of the book. If I hadn't read that, though, I'd have never known, and I've been reading mysteries for a long time. And to my delight, it turned out that Flinn's heroine, Molly Doyle, is my kind of woman.
Life, in the person of her crooked husband and his equally dishonest girlfriend, has destroyed Elizabeth Porter's high-rolling life as an honest, extremely wealthy Manhattan antique dealer, leaving her holding the bag - a very empty one - and an unfairly tarnished reputation among the other NY dealers.
So, she reverts to her childhood nickname and maiden name and goes into hiding in Carmel, where she takes up running a junk shop for her sympathetic friend Max and his pain-in-the-ass lover Pablo. It's a far cry from her elegant shop in New York, but it's only until she can put her life back together and save enough money to move to New Orleans and start over.
Then, suddenly, she finds the body of a much-disliked dealer and gives a bad first impression to the responding homicide cop (on the lam himself from big city politics and pressure). At first, Randall just thinks she's hiding something. Then, when she turns up at another murder site, he reluctantly begins to wonder if maybe she might be the killer herself.
But Molly knows that all she's hiding is the Manhattan scandal, since it will blow her junk shop gig out of the water if news gets around. She's determined that, one way or another, the real killer will be found. No way is she going to lose her hiding place and temporary job until she can move on up to something better!
However, the real killer is equally determined that someone else is going to take the fall for it, even if more death is the result. Complicating matters, Molly has to put up with Pablo's drama while she tries to whip the shop into better shape, get to know her new neighbors (while trying to figure out if one of them is a killer) and deal with her growing affection for her new home town. Topping it off is an uneasy feeling that her prickly relationship with Randall might be hiding something completely different. Can she pull it all together or is an explosion imminent?
The California antique business is an important part of this story and it's handled very well. This is no surprise, since Flinn was involved in the San Francisco Bay area antique scene for many years. Common wisdom for writers is, "Write what you know," and that's what Flinn decided to do here. I enjoyed this book immensely, staying up way past my bedtime to find out "who dun it", and I can't wait to read the next book.
Tagged For Murder
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY, 10022-5299
ISBN: 0060545801, $6.99, 304 pp.
Molly Doyle is back, and this time it's a friend and fellow antique dealer who turns up murdered. As if that's not bad enough, Molly's flakey, long-estranged sister Carrie has come back into her life, just long enough to stir up old emotions and dump her twelve-year-old daughter into Molly's lap before disappearing again.
When another dealer turns up dead - and has ties to Molly's dad that might make her angry enough to kill - she's pitchworked into another murder investigation, to the dismay of Police Chief Randall. Then, when a close call shoves her into Randall's arms, the question becomes, what exactly is their relationship, anyway? And does it really matter? This time, he may have to put her behind bars for good.
Flash Writing: How to Write, Revise and Publish Stories Less Than 1000 Words Long
P.O. 9949, College Station, TX 77842
ISBN: 1589396375, $14.95, 178 pp.
Flash Writing may be Michael Wilson's first book, but it probably won't be his last one. Wilson teaches creative writing classes and facilitates writers' groups in the Columbus [Ohio] area and has been a featured speaker at various area writers' conferences, so he undoubtedly has a lot more to say about writing of all kinds.
However, his current hot topic is flash fiction (also known as short-short stories, sudden, postcard, minute, furious, fast, quick, skinny, and micro fiction) and when he discovered that there really wasn't anything in print about it, he decided to write something that would fill that gap.
He begins [in chapter 1] by explaining what flash fiction is. Flash fiction can be anywhere from 250 and 1000 words long and it has all the features of a normal short story: conflict, character, and a beginning, middle, and end. The main way it differs from other forms of fiction is that a flash fiction story is extremely compressed.
Although this does make them easier (and quicker) to read, it doesn't make them easier to write. The shorter a piece of writing is, the fewer scenes and characters you can include and the more necessary it is to make every word count. Or as Wilson says in Chapter 15 (Compressing the Narrative for Flash Fiction): "Flash fiction has to tell the story of an entire life in a single page."
Flash fiction isn't a new story form. It has been around for a long time in the guise of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, tall tales and legends, and (a more recent version) urban legends. However, it has now come into its own, with entire web sites, magazines and books devoted to flash fiction stories. Makes sense to me - modern society has less and less time to read, and it takes far less time to read a flash fiction piece (or even a collection of them) than it does to read an entire novel.
There are certain tricks to being successful with flash fiction and they're all covered here to one extent or another, from getting ideas and creating characters to working on setting and point of view. My favorite part of the book, though, is its treasure trove of writing exercises, first lines, and quick topics that can be used to inspire you when you're stumped for ideas, and the Do It! exercises that follow many of the chapters, encouraging you to use what you just read about.
Been wanting to try your hand at fiction, but don't have the time or attention span required for a novel? Try flash fiction. Who knows? You might turn out to be a natural. And even if you don't, working in this genre will help you tighten up your writing. Robert Southey once said, "It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. " If that's true, this book will have you playing with fire in no time!
The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less
3713 Stonewall Circle, Atlanta, GA 30339
ISBN: 0967059844, $19.95, 282 pp.
Peter Bowerman lives up to his title, with a client list that includes Coca-Cola, MCI, BellSouth, IBM, UPS, GTE - well, you get the idea. He is indeed a well-fed writer, and his book is about showing readers how they too can become (as stated in his introduction) "...a well-respected, well-compensated, fulfilled writer." Chapters like Let's Get Started, How Much Do I Charge?, and Dos, Don'ts, and Don't Forget's lay out a clear map through the copy-writing jungle to an oasis of success. Once you've finished reading what Bowerman has to say, you'll be ready to make some real money with your writing.
Now, if you think writing business copy is too boring for words, that business writers themselves have no souls, and that starving in a garret is the only real choice of a true "artiste", then you can put this book down right now and go back to trying to find a word that rhymes with "silver". But if you're tired of subsisting on ramen noodles and cold cereal seven days a week, tired of shuffling your feet when someone asks you what you do for a living, tired of wondering how you're going to make your next car payment, then this book and its contents may be just what you've been looking for.
Manana Manana: One Mallorcan Summer
The Lyons Press
ISBN: 1592284078, $14.95, 231 pp.
Released in paperback, this delightful memoir follows the further misadventures of the author's family's relocation from their Scottish homeland to rural Mallorca. Adjusting to a new life on the sun-kissed isle, where they would support themselves by growing oranges, involves many changes for the Kerrs.
In "Snowball Oranges: A Winter's Tale on a Spanish Isle", Kerr covered the move from Scotland and the initial adjustment his wife and two sons had to make. In this sequel it is obvious that, although they are part of the community now, the Kerrs still have much to learn about their new neighbors and friends. Their resolve to make the move work continues to be tested along with their stamina and sense of humor. Fortunately, the emigre family is getting the hang of it as their colorful and somewhat eccentric acquaintances help them through the transition.
The author finds a perfect balance between explaining the myriad problems that can accompany fitting into a new culture with why such a relocation ultimately does succeed for his family. This highly entertaining, straightforward, and unpretentious account of Kerr's experiences will be enjoyed by armchair travelers as well as those who have vacationed on the island.
0060731419, $24.95, 311 pp.
Author Greg Hurwitz explained he had to do a crash course on corpses and cadaver preparation as well as field work on the outlaw biker culture before he sat down to write this latest Tim Rackley thriller.
Deputy U.S. Marshall Rackley is called in to corral two renegade bikers whose high-stakes escape on an L.A. freeway resulted in the deaths of a couple of his colleagues. The high ranking members of the Laughing Sinners are free and ready to lead a bloody gang war with another group of bikers.
Tossing Rackley into the imminent melee will either avert the disaster or exacerbate the conflict. Can the former Army Ranger keep the streets of L.A. from becoming a savage battlefield where a war will be fought to control the newest drug to hit American soil? Of course, but the cost will be high in this take no prisoners face off.
Father Browne's Trains and Railways
E. E. O'Donnell
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
1856079163 $32.95 1-800-869-5677 www.dufoureditions.com
Father Browne's Trains and Railways is the sixteenth published photography book from the archives of Father Browne's 42,000 images. Most of the black-and-white railroad photographs in Father Browne's Trains and Railways were originally taken in Ireland during the 1930's, although some pictures of trains as far away as Suez and Sydney are included. Photographs portray images of tracks, engines both at rest and in motion, the interior of passenger cars, train stations, and the often bustling passengers who depended on the railways for transportation. Each picture has a very brief caption referring to its time and place; aside from this and the three-page introduction, Browne's remarkable and vibrant photography speaks for itself. A superb addition to railroad buff and photography shelves, and also a great visual reference for model railroad hobbyists. Also highly recommended are previous photography books from the Browne collection, including "Annals of Dublin" and "Father Browne's Titanic".
A Business Of My Own?
Marjorie Cleveland Fisher
PO Box 612, Whitefish, MT 59937
0976113503 $24.95 1-800-735-8285
Written by a small business owner of 20 years experience, A Business Of My Own? 21 Steps To Successfully Starting and Running a Small Business is a practical-minded guide to going into business for oneself. Chapters address the personal characteristics required to run one's own business (for example, individuals unwilling to risk a fluctuating income or who have poor people skills are advised to reconsider), sample occupations and professions to start a business for, business structures and plans, pitfalls to avoid when choosing a location, setting a budget, and keeping records, marketing, building a client base, and much more. A host of sample forms from brochure samples to thank-you letters, subcontractor agreements and logs of potential clients round out this omnibus starter guide, written especially to be accessible to lay readers and budding entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.
How To Succeed With Your Own Construction Business
Stephen Diller and Janelle Diller
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92009
0934041598 $28.50 1-800-829-8123
Construction industry professionals Stephen Diller and Janelle Diller present How To Succeed With Your Own Construction Business, a no-nonsense, step-by-step walkthrough of the fundamentals of setting up a new construction company and getting to work. Chapters cover the different manners of structuring one's company and the advantages and disadvantages of each; how to get business; how to interact with clients; necessary legal matters; how to estimate with accuracy; finding and keeping good employees; running an efficient office; buying insurance (critically important in this industry!) and much more. Written in no-nonsense, down-to-earth terms, How To Succeed With Your Own Construction Business is a "must-have" for anyone considering an entrepreneurship in construction, and is also packed cover-to-cover with practical advice for aspiring business owners in any field.
John Haygarth, FRS
American Philosophical Society
104 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3387
0871692546 $60.00 www.amphilsoc.org
Physician and historian Christopher Booth presents John Haygarth, FRS: A Physician of the Enlightenment (1740- 1827), a meticulous biography of an educated man from Yorkshire whose idea for introducing separate wards in the Chester Infirmary for patients with fever became the stimulus for the development of fever hospitals in nineteenth century England. His writings on medical and financial matters were highly influential, and he played a key role in founding the Bath Provident Institution for Savings, a model for the savings-bank movement in England. His distinguished life and contributions to history, and his efforts to help elevate hospitals into a place for the sick to turn to in times of need rather than a death-trap to be shunned and feared speak for themselves. A meticulously researched accounting of a remarkable man's groundbreaking life.
Willis M. Buhle
Creating Historical Drama
Christian H. Moe, Scott J. Parker, and George McCalmon
Southern Illinois University Press
PO Box 3697, Carbondale IL 62902-3697
0809326426 $50.00 1-800-346-2680
Now in an updated second edition, Creating Historical Drama: A Guide for Communities, Theatre Groups, and Playwrights is a straightforward manual for transforming events and figures from American history into masterful dramas. Written by three former directors, producers, writers, and teachers of theatre, Creating Historical Drama covers features of biographical, pageant, and epic drama, how to lead and organize a theatrical group, how to energize community resources and evaluate a production site, and much more. An in-depth guide offering sample script excerpts, black-and-white illustrations, and a wealth of expert detail, Creating Historical Drama is an excellent reference and resource for community and professional performance groups, and an invaluable tool for aspiring playwrights seeking to capture the nuances of history upon the stage.
Timing in the Fighting Arts
Loren W. Christensen and Wim Demeere
PO Box 290206, Wethersfield, CT 06129-0206
1880336855 $16.95 1-800-778-8785 www.turtlepress.com
Timing in the Fighting Arts is a guide for intermediate to advanced martial artists, from boxing professionals to ordinary men and women honing their skills for self-defense. Written by two expert martial artists, both with extensive experience in police work, Timing in the Fighting Arts covers everything from Hick's Law (that reaction time increases the more choices one has - therefore it's faster and more effective to have one simple defense than a dozen complex ones) to improving one's posture to approaching a potentially dangerous person and timing a grab, to "need-to-know" information - and debunked myths - about translating sport fighting to a street situation. A wealth of recommended drills and exercises for physical self-improvement round out this valuable supplementary self-defense resource.
How Not To Destroy Your Career in Music
Lone Eagle Publishing Company
1024 North Orange Drive, Hollywood, CA 90038
1580650643 $18.95 1-800-815-0503 www.hcdonline.com
How Not To Destroy Your Career in Music is a practical guide for anyone starting a career in music, written by musician, filmmaker and award-winning author Bruce Haring. Recognizing that the music industry has transformed radically in the past five years due to the digital revolution, How Not To Destroy Your Career in Music covers such topics as music publishing, marketing and promotion, retail and direct sales, the age barrier, touring, the do-it-yourself movement, why one shouldn't hand over one's assets to the first A&R person to show up with a check, and much more. Written in plain terms accessible to the lay reader, How Not To Destroy Your Career in Music is an absolute "must-have" for anyone aspiring to make a profit off of their musical talents.
Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years, Volume One
Dark Horse Comics
10956 SE Main Street, Milwaukie, Oregon 97222
1593074042 $49.95 www.darkhorse.com
Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years, Volume One is a graphic novel archive of Joe Kubert's 1970's Tarzan comics, in full color. Stories include an adaptation of Burroughs' first Tarzan novel and others inspired by the classic adventures of the powerful, intelligent and honorable hero, all written and drawn by Kubert himself. The at times philosophical plots and action-packed art style bring Tarzan's adventures to life without unduly sacrificing realism, in this collection that forms as rousing a read today as it did thirty years ago. Highly recommended.
Essentials of the US Health Care System
Leiyu Shi and Douglas Singh
Jones & Bartlett Publishers
40 Tall Pine Drive, Sudbury, MA 01776
076373151X $51.95 www.jbpub.com
Department of Health Policy Management Professor Leiyu Shi and School of Public and Environmental Affairs Associate Professor Douglas Singh present Essentials of the US Health Care System, a concise and accessible introduction to available US health care. Written as a textbook especially for students considering a profession in the field, yet also accessible to lay readers, Essentials of the US Health Care System includes basic information concerning the effects of modern medical technology, the roles of different providers and professionals in US health care, managed care and health networks, long-term care services, and much more. Graphs, charts, and black-and- white photographs round out this excellent primer of basic terms and concepts; each section features a neatly summarized conclusion and a list of references for more information. Also highly recommended is the author's previous textbook, "Delivering Health Care in America: A Systems Approach".
Corporate Governance Adrift
Michel Aglietta and Antoine Reberioux
Edward Elgar Publishing
136 West Street, Suite 202, Northampton, MA 01060-3711
1845421388 $45.00 1-800-390-3149 www.e-elgar.com
Corporate Governance Adrift: A Critique of Shareholder Value is a harsh indictment of corporate capitalist culture in the wake of financial scandal. Economics Professors Michel Aglietta and Antoine Reberioux postulate that a basic tenet of capitalism - that companies should be managed solely for their shareholders - is fundamentally flawed in the modern-day environment filled with liquid markets, greedy investors, and recurring financial instability. Proposing a new model in which companies are managed with common objectives in mind for all stakeholders, and a fundamental emphasis on the democratic principle in order to reduce financial instability on a large or long-term scale, Corporate Governance Adrift offers revolutionary yet practical solutions to complex and worrying economic problems. Highly recommended.
Michael J. Carson
River Head Books
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
ISBN: 1573222984, $19.95
This is a surprising complex historical mystery that trips the light fantastic between the art of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries like a cat on a hot tin roof. If you liked Picture of Dorian Grey or The Lady in White you are going to love this novel.
For art lovers you'll recognize take-offs on such outstanding figures as critic, Roger Fry as a stand-in for Pears's character William "the critic." Henry, the painter could be any of a number of well known portrait painters of the period such as Whistler or Duncan Grant. Evelyn, a fellow student and artist most closely resembles Gwen Johns and the working-class Jacky is a combination of a Rubinesque and Lucian Freud type model.
The story concerns an artist who has opted out of the London and Paris art scenes for mysterious reasons and retired to an Island. Set against the variable untamed landscape of Brittany the story unfolds with dark determination. This is a novel about a man driven to extremes. It is also about individual perceptions and points of view. Henry opinion of Jacky. He claims her expression is "inscrutable" and that no matter whether you insult her or compliment her expression remains unchanged. "It's like trying to peer through a dirty window. You do not see true, and end up seeing only your own faint reflection instead"(39). The truth of this, of course, is the truth of the portrait painter in general. The subject after all is merely the means by which the painter expresses himself/herself. The contempt Henry shows is not reserved for Jacky alone but for many of his wealthy sitters as well. Henry learned to paint particular people because of the exposure it gave him, the contacts and for the money.
Commenting on "the drabness of the English climate" Henry claims "it produces drab people, wrapped up, desperate to keep the outside at bay. They wear an emotional overcoat throughout their lives and scowl upwards, wondering whether it is going to rain again."(63). This is a metaphor Pears uses to get his judgments across to the reader. He goes on to comment "Now only the government Kills and they have become properly efficient at the task. Only politicians know the sensation of taking a human life--which you must admit, is a bad thing for painting as so many subjects involve death and violence."(118) You find yourself wondering why the painter is goading his subject and abusing him.
Henry's acquaintance, Evelyn is a different kind of painter. She goes her own way. She paints in secret rarely showing her work. She is "a thing apart" who "wanted to learn not what everyone else was doing but rather in "seeing what lies below the surface." She exiles herself from the art scene while still living in London and paints her dream. It is this dream/reality that becomes the lynch-pin of Pears plot.
