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(04/17/2008) Pen, Sword, Camisole: A Fable To Kindle A Hope by Jorge Amado. Boston. 1985. Godine. Translated from the Portuguese by Helen R. Lane. keywords: Literature Translated Brazil Latin America. 276 pages. Jacket illustration by James Steinberg. 0879235527. (original title: Farda, fardao, camisol de dormir, 1980 - Distribuidora Record Servicos de Imprentsa, S.A., Rio de Janeiro).

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   It is 1940. In Rio de Janeiro, a crisis is brewing. The brilliant womanizing poet, Antonio Bruno, has just died, and his seat in the Brazilian Academy of Letters is vacant. Who will replace him? Colonel Agnaldo Sampaio Pereira, chief of security of the New State Dictatorship, who welcomed Nazi control with unqualified joy, resolves it shall be he. But he does not count on the resistance organized by two intrepid octogenarians who rally to their standard a powerful group as determined to keep the colonel out of the Academy as he is to get in. Thus battle is engaged, in which the international forces of Nazism and the national forces of reaction and totalitarianism unite against two old men and four remarkable women-a typically fiery actress, a dressmaker who is not averse to a little part-time paid companionship, the wife of one of Brazil's richest men, and an industrialist's radical daughter-all former mistresses of the poet Bruno. Amado subtitled his novel 'A Fable to Kindle a Hope.' It is a just description, because this book, with its great, glorious doses of wit, is a ferocious and heartening cry for freedom. ON JORGE AMADO: 'Amado's strange and wonderful characters. his humanism, and his considerable powers of description result in a richness and warmth that are impossible to resist.' - THE WASHINGTON POST. 'It would be hard to find an English counterpart to Candide in Voltaire's time, and hard to find a writer in English-at least since the death of James Thurber-with as gay an imagination and as fond a sense of the absurd as the Brazilian, Jorge Amado.' - THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. '[Amado] has the narrative art to a superlative degree, the ability to create three-dimensional characters, a deep awareness of the problems of his country and his epoch, a style as flexible and colorful as it is lyrical. One hardly knows what to admire most: the dexterity with which Amado can keep half a dozen plots spinning; the gossamer texture of the writing; or his humor, tenderness, and humanity.' - THE SATURDAY REVIEW. 'No other Latin American writer is more genuinely admired by his peers, nor has any other exerted so great a creative influence on the course of Latin American fiction.' - THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW.

Helen R. Lane is the award-winning translator of ON HEROES AND TOMBS, by Emesto Sabato (Godine, 1981).

 

 

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(04/16/2008) City Of Quartz: Excavating The Future In Los Angeles by Mike Davis. New York. 1991. Verso. Photographs By Robert Morrow. keywords: Los Angeles History Politics. 462 pages. Jacket designed by Paul Burcher. Photograph by Robert Morrow shows Metropolitan Detention Center, Downtown L. A. 0860913031. November 1990.

Los Angeles as one rarely gets to see it - the history, the politics, the architecture.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   It is the story of Los Angeles with an acute eye for the absurd, the unjust, and even the dangerous. 'The ultimate world historical significance - and oddity - of Los Angeles is that it has come to play the double role of utopia and dystopia for advanced capitalism. The same place, as Brecht noted, symbolizes both heaven and hell. Correspondingly, it is an essential destination on the itinerary of any late-twentieth-century intellectual, who must eventually come to take a peep and render some opinion on whether 'Los Angeles Brings It All Together' or is, rather, the Nightmare at the terminus of American history. In this taut and compulsive exploration, Mike Davis recounts the story of Los Angeles with passion, wit and an acute eye for the absurd, the unjust and, often, the dangerous. As the Joshua trees are ripped from the desert by developers of walled communities protected by 'armed response' security, as yet more concrete is poured to defend Japanese real estate from desperate migrants without work or hope, as a stew of greed, megalomania and corruption wreaks ever more havoc on his native city, Davis's elegiac tale points to a future in which the sublime and the dreadful are inextricable. That future does not belong to Southern California alone. Terrifyingly, it belongs to us all.