Henry's recollections center around a commission to paint William's portrait. In order to do this William must travel to the remote Island of Houat that Henry has isolated himself on. The entire novel consists of Henry's point of view--his recollections of La Vie Boheme. He seems to be half in love with Evelyn but she is not the least bit interested in him. She put everything into her pictures and she uses the "inscrutable" Jacky as her model, in fact they become fast friends. Something that Henry finds impossible to understand as they seem to have nothing in common.
As William poses for his portrait the painter talks about their shared past. He talks about the critic's character; his generosity, his cruelty, his attitudes, and his crimes. The pretext of creating the artist as the sole voice of novel can be tedious at times but it is worth going along with for the final outcome. What the reader discovers is that this is a book about "rendering justice" - to make sure the guilty are made to pay for their crimes. We get a real insight into William's true character when Henry tells of the moment when he realized who the critic really was. "It was when he was posing for him with his three year old son on his lap. Suddenly a an expensive crystal glass shattered and skidded across the floor towards them. The critic moved is child very quickly a few inches into the path of the flying glass making him a shield." William protected himself at the expense of his child. It was over in a moment but in that moment the painter said "I saw your soul." In summing up his portrait of the critic he says "you became an outlaw acknowledging no restraint but your own power. You sinned against the very art you existed to protect and nourish. And you know what I think about sin. And punishment, of course."(180)
This is a short and horrifying novel well worth the read. What Pears has to say about the art of portraiture, the act of painting, what a truly gifted artist is, and the role of the critic is a short course in art appreciation and morality.
Maine: A Legacy in Painting, 1830 to the Present
with essay by art historian, Bruce W. Chambers
Spanierrman Gallery publisher
45 East 58th St., New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0945936737, $65.00, 212-832-0208
Most folks are overwhelmed when they enter a gallery. Who can blame them. Here they are surrounded by art that is beautiful and expensive. Depending on one's vantage point the experience of gallery going can be wonderful or intimidating. The art world is both social and economic and the pressures are intense. This is perhaps why dealers and galleries in general have gotten a bad reputation. The through-the-roof prices, the slick look and the robotized sales people are a total turn off for most people. But not all galleries are hi-tech, vacuum sealed temples for the rich and celebrated to browse in.
Ira Spanierman's gallery on East 58th St. in New York City is one of those best kept secrets that we New Yorkers like to keep to ourselves. It is a comfortable oasis in the middle of the chaos that passes for the world of art these days. It is a place where the true meaning of the spirit of American art bodies forth. It is a place where you can rest your eyes and look at marvelous art. But the promotion and buying and selling of art are not Spanierman's sole interest. This is attested to by Maine: A Legacy in Painting. The exhibition out of which this book grew was on exhibit through November 9, 2005. It was a benefit exhibition for the Farnsworth Art Museum of Rockland Maine (featuring twenty-three works on loan from the museum). So for any of you who may have missed it the book stands in for the actual display. And, you can always see the paintings at the museum when you visit Maine.
With over 23 arists and 109 color illustrations this is a perfect gift book. Some might accuse me of retro madness but I really adore landscape art and I love American art so for me this book is a treasure trove. Maine is a beautiful state that has been inspiring artists for over 175 years. In his essay Dr. Bruce Chambers, the author of the catalogue describes it as "a country of mythic forces and primordial conflicts." He goes on to characterize Maine as a country of "violent storms and placid waters," as well as "fishing shacks, lush summer gardens, and granite summits."(5) Certainly this is what artists including the luminist painter Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865) experienced. The tonalist painter Hermann Dudley Murphy spent the summer of 1907 at Ogunquit and was inspired by the vast open sea and sky as was the artist John Marin. Impressionists like Childe Hassam painted lyric homages to the poet, Celia Thaxter's garden in such works as An Island Garden and Winslow Homer found the restless sea at Pout's Neck dramatic and uncompromising, characteristics he himself embodied.
"This is the real thing," Robert Henri wrote to his parents immediately after arriving on Monhegan Island. This was before he became renown father of the urban art-for-life-sake school of painting. One of Maine's most famous artists, Andrew Wyeth was first introduced to Cushing Maine by Betsy James, whom he married in 1940. It was Betsy who introduced him to Christina (yes she of the famous painting) and Alvaro Olson, who lived in a weather-beaten hilltop house overlooking the sea. To Wyeth they were symbols of New England and Maine and ancient maine ", witchcraft, all sorts of things like that. That's what really got me into the Olsons environment." But of all the artists in this book I think I like Fairfield Porter best. He was twenty-three when he first summered at Great Spruce Head Island and from that moment on his work became associated with all things Maine. He claimed that painting evening primroses of uniquely beautiful yellow, and field roses of an equally unique pink with the colors of lichens on the rocks, gray-green and orange..." were much harder than painting people.(17)
This is a terrific book to add to your library shelves. Just imagine the pleasure you can have in enjoying it yourself and introducing all of your friends to these glorious images of visual culture of the past 17 decades or so. Lose yourselves in flights of fancy without any single dominating art world fashion. It's about remembering and it's not prepackaged nostalgia but rather a free association journey through the history of Maine and of art.
Elizabeth Murray And Popped-Art: A Boxed Set
D.A.P. Publishers-Museum of Modern Art
Internationally- Thames & Hudson
Elizabeth Murray ISBN: 0870704931, $55.00, 200 pp.
Popped Art ISBN: 0870704958, $19.95, 15 pp.
Available in boxed set for $70.00
This lavishly boxed set is a labor of love. Born in Chicago in 1940, Elizabeth Murray has come a long way. These books were produced to accompany a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This is a major accomplishment for any artist--more so for a woman artist.
Murray's art grows out of the modernist traditions of Cubism and Surrealism that were most influential during the period between the Wars (WW I and WW II.) By the end of the 1960s the snythesis that had been forged by American Abstract Expressionism was falling apart and being replaced by Pop Art (art based on popular culture as in soup cans and coke bottles). Working in the what critic Harold Rosenberg dubbed, "The Tradition of the New," Murray and a host of younger artists came of age during this chaotic period in the history of art. Wanting to distinguish herself from her peers, Murray moved to NYC in 1967. She spent her time juggling a teaching job, child care, and studio time. Hers was not any easy art but it was an art that focused on the world around her. Turning everyday objects in to lushly romantic, comic, and three dimensional subjects, By the 1980s Murray used a wonderful variety of artistic styles to express the character of every day things: A "Trembling Foot" (1988), a pair of worn sneakers in "Das Pair" (1989-90), a cracked coffee cup all become the stuff of poetry. There is a certain innocence to her choice of subjects. Like Chardin with his still life paintings of pots and pans, Murray's work is complex and strong and her built-out paintings collapse the traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture.
By 2000, Murray's work took on new depth and complexity. Her art began to look like a multidimensional cartoon thought balloon. I particularly liked her jazzy "Do the Dance" (2005) with what Mr. Storr called "its jumbled framework," where "one encounters not only faces, bodies, bottles, and clattering floorboards but also direct allusions to Miro, Picasso, and all of the artists whose idioms Murray has incorporated into her own transformational grammar of shapes and colors."
Murray's outlook is colored by her being a woman in a man's art world. By concentrating on her own world she brought to her art an elegance, authority and passion that few contemporary artist's working today can rival. Her large scale, multidimensional constructions, with their vividly colored surfaces and interlocking parts almost leap off the walls at the viewer. And, while the books aren't the exhibition which was spectacular, you can still enjoy the books as works of art in their own right and well worth the price because of the perfection of the work that went into producing them. I recommend the boxed set as a worthwhile addition to any library.
Monterey Shorts 2 - More on the Line
Stories by Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula
Edited by Chris Kemp, Byron Merritt, and Ken Jones
22597 Black Mountain Rd, Salinas, CA. 93908
ISBN: 0976009609, $15.95, 416 pp.
Love to read, but don't have time to get involved with long works, and find most short-stories unsatisfying? A variety of genres are the spice of reading you say? Well then, you'll like Monterey Shorts 2 - More on the Line because the twenty tales are short, exceptionally satisfying, and encompass a wide selection genres. Each of the ten authors brings individual style too, making this anthology interesting indeed.
Before starting this book I thought the writing would be unprofessional and the stories dry. Maybe, I hoped, there would be one or two interesting enough. Boy was I surprised. The more I read, the more exited I grew. Each story held fun. At the close of the last story I chastised myself. "You've reviewed enough books that have turned out to be better than you thought they'd be. You should know better Chris." Would I read this group of author's next collection? You bet.
The authors have achieved their goals with this anthology, and that's to entertain with stories centered on the Monterey Peninsula in California. They call themselves The Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula (FWOMP) and is five years old. There are ten members. The founding member is Chris Kemp who overseas the editing the process. Readers don't have to live in the area to enjoy the tales. This is their second installment in a series of short-story collections.
The book-cover artist is Daniel Koffman. A graphic artist by training, a contemporary artist by choice, and experienced businessman and marketing visionary as attested to by his long-term corporation associations.
* Were on the Local Tip 10 reading list in the Monterey County's www.MontereyHerold.com
* Thomas Steinbeck local writer and son of John, calls the book "A truly engaging collection of short stories written by authors of talent, perception and wit."
* Has been read on National Public Radio Station, KAZU, and the stories aired several times. Monterey Shorts - the first anthology, is also available on audio CD at Barnes and Nobles online or Sunbelt Publications, and the group's West Coast distribution.
- Foreword by Joyce Krieg
- Lore Legend and Life on the Monterey Peninsula
- Monterey Shorts 2 County - A Map
- The Monkey House Inn by Lele Dahle
- Donya's Spices by Shaheen Schmidt
- Charlotte's Light by Ken Jones
- Gods and Ghosts by Chris Kemp
- Finding Anna by Byron Merritt
- Laviniaby Walter E. Gourlay
- Theo by Walter E. Gourlay
- Final Sentence by Linda Price
- Snakeskin Jacket by Mark C. Angel
- As a Bird by Frances J. Rossi
- A Break in the Trail by Byron Merritt
- Time Pieces by Mike Tyrrel
- Love Potion by Shaheen Schmidt
- Canned Hunt by Ken Jones
- Dead in Time by Linda Price
- Divine by Lele Dahle
- Framed by Frances J. Rossi
- Moving Day by Mark C. Angel
- Night Wounds Time by Chris Kemp
- About the Authors
When it comes to anthologies, not all leave readers with the desire to read more. This one will. It's masterfully done and irresistible.
Darkness Over Denmark: The Danish Resistance AND The Rescue of The Jews
425 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10017
ISBN: 0823417557, $14.95, 164 pages
World War II is one of the most studied wars. All are disturbing, but none have inspired as much personal accounts as this one has. Each provides a clever view on the depth of this supposed cleansing. 'Darkness Over Denmark' profiles a country that fought Hitler's plan. The Danes protected their Jews resulting in few deaths. Levine quotes Edward Burke in saying, "The one condition necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." She believes this to be the essence of Denmark's story.
Points the book elaborates on:
- Denmark was important to Germany's war strategy, for practical reasons.
- The German invasion in April of 1940 became the first time in 900 years that Denmark wasn't a free and independent country.
- The Germans expected to conquer the small country quickly, and did.
- By late 1942 the Danes began to suffer some of the same hardships of other European nations.
- At the time of the German Invasion, there were around 8,000 Jews in Denmark.
- Hitler's plan to kill the Danish Jews failed
- An illegal printing press was hidden in a dentist's office
- In August 1943 strikes break out throughout Denmark, unsettling the Germans and inspiring the Danes.
Levine combines actual history with narratives from interviews with Danes who were in Denmark during this shameful time in history.
This book contains many actual black and white photographs taken in Denmark at the time. Examples are a train ticket and even a leaflet dropped by a German aircraft exhorts.
The title is appropriate and fits perfectly. It's easy to read, organized well, and touches on the human side as well as the factual.
The back of the book contains:
- Source notes
- Biographies of the 21 people interviewed
- Selected Chronology
Anyone interested in learning about Hitler and how he affected the Danish will enjoy Levine's book. The information and insight will always be useful in "seeing" the impact of the Nazi's. This is well researched and enlightening. Could be used by educators about World War II.
Levine's discussion and account on Denmark's courageous rescue of the Jews is engrossing. It evokes emotion and paints even more proof of Hitler's oppressive and twisted mind. A valuable testament and message for oppressors and to those who stand ideally by. This is an insightful and stimulating book. Worth reading.
Christina Francine Whitcher, Reviewer
University Of Nebraska Press
ISBN: 0803215401, $25.00
Some years ago when I used to attend readings around the Twin Cities there was a noted 'storyteller' name Loren Niemi who used to give readings all the time. The quotation marks around his profession is because Niemi was not a writer, per se, as much as an old fashioned storyteller, who crafted spoken word tales like the old sages of the tribal era did. And he was a talented craftsman, never failing to, in any of the three or so dozen times I saw him perform about town, have the audience in the proverbial palm of his hand. Literally, people would rear up at the edges of their seats, in anticipation of the coup de grace, the payoff, the climax of the tale. It would come, Niemi would deliver it brilliantly, and then….he would go on….and on….and on, never failing to lose and bore the audience that he had so skillfully captured. The audience would slump back in their seats, lose interest, and many would start conversing to themselves until Niemi, some minutes later, finished his tales with a thud. He had violated one of the truest aphorisms of storytelling: never have your climax occur less than ninety percent of the way into a narrative. How someone who had honed their skills to such a point that they were infallible in an ability to capture an audience, yet then be so utterly oblivious to the corollaries of how to hold the audience, never ceased to baffle me. I spoke with many in the arts community who knew of and had seen Niemi perform and they all agreed with me that his abilities and utter cluelessness in storytelling were a total mystery.
These memories of Niemi's brief triumphs, but ultimate failures, were with me the whole time I was reading a book of short stories by K.L. Cook called Last Call. That's because Cook has considerable skills as a storyteller (albeit on paper), yet just as frustrating a tendency to utterly massacre the possibilities of excellence, and perhaps even greatness, as Niemi had. Yet, Cook's problems are more multivalent than Niemi's were, as he does not only often go on too long in a tale, but some of the tales are ultimately pointless, the characterizations weak, he has a penchant for the melodramatic, and of simply stating something concisely and brilliantly, only to have it embedded in a larger piece of writing that is utterly superfluous.
Let me deal with the pointlessness aspect of some of the tales. This occurs because the book tries to be a novel in short stories, but Cook is bereft of understanding how to properly structure such a work. There are twelve putative 'stories', broken into four sections. The problem is that many of the stories simply cannot stand alone, and therefore become de facto chapters, or filler between the other tales. Yet, as chapters they don't work either, because Cook does not give the pieces enough grounding with connections to earlier nor later chapters, or 'stories'. Recently, I read a book of nine interlocking stories that worked marvelously as stand alone tales and as a novel in short stories, called Ernie's Ark, by Monica Wood. There are moments in Cook's book that are every bit as well written as Wood's work, but Cook fundamentally doesn't understand the role structure can play in making or breaking an otherwise interesting tale, as he sometimes errs the way Niemi did, by climaxing his tales too early. Yet, he is not some talentless PC Elitist hack, but his tales all conform to the worst of MFA workshop formulae. Not coincidentally, the book's dust jacket declaims Cook as a creative writing teacher at a small college in Arizona. To use the parlance of that oeuvre; Cook has potential, but he's yet to find his voice. The skills he demonstrates in this book are almost totally subsumed by a slavish conformity to banal structure.
Let me now go section by section, and story by story:
Section 1: Nature's Way
Easter Weekend: This is the first tale of this section, which is set in 1958, and introduces us to a family of the Texas panhandle. There is a father, mother, two daughters- Gloria and Laura, and three sons- Manny, Rich and Gene. Basically, this tale acts as a setup to the book as a whole, rather than a stand alone tale. We have some mysterious goings on that portrays the clan as having secrets- one of which results in the oldest daughter Gloria leaving the house, and another ending in violence toward the mother, possibly entailing the family's dog, as well as an end that is at once unsatisfying, and larded with cliches. The tale is likewise filled with the banal, such as 'painful silence' and 'darknesses'. Yet, there are some nice touches that show the Cook can sketch and individuate characters well, even if the mechanics of narrative are not mastered. There is not enough revealed to engage the reader in the larger story, yet too much of the commonplace and unneeded lesser details. The former point especially hurts the story if meant to stand alone, for it does not. It is wholly dependent upon what will come next. After reading this 'chapter' I was wondering whether the 'sections' were really the stories, and this just a subsection.
Nature's Way: In this tale there is tension between the parents over one of their dogs who is giving birth. The mother kills one of its pups, gets violent, kills some more pups, and is eventually shot by the father. Just the last sentence would lead one to believe this was a good tale, but it's not. While it's a bit more self-contained than the first story it also suffers from the trite, in descriptions and narrative, even as it follows Anton Chekhov's advice to be brutal to one's characters. He recommended this so the reader could empathize, yet that's this tale's fatal flaw. The human characters, so far sketched in the first two tales, and even just this, if read by itself, evoke no sympathy. They read like soulless Steinbeckian rejects, and the prose, in this story, feels even more hamstrung and bound by artificial workshop prohibitions.
Gone: Thus far the simplest tale. The mother leaves her family. There's some nice symbolism involving a lightning struck tree, but this tale is the least fully developed. It suffers the most from the reader needing to know what comes before. Without that the tale has gaping holes in continuity and consistency- such as the father's violent reaction to one of his son's query as to why their mother left. Yet, even if you see this as having antecedents in the earlier tales it's still not clear. Is the father a monster? Is the mother psychotic? While we do not need definitive answers a better story, and series of tales, would at least fill in enough about things so a reader would care to ask. These do not, and this is another example of Cook's inconsistencies- this time in characterization.
Thrumming: In the aftermath of her mother's abandonment Laura catches her father having sex with a young girl, and is taken with the act, and the feel of warmth in the bed after they leave. Yet, nothing really occurs in this tale, although its end has some poetry, however stale. It is another tale solely for the purpose of setting up later tales that portray Laura's screwed up love life as having stemmed from her mother's leaving and father's sexuality- a Freudian stew that exhibits another of Cook's flaws that thread through the book- a penchant for melodrama over narrative realism. Having recently read Reynolds Price's descriptions of sex and the body, Cook's are a downer:
She moved her face closer to the door. Her heart beat in her chest and neck and temples. She felt paralyzed by their laboring. She thought of Fay when she was in heat, the male dogs panting, their tongues dripping.
Cringe-worthy, to say the least. Another flaw reoccurs at the top of page 57, when a reference alludes to an event in an earlier tale, yet the stand alone reader is left scratching their head as to why it's mentioned, or of import. It is generally best to not give superfluous details in a narrative, and only those that serve the tale or character development. This detail does neither, so its mention is another example of the linked nature of the tales overpowering each of them as single entities.
Thus far, by the end of section one I saw some good things in Cook's writing, but an absolute obliviousness to crevasse sized flaws in each tale, and the overall book. The tales had moments, but no real psychological depth, as I found in Monica Wood's Ernie's Ark. Also, there was a willful mysteriousness attempted that did not pan out, for a lack of explanation is not mystery, just poor storytelling.
Section 2: Last Call
Texas Moon: The second cycle moves us up to 1978, and this tale follows Gene, his soon-to-be ex-wife, his brother Rich, and another girl, through a night of drinking that ends up with him sailing his care and passengers off a hospital ramp and into a lake. The biggest problem with this tale is not what plagued the first four, although there are some of those flaws. Rather, it is simply too long, and larded with filler material. At 29 pages in length the heart and meat of the tale really only starts with seven pages left. The first three quarters of the tale, therefore, is just prologue which does little. There are some nice moments, such as this sketch of awkwardness and bravado:
Across the dance floor, Angie leaned over the green felt on the center pool table, a cue stick in her hand, studying her shot. She looked wonderful, wearing the blue cotton captain's shirt I'd bought her last summer at South Padre Island, her thick black hair done up in a French braid, the way I liked it. It's a strange thing to see a woman you love and have lived with after not seeing her for four months. It makes you wonder, for one thing, what the hell you are doing piddling around on the floor of The Texas Moon.
We had been separated for about six months, the longest we'd ever been apart. I hadn't seen her at all in four months because we hadn't broken up on the best of terms, and she said she was going to file for divorce this time. I felt sure she was bluffing. We'd always been together and, except for a few intervals, I was sure we always would be. At the moment, though, I had about ten good reasons for not wanting to see her, the most important of which was that I owed her money.
But the payoff, at story's end, is far too melodramatic. Also, Cook does not apply concision to his conversations, either. Good conversations are not merely real conversations, but the essence of a conversation, that offhanded poetry that a character may not realize when pared to its nub. Also, most of his conversations are not vital to the narrative arc. As with the other tales, this one succeeds only marginally if you've read what comes before. Without that knowledge its length seems even more pointless, and it is even more chapter-like.
Last Call: Another too long tale (26 pages), filled with melodrama, cliches, and no real point, save to act as a slice of life in oldest sister Gloria's life. The last page provides no insight and makes this tale read the most chapter-like of all.
Knock Down, Drag Out: Set in 1980, this story follows Rich as he basically kidnaps his soon-to-be-ex-wife. This tale lacks drama and insight, and its few moments of humor are ruined by the fact that many more details make no sense without reading the earlier tales. This is a serious flaw that Cook manifests: he'll often leave out details needed to connect lesser facts, yet later bury a reader with an orgy of explication of the most obvious feelings because he doesn't trust his own ability to convey such emotion in simple words, or in passing. Yet, there are some nice turns of phrases, glimmers of deeper characterizations, and moments, and by this point I am really getting angry. I don't really get angry when I read totally PC garbage, nor the diarrhea of PoMo frauds like Rick Moody, because they have no real talent and show no desire to explore real lives and situations. Cook does, but has such a ham-handed way of doing it.
Simply put, by this point I feel that this book should have been made a novel or more deeply cleft into individual tales, because splitting the difference only highlights Cook's callowness and limitations as a writer.
Section 3: Pool Boy
Costa Rica: This cycle follows the romantic travails of Laura through the eyes of her son Lee. This tale is set in the early 1970s, and Laura's husband Neil has a plan to get rich by buying up and ecologically devastating Costa Rica. His plane crashes, the clan worries, and he survives. That essence is rather trite, and nothing really occurs within to differentiate the father's plight, nor the son's experience of it, from other such tales. It's as if this tale were a breather in the book, and its last paragraph is mind-bogglingly trite and melodramatic:
Later that night, in bed, beneath the soft sheets, in the dark, I relive my father's story again and again. I close my eyes and imagine the kind of darkness he must have experienced, the tall trees looming, the whir of insects, the gurgle of the stream, the breath of exotic animals dangerously close. I listen intently to the night, re-creating it all, as my parents make love in the room next to mine. And the sounds of their lovemaking become the sighs and moans and gentle sobbing of the jungle.
This is absolutely atrocious writing, and a horrible way to end any tale, much less this one. Furthermore, the tale also manifests another flaw in the book- that Cook often tips his narrative hand in throwaway references:
My uncle stays to help the search party while my grandfather immediately flies back from Costa Rica to comfort us and to tell us the brutal truth of the situation. There are rescue crews searching, but, quite frankly, there is very little chance - one in a thousand - of even finding the plane in such impenetrable forests, and even less chance of survival. My grandfather tells us that a DC10 crashed in the jungles several years ago and no one even found the plane. My mother begins to sob uncontrollably, keening, but my grandmother, a Sun Belt Baptist and sometime reader of fortunes, looks my grandfather in the face and calmly tells him, "Neil will not die young. I know it." We turn to her, expectantly.
We believe her, though she will be wrong.
That last sentence is a stand alone paragraph that gapes at the reader. Its fact is shown to be true later in the book, and in another tale, but serves no purpose whatsoever in this one, for it is never used effectively in the remainder of the tale. It thereby is superfluous in this story, and undercuts the narrative tension and denouement of the later tale Pool Boy.
Breaking Glass: This is the best tale in the book, thus far. Set in 1973-1974, it follows up on the prior tale, but stands alone. It follows the little romantic waltz Lee's parents do in divorcing, and getting back together, all the while a third player enters and leaves the picture. It is concise - 8 pages - realistic, and disavows melodrama.
Marty: The next tale, set over the last half of the 1970s, chronicles Laura's abusive second marriage to the titular character. It's not a bad tale, and has some moments, but the end's overt Oedipalism veers the tale off the path to being a really good story. Here is a good example of Cook skillfully detailing a realistic moment, just after Lee confronts his mom over being abused, yet hiding his own secrets:
I was grateful that she did not involve me then. I saw my mother's dilemma through the refracted waters of adolescence. I was more concerned with hormonal shifts, body hair, and the alternating ridicule and elation of junior high and early high school. I was trying to work up enough courage to ask Susan Gloyna, the envy of my ninth-grade class, to go steady, a difficult hurdle since my voice could not be trusted to stay in the lower registers. I had no time, really, to concentrate on my mother's problems. Besides, those sobs and thunks I heard coming through the vents late at night would often wake me from not so very chaste dreams of Susan. So when my mother covered up her bruise and told me to worry about my own body and let her worry about hers, I thought she was onto me, that she had a direct pipeline to my more carnal fantasies. It was best to leave well enough alone.
While the last sentence is a cliche, coming from an adolescent voice it's not as bad as many of the other cliches. A good choice Cook makes, that minimizes his cliche addiction, is that he tells each tale from the first person. In an omniscient voice such tripe would grade the tales much lower overall.
Pool Boy: At 27 pages this is another far too long tale for the story it tells, yet it is the second best tale in the book so far. Set in 1981, Lee now visits his dad, Neil, in Las Vegas, and sees an attempted Mafia hit on Neil fail. Lee's relationship with his father is nicely portrayed, both stand alone and connected to the earlier events in other tales. The ending is very weak- with a forced poetry that is trite and does not resonate. Cook is simply not that lyrical a writer for sustained bursts of intense feelings. His best moments come in short prosaic bursts that juxtapose each other in interesting ways.
Overall, this is the strongest of the first three sections.
Section 4: Penance
Penance: Overall, this last tale and section recapitulates almost all the strengths and flaws of the overall book. Set in 1990 it's Laura's final tale, and firmly posits her as the book's central figure. She is now thrice divorced and looking to avoid a fourth marriage to a good man who loves her and dotes on his elderly mother. She also seeks to repair her relationship with Lee. After an trip to see him, without telling her lover, she returns, only to have a crucial moment that ends with violence and recognition. Yet, both the ending and overall tale are too long and melodramatic- with reactions more suited for television movies of the week rather than real life situations. The last page is a bit too mawkish and self-indulgent an end to both the tale, which can stand alone, at least better than most of the tales, and the book- especially viewed as a novel in short stories. That is until the last few sentences almost redeem the rest of the flaws. As I said, this is simply emblemic of Cook's wildly veering style.
I believe he has the ability to be a great prose writer, but he must loosen the shackles of the workshop formulae that absolutely mute and moot his skills' powers. Too often his tales run out of gas, or are absolutely destroyed by unnecessary cliches. One example- on page 121, in Last Call, Cook writes 'In the dark chill of that freezer, I made impossible comparisons. I wondered if losing a baby was as hard as losing a father or a brother.' Now, without going into what the rest of the tale is about, let's just look at the cliche 'dark chill' in the context of the sentence, for a cliche is not merely a familiar phrase, but a familiar phrase in a familiar setting. Since freezers are dark and chill why does Cook state the cliche, since it is not only trite, but redundant? Because he wants the phrase to linger in the mind, as the reader comes upon the musing over the loss of loved ones. Yet, the idea that such losses could be dark and chill only exacerbates the cliche by using its triteness to apply to two ideas, doubling the grating banality. Even just the word chill in that sentence could be considered cliched juxtaposed with the remainder of the sentence, but is not nearly so indefensible as the doubly modified description. Yet, Cook does this, applying needless and trite modifiers to passable sentences dozens, if not hundreds of times, yet any good writer at a critique group would immediately point this out. That Cook, who seems to swim in this bad habit, is also a creative writing teacher does not speak well for those he instructs, nor the future of writers whose individuated talents are homogenized by such programs.
Equally as puzzling are the gaping flaws in the basic constructions of the many tales that do not stand alone. This is because on Cook's website he has a whole page devoted to explaining linked stories, where he states:
Linked stories, short story cycles, novels-in-stories - this form of fiction explores the gray area between collections of stories and novels. In her excellent scholarly study, The Short Story Cycle: A Genre Companion & Reference Guide, Susan Garland Mann suggests that "there is only one essential characteristic of the short story cycle: the stories are both self-sufficient and interrelated. On the one hand, the stories work independently of one another: the reader is capable of understanding each of them without going beyond the limits of the individual story. On the other hand. . . the ability of the story cycle to extend discussions - to work on a larger scale - resembles what is accomplished in the novel."
Yet, most of the tales in his own book are not self-sufficient, and demonstrably so. I pointed out one example of this flaw, as I did an example of his damning cliches, but like that I could have pointed to a few dozen references- some minor and throwaway, while others seriously undercut the individual tales, even while not necessarily bolstering the overall arc of the book. In reading the page, however, I suspect its purpose is less about explaining the 'form' as puffing up Cook's own chest, for he namedrops gratuitously, including contemporaries like Michael Chabon, Amy Tan, John Updike, Russell Banks, Joyce Carol Oates, and Robert Olen Butler, and icons like James Joyce, Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
And while he may not have had anything to do with the dustjacket description his publisher- the University Of Nebraska Press - put on his book, its PC- and MFA-drenched wording-
K. L. Cook's debut collection of linked stories spans three generations in the life of one West Texas family. Events both tender and tragic lead to a strange and lovely vision of a world stitched together in tenuous ways as the characters struggle to make sense of their lives amid the shifting boundaries of marriage, family, class and culture.
A series of unusual incidents - a daughter's elopement, a sobering holiday trip, a vicious attack by the family dog, a lightning strike - provokes a mother of five to abandon her children. An oil rigger, inspired by sun-induced hallucinations, rescues his estranged wife, who doesn't appreciate his chivalry. In the wake of his father's and brother's deaths, a teenage boy finds a precarious solace working with his mother at a country-western bar. A cosmetics salesman schemes to buy Costa Rica and flirts dangerously with mobsters in Las Vegas. A woman, fleeing her fourth marriage, arrives at a complicated understanding of love and responsibility.
Railroad worker and conman, grieving son and battered wife - these characters explore the limits of family fragility and resilience. Their stories - suggesting unlikely connections between comedy and pathos, cruelty and generosity - promise a hard-won dignity and hope.
At the center of Cook's dilemma: whether or not to 'play the game', for publication, or break free of the strictures, inured into him by years of workshopping, and allow his mind to actually push the limits of his creativity.
Let me restate this point; because one might think because I've pointed out many flaws and cannot recommend this book overall as a good read, that I think Cook is yet another literary hack and fraud: he's not. Truly bad writers, like a Mary Gaitskill, Rick Moody or Dave Eggers, will never have to confront the choice of whether or not to choose real individuated art or lowest common denominator slop to get published. Cook does; although one could argue that since his book was published by a university press, retailed for $25, yet an author signed copy was bought by my wife for a single dollar at a markdown table at a Barnes & Noble less than a year after its debut, and was only stocked locally because of its Texas theme, that this, in itself, should have been the opportunity to really break free, and realize his potential. College presses get lousy distribution, no major reviews, and even blurbs from unknowns, and are, in many ways, little better than vanity or print on demand presses, so why bother getting published there if not to take advantage of the freedom from commercial genericization? I just wonder how much dumbing down and bowdlerizing the press was responsible for since Cook states that many of the tales were seriously revised following their initial publication in journals?
Cook could do well from not being star-struck by big name writers, but looking at a contemporary published masterwork in Monica Wood's Ernie's Ark to see what his tales could have been had he been more genuine in his narrative voice, rather than assuming the generic mantle of 'connector of comedy and pathos'. As with Cook's tales, Wood's individual tales are not multi-dimensionally complex, but they synergize into something more rich via their parallax. Cook's do not. Last Call is a promising, but ultimately disappointing book that I hope serves as Exhibit A in an immature writer's coming to grips with the clash of his potential meeting his desire to conform for the masses. It is properly to be termed juvenilia, for these stories lack a personal signature, and too many of the tales exist in an unsatisfactory netherworld between being true stories and serviceable chapters of a larger narrative, and failing fully at both tasks. There are flashes of a real 'K.L. Cook', but far much more, and too much of just another MFA wannabe. Too many bad critic- even those who might be able to see his weaknesses, would simply praise this book because they like what he attempts- as I do, yet not point out the manifest flaws. But, that modus operandi is why there are so many published writers who are far less talented and accomplished than even Cook is in this work- where he shows he is a talented non-PC writer simply too straightjacketed in workshop formulae. I demand more, especially from those like Cook who can likely meet that demand. However, his next book will likely be a career definer- it could herald his frittering away of potential, damning him to a career trajectory of countless forgettable contemporary writers, or his ascension to the status of a major writer- one whose works not only excel in form, but explore real characters in bold ways. Those tales and writers are sorely needed in publishing, and Cook has a choice to make, just as Loren Niemi did all those years ago. I say, choose more wisely than he did!
Dan Schneider, Reviewer
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
The Penguin Press
ISBN: 1594200440, $24.95, 294 pp.
Nadezhda and Vera's 84-year-old father Nikolai has been a widower for two years when the voluptuous Valentina bursts into his life, wagging her breasts at him in her quest for a Visa. Nikolai is besotted with this bleached-blonde Ukrainian some fifty years his junior--not least because she favors him with access to her superb bosom--and he is intent on becoming her savior by marrying her. Nikolai's daughters, needless to say, are less than happy with their father's plan to replace their mother--a woman who survived the German occupation of Ukraine in World War II, who understood what it meant to stave off starvation--with this boil-in-the-bag gold digger. But there is little they can do to combat their determined father, who squanders his pension and happiness on the woman before he comes around, sort of, to their way of thinking.
Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian follows the story of the eccentric--or half-mad--Nikolai's unhappy second marriage and his daughter's attempts to minimize Valentina's hold over him. Interspersed in the story are snippets from the book Nikolai is writing, the history of tractors that gives Lewycka's book its title. There are also excurses on Ukrainian history and the history of Nadezhda and Vera's family in particular.
Lewycka's story is told from Nadezhda's perspective. She is ten years younger than her sister Vera and was born in entirely different circumstances, after the War had ended and her parents had made it to England. Her father's second marriage provides Nadezhda with the opportunity to dig up the truth about her family's past, the small dramas that her parents and sister kept hidden from the baby in the family by way of protecting her. In the end the book is more about what Nadezhda comes to understand about her family, in particular about her sister, than it is about the foolish extravagance of an old man. An interesting book for its unusual approach, and ultimately moving as Lewycka reveals how the sisters' very different experiences have come between them.
In the Beginning...There Were No Diapers
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556-0428
ISBN: 1893732878, $12.95, 189 pp.
Tim Bete's In the Beginning...There Were No Diapers is based on the author's syndicated column "Where I Live," which appears in the Christian Science Monitor, among other places. The 19 chapters of the book read like individual essays, each a vehicle for Bete's reflections on a life lived with three children. He writes, for example, about the logistics of disposing of soiled diapers on an airplane, about the longevity of playground rhymes, about playing miniature golf in arctic conditions--apparently a family tradition. His stories--sometimes cute and sometimes corny, and informed by their author's Christianity--are gently humorous: "One of my young nephews once said, while opening a birthday present, 'This is going to be really hard to break.' He didn't mean that the toy car was durable. He meant that he would have to use extraordinary measures to demolish it." Bete himself--a self-confessed "mild" guy whose idea of a good time is family movie night--comes across as entirely likeable. The book will be a good read for expectant and current dads for whom a small dose of religiosity won't be unpalatable.
The Average American
ISBN: 158648270X, $25.00, 257 pp.