Unlike most writers on Southern California, Mike Davis is a native son. He was born in Fontana in 1946 and grew up in Bostonia, a now 'lost' hamlet east of San Diego. A former meatcutter and long-distance truckdriver, he teaches urban theory at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. He is co-editor of The Year Left: An American Socialist Yearbook and author of Prisoners of the American Dream He is married with one child.

A native Minnesotan, Robert Morrow finds that the ice-fishing in Southern California leaves something to be desired. He has compensated by taking photographs of rifle ranges, barbed wire, bullet-ridden police cars, derelict factories, big dogs, and other symbols of daily life in Los Angeles's suburban badlands.

 

 

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(04/14/2008) Moby Dick by Herman Melville. New York. 1930. Random House. Illustrated By Rockwell Kent. keywords: Literature America. 827 pages. Cover illustration by Rockwell Kent.

Simply one of the greatest books ever written. The first trade edition of Moby Dick Illustrated by Rockwell Kent, issued after the Lakeside Press 1930 Limited Subscriber's Edition, which consisted of 1,000 three-volume quarto sets that were housed in aluminum slipcases. This edition is set in Monotype Fournier and contains reproductions of all of Kent's original illustrations for the Lakeside Press Limited Edition.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   No American masterpiece casts quite as awesome a shadow as Melville's monumental Moby Dick. Mad Captain Ahab's quest for the White Whale is a timeless epic-a stirring tragedy of vengeance and obsession, a searing parable about humanity lost in a universe of moral ambiguity. It is the greatest sea story ever told. Far ahead of its own time, Moby Dick was largely misunderstood and unappreciated by Melville's contemporaries. Today, however, it is indisputably a classic. As D. H. Lawrence wrote, Moby Dick 'commands a stillness in the soul, an awe. [It is] one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world.'

 

 

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(04/13/2008) The Time Of The Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa. New York. 1966. Grove Press. Translated From The Spanish By Lysande Kemp. keywords: Literature Translated Peru Latin America. 409 pages. Originally published in Spanish as La ciudad y los perros, 1962 - Editorial Seix Barral, S. A. , Barcelona.

While at first a bit confusing with its multiple narrators, it will not take long for the persistent reader to fall right into the rhythm of this novel. Banned in Peru when it was originally published because it was considered scandalous, and even burned publicly, it is the story of a group of rebellious military school cadets. Mario Vargas Llosa was reportedly not happy with the American title. He wanted it to be closer to the book's title in Spanish, something like 'The City of the Dogs.'

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The scene: a pitch-black lavatory after eights-out in a military academy. Four cadets are drawing lots for the night's mission. Their objective: the captain's office. Their target: to steal a copy of the next day's chemistry examination. Thus begins THE TIME OF THE HERO, a work which has been hailed by critics around the world as one of the best Spanish-language novels of recent decades. The author has set his novel at the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Lima, Peru. In this microcosm, this city within a city, a group of cadets form still another circle in their attempt to break out of the vicious round of sadistic hazing, military discipline, confinement, and boredom. The cadets' rebellion is led by the Jaguar, an aloof, tough boy who refuses to be initiated and treated as one of the Dogs. Under his leadership seven cadets, later reduced to four, join forces to fight the system by smuggling in pisco and cigarettes, running midnight poker games in the latrine, selling answers to examinations, stealing or mutilating uniforms. The Poet, regarded as the class brain, writes and sells pornographic stories; the Boa, their sex hero, wins the contests they hold in their hide-out; and the Slave is their built-in scapegoat. But what began as pranks in their First Year turns into tragedy by the time the boys reach the Third Year-the point at which the novel opens. The officers' discovery of the theft of a crucial final exam sets off a cycle of betrayal, murder, and revenge which jeopardizes the entire military hierarchy. Moving back and forth from past to present, from inner thought to outer action, from within the Academy to the city outside, Vargas Llosa exposes the sordid world of the military elite, with its hypocrisy, moral decay, and power politics, and the corruption throughout the society beyond the Academy walls. Mario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian writer who is one of Latin America's leading novelists and essayists.

Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa to a middle class family of Spanish forebears, the only child of Ernesto Vargas Maldonado and Dora Llosa Ureta. His parents separated five months after their marriage. Vargas Llosa spent his childhood with his mother in Cochabamba, Bolivia, obtaining his early education at the local Colegio La Salle. During the government of Jose Luis Bustamante y Rivero, his grandfather obtained an important political post in the Peruvian city of Piura, which prompted Vargas Llosa's family to return to Peru near his grandfather and study in the Colegio Salesiano. In 1946, Vargas Llosa moved to Lima and met his father for the first time. His parents reestablished their relationship and lived in the capital during his teenage years. While in Lima he studied at the Colegio La Salle. When Vargas Llosa was 14, his father sent him to the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Lima. A year before his graduation, Vargas Llosa was already working as an amateur journalist. He withdrew from the military academy and finished his studies in Piura, where he worked for the local newspaper La Industria and, at the same time, where the theatrical performance of his first dramatic work, La Huida del Inca, took place. During the government of Manuel A. Odria, Vargas Llosa entered Lima's National University of San Marcos in 1953 to study literature. At the young age of 19, he married Julia Urquidi, his uncle's sister-in-law, who was 13 years his senior. The relationship did not last long, however, and in 1959 he left to Spain thanks to a Javier Prado scholarship, and did post-graduate studies at the Complutense University of Madrid, from which he received a Ph. D. Vargas Llosa first came to attention as a writer with La Ciudad y los Perros, based on his teenage experiences at Leoncio Prado. The work met with wide acclaim, and its author was hailed as one of the main exponents of the Latin American literature boom, alongside Paraguay's Augusto Roa Bastos, Argentina's Julio Cortazar, Mexico's Carlos Fuentes and Colombia's Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The novel shows influence of the existentialist works of Jean-Paul Sartre, and quotes a dialogue from one of his novels at the beginning of each of its two parts. It also showed as a stepping for what would become Vargas Llosa's trademark technique, the use of alternating dialogue to portray realities that are separated by space and time, and the use of verb tense to move his narrative back and forth in time; as well as establishing what would become the main theme of his narrative: the fight of the individual in search of freedom in an oppressive reality. He followed La Ciudad y Los Perros by writing La Casa Verde, a novel that shows the considerable influence that William Faulkner had on the budding writer. The novel deals with a brothel called the Green House, and how its quasi-mythical presence affects the lives of the characters. The main plot follows Bonifacia, a girl who is about to receive the vows of the church, and the transformation that will lead her to become la Selvatica, the best known prostitute of the Green House. The novel confirmed Vargas Llosa in his position as an important voice of Latin American narrative, and went on to win the first edition of the Romulo Gallegos International Novel Prize in 1967, out-voting works by the veteran Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti and by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Vargas Llosa's third novel completes what many critics consider to be his most valuable narrative cycle. Published in a four-volume edition, Conversacion en la Catedral was Vargas Llosa's first attempt at what he calls a 'total novel,' that is, the depiction of all the levels of a society through fictional narrative. The novel is a deconstruction of Peru under the dictatorship of Odria in the 1950s, and deals with the lives of characters from the different social strata of the country. The ambitious narrative is built around two axes, the stories of Santiago Zavala and Ambrosio respectively; one the son of a minister, the other his chauffeur. A random meeting at a dog pound leads to a rivetting conversation between the two at a nearby bar known as the Cathedral In the course of the encounter Zavala tries to find the truth about his father's role in the murder of a notorious figure of the Peruvian underworld, shedding light on the workings of a dictatorship along the way. The novel makes sophisticated use of techniques of alternating narrative, as the conversation in the bar is intercut with scenes from the past. Vargas Llosa followed this serious novel