In The Average American author Kevin O'Keefe chronicles his attempt to discover the archetypical resident of the United States, that one man or woman whose quantifiable attributes, preferences, and living conditions are as close to "normal" as possible (normal as determined by the 2000 census and a number of other polls and reports). O'Keefe arrived at a list of 140 criteria that his Average American had to meet, most of them suggested to him by conversations he had with regular folk while traveling around the country on his quest. In the end, the identity of O'Keefe's quintessential American came as a surprise to him, and makes for a very tidy finish to the book, particularly given O'Keefe's secondary motive in undertaking the project. The author portrays himself in the book as an unduly competitive, unlikable type-A character who's never accepted average performance from himself, who's racked up accomplishments not so much because he enjoyed himself in the doing, but because he needed to be better than everyone else. He suggests that in finding the average American he may find as well something that's been missing in himself.
O'Keefe's chronicle is certainly interesting, sprinkled as it is with statistical tidbits which readers will inevitably want to measure themselves against. (The average American falls asleep within seven minutes of going to bed and eats three pounds of peanut butter annually.) And there is a certain frisson in the idea that every American reading the book was, for a short time at least, at the beginning of the project, a candidate for O'Keefe's Everyman.
Except.... Except that some of O'Keefe's candidates were more equal than others. Among the criteria he uses to winnow out the un-average Joes are two geographical filters that alone knock much of the country out of consideration. O'Keefe required that his Average American live in the eastern or central time zones and that he or she live no more than 100 miles from the shore. Residents of California, for example, never really had a chance. O'Keefe similarly applies various political criteria to his candidates. The Average American, for example, is required to live in a state that is represented by at least one Democratic senator (as most Americans do). Thus the majority of O'Keefe's sifting of candidates is done by applying to the population criteria that are external to the individual. Whole communities, whole swaths of the country are thrown out on political or geographical grounds. It would have made for a far more interesting project and book if all of O'Keefe's criteria were instead centered on the individual. As it is, it feels as if much of the population was removed from consideration unfairly.
Two other small additions would have made for a better book. First, I would have appreciated the inclusion of a series of maps in which areas being removed from consideration were shaded out. And it would have been more fun if O'Keefe's 140 criteria were presented in checklist form rather than in paragraphs.
By now you'll be wondering whether your intrepid reviewer comes close to meriting the appellation of Average American. Decidedly not! My annual consumption of eggs and peanut butter is on the low side, and I buy far fewer clothes per year than most. I can't be certain, moreover, but my guess is that I won't be losing twelve of my teeth over the next nine years.
Tony and Me
Good Hill Press
ISBN: 0976830302, $24.95, 141 pp.
Jack Klugman's brief memoir Tony and Me (with Burton Rocks) is written as a tribute to the late Tony Randall, Klugman's friend of nearly 35 years, who played Felix Unger to Klugman's Oscar on television's The Odd Couple (1970 to 1975). The book spans the two actors' careers--from early stints on live television to Randall's creation of the National Actors Theater--but focuses on the period of their collaboration on the series. (When they were cast for the show both Klugman and his co-star had already had extensive experience performing The Odd Couple on stage, though not with each other. During hiatuses from the show, however, they would perform the play together to further hone their characters.) The book offers an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how two professionals went about perfecting their characters. Jack, for example, always pushed for a "love scene" in each episode--the scene in which the real affection between Oscar and Felix was manifested: "The mandatory 'love scene' made us real to each other and gave the show a life beyond the situations and jokes. I keep hitting on this point because I'm hoping this book will be read not only by fans of the show, or by fans of Tony and me, but also by young actors and writers who must understand that the most basic unit of any successful dramatic truth is human feeling." And he's right, of course, because what makes The Odd Couple work is the intensity of feeling between Oscar and Felix, whatever their differences.
Tony and Me bills itself as a book about the friendship between Klugman and Randall. For much of the book, however, the intensity of their relationship is not apparent, and Klugman in fact tells us that during the Odd Couple years the two didn't socialize much off-screen. This ostensible lack of closeness makes sense given Klugman's moving account later in the book of his return to performing after losing most of his voice to throat cancer. Randall's unwavering support during that difficult period changed Klugman for the better, breaking down the barriers he'd surrounded himself with for most of his life. Klugman credits Randall with nothing short of making him a better human being. So in fact the book is ultimately a paean to friendship, and it is very touching in its final pages.
The book includes a foreword by Gary Marshall, the executive producer of The Odd Couple, as well as interviews with Klugman himself and with Heather Randall, Tony's second wife and the mother of his two children. The book is packaged with a DVD of outtakes from the series. Some of the proceeds from sales of the book will benefit Tony Randall's National Actors Theater.
Debra Hamel, Reviewer
Richard Matheson Collected Stories Volume 3
Edited by Stanley Wiater
5307 Arroyo St., Colorado Springs CO 80922
ISBN: 1887368817, $16.95
I have been a long time fan of this author and this collection is a fine example of why. Wiater has chosen some of the best short stories by Matheson. I also like the commentaries at the end of each story. Matheson tells such things as if it was used on any of the incarnations of the shows "The Twilight Zone,' Outer Limits," and other TV shows. as well as what prompted him to write whichever tale. Ones to look for are "Button Button" in which a woman is given the choice of killing someone in the world she does not know by pressing a button on a box, "The Near Departed" where a man makes a strange contract with a funeral home. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" while flying on an airplane a man sees something bizarre on the wing that he can't get anyone else to believe, and of course "Duel" that is a simple story of a business man on the road who encounters a mysterious truck driver who wants to play a deadly game. If there is anything bad about this collection it is that the author says he gave up writing the short story many years ago. I understand his thoughts that he has written as many short stories as he feels he can because he gives the impression that he is burned out on the form of writing, but I must say we are lucky that Matheson has written so many fantastic works of this type that we can still marvel and enjoy.
The P Factor
602 N. Wymore Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
ISBN: 0976498219, $15.95
According to author Pam Powell there are 7 words that begin with P that if followed will enable everyone to have a great and wonderful life. They are positive, passionate, persistent, patient, prayerful, powerful, and prosperous. With each of the words she fills readers in on how to be more positive and successful. She also uses religious teachings that are simple to follow that contribute greatly to her P factor theories.
Robert J. Randisi
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0843954740, $6.99
Detective Joe Keough's former partner in New York is back in his own case of murder in the Big Apple. Now he teams up with FDNY Fire Marshal Mason Willis to solve the brutal crimes that are beginning to add up. Randisi again has written a fast paced thriller that should be the first of a series, like his novels about Joe Keough.
Roger C. Kelly
P.O. Box 150823, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32715-0823
ISBN: 0972991239, $16.95
I found this book to be very interesting because it tells that you can do whatever you want to financially. He shows that so many of us do not use what we have to get where we want monetarily His writing is clear and concise, while he speaks in simple terms all can understand. Kelly is truly a motivator with a great book that has a lot to say about getting what you want in life.
R. Dwayne Hicks
P. O. Box150823, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32715-0823
ISBN: 0972991247, $14.95
Marcus Evans' thirty-sixth birthday is very different from others. Several of his friends fly into town to celebrate the event. His buddies take several days to commemorate his day. They party hearty by drinking at bars, restaurants, and they even have several booze runs to continue the festivities at his home. I especially liked the conversations the pals have about dating women, blacks and whites, work, and life in general. For Marcus this is a turning point in his life because some of the things his friends have said make him want to alter some of the things in his personal life. The characters are well defined and likeable in a novel that moves briskly to its twist of an ending.
Pollster Mike Shurtleff
ISBN: 0977224406, $9.95
If you ever want to know what people in this country think, this is the perfect resource. From politics to Reality TV shows this collection tells what and how people feel. There are many ways the information was obtained: some of them are surveys, political polls, market research, and focus groups. Many of the subjects of this book are very timely.
Darker than Midnight
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
ISBN: 0778322297, $6.99
Shayne who writes for the soap opera "As the World Turns" has written a very tense novel of suspense. I like the conflict police officer Cassandra Jackson has throughout the story. The writing is fast paced with plenty of twists and turns to its final surprising conclusion. Shayne has strong characters in believable situations.
Now You Die
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
ISBN: 0778322289, $6.99
Nobody believes Zoe Foster's claim that a singer at her ex-husbands' club has been murdered. Foster digs into something that could get her killed but is determined to show that she is telling the truth. Heggan has written another tense believable story of romantic suspense that has a lot of twists and turns.
Karen Haber Editor
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
ISBN: 1416516700, $14.00, 1-800-456-6798
I really liked many of the writings by so many authors of science fiction who showed how much of an influence the original film of King Kong had on them. I have to say I found most of the pieces to be very interesting, fine collection of studies of the first film of King Kong. What I found disturbing was one of the authors take that there was racism on the part of the makers of the film. The writer points out ridiculous aspects to me; he says are racist. Give me a break the makers biggest concern I am sure was to tell a good story and they did it very well. This version still holds up today even with the new one in theaters which just doesn't measure up
Year in Sports 2006
Sports Illustrated for Kids
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
ISBN: 0439755166, $9.99, 212-343-6100
This is a yearly collection that is geared to kids but is great for adults to use as well. There are statistics, player lineups, plenty of pictures and sports information no fan can afford to miss. It is also a wealth of trivia information for anyone who wants to brush up on sports facts.
Batman Begins the Movie Storybook
Adapted by Benjamin Harper
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
ISBN: 0439725062, $6.99, 212-343-6100
For any fan of the movie, this is a great collector's item that should not be missed. There are lots of photos of the movie and a complete novel.
The Elegant Universe
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0375708111, $15.95, 387 pages
Greene is one of a handful of scientists who have the ability to explain science in layman's terms. His style is smooth and easy going. He does have some problems in the last half of the book.
'The Elegant Universe' starts with Newtonian physics and builds through Relativity and quantum mechanics to explain string theory. The clarity and polish Greene used in explaining advances in physics from Newton's Laws to modern theories makes the book a joy to read. The only real problems for the lay reader are the advances in the last two decades. The story evolves into a narration about the discoveries with less easy to understand analogies about the science. It takes years of thought to organize mathematical theory into words the average man might understand. The 2025 edition of 'The Elegant Universe' should iron out the problems with the last few chapters in the book.
'The Elegant Universe' is a must read for the science enthusiast. Greene ranks with Hawking and Sagan as a scientist whose writings need to be read.
The Cosmic Kalevala Book Two: the Star Mill
Renaissance E Books
P.O. Box 1432, Northampton, MA 01060
ISBN: 1588735370, $4.00 electronic download, 115 pp.
Disclosure: I have 7 books published through Renaissance
The 'Kalevala' is one of the least known epic myths. It is also a major source for English literature. Longfellow and Tolkien are just two of the authors who have used the 'Kalevala' as source material for their writing. Petaja introduces a science fiction story into the epic myth and re-writes the tale into a fantasy.
'The Star Mill' starts with an amnesiac man in a spacesuit drifting on an asteroid. A spaceship picks him up before something called the Black Storm destroys that region of space. The man is humanity's only hope in stopping the Black Storm. He is a descendent of Ilmarinen the wondersmith who built the Sampo. In legend, the Sampo was a mill, which could create anything. The witch Pohyola has taken the broken Sampo and now uses it to undo the galaxy in the form of the Black Storm.
The science fiction at the beginning of 'The Star Mill' is interesting but the telling is disjointed. The story comes into its own when it blends into the 'Kalevala' myths. The fantasy holds strong but suffers from a too close linking to the myths. The names and unfamiliar storyline might hold back readers. 'The Star Mill' is worth reading but it takes a more than average commitment.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
The Hebrew Prophets
Rabbi Rami Shapiro, translator and annotator
Skylight Paths Publishing
Sunset Farms Offices, Route 4, PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
1594730377 $16.99 1-800-962-4544 www.skylightpaths.com
Award-winning storyteller, poet, and essayist Rabbi Rami Shapiro presents The Hebrew Prophets: Selections Annotated & Explained is a collection of quotes from Hebrew prophets presented both in their literal English translations and contemporary vernacular English explanations of the phrases' meanings. The Hebrew Prophets reveals how words spoken as early as the eighth century B.C.E. direct the faithful to practice justice, wisdom, kindness, and humility. For example, Zechariah 7:8-10 "Execute true justice; / deal kindly and compassionately with one another. / Do not oppress the widow, / the orphan, the stranger, and the poor. / Do not set your heart to plotting evil" is further explained with "This is what God desires: kindness, mercy, and justice to the powerful and powerless alike. Everything else is a mere distraction." The Hebrew Prophets is a valuable introduction to understanding passages of the Old Testament, fully accessible to readers who have little or no knowledge of the Hebrew Bible or Judaism.
Balancing Reading & Language Learning
477 Congress Street, Suite 4B, Portland, ME 04101-3451
1571103678 $30.00 1-800-988-9812 www.stenhouse.com
Balancing Reading & Language Learning: A Resource For Teaching English Language Learners K-5 by educational consultant and former bilingual resource teacher, ESL teacher, and literacy coach Mary Cappellini offers a framework for a balanced classroom reading program that includes the use of reading aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading to develop a student's skills and fluency in the English language. Classroom instructors will learn how to set up an environment that will enable all English language learners to succeed in advancing their fluency and academic performance; the stages of English language proficiency and how to use them to assess and plan for individual children; advice for tapping into children's prior knowledge in their primary language while teaching reading in English, and the use of Spanish/English cognates to help develop academic language skills; how to manage numerous guided reading groups with children at all stages of reading and language proficiency, and more. Enhanced with ideas for events to involve the parents, thematic planning sample units for primary and upper grades, forms and checklists, bibliographies and suggested reading lists, Balancing Reading & Language Learning is a welcome and instructive addition to professional and bilingual instructor reference collections and ESL curriculum development resources.
Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origin of Rights
387 Park Avenue South, NY 10016-8810
ISBN: 0465017134, $24.00, 270 pp.
In stating that, "Rights do not come from God, because God does not speak to human beings in a single voice, and rights ought to exist even if there is no God" (p. 8), Alan Dershowitz is not so much being politically correct as pragmatic. He knows that fifty percent of the American population for whom he is writing are god addicts who believe that their imaginary playmate has the "right" to murder 280,000 human beings with a tsunami, because nothing their god does can be evil. If he is to convince such mind-amputees that rights were invented by humans to rectify historical wrongs, he must do so by arguing that God did not reveal that events such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and Hitler's Final Solution were wrong, rather than that God could not have promulgated such a revelation for the logical reason that God does not exist. To stress that rights have a non-divine source, he points out that, if they indeed emanated from a god, and there is only one god, "then the content of rights would be consistent over time and place. Yet experience shows that nothing could be further from the truth" (p. 23).
There are times when the only counter to evil is to show that the religion inspiring such evil is itself evil - but this was not such a situation. Most god addicts are aware that their god did not ban slavery, but are nonetheless able to recognize that humans have a right not to be enslaved. Dershowitz recognizes that "founding myths to which we desperately cling" include God giving tablets to Moses, God dictating the Koran to Mohammed, and Joseph Smith discovering gold plates in the desert (p. 2). In other words he recognizes Judaism, Islam and Mormonism - and by implication Christianity - as products of the human imagination. But he also knows that half of his intended readers are not so well informed, and he must therefore convince them on their own terms. He stays well away from the observable reality that, for persons who see themselves as the domesticated livestock of a petmaster in the sky, rights and wrongs are whatever the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction says they are.
Dershowitz also recognizes that rights do not come from nature, or from logic, or from the law alone. Rather, "Rights come from human experience, particularly experience with injustice" (p. 8). He asserts that, "It is more realistic to try to build a theory of rights on the agreed-upon wrongs of the past that we want to avoid repeating, than to try to build a theory of rights on idealized conceptions of the perfect society about which we will never agree" (p. 7). He does not need to spell out the extent of the disagreement about what constitutes a perfect society. The ideal of American (and Canadian) theofascists is a society that criminalizes abortion and same-sex marriage while legitimizing state-sanctioned ritualistic revenge murder. The ideal of the morally evolved is a society that sees the former as basic human rights, and the latter as qualitatively equal to any other unnecessary homicide. Even as I write these words, Dershowitz's recognition that rights are still an eye-of-the-beholder concept is being confirmed by the TV news in the background, which is reporting that California governor Arnold Schwarzenazi has vetoed a law granting same-sex couples the same right to marry the partner of their choice demanded by Republicanazis. Pope Ratzinazi, to whom all rights emanate from him, must be delighted.
Rights are not an evolutionary inevitability triggered by human nature. "Human nature is Hamas building schools and medical centers for Islamic children and Hamas blowing up Jewish children on the way to their schools" (p. 35). Human nature is, likewise, "Confucius and Pol Pot; Mandela and bin Laden." Dershowitz also cites "Jesus and Torquemada" in the same context, apparently unaware that, far from being polar opposites like the other pairings, Jesus and Torquemada were mirror images. Just as George W. Bush's American Taliban are intentionally blind to the reality that Mohammed was, by any reasonable definition, a terrorist, so Jews tend to be intentionally blind to the reality that the number two Christian god was a hunchbacked dwarf psychopath.
Rights are to a significant degree incompatible with human nature. "A rights-based system is certainly not the natural human condition. If there is any natural condition, it is closer to tyranny…. The function of rights - indeed, of law and morality - is to change that natural condition for the better…. It is precisely because rights are not natural - that it is not in the nature of most human beings to value the rights of others above their own immediate interests - that we need to entrench certain basic rights, continuously advocate them, and never grow complacent about them" (pp. 36-37). Most North Americans are capable of being influenced by such logical arguments. Unfortunately, the theofascists wielding unbridled power in the United States, and holding Official Opposition status in Canada, are not. The only right they are willing to recognize is the "right" of a majority to do anything it wishes.
Dershowitz is right when he says, "We can improve on the Ten Commandments, because we have much more human experience on which to base our rules than did the men who wrote the Bible." He is totally wrong when he says that, "the authors of the Ten Commandments improved on the Code of Hammurabi and earlier laws" (p. 36). The Jewish Ten Commandments were a throwback to a concept of ethnocentric intolerance that Hammurabi had long outgrown. The Big Ten simply prohibited Jews from doing to other Jews what they were perfectly free to do to gentiles. I draw Dershowitz's attention to the translations and commentaries on pages 57 and 58 of The Compact Fully Translated Bible (authorhouse.com).
Dershowitz devotes a chapter to the question: "Is natural law a helpful or harmful fiction?" I will leave it to the reader to determine whether he came up with the best possible answer. What is more important, in my view, is that he asked the question. Other chapters offer answers to such questions as, "Is there always a right answer?" "If rights do not come from God or Nature, how are they different from mere preferences?" "Does the experiential approach confuse philosophy with sociology?" "Is the debate over external sources of rights a liberal-conservative issue?" "Can experiential rights check the abuses of majority rule?" "Is there a right 'to life'?" and "Do animals have rights?"
Dershowitz's final analysis of "the future of rights" is far from reassuring. Reporting on the Supreme Court's using a legal loophole to avoid declaring the inclusion of the words, "Under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance a violation of the First Amendment, he expresses the opinion that, "Had the justices ruled that the inclusion of these words violated the Constitution, the political reaction would have been immediate: The Constitution would have been amended to overrule the decision" (p. 232). In other words, an intolerant, ignorant, superstitious majority, compelled by the law to recognize basic human rights, will simply change the law. As long as America was ruled by human beings, that was not a serious risk. But with a talking chimpanzee in the White House, a Patriot Act in place that has turned America into the Fourth Reich, and Republicanazi theofascists stepping up their determination to turn America into a mirror image of the Taliban's Afghanistan, the days of "the land of the free" may be coming to an end.
Against the Grain: An Irreverent View of Alberta
McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
481 University Avenue, Toronto ON, M5G 2E9, Canada
ISBN: 0771047754, CAN $34.99, 268 pp.
Question: What do you get when you combine the compassion of the Marquis de Sade, the rationality of the emperor Caligula, the fanatic theofascism of Tomás de Torquemada, the paranoia of Ruholla Khomeini, the humanity of King Kong, the evolution of Ally Oop, the education of Lenny Small, the intelligence of Simple Simon, and the redeeming social value of Adolf Hitler?
Answer: A kinder, gentler Stockwell Day.
That is not an excerpt from Against the Grain. Catherine Ford's only mention of the theofascist ayatollah who thinks The Flintstones is a documentary is in the context of Alberta's gift to Canada of, "Social Credit, Bible Bill Aberhart, and Ernest Manning; Reform and Canadian Alliance, Preston Manning, and Stockwell Day; Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party," along with the observation that such questionable gifts "do not make right-wing politics and thinking the only heart of the province" (p. 8). But I get the impression that it is a conclusion she would endorse wholeheartedly.
Ford describes herself as, "an aging, liberal feminist … in a right-wing, fend-for-yourself province" (p. 2). She validates her claim to liberalism by denouncing the redneck pretence that equal rights for homosexuals constitutes "special rights"; Alberta's (actually Stockwell Day's) putting a contract on the old, the sick and the unemployed, forcing them to choose between paying rent and buying food; the Klein government's callous indifference to homelessness and unemployment and its dogma that the homeless are bums who choose to live on the street rather than elsewhere; state-sanctioned ritualistic revenge murder; the claim of rednecks that they have an inalienable right to own devices that have no function but facilitating homicide, and the pretence that mass shootings are "the fault of something other than a gun-loving, gun-toting, gun-permitting society" (p. 120); anti-choice fanatics who equate a pre-human tadpole that has zero brainwave activity indicative of human thought with a self-aware sentient being, and glorify the quantity of life in depraved indifference to the quality of life; the use of the Bible to justify "eye for eye" revenge, while ignoring the same Bible's assertion that "vengeance and recompense belong to [the biblical god]" (p. 81); the conceit that "God" is on the side of the Calgary Stampeders rather than the Green Bay Packers, or the Catholic Church rather than the Buddhists; the pretence that someone who "miraculously" escapes a disaster should thank the same deity who, if the "miracle" pushers are right, must have murdered the 300,000 who died in a tsunami, a hurricane and an earthquake in the past year alone (p. 195); the demand of theofascist extremists that religion be imposed in public schools and that children of other belief systems could be "excused" from daily prayers without being "singled out and different," as most assuredly would happen in such situations (p. 223); the religious right's determination to degrade women to the slave status endorsed by their bibles; and the hypocrisy that discrimination against homosexuals can be justified by the "mealy-mouthed" slogan, "hate the sin; love the sinner" (p. 231).
Ford is no admirer of Alberta premier Ralph Klein. She praises him for keeping a tight muzzle on the theofascist clique in his caucus whose concept of an ideal society is the Taliban's Afghanistan. But she recognizes that there is more to his enforcement of redneck policies than merely pandering to rabid canines whose support he needs if he is to remain the biggest turd in the cesspool. She quotes Klein's assertion that, "The moment you include and give some people special status then you exclude other people." And who are the "other people" whose rights would be diminished if same-sex couples were granted the same right to marry the partner of their choice as heterosexual couples? In Klein's words, "Severely, absolutely, totally normal people." As Ford observes, "The slight is obvious" (p. 240). Klein is not (like Stephen Harper) a mindless puppet of hatemongering redneck bigots. He is a hatemongering redneck bigot.
Ford recognizes that, despite the lack of a Constitutional separation of church and state, Canada is a secular nation, with the overwhelming majority in every province but Alberta seeing religion as a personal issue that has no place in politics. As evidence for that observation, she points out the minutely small number of Canadians who know that most prime ministers have been Catholic. But despite her spelling out so much proof to the contrary, she asserts that, "Alberta isn't a province of rednecks." Right. And the Christian Taliban who have accomplished a hostile takeover of the Canadian Conservative Party are not as hate-driven as Hitler's Nazis. Sure they're not.
Ford is clear-sighted about politics, hate cults that promote a "We alone are saved" dogma, and religiosity posing as morality. Her book is a useful, if personal, analysis of Alberta politics, economics and religion since the beginning of the twentieth century. But she is purblind in other areas. The dust jacket of Against the Grain states that she is a past president of Mensa Canada. The author bios in my own books acknowledge that I was likewise a member. But I explain that I joined Mensa for intelligent conversation and quit when I failed to find any. And elsewhere I have reported the observation that Mensa contains the same proportion of members who are intelligent, mediocre, and subhuman stupid as the population at large. Apparently that is a reality Ford failed to notice. Also, she once wrote a letter to the newsletter of Calgary Mensa lauding the validity of graphology, gullibly swallowing a close relative of tealeaf reading as if it were something other than pseudoscientific hogwash.
Ford has stopped attending church on a regular basis. She refers to secular humanism in favorable terms. And she denounces the Catholic bishop who violated criminal laws against both blackmail and the uttering of death threats, as well as treason laws, by threatening the Prime Minister with eternal torture in Hell if, instead of subjugating Canada to a foreign Führer in Rome, he permitted secular law to grant individuals the right to violate sectarian taboos in which they do not believe. Yet she has apparently never renounced the Church that, on the death of her first husband, demonized, emotionally tortured, and threatened her with King Jesus' eternal flamethrowers, for carrying out her husband's will and donating to Planned Parenthood. Does she suffer from the mind-crippling terror of death that is what keeps religion in existence two centuries after historians have falsified it beyond rebuttal? Or is she simply unaware that her bible states categorically in fourteen places that the earth is flat like a dinner plate, or that fifty other virgin-born savior gods rose from the dead on the third day as much as 3,000 years before the myth was plagiarized by the Christians and retroactively added to the biography of a Jewish xenophobe who equated gentiles with dogs and pigs and whose defining sermon (Luke 16:1-9) can be summarized: Cheat those who are no longer useful to you, and use the stolen money to bribe persons who are in a position to do you good? I suggest that she read Mythology's Last Gods (Prometheus, 1992), which does to religion what the first photographs of the Martian surface did to the "canals" myth. If it does not enable her to overcome her brainwashing and become a secular humanist (if in fact she is not already a closet humanist), I would be most surprised.
The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, with Internet Links to Songs & Artists
General Editor Howard Mandel
Billboard Books/Watson-Guptill Publications
770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
ISBN: 0823082660, $45.00, 352 pp.
The innovative user-friendly touch of the Internet links is integrated into the sections of many of the artists (i.e., not put in an appendix or resources section at the back of the main text) by graphics with a web address. Another reader-friendly touch is a graphic noting the most representative recording by a particular musician. This is especially helpful considering the long careers, many recordings, and evolving styles of many of them. Most of the photographs show the artists in performance. Blues and Jazz are taken decade by decade from the early years through the nineteen twenties down to the eighties and the contemporary era, with a closing section on the instruments and equipment going with the two long-lasting and changeable types of music. Profiles of each artist cover biographical background, music career, and the artist's influences on or contributions to the field. For historical overview, comprehensive treatment of all the leading jazz and blues performers, and primary references cited, the "Illustrated Encyclopedia..." is an ideal introduction to these interrelated fields of music.
1001 Nights - Illustrated Fairy Tales from One Thousand and One Nights
edited by Robert Klanten and Hendrik Hellige
Die Gestalten Verlag
ISBN: 3899550943, $42.00, 199 pp.
Magical, foreign tales from the Arabian Nights inspire 16 mostly European artists to create fanciful illustrations, many evidencing influences from Persian art and manuscript illumination. The varied styles of the number of artists range from brightly-colored and cartoon-like with their rounded, cherub-like figures to dark, muted tones with clipped figures drawing one into the complexities and ambiguities of the respective tale; from brightly-colored illustrations which seem to dance on the page to ones which seem ominous signs to what lies within. Not only the artistic content makes this a small version of a coffee-table, gift book. So does the color-illustrated cover with the lettering of the title and subtitle embossed with silver. And there's the silk place marker, too.
100 Years of Purses, 1880s to 1980s - Identification and Value
Ronna Lee Aikins
PO Box 3009, Paducah, KY 42002-3009
ISBN: 1574324535, $24.95, 144 pp.
Photographs of the great variety of purses are shown in bright color photos two or three per page. With each are descriptive notes on size, fabric, clasps, and other features not evident in the photo. Prices range from about twenty dollars to a little over two hundred for alligator purses. A user-friendly guide giving an overview of this perennially popular area of collecting.
UNWELCOME VOICES - Subversive Fiction in the Antebellum South
Paul Christian Jones
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN 37996-4108
ISBN: 1572233278, $35.00, 225 pp.
Jones departs from the "story of southern literature that was constructed by literary critics early in the twentieth century" to identify five authors falling outside of the conventional understanding of antebellum southern literature. In different ways according to their creativities and chosen literary forms, these five authors evidence countervailing views of southern society from the one pictured in the predominating literature heavily influenced by the romantic novels of Sir Walter Scott. Poe with his horror tales vividly disclosing the anxieties embedded in the slave-owning society that was being increasingly challenged and Frederick Douglass with his heroic slave characters giving a different formulation and image of African Americans from the one maintained by the slave-owners put forth clear alternatives to the southern propaganda about a harmonious, peaceful southern society. James Heath, John Pendleton Kennedy, and E.D.E.N. Southworth employed within the familiar form of the novel the relatively subtle, partly ambiguous elements of character, dialogue, description, and narrative to question the prevailing southern values and class structure based on slavery. The five authors Jones studies with considerable originality are "probably only the tip of the iceberg of writers and texts that offer a dissenting voice to the dominant one that has been established in literary histories." Jones is an assistant professor of English at Ohio University whose articles have appeared in Southern Literary Journal and other periodicals. This study of his shifts the perspective on the antebellum southern literature, while at the same time it encourages further study of other aspects of the little-known and under-appreciated alternative literature.
Mapping an Empire - Soldier-Engineers on the Southwestern Frontier
edited by Dennis Reinhartz and Gerald D. Saxon
U. of Texas Press
PO Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819
ISBN: 0292706596, $34.95, 204+xx pp.
Spanish, Mexican, and American military engineers played an especially important role in mapping the area of the American Southwest along the U.S.-Mexican border. Not only was this area sparsely populated and rugged, but marking boundaries was a part of the broader contest and eventual war between Mexico and the United States over which territory belonged to which nation. As the government-directed work of the American military engineers is better-known because of the greater resources and procedures in recording the work and preserving the documents, the better--but not overwhelming--part of the seven articles containing copies or parts of maps and some prints of the period cover the work of the early Spanish and later Mexican mapmakers. One of the chapter titles is "Unknown Works and Forgotten Engineers of the Mexican Boundary Commission," a joint U.S.-Mexican Commission after the Mexican War relating the work of the largely forgotten Mexican participants. Inherent in these accounts of the explorations, individuals, purposes, and controversies surrounding the maps by academics from the fields of cartography and the history of the region is considerable material from a new angle on historical Mexican-American relations and the early days of the expansion of the U. S. in the Southwest.
George Washington and the Jews
U. of Delaware Press/Associated University Presses
2010 Eastpark Blvd., Cranbury, NJ 08512
ISBN: 0874139279, $34.50, 196 pp.
Small numbers of Jews were among the early settlers in all parts of the American colonies. Some of these were escaping the Spanish Inquisition. Jews mostly came to America to escape religious persecution and be able to practice their religion freely, as the early English settlers did. Although the small minority groups of Jews faced prejudices from some quarters, in the colonies they found defenders. And in some cases they found high-placed individuals who integrated some of them into prominent positions with important public responsibilities. Though he had mixed feelings toward the Jews, the founder and leader of Georgia, General Oglethorpe, gave them land equally with the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Moravians, and other Protestant sects in the colony. In the War of Jenkins Ear against the Spanish in Florida, Oglethorpe appointed the Jew Benjamin Sheftall an officer in the Georgia militia. The varying fortunes of Jews as a group and individual Jews are recounted as a part of the larger story of the example of democratic principles George Washington set. The last chapter ties Washington's wish that his slaves be freed after his death with his vision of religious tolerance for all. Some of his clearest, most-cited statements on religious tolerance, freedom, and equality were made in synagogues or with unmistakable references to Jews in certain locales, in Newport, RI, for example. Down to today, Jews look to Washington as the particular Founding Father making America a place where they could practice their religion freely and be accepted in the society.
2nd Stories - a Hoosier Photographer Explores What's Upstairs, on Top, and Overhead
430 N. Sewall Rd., Bloomington, IN 47408
ISBN: 097451862X, $22.00, 144 pp.
Bower's clean, sharply-focused photographs capture architectural features of older Indiana, Midwest buildings. Among these are window frames, stairways and bannisters, stain-glass and decorative windows, floral and animal ornaments, floor boarding, friezes, cupolas, and weathervanes, among other features. There's also a few photos of railroad bridges, cranes, and old, wooden amusement-park rides. The 200 photos with their duotone shading have a nostalgic tone. Most of the buildings are still in use. Some clearly have been long abandoned and are in the last stages of their survival. Though it is time, not the wrecker's ball, that will bring them down. For these and others that will likely be abandoned before too long, Bower's photographs are a record of the styles and details of a late 1800's/early 1900's country and small-town architecture of the American Midwest.
The Self of the City - Macedonio Fernandez, the Argentine Avant-garde, and Modernity in Buenos Aires
Todd S. Garth
Bucknell U. Press
Associated University Presses
2010 Eastpark Blvd., Cranbury, NJ 08512
ISBN: 0838756158, $48.50, 236 pp.
"Macedonio's city is pure affection and sensation." Macedonio Fernandez was an Argentine writer living from 1874 to 1952. He was a friend of the renowned author Borges, though the two had different views on modernism and how their own writing was a reflection of it. A teacher of Spanish at the U.S. Naval Academy, Garth is at work on another book on early 20th-century Argentine writers. In this work, Garth sees Macedonio not only as a modernist writer for his treatment of the dissolution of self, deconstruction of traditional forms, and for his perspective from the margins, his avant-garde disposition, and his bohemian mood and lifestyle. Garth sees Macedonio as going beyond these to search for a new, whole, coherent self in modernism; and to a large measure succeeding in forming this in his writings. This self finds its timely, individualized form by orientation to the city not as a political entity, heterogeneous and bustling population center, or even an ideal form such as Plato's polis, but as an immanent, soul-like presence in which inheres the multiplicities and the sources and future of modernism. Macedonio does not abandon or forsake the self. But in literarily participating in its fragmentation and decentralization, he, unlike other modernist authors, is on the way to forming a new self. This will not be a replacement for the vanished self. For Macedonio's self has no comparison to it. His self arises naturally, purely, sheerly out of the conditions of modernism especially as sustained in the presence that is the city. Garth pores over this Latin American author's writings and life for gleanings and nascent representations of this novel self.
Deep Time and the Texas High Plains - History and Geology
Paul H. Carlson
Texas Tech U. Press
Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79410
ISBN: 0896725529, $34.95 hc, 141+xvii pp.
ISBN: 0896725537, $19.95 pbk.
Texas Tech U. professor of history Carlson writes a short, though comprehensive, overview of the Texas high plains region. This region borders New Mexico in the area of the Texas panhandle. The Rio Bravos is a major geographical feature; and the most important geological and archaeological site is known as the Lubbock Lake Landmark. The overview seamlessly weaves geology, anthropology, and history. Carlson covers human inhabitants from the earliest pre-Columbian Native Americans to the founding of large ranches and growth of cities in the 1800s. Excavations at the Lubbock Lake site "reveal clearly that humans have occupied the place periodically over the last twelve thousand years." Carlson also covers the animal species changing according to the changing natural conditions of the area.
Songs, Dreamings, and Ghosts - the Wangga of North Australia
Wesleyan U. Press
215 Long Ln., Middletown, CT 06459
ISBN: 0819566179, $75.00 hc, 292 pp. with CD
ISBN: 0819566187, $34.95 trade paperback
With nearly 20 years of research on aboriginal tribes of northwestern Australia combined with this many years of research, Marett has an exceptional knowledge of their culture. He's also a professor of musicology and director of the Centre for Music Research at the U. of Sydney. Recognizing that the music of the aborigines--known as "wangga"--rests "on cosmologies and ways of being that are radically different from those shared" by the majority of Australians and others from Western, modernized cultures, Marett nevertheless applies academic and critical methodologies, analyses, documentation, and perspectives to understand the music's enduring role in the ancient cultures as much as this is possible for outsiders. Thus one finds aborigine music put into musical scores, words of songs and chants translated into English, rhythms described, and explanations of changes in the music reflecting the tribes' contacts with modern Australian society. Part of Marett's work is recording a good part of the music before it changes completely or is lost from the inroads of modernity into the native societies. In the native ceremonies and rituals, wangga is not optional (as in some Catholic masses, for instance); and needless to say, it is a far cry from entertainment. In the Australian aboriginal cultures of the northwest region, wangga is believed to issue from the ghosts of deceased ancestors in a timeless realm. In the ceremonies and rituals, wangga is the "means whereby human singers and dancers metamorphose into...nonhuman forms" to connect with their ancestors.
King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
Raymond E. White
Popular Press/U. of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe St. - third floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
ISBN: 0299210006, $65.00, 530+xvii pp.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans' fans and students of popular culture will appreciate especially the voluminous and what must be virtually definitive references and documentation on the more than sixty-year career of the cowboy couple. Although some of the material goes back to before they met and became married. The eleven appendices begin on page 117 and run through the start of the notes on page 485. In addition to the filmography and discography of each noted in the review's heading, the appendices contain material on radio and television appearances, song compositions, appearances in comic books, inspirational books by either one or both (many written with a coauthor), and a "log" of more than 275 "A Date with Dale" radio programs between 1984 and 2000 noting location, topic, song, and guest; these were 30-minute "spiritual talk shows" hosted by Dale Evans. The biography preceding the appendices goes over the success of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in the different areas of popular entertainment while also devoting chapters on them as symbols of the mythic American West while being at the same time exemplars of the wholesome family life which was a prime social ideal in the post-WWII years from the late 1940s to the early '60s when they were at the height of their popularity.
The Steinway Collection, Paintings of Great Composers, with Essays by James Huneker
Foreword by David Dubal
Amadeus Press, LLC
512 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pompton Plains, New Jersey 01444
ISBN: 1574671154, $22.00 www.amadeuspress.com
This slim, handsome, coffee-table book containing artistic impressions of 12 great composers with rich explanatory essays is an invitation to indulgence. Famed music critic James Huneker was commissioned by Steinway and Sons to write the texts illuminating the 12 paintings by American artists of famous composers for the pianoforte (and other instruments). The paintings remain on display in the Steinway Collection in Steinway Hall in New York. This flawless edition brings both paintings and essays, containing jewels of truths about the lives of the composers, is an ideal contribution to the study or browsing list of armchair devotees of classical music. It is a long awaited resurrection. The museum quality paintings are dark, looming, mysterious, even overwhelming, florid with imagery pertaining to the composition or composer depicted. Because of the need for reduction and color reproduction, these works of art by artists such as A. I. Keller, N. C. Wyeth, John C. Johansen, and Ernest Blumenschein, to mention a few, are the next best things to standing directly before them at the Stineways and Sons gallery. Their intended scale is monolithic. The essays paired with the painting shine clear and true like a beacon over the last eighty -five years. They are clearly the work of an iconographer. There is such mastery of the descriptive phrase, the rhapsodic experience of epiphanies, such brilliantly faceted mirrorings of the composers' works, all paraded in solemn dignity alongside the magnificent paintings. Truly the collection is a treasure. It remains an archetype of style of music criticism. Perhaps the most familiar portrait is the one of Liszt, painted by John C. Johansen. An elderly sublime performer, "he dreams of his past triumphs; of the three women who filled his life - Caroline St. Criq, Countess d'Agoult and Princess Wittgenstein; of his trials, sorrows and ultimate peace in the arms of Mother Church...The weary wonder worker has, like Prospero, laid down his wand; the wizard Merlin is in the toils of Time. Ring down the curtain, the comedy is ended (p. 14)!" The Steinway Collection, Paintings of Great Composers, with Essays by James Huneker is an enthusiastically recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library collections.
Because Your Daddy Loves You
Andrew Clements, author
R.W. Alley, illustrator
A Houghton Mifflin Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
ISBN: 0618003614, $16.00
"Because Your Daddy Loves You" covers an appreciative young girl's day at the beach with Daddy from morning to night. As the day rolls on, this unnamed girl ponders all the things Daddy could have done in certain situations. Comparing that to what he actually does, she counts the blessings of a good father.
This adorable, sweet book about the special relationship between Daddy and his little girl. The ink, watercolor and acrylic illustrations by R.W. Alley are simply precious and go perfectly with the text. A great present from Daddy to his little girl, on any occasion.
Margriet Ruurs, author
Jennifer Emery, illustrator
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
A Highlights Company
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
1(800) 490-5111; 1(570) 253-1164
ISBN: 1590782003, $15.95, www.boydsmillspress.com
A circle of stuffed animal friends and a quilt of comforting creatures surround a young girl as she slowly drifts off to sleep while reciting her animal alphabet!
With this fun and educational story, a child can interact with the story by listening and then pointing to the letter and animals mentioned on the page. Margriet Ruurs' text is poetic, pleasing and vivid. Jennifer Emery's watercolor illustrations are warm, colorful and soft like a blanket.
My daughter is only 19 months old and loves this book---it's the kind of book that has the distinct quality of being able to interest kids of many ages, even adults! Another interesting and unique concept that combines fun and education (alphabet, vowel and consonant sounds and animal names) all in one!
Lynne Marie Pisano
The White Earth
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 1741146127, $22.95, 392 pp.
At the delicate age of eight and a half, William, the narrative focus of The White Earth, watches the mushroom cloud explosion of his life slowly grow as it destroys his father and farm in a tractor accident. At the very moment that he begins to comprehend the enormity of what has happened to him, his mother delivers him a "painful, piercing smack" across his ear, blaming him for watching the fire and not waking her. The climactic moment of William's tragedy opens the book in prologue, and creates a permanent centre of pain in Williams' life which shapes and drives the story as it unfolds through Williams' scarred perspective.
The first chapter begins with William and his depressive mother leaving the farm to live with William's well-to-do great uncle John McIvor at his large run down cattle farm, Kuran Station, on the edge of the Darling Downs. McIvor takes a mysterious interest in William, and it is through Williams' eyes that we work through the reasons for this interest and William's intended role in the future of Kuran Station. In many ways, this is a Bildungsroman: a coming of age story where we watch William grow from a naive child excited by his potential to a young man, full of the self-doubt and sorrow that comes with wisdom. But there are many threads woven together in this complex and beautifully detailed novel, which makes it more than simply the story of one child's growth.
The backdrop to the novel is the Mabo decision which was handed down by Australia's High Court in 1992, granting indigenous rights in the Torres Straits. Essentially the ruling said that the theory of "terra nullius" (the land belonging to no one) was inappropriate to apply to an already occupied land, and that therefore, under certain conditions, original land-dwellers might have the right to reclaim land occupied/purchased without consent from the original owners. McIvor spends his time producing a newsletter for an anti-Mabo political group, a "league of concerned citizens;" his own anxiety fuelled by an almost pathological fear of losing the station. His complex desires are complicated by a skewed relationship with his daughter, and a memory of rejection from the previous owners, the Whites, whose own ownership was tainted with the blood of the indigenous people they displaced. The land contains its own secrets though, which reveal themselves to William in a startling and feverish way, partly as a result of the increased sensitivity caused by the physical pain he carries.
While McIvor's fears are motivated by something more complex (though not necessarily more noble) than racism, the almost simple racism which underlies McIvor's colleagues' participation culminates in another climatic moment involving fire--a recurring motif in this novel. Although William is a thoughtful, introspective boy who tries hard to do his best against the conflicting demands placed on him by his mother, uncle, and his own sense of pride and desire, his is assailed by the hatred and fear which spurs the story forward:
But the men in robes howled him down, pushed him aside. Some people in the crowd were cheering now, while others were fleeing down the hill. Gunfire was ringing out again, shots fired wildly into the darkness, and white sheets seemed to dance everywhere, in and out of the stones. Amidst the chaos William caught a glimpse of his uncle, sprawled on the ground, his face contorted in pain. William tried to reach him, but was shoved this way and that, and fell to the ground himself. He rose to this knees and gazed up. The burning cross loomed directly above him, bright and crackling with angry noise. Even as he watched, the timber blistered and bubbled and turned to ash, and clouds of grey smoke billowed off into the wind, obliterating the night sky.(216)
The narrative is driven by pain, which has seeped into the soil of the land, and seeped into Williams' brain (and perhaps McIvor's brain too in a more metaphorical way). The land beneath Kuran station is so rich with beauty, secrets, and ghosts that it takes on the role of a fully developed character, as experienced through William's senses, primarily the auditory:
And more than anything else it was a world of noises. The roar of wind as it swept over the hills and set the trees thrumming. The piping of birds, crystal in the high air. The bubble of streams, and the distant rush of water plunging into chasms. The humps of wallabies as they lept through the undergrowth, and the scrabble of bush turkeys, clustering around camp sites. (98)
It is the audible world that ultimately takes hold of William, as the pretend illness his mother uses to keep him from school turns into a real one, and he begins to struggle with the pain in his ear and fever. The secret ghosts inhabiting the land, and the way William seems to understand it, way beyond what McIvor had originally intended, along with the developing buzzing and pain in his middle ear create an extraordinary amount of tension which keeps the reader turning pages quickly. This is almost in spite of the beautiful descriptions which would otherwise slow the narration. The reader wants to read slowly, but is drawn to uncover what is wrong with William, and what McIvor expects of him. William is a compelling, sympathetic character in the midst of a compelling narrative. Less compelling, and deliberately so, is Williams' mother, who seems to be suffering from lethargic depression, mingled with the desperation for William to improve her material status. Her disinterest in his well being, and great interest in her own material gain at almost any cost is one which further increases the reader's sympathy for William.
Interspersed with Williams story is McIver's backstory, which is revealed in small bursts. It's a story of a man's whose desires are shaped, like Williams, by the thwarted desire of a parent. While a station hand to the White Family at the original Kuran House, McIver learns about his own limitations, and develops a hunger for ownership and power which leaves him barren, despite the loving wife and daughter he later has. When he chooses financial gain over his daughter's safety and well being, he destroys his family and turns self-hatred into internal desperation, which ultimate brings William into the story as a pawn. The role of McIver's daughter Ruth, who begins as an outsider, and rival to William for Kuran, and ends up in an altogether different role, is almost a story in itself, and one which McGahan handles with a similar delicacy to the rest of the story.
This is a passionate, powerful and beautifully written story which contains all of the elements of good fiction, and is the culmination of a skill which has been growing with each of McGahan's exceptional novels. In The White Earth McGahan's prose maintains that difficult balance between lush, evocative description, a psychologically wrought narrative, and a strong plotline which encompasses a strong politic, and concrete sense of time and place. There is a tremendous amount of symbolism, from the use of the word "white" in the title, the previous owners of Kuran, the white bones of the aboriginals beneath the earth, the white sheets burning on the cross, to the use of fire--the fire which consumed Williams' father and farm, the fire which William keeps seeing in different guises, or the fire which McIvor fears. This is a novel rich in visual imagery, symbolism, emotional power, and a forward motion that continues beyond the book's confines. It conjures a history which is every bit as compelling as its characterisations, and a sense of immediacy which draws the reader directly into its poetically rich and taut prose:
He made it as far as the empty pool. Beyond it, he could see that the whole hillside was lit by the blaze behind him, the trees lurid against the greater darkness of night, sentinels of the station bearing mute witness to the fall. He was incapable of any tears of his own, but the scene before him was misty, blurred by mournful sheets of rain. Far out upon the plains there were lights moving, a file of them with revolving points of blue and red, distant rescuers racing along the Powell road. The pool waited like a grave to receive him, and his ears pulsated as if the fire was inside his head.(369)
The White Earth is a wonderful thought provoking and haunting novel which stays with the reader long after the book is complete. The great plethora of prizes it has won, from the "The Age" and "The Courier-Mail" Book of the Year Awards for 2004, the Best Book for South East Asia and South Pacific Region of the Commonwealth Writers' prize in the same year, and the 2005 Miles Franklin Award are no surprise.
Girlosophy - Real Girls Eat
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 1741141427, $19.95 US, $31.81 AU, 200 pp.
The first and most striking quality of Real Girls Eat is its glossy, high octane cover. Can't judge a book by its cover? In this instance you can. This is a book designed to appeal to that most style oriented and glamour jaded age group - the mature teen or young adult. Anthea Paul's girlosophy theory is as stylistically appealing as it content rich. The young will instantly be drawn to its bright colours of chartreuse, tangerine and hot pink, and will instantly warm to the clever use of layout and typefaces, and that's before getting into its personal and intimate approach which will inspire trust in teen girls.
The book's content is all about empowerment through food knowledge: respecting your body through choosing to cook, understand nutrition, and choosing to eat and exercise in a way that will give you the energy to do whatever you want. Paul is critical of the media and magazines that perpetrate images of overly thin and unrealistically airbrushed models, and in particular, of unhealthy diets. Instead she presents very practical information about the five food groups, the importance of keeping blood sugar levels high, reading labels, being mindful of food safety, especially when travelling, choosing healthier take out and restaurant food, vegetarianism, and eating mindfully.
The heart of the book is the cookbook, which contains two sections. In the first, Anthea uses thirteen young women from Hawaii, Spain and Australia to present their own favourite recipes for simple foods like asian burritos, lasagne, coconut pancakes. The second section comes from Anthea's sister, celebrity chef to the stars Kate Paul, and is set out in time of day segments. 6-9am includes juices, smoothies, a high energy porridge, a muesli, and a fruit salads with a home made basil and lime syrup. 9-11 includes cooked breakfasts like a fried egg sandwich (what my dad calls an "Egyptian eye"), French toast, and bruchetta. 12-3 is lunchtime, with hearty salads, sandwiches, maki rolls, soups and tacos. 3-6 is for late lunch or early dinner, and has starters like spiced chickpeas and hummus, quesadillas, and sweet afternoon tea treats like cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies. 6-9pm has heavier dinner faire like soups, pasta, risotto, stir fry, curries, roasts, chicken dishes, side dishes like roast potatoes, tomatoes or vegetable crisp. The book finishes at 9-11 with some delicious and easy desserts. The emphasis throughout the cookbooks section is on flexibility, with recipes containing tips for leftovers, serving, and variations.
There are also tips for stocking the cupboard, and further reading. This is the perfect book for a teenager or young adult about to move out, or to inspire a younger teen to treat her body with more care. The advice is all practical and above all, empowering, using Anthea Paul's considerable design and fashion skills to influence teens to take control of their own health, and resist the overt and unhealthy pressure of media advertising and fast food magnates. It's a timely and important message delivered in a fun, funky, and non-didactic way. For more information on the Girlosophy series, visit: www.girlosophy.com
Magdalena Ball, Reviewer
Come, Joy! Songs from the Soft of the Night
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
ISBN: 1413778038, $19.95, 139 pages
In "Come, Joy! Songs from the Soft of the Night" Bridgette Alyce bears her soul in poetic serenades of love, loved ones, nature, and spirit.
The rhythm of the prose and the balance of emotion makes Alyce a true psalmist. The poems are honest and meaningful. "Come, Joy!" is book of inspiration worthy to be on the bookshelves of everyone breathing. She shows that dark times don't have to be filled with fear and turmoil. When the world sleeps through the night you can find solace in the softness of the voice that speaks from within.
Where is the Love?
Forest Wade Press
PO Box 33731, North Royalton, OH 44133
ISBN: 0977107108, $19.99, 269 pages
In his sophomore novel, "Where is the Love?", Emanuel Carpenter explores the lack of emotional togetherness as an all but nameless, soon-to-be "two time loser" ponders over his past, "doggish" ways.
The main character is a successful salesman who turned the "art of sales" and his research on women to a foolproof method of getting with almost every woman he pursues. His inability to keep his zipper up before his first marriage and revealing too much of his past to his second wife has him reliving time when he was in control.
From store clerks to international bombshells this man bedded down women in the states and abroad. He safely explores countless one-night stands to boost his overgrown ego and attempts to fulfill his insatiable desire for sex. This player seemed to be searching for a stable relationship but was too emotionally unattached and selfish to take things beyond the sack.
Told from this player's perspective, "Where is the Love?" is a candid account of how men view love, sex, and women in a fictionalized tale. Emanuel Carpenter has written a book that will undoubtedly be a handbook for women on the lookout for dogs.
For all the "playas": find a new game because we have the cheat sheet.
Makasha Dorsey, Reviewer
House For A Mouse
Jean-Come Nogues & Anne Velghe
North-South Books Inc.
Media Masters (publicity)
875 Avenue of the Americas, Rm. 1901, New York, NY 10001-3507
0735820171 $15.95 www.northsouth.com
When it is time for Little Mouse to go out in the world and find a home of her own, mother gives her a piece of wheat for breakfast, a big kiss, wishes her good luck, and then waves her on her way. As Little Mouse walks along, she asks the flowers if they know of an empty house, but they pay no attention to her. Then she asks the snail and the rabbits, but they are no help either. About to give up, Little Mouse comes across a real house, but one that may hold many dangers including a cat, traps filled with delicious cheese, and a mouse-eating owl in the attic! Little Mouse decides to risk them all with courage and the application of her own quick wits. In the end, she wins herself the perfect house for a mouse! Anne Velghe's delightful artwork is a perfect enhancements for Jean-Come Nogues' engaging and entertaining picturebook story for children ages 3 to 7. House For A Mouse is an enthusiastically recommended addition to any and all picturebook collections for preschoolers through first graders.
Roaring Brook Press
Media Masters (publicity)
143 West Street, New Millford, CT 06776
1596430648 $16.95 1-800-462-4703
Even though young Jack's life is just about perfect, he still feels that somehow something is missing -- maybe someone to play with? Then his new baby sister arrives much to his delight. But then his baby sister starts turning Jack's world upside down with a mischievousness that his parents appear to be totally oblivious too! It seems that having a baby sister is a lot more work than Jack had ever expected. Young readers ages 3 to 7 will thoroughly enjoy Ross MacDonald's simple and engaging story so wonderfully enhanced by his colorful artwork. Bad Baby would make a very welcome and popular addition to family, school, and community library picturebook collections for young readers.
PO Box 70, Iron Ridge, WI 53035
1589250508 $15.95 www.tigertalesbooks.com
Charmingly written and colorfully illustrated by Ruth Alloway, Clumsy Crab is the picturebook tale of Nipper, a loveable crab with huge, clumsy claws. No matter what games Nipper plays with his friends, those claws always get in the way! So the friends decide to play hide-and-seek (which is something they can all do together) but Nipper's claws ruin his hiding place! So instead, Nipper looks for his friends while they hid. He finds Turtle and Jellyfish, but there's no sign of Octopus until Nipper sees that Octopus is tangled tight in the weeds. Now it's up to Nipper and his clumsy claws to rescue his friend! Clumsy Crab is a delightfully illustrated story which is ideal for children ages 3 to 7 and would make a popular addition to any family, preschool, elementary school, or community library collection.
With Black and White Comes the Grey: The Battle of Armageddon Book I
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper WY, 82605-1052
ISBN: 1593745222, $12.95, 263 pages
To pen a story where good and evil struggle to coincide with one another, where love and hate strive for balance, where a reader is infused with bountiful plots that will be remembered long after the book is closed, to weave all of that together is a tremendous feat. Upcoming author Giovanna Lagana effortlessly delivers by combining all these forces into one book, With Black and White Comes the Grey.
The characters are given strength, intelligence, and charisma that shine as they each battle their own personal demons, as well as the ones looming within reach: a son and his cursed nightmarish visions, a mother lost in the shadows of grief over her dead husband and missing son, a man with his heart in the right place, and an abhorrent monster that will ensnare them all one way or another if a hero isn't sought. With the fate of mankind resting on everyone's shoulder, the impending horror truly begins.
This story is character and plot driven with plenty of atmosphere and dark tones to aid in those chills as they run down your spine. Enmeshed with the pulse-racing action is also moments of subtle romance, not too much to steer away your attention, but enough to warrant a few tender scenes.
Part romance, part suspense, With Black and White Comes the Grey gives a fresh facelift to the tired formula of horror. Each page unfolds another element the characters must face as they slip into a hauntingly beautiful supernatural chaos. The most unrelenting part of it all is that you have to wait for the sequel. You can rest assured; I'll be picking up a copy and delving back into the creative mind of author Giovanna Lagana. Think you can handle her darkness?
Existential Meditation: on the Questions of Beginning, the Meaning of Existence, and the Consequences of the End
3131 RDU Center Dr. Suite 210 Morrisville, NC 27517
ISBN: 1411665309, $10.99, 103 pages
Existential Meditation 'On the questions of Beginning, the Meaning of Existence, and the Consequences of the End' has a basic underlying message: Get back to the simplicity of life. The words themselves sound simple enough, but if you look around, human beings tend to take the simplest of things and create havoc. Simon Cleveland has penned what could be considered a highly controversial subject and approached it without sounding accusatory, vain, egotistical, or self-righteous. There are no preachy sermons or in-your-face nagging. In fact, through quality research, quotes, theories, and opinions, the author presents to you a book poised with thought-provoking ideas that make an enormous amount of sense. It, of course, depends on how you choose to view his ideals and how they mesh with what has been ingrained inside you since the day you were born. It is thinking outside of the box, but at the same time taking into consideration what is inside the box rather than ignoring it completely.
The book consists of three main parts: Why is there a beginning? What is the meaning of existence? and Consequences of the end. They in turn have sub-parts that delve deeper into fact, fiction, truths and myths. It is through these sub-parts where the author really shines with findings to support this book.
Simon Cleveland asks us to take the time to answer the questions we are faced with everyday. Questions of who we are, why we react the way we do, why we internalize everything and analyze things to death. Why we do not take things at face value but spend an incredible amount of time reflecting on - rather than living - our lives. Always looking for a message, or even looking to an outside force that may never answer those "all important" questions. Why we do not trust our own instincts and question what we know to be right?
Anyone can read a phrase and interpret it a thousand different ways. You might take something from this book that differs from what I took. If you allow yourself the time to read Existential Meditation 'On the questions of Beginning, the Meaning of Existence, and the Consequences of the End' without reacting defensively, you'll find a wealth of interesting facets about the way we behave. If you really take the time to consider the author's words, rather than argue for argument's sake, I feel you will walk away with knowledge and insight. What I have gathered is that humans are not the complex creatures we make ourselves out to be, but we certainly know how to complicate things. I encourage you to explore these motivational pages and take away from it what you will, and appreciate it for the clarity it can bring if you let it.
A Man of Two Worlds
Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc
ISBN: 1411642090, $17.00, 413 pages
If you've read the highly acclaimed novel The Two, you already know the stunning talent behind Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc and her ability to interlace hauntingly beautiful stories with depth and surreal ambience. A Man of Two Worlds wholly emphasizes this author's ability to spin a dark Gothic tale with the breed of delicious characters you only dream about.
Instantly the reader is drawn into the unique plot and sub-plots, the exciting characters, and the eerie atmosphere. Robyne Van Landingham is a movie studio owner, enjoying a few perks here and there as his notoriety takes center stage. However, a dark and brooding spirit haunts the set, creating problems and wrecking havoc. Devon Wellington, Robyne's long time friend, owns a well-known Goth club and hangs with some unusual people including vampires, zombies, and shapeshifters. At Devon's request, they help out at the studio. While Robyne appreciates the assistance of the entourage, he isn't sure he who he can and cannot trust.
After Devon shares a gruesome secret that could threaten their close friendship, Robyne realizes his love is true, and nothing can sever their extraordinary bond. The love story that develops between Robyne and Devon turns the heat level up a few notches. Even though the subject matter does get explicit, it never takes away from the sentimental and stirring emotions they have for one another.
Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc writes with a hard-driving, passionate style. She knows what her readers want and unselfishly delivers. Each of the many eccentric characters are fleshed out fully, including their back-stories, current lives, and for some, even their bizarre and untimely deaths. There are no curious and misleading events where you stare at the pages wondering if the author even knows their own story. The bittersweet ending is complete with a twist and, yes, even a few tears.
A Man of Two Worlds is a captivating book packed with suspense, horror, exquisite grandeur, and a touch of the unimaginable. It's easy to see why Ms. Scoyoc has earned the title Mistress of the Macabre. I eagerly look forward to reading her next novel Michael, debuting in 2006.
The Book of a Thousand Sins
Wrath James White
Two Backed Books
5103 72nd Place Landover Hills, MD 20784
ISBN: 1933293136, $14.95, 189 pages
Feeling a little bit dirty? The Book of a Thousand Sins will help slough away years of your life, and hours from your sleep. From morbidly erotic to disturbing and back again, Wrath James White makes good on a collection of fifteen stories to keep you dangerously aroused. I admit a few had me crinkling my nose and, okay one had me running for a cold shower, though more in a panic, but as a whole this is a gut-wrenching batch of erotic horror themed nightmares that you can't help but shiver under the sheets with. If you read one after another, you could have some sort of episode, so I'd recommend savoring each one at different times. I've picked out some favorites, though they're all worth consuming.
"More Maggots" was the nose crinkler with its talk of missing flesh, gaping holes, and nasty little maggots making their way in places that maggots should never venture. All I could think about was warped witch doctor playing a twisted game of Operation, and trying to keep down the sandwich I mistakenly ate previously. Like the maggots, it made me squirm.
"Don't Scream" is about a comely young woman who rises from the dead as a sex fiend with her own version of pleasure and pain, or is that heaven and hell, with the man who killed her. I had to question my own mind after reading this one because it was terrifyingly titillating and I'm not sure that sits right with me. Either way it's one of my absolute favorites.
Darrel is a teacher of pain in "The Sooner They Learn" and somehow I knew right then the story was going to be freaky. It seems Darrel is a child's worst nightmare, spreading his own words of gospel with a Barbie doll and pacifier necklace hanging around his neck. He teaches moral lessons through bouts of physical misery, but all in the name of helping people, of course. Original and unique, this is intelligent and gripping.
While a longer story, "The Book of a Thousand Sins" moves along at an addictive but easy-going-down pace with words that are prosaic and mental. Due to the hauntingly beautiful images and vivid descriptions I had to give this a hallucinatory four thumbs way up. It ties as one of my favorites and unfortunately for me is one of the most memorable.
"The Myth of Sisyphus" tells the tale of Todd who is stuck in a pipe hearing demon-like voices echoing all around him. Being claustrophobic I detest stories about someone trapped in a small place, even for a minute, so it bothered me to a certain degree, and then the rest of the story bothered me further. Plus you just don't come up with titles that cool.
"Awake" has all the makings of a Hannibal Lector-type, playing with the mind of a reporter. Tables turn quickly when the reporter finds himself inside the cell, bound and naked. Basically two words sum up this gem: Psychologically disturbing. Each sentence was full of impact with a powerful message at the end.
Bow down before Wrath James White and his fine wicked mind. I'd read anything he wrote…and then shake my head at how smooth the stories flow while gagging on the raw, explicit details he conjures up. The Book of a Thousand Sins will have you praying for an end to the madness and begging to read more. Published by Two-Backed Books, you know it's going to be good. Buy it, own it, and tell all your friends to do the same.
Life Among the Dream Merchants and Other Phantasies
12 Charles Hawkins Bay Winnipeg, Manitoba R2G 3K4 Canada
ISBN: 1897217080, $8.99, 77 pages
Life Among the Dream Merchants and Other Phantasies brings thirty-one offerings of ethereal prose by multi-talented author and poet Kurt Newton. With the author's ease of Poe and Lovecraftian style writing, the reader has only to open the first page to be instantly transported into an artistic and innovative dream world. The haunting lullaby-like poems delve into the surreal and eclectic state of mind where each string of words has a multitude of depth and emotion.
Most memorable include The Vision Pit, I Write the Dream of Failure, The Waiting Room, This House Possessed, In Mirrors Deep, The Crows of Las Cruces, Tendrils, and Seep, though to be honest each and every single one possesses charm and lush beauty. From fantasy induced, to hallucinatory, to mildly psychotic, the blend will affect you, haunt you, and give you a moment of escape.
Mr. Newton is a truly gifted poet and delivers to readers one euphoric line after another. Life Among the Dream Merchants and Other Phantasies will resurrect your love for poetry and take you back to the days of old. It is not often I come upon a book of prose so artistic and well crafted. I highly recommend this soul-stirring collection, and while you're at it, be sure to buy the author's other creative treasure troves including perVERSEities I, perVERSEities II, and Psychoses. Enjoy the mind-altering illusions that await you from each page.
Nancy Jackson, Reviewer
Strategic Organizational Learning
PO Box 38353, Greensboro, NC 27438
ISBN: 0972606416, $39.95, 195 pages
Comprehensive, Academic, Confusing
If you're really into organizational learning, defined as the growth of an individual to the benefit of the organization, you'll love this book. It's chock-full of discussions of a wide variety of aspects of the field. If Beitler missed anything in his broad survey of the field, I don't know what it might be. The reader is taken on a virtual encyclopedic tour of the topic.
The book reads like an academic treatise. The pages are filled with annotations and references so the reader can find additional references for further learning…or at least know the author's sources. For the specialist in the field who wants all that, it's there. I found the heavy use of references and abbreviations to be distracting, taking away from the flow of my reading. That's why I use the word "confusing" in my title for this review.
Perhaps the best use of this publication is as a text and reference book. The student entering the field - through a university setting or coming from a specialty area in the corporate environment - will gain a thorough understanding of the what and the how of organizational learning. The doors to further learning will be opened, with abundant connection to opportunities to gain depth in any of the topic areas.
General readers of business books seeking to expand their knowledge and acquire new ideas probably won't be happy with this book. It's designed more for people who are already in the field and want to become more conversant, as well as for those who seek to be practitioners but need to enrich their understanding of how organizational learning supports corporate strategy.
On Cloud Nine
Robert W. Wendover and Terrence L. Gargiulo
ISBN: 0814408788, $19.95, 143 pages
Didn't do it for me
Here's another attempt by authors to create a fictional tale or a fable to teach lessons in a story. It seems that people who could normally write a very good business book feel this compulsion to create their one One Minute Manager, The Goal, or Who Moved My Cheese. On Cloud Nine struggles to present generational conflict through a contrived tale of a young employee of the Weather Customer Satisfaction Bureau.
I was OK - not excited, but OK - with the story until this fellow convened an emergency meeting of clouds at the top of Mt. Everest. The prose was a bit out on the edge. Breakout sessions of clouds with the central character getting advice from Mt. Everest talking with him? Just a bit much. My personal feeling was that the story was like something out of a book that might be rejected for reading by elementary school kids.
All said, there were a few good points in the story. However, the pages that follow the story provide some of the needed solid content of this little book. Several chapters of explanation and questions for the reader providing redeeming value, though the content level is still light. The tighter text for the business what-does-all-this-mean portion of the book is much different than the light, open, illustrated first 2/3 of the pages. One gets the feeling that the fun's over and now it's time to get to work. The content will be helpful for many readers, but as someone familiar with the field I felt it was insufficient.
As I finished the book, I felt that two components are missing. One is a cogent summary of the topic at the end of the book. It's not there. The book finishes with Frequently Asked Questions and abruptly stops. There's a good index, but no bibliography. With all the books referenced in the text, it was surprising to not find a list somewhere.
All in all, a contrived tale, some worthwhile content crammed into a few chapters at the end of the book, and an index. I felt disappointed. I wanted something different and didn't get it.
The Trainer's Tool Kit
Cy Charney and Kathy Conway
ISBN: 0814472680, $18.95, 230 pages
Loaded, Easy to Use. Invaluable
As an avid reader and prolific book reviewer, I go through a lot of books. Believe me, I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some are worth the price; others are way over-priced. The big question is whether a book is worth taking the time to read, with all the activities that compete for each precious minute of our lives. Before I'd read 20 pages, I knew this book was well worth both time and money.
As a Certified Management Consultant advising corporate leaders about workforce and workplace issues, I'm keenly aware of the need for training…done in a way that raises skill levels consistent with strategic direction in a sustainable way. The authors nailed it in this book. They've covered the too-big-to-get-your-arms-around topic comprehensively, in a highly-readable style. The book is well-designed to be read, used, and referred to over time.
Early on, a comparison between the learner of the past and the learner of today captured my attention. Just a little thought over those pages creates a hunger in the reader for more. And more is served. Chapter 2 gets right into aligning training with corporate objectives. While savvy readers will reward this with a "duh," a large proportion of today's trainers tend to forget this vital concept. But, then the beat goes on. Concepts, techniques, perspectives, and more are delivered in page after page.
The content of this book is presented in short essays within the chapters. Bullet points, checklists, and other designs are used to help the knowledge pop off the pages. Each topic is presented quickly and efficiently. Given the comprehensive nature of the book, covering training from the strategic to the implementation levels, the reader will gain far more than expected.
This one's a keeper!
Roger E. Herman, Reviewer
Charles Rumford Walker
University of Minnesota Press
111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520
0816646074 $18.95 www.upress.umn.edu
Featuring a foreword by Assistant Professor of History Mary Lethert Wingerd, American City is the captivating true story of a battle that would greatly alter the balance of power between unions and big business. In the spring of 1934, union organizers arranged for Minneapolis truckers to go on a series of strikes and protest scab workers. Violent opposition to the strike culminated in slaughter when police fired on unarmed strikers, killing four and injuring countless others, in an event that would come to be know as Bloody Friday. First published in 1937, journalist Charles Walker's account of the clash remains a classic, fact-filled examination of a pivotal moment in labor history. Highly recommended.
Home Buying by the Experts
Brian Yui and Lori Shaw-Cohen
Seven Locks Press
3100 West Warner Avenue, Suite 8, Santa Ana, CA 92704
0976152606 $14.95 1-800-354-5348 www.sevenlockspublishing.com
Free-lance journalist Lori Shaw-Cohen and founder of HouseRebate.com Brian Yui combine their talents with the expertise of eight real estate business professionals in Home Buying by the Experts: The Pros Make Your Dream Home a Reality, a practical guide to buying, financing, bidding for, closing, moving into, and handling taxes for one's home. Perhaps the best feature of Home Buying by the Experts is that it translates the HUD-1 Settlement Statement line-by-line into vernacular English, and makes every effort to explain other real estate complexities in direct, accessible terms for lay readers. A practical-minded guide, Home Buying by the Experts is an absolute "must- have" for anyone interested in owning their own home at a reasonable price.
Dollars & Sense
Fleming H. Revell
c/o Baker Book House
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
0800730615 $12.99 www.revellbooks.com
Written by a mother of three with a degree in economics and an MBA with a concentration in finance, Dollars & Sense: A Mom's Guide to Money Matters is a straightforward guide written especially for fellow mothers, packed cover to cover with practical advice for protecting against identity theft, understanding the basics of credit, controlling debt, managing money by, for, and of kids, and much more. Written in plain terms, Dollars & Sense emphasizes finding successful financial techniques for oneself and one's family, and warns against common frauds in an increasingly connected and technology-savvy world. An excellent one-stop resource for basic money matters information.
Character Studies: Encounters with the Curiously Obsessed
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN: 0618197257, $26.00, 256 pages
Here's nine well-written stories of interesting people with intense interests. Some are famous, others are not. Among both types to appear are conjurer Ricky Jay, Realtor Donald Trump, aficionados of cowboy/movie star Tom Mix and moviemaker Martin Scorsese. The author wrote all the pieces orginally for The New Yorker magazine.
Perhaps the most entertaining story in this slim volume is that of the Chino clan, a large Japanese/American family; their fruit and vegetable farm; and their famous retail outlet, a roadside stand called the Vegetable Shop, located near Del Mar, California. They supply well-known, exclusive, and expensive restaurants and the rich and famous with costly, but superb and rare produce.
Singer writes about that product, "A weekly shipment also goes from Del Mar to West Hollywood--to Spago, the flagship of Wolfgang Puck's cooking empire. A Spago dish called the Chino Ranch Chopped Salad--a melange of corn kernels, diced artichokes, carrots, green beans, red onions, tomatoes, avocados, and radicchio, all dressed with a sherry-wine vinaigrette and presented on a bed of mixed lettuce--is one of the most popular items on the menu. [....]"
A writer for The New Yorker for over three decades, Mark Singer makes his home in New York City. His previous books include Funny Money and Somewhere in America. Recommended.
Outsourcing America: What's Behind Our National Crisis and How We Can Reclaim American Jobs
Ron Hira & Anil Hira
ISBN: 0814408680, $22.00, 236 pages
"Americans," writes Lou Dobbs, the cable TV newsman, in the introduction, "at the beginning of this millennium are concerned not only about our security from terrorism but also about our economic future. This insecurity hits right at the heart of the American Dream, the idea that people who work hard will improve their lots and the lots of their children. This concept, which makes America unique, is being shattered by the outsourcing of American jobs to cheap foreign markets, which is nothing less than a direct assault on hardworking middle-class men and women in this country."
This easy-to-read, well-laid-out book, as this reviewer has found the publisher's products typically to be, has a 'conclusion' section for virtually each chapter. So the volume can be poured over in its entirety, scanned for a particular pertinent chapter, or merely peeked at in its conclusions. The major findings a reader of this volume will discover, if he or she isn't already aware of them, are that outsourcing is a fact of life in business today. And it's rapidly growing. Moreover, it's happening not just in blue-collar occupations but in white collar and in the professional ranks also. So, this country's government and business leaders had better learn to cope with the situation or real serious consequences could follow for the United States.
Companies are outsourcing for many reasons, not the least of which are cost savings, the U.S. government gives tax incentives to such companies and doesn't penalize firms for outsourcing, new immigration policies have been tightened up so that trained foreigners are staying home, both for their education and work, leaving more talent there.
The authors offer 10 policy recommendations to deal with the problem of outsourcing: 1. Acknowledge that a Problem Exists, 2. Gather the Right Data to Study the Problem, 3. Reform U.S Visa Policies that Encourage Offshore Outsourcing, 4. Adopt More Pragmatic Approaches to Government Procurement, 5. Overhaul Assistance Programs for Displaced Workers, 6. Establish Better Protections for Workers, 7. Train the Next Generation of Workers to Have Lifelong Marketable Skills, 8. New Institutions are Needed to Represent the Interest of Workers, 9. Maintain Our Technological Leadership, and 10. Institute Trade Policies in the U.S. National Interest.
The authors, Ron and Anil Hira are brothers. Each has a Ph. D. Ron is an outsourcing expert and teaches public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Anil is a specialist in international economic policy and trade issues. He teaches political science and Latin American studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. Recommended.
Larry R. Frank Sr., MBA, CFP
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
ISBN: 0595337201, $16.95, 168 pages
Like most people, you probably already know that you should be concerned about your financial future. You likely realize that your company pension isn't going to allow you to live a comfortable life. Possibly, you've tucked away a little money in RRSPs, mutuals, or bonds. Maybe, most of your current paycheck is being spent long before it gets to the savings account.
Wealth Odyssey is meant to guide the reader towards reasonable, realistic financial goals based upon his or her current income. I like that the author does not give a blanket amount for retirement based upon some sort of perceived norm. Instead, this book guides the reader in examining and calculating his or her own needs so that he or she can create a financial plan. Moreover, the author does so in a way that is easy to understand and more importantly in a way that is practical and easy to put into daily practice.
The People of the Sea
1094 New Dehaven St, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
ISBN: 0741427303, $16.95, 273 pages
Prophecy states that someday the People will once again live on dry land. Forced onto the sea generations ago by savage enemies, the People have built floating island homes that resemble their homeland in every way from the grass and trees that stood on the land to the houses and businesses that once flourished there. Despite their success, the People have always believed the prophecy to be true and deeply hoped that one day they would make their homes on land once again.
Though the prophecy does give hope that this event might some day come to pass, it also hints that a great battle must be fought. The end result of which lies in the hands of Ursa, a young Sha-woman just coming into her powers, and her best friend Tumarak, a young man trying to live up to the image of his famous father.
The People of the Sea is fantasy filled with lots of imaginative human-like species, magic, and adventurous battles. I particularly liked how destiny keeps leading these individuals along, bringing them together, and separating them at just the most opportune/inopportune times to raise the level of action.
Ten Years Running
3131 RDU Center, Suite 210, Morrisville, NC 27560
ISBN: 141166132X, $9.95, 108 pages
Ten Years Running is a compilation of poems by the author. These works have a variety of contemporary subjects fitting into the general themes of love and pain. Despite these aspects, I didn't feel that the pieces were whiny or dark. Instead these works were filled with triumph, shared experience, and the power of a person willing to explore her pain without blame. In fact, when reading these poems, I had a sense that the author wrote to understand herself and her experiences.
With 93 well written poems, Ten Years Running has too many pieces to describe all of my favourite pieces. I tended to like the works in which the author reflects on the past and time itself such as in Memories and Time. However, I also was attracted to poems like Little Things, I Am, and Breakdown where that strength and understanding of self seems to burst through the author's personal pain. I also enjoyed If which reminds the reader if you don't like something do something else you do like. I think sometimes we all get so caught up in our pain and suffering that we don't even bother to try to move on.
Heavy Metal and You
Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
ISBN: 043973648X, $16.95, 186 pages
This book was very good! There were times when I laughed out loud and there were times when I really felt I could hear the music Krovatin's protagonist, Sammy, described. The writer, Krovatin, has mastered dialogue. The whole book flowed well through Sammy's point of view. This book is definitely literature and it is raw, honest with the language and thoughts of teenagers. Krovatin's protagonist was not a character I normally thought I could relate to, but I found myself really caring about him before I was very far into the book. And after I had finished the book I thought he had become someone I would recognize on the street if he was a real person. I read this book several weeks ago and the protagonist and story I still think about. I would say this book is for kids fifteen through early twenties because of the issues in the book. I was entertained and learned a lot about heavy metal. I also learned the difference between goth and a heavy metal fan. I believe this is Krovatin's first book. I look forward to what he gets published next. Rock on Krovatin! You definitely have talent!
Walker Publishing Company
Walker and Company
435 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
ISBN: 0802775357, $8.95, 48 pages
I chose this book because I wanted to know more about sled dog racing. Wood does a wonderful job with photographs and text to tell the story of Dusty, a high schooler, and his sled dogs getting ready to race in the Jr. Iditarod in Alaska. This book is great for 8-12 year olds but adults will like it too.
A.D. Tarbox, Reviewer
Behold the King
Stanley D. Toussaint, Th.D.
PO Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
0825438454 $19.99 1-800-733-2607 www.kregelpublications.com
Stanley D. Toussaint, a pastor of more than twenty years and a senior professor emeritus of Bible exposition, presents Behold the King: A Study of Matthew, a scrutiny of the gospel of Matthew that traces Matthew's thoughts about the foundation of Christianity. Though Behold the King draws historical and grammatical hermeneutic directly from the Greek text, fluency in Greek is not required for students and theologians to understand Toussaint's comments, ponderings, and interpretations. A close study of Matthew's words, God's eternal kingdom, and Jesus' role as King of Jews and Christians, Behold the King is study steeped in both scholarship and faith.
Our Help in Ages Past
Bobby Joe Saucer with Jean Alicia Elster
PO Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851
0817014837 $14.00 1-800-458-3766 www.judsonpress.com
Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of the American Baptist Churches member Bobby Joe Saucer and award- winning author Jean Alicia Elster combine their wisdom and talent in Our Help in Ages Past: The Black Church's Ministry among the Elderly, a call to black churches to respond to the needs of the elder generation whose sacrifices helped create the foundation of religious communities. Our Help in Ages Past recommends such long-term projects to benefit the elderly as establishing adult day-care centers, building low-cost housing, and developing a financial services center. A positive-minded approach how black churches can dramatically transform themselves, to the betterment of their faithful and to society at large.
Fulfilled in Our Hearing
Guerric DeBona, OSB
997 MacArthur Boulevard, Mahwah, NJ 07430
0809143593 $19.95 1-800-218-1903 www.paulistpress.com
Associate professor of homiletics Father Guerric DeBona, OSB presents Fulfilled in Our Hearing: History and Method of Christian Preaching questions what today's preacher can learn from past practice, and what needs to be adapted so that a preacher can become an authentic, prophetic voice. Though written from a Catholic perspective, Fulfilled in Our Hearing offers a broad overview of Christian preaching and touches on subjects vital to all branches of the Christian faith. Chapters focus on liturgical preaching, multicultural preaching, contemporary preaching, changes in preaching in accordance with societal and informational revolutions, and much more. A valuable, forward-thinking resource especially for any Christian leader or preacher.
The Vision of Catholic Youth Ministry
Robert J. MCarty, DMin, general editor
Saint Mary's Press
c/o Christian Brothers Publications
702 Terrace Heights, Winona, MN 55987-1318
0884898369 $32.95 www.smp.org
The first academic textbook on Catholic youth ministry, The Vision of Catholic Youth Ministry: Fundamentals, Theory, and Practice draws upon both research and real-life application with intent to prepare undergraduate and graduate students to become youth ministry leaders with a solid grounding in theology. General editor Robert J. McCarty, DMin, who has extensive experience in professional youth ministry and in teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, has collected and prepared a wide variety of insightful essays, including "The State of Catholic Adolescents", "Youth Ministry: The Multicultural Dimension", "Catholic Youth Ministry in a School Setting", and much more. A no-nonsense guide to connecting with young people in ways that share faith and help them along the journey to responsible adulthood.
John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
0801031303 $14.99 www.bakerbooks.com
The latest volume in the Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology series, Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender is a thoughtful examination of evangelical Christian perspectives on gender. With an evenhanded eye for detail, theology professor John Stackhouse, Jr. reveals why "both sides are right" - the Bible is both feminist and patriarchal. Extensively researched, Finally Feminist seeks to outline both the egalitarian and complementarian elements of biblical text in its search for a balanced and accurate paradigm to better understand what the Bible has to say about women. A scholarly and serious-minded evaluation of scriptural text.
Gladly Learn, Gladly Teach
John Marson Dunaway, editor
Mercer University Press
1400 Coleman Avenue, Macon, GA 31207-0001
0865549656 $25.00 1-800-634-2378 www.mupress.org
Gladly Learn, Gladly Teach: Living Out One's Calling in the Twenty-First Century Academy is an anthology of essays by learned authors, all of whom are both teachers (or scholars) and Christians, and who seek to balance their belief with the demands of their profession. Each searches for a clear theological vision upon which to base institutional and pedagogical planning, yet each understands and emphasizes the critical importance of diversity, pluralism, and true academic freedom. Though the essays particularly refer to a Baptist institution of higher learning, their broad principles connect with all branches of Christianity in the ever-confusing struggle to reconcile conflicts of faith and science. Individual essays include "What Makes Church-Related Education Christian?", "Pluralism at a Baptist University", and "Integrating Heart, Mind, and Soul: The Vocation of the Christian Teacher". A serious- minded and thoughtful collection.
Paul of Tarsus
997 MacArthur Boulevard, Mahwah, NJ 07430
1587680327 $24.00 1-800-218-1903 www.paulistpress.com
Award-winning UK broadcast journalist Edward Stourton presents Paul of Tarsus: A Visionary Life, a heavily researched, in-depth, yet eminently readable biography of one of Christianity's most influential figures. Following in the footsteps of St. Paul from his murky depiction in the New Testament to a fleshed-out personality, Paul of Tarsus reasoning, theology, and narrative skills into a fascinating and dramatic examination. A thought-provoking experience for lay readers and experienced theologians alike.
The Twelve Universal Laws of Success
LifeSkill Institute, Inc.
PO Box 302, Wilmington, NC 28401
0974836214 $14.95 1-800-570-4009 www.lifeskillinstitute.org
Now in an expanded second edition, The Twelve Universal Laws of Success is a self-help guide especially for Christians, offering guidelines to improving one's attitude and behavior to facilitate greater physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual success in life. The twelve laws of Thought, Change, Vision, Command, Magnetism, Focus, Action, Value, Relationships, Suppy, Persistence and Truth are discussed at length, with step-by-step formulas for dealing with common internal stumbling blocks and study questions for further thought and contemplation. The Twelve Universal Laws of Success refers to scripture at times, yet the bulk of its advice is drawn directly from psychology, moral ethics, and just plain common sense. An extremely valuable guide for all walks of life.
The Book Of Survival
5-22 46th Avenue, Suite 200, Long Island City, NY 11101
157826149X $15.95 1-800-528-2550 www.hatherleighpress.com
Tony Greenbank is a mountaineer who has climbed many of the world's tallest peaks, fought forest fires, lived through harrowing motorcycle crashes, and taught survival skills at Outward Bound schools in Great Britain and the United States. Now in a revised and expanded third edition, Tony Greenbank's The Book Of Survival continues to be an invaluable, "user friendly", core instructional reference for staying alive in cities, suburbs, and wilderness. This newest edition is enhanced with the inclusion of information on preparing for biological and chemical warfare, what to do in the event of an airplane hijacking, electrical blackouts, child abduction, and escaping from high-rise buildings in an emergency. Whether called upon to deal with a natural calamity or a man-made disaster, The Book Of Survival is a manual informing the reader of what to do, what the options are, avoiding the avoidable and surviving what cannot be sidestepped. It should be particularly noted that The Book Of Survival takes for granted that the reader may be overweight, out of shape, even pregnant. This is the definitive and strongly recommended textbook on survival written specifically for non-specialist general readers seeking to handle any manner of emergency where ever they may be.
Robert Ball And The Politics Of Social Security
Edward D. Berkowitz
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
0299189548 $26.95 1-800-621-2736 www.wisc.edu/wisconsinpress
From his work as a field representative in 1939, to his appointment as Commissioner of Social Security by President John Kennedy in 1962, through his influential role as advisor to later presidential administrations, no one exerted more influence over the creation and evolution of Social Security and Medicare than Robert Ball. Indeed, it was Robert Ball who in 1947 wrote what became the key statement defining why social insurance, not welfare, should be America's primary income maintenance program. Robert Ball And The Politics Of Social Security by Edward D. Berkowitz (Professor of History and Director of the Program in History and Public Policy at George Washington University) is the complete and detailed story of how Robert Ball used the conservative means of social insurance as an alternative to the liberal inclination to expand the welfare state. This is a biographically oriented history of American politics and policy that continues to be a highly charged and evolving political issue today with George W. Bush's announced goal of replacing Social Security with private accounts. An impressive account, Robert Ball And The Politics Of Social Security is a welcome and strongly recommended addition to community and academic library 20th Century American History and Political Science collections.
Silent Voices Of World War II
Everett M. Rogers & Nancy R. Bartlit
PO Box 2321, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2321
0865344728, $22.95 (softcover); 086534423X, $28.95 (hardcover)
New Mexico was one of the least populated of the 48 states when America became involved in World War II. Nevertheless, it was the New Mexico National Guard which was the first U.S. military unit to fight the Japanese and hold out for four months on Bataan, followed by years of suffering in POW camps. It was in Los Alamos, New Mexico that the atomic bomb was developed and then tested at a site near Alamogordo. It was Navajo code talkers from New Mexico that helped American forces capture the Pacific bases from which B-29s bombed Japanese cities. Finally, it was near Santa Fe, New Mexico, that several thousand Japanese Americans (classified by the FBI as dangerous enemy aliens) were interned in a camp for the duration of the war. A welcome and highly recommended contribution to twentieth century American history in general, and New Mexico's involvement in the Pacific Theatre of the Second World War in particular, Silent Voices Of World War II: When Sons Of The Land Of Enchantment Met Sons Of The Land Of The Rising Sun, collaboratively authored by Everett M. Rogers and Nancy R. Bartlit, provide readers with the story of New Mexico's involvement in the second world war as reflected in the stories provided through personal interviews of Navajo Marine privates, National Guard enlistees, Japanese American internees, and the men and women who worked in the wartime Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos fabricating the atomic bomb..
Decoding Potential: Pathways to Understanding
Robert J. Flower
Central Plains Book Manufacturing
22234 C Street, Strother Field, Winfield, KS 67156
0975050109 $19.93 ($3.95 shipping) http://www.decodingpotential.com
In "Decoding Potential: Pathways To Understanding, Robert J. Flower has provided unusually insightful and occasionally non-intuitive responses to the stresses that we are all subject to in this so-called "modern" world. More than just offering the reader a litany of social and personal problems, Flower has devised practical, effective, holistic, and thoroughly "user friendly" methods by which a rather revolutionary system for self-help and self-improvement can be realized on a personal, organizational, community, and even national basis. Decoding Potential offers an in-depth cognitive and comparative analysis of what is meant by "potential", along with a definition and an overview human innate natural thinking processes and biologically based discernable intelligences by which we can come to a new and quite promising understanding of ourselves, our relationships, and our world. Flower has developed a basic matrix of what he has termed "thirteen intelligences", based upon meticulous research enhanced with accessible illustrations and examples. Scholarly, erudite, thoughtful and thought-provoking, Decoding Potential is a welcome and enthusiastically recommended addition to the self-help study lists of non-specialist general readers, as well as an intellectually stimulating contribution to academic discussions, and socio- psychological collegiate library reference collections.
Paul T. Vogel
Journey to Bom Goody
Station 22, UWA, Livingston, AL 35470
1931982546 $14.95 www.livingstonpress.uwa.edu
Set along the Amazon River, Journey to Bom Goody is a wry novel about a retired electronics salesman who takes it upon himself to conduct the "social experiment" of delivering VCRs and portable electric generators to the isolated natives who live near the River's shores, ostensibly to give them a chance to study modern civilization as it has studied them. But his experiment leads to some haywire twists and turns when he retains a non-English-speaking guide who thinks his father is a dolphin, and encounters a beautiful ethno-botanist searching for fertility drugs. As events become increasingly bizarre, Journey to Bom Goody becomes maverick, exciting, and at times insightful in a good-humored way. Written a deliberate attempt of the author to balance Amazon culture views with those of the larger world, Journey to Bom Goody is an unforgettable culture shock adventure.
Ethics in Health Services Management
Health Professions Press
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
1878812998 $38.95 1-888-337-8808 www.healthpropress.com
Written by a Professor of Hospital Administration, the newly updated and expanded fourth edition of Ethics in Health Services Management is an in-depth educational manual for students and professionals alike, drawing upon eighty case studies and vignettes from a full range of care settings to illustrate its precepts for solving a wide variety of ethical dilemmas. Chapters cover organizational responses to ethical problems, conflicts of interest and fiduciary duty, patient autonomy and the paradigm of physician-assisted suicide, and much more. Extensive documentation, an index, and a bibliography round out this superb, textbook-quality resource for confronting moral and ethical medical quandaries.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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