with the shorter and much more comic Pantaleon y las visitadoras, which, through a series of vignettes of dialogues and documents, follows the establishment by the Peruvian armed forces of a corps of prostitutes assigned to visit military outposts in remote jungle areas. In 1977 Vargas Llosa published La tia Julia y el escribidor, based in part on his first marriage. Julia Urquidi, his ex-wife, later wrote a memoir, Lo que Varguitas no dijo in which she gave her own version of their relationship. Vargas Llosa's novel was later adapted as a Hollywood feature film, Tune in Tomorrow. La guerra del fin del mundo, published in 1981, is a fictional recreation of the War of Canudos, an incident in 19th-century Brazil in which an armed millenarian cult held off a siege by the national army for a number of months. Vargas Llosa's most recent novel, Travesuras de la nina mala, relates the decades-long obsession of its narrator, a Peruvian expatriate, with a woman with whom he first fell in love when both were teenagers. Vargas Llosa's novels include many different literary genres, including comedy, murder mystery, historical novel, political thriller, and erotic They are often based on historical events or personal experiences. His writing style often includes intricate changes in time and narrator, similar to that of American novelist William Faulkner, whom Vargas Llosa acknowledges as a literary influence in his account of the novelist's craft A Writer's Reality Vargas Llosa's first novels were set in Peru, but he has broadened his setting over time. Later novels included some set elsewhere in Latin America, such as Brazil ) and the Dominican Republic ) One of his more recent novels ) is set largely in France and Tahiti. Vargas Llosa has written a book-length study of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a onetime friend with whom he subsequently parted ways. After the book, entitled Garcia Marquez: historia de un deicidio, was published in 1971 in an edition of 20,000 copies, the initial edition quickly sold out, but despite great demand Vargas Llosa refused to allow its republication for many years. The study was eventually included in a volume of his collected works in 2006. It has not been translated into English. He has also written book-length studies of Flaubert and of the Valencian writer Joanot Martorell. Vargas Llosa's discussion of his own novels is contained in A Writer's Reality In common with many fellow Latin American intellectuals, Vargas Llosa was initially a supporter of the Cuban revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, but he eventually became disenchanted with the policies of the Cuban government and moved considerably to the right. During the 1980s, Vargas Llosa became increasingly politically active in his native country, and became known for his staunch neoliberal views. He ran for the presidency of Peru in 1990 as the candidate of the center-right FREDEMO coalition. He proposed a drastic austerity program that frightened most of the country's poor. During the campaign, his opponents read racy passages of his works over the radio in an apparent attempt to shock voters. Although he won the first round with 34of the vote, Vargas Llosa was defeated by a then-unknown agricultural engineer, Alberto Fujimori, in the subsequent run-off. His account of his run for the presidency was subsequently included in a memoir, published in an English-language translation as A Fish in the Water. On his most recent visit to Peru before the 2006 presidential elections, Vargas Llosa campaigned in favor of conservative candidate Lourdes Flores, saying she respected democracy and promised 'a moderate' program for the country. In contrast, he warned that if nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala were to win it would be a 'great misfortune' since he 'will push Peru toward the same catastrophic route that Chavez is pushing his country. ' Although Humala had led a rebellion against Fujimori in 2000, Vargas Llosa suggested that Humala was a carbon copy of Fujimori. He asked: 'How it is possible that at least a third of Peruvians want a return to dictatorship, authoritarianism, a subjugated press, judicial manipulation, impunity and the systematic abuse of human rights?' As the presidential race during the second round drew to an end and polls showed Humala trailing former president Alan Garcia, Vargas Llosa tepidly endorsed Garcia as 'the lesser of two evils. ' His cousin Luis Llosa is a Peruvian film director, who has filmed an adaptation of Vargas Llosa's novel The Feast of the Goat. Vargas Llosa and Julia Urquidi were divorced in 1964. In 1965 Vargas Llosa married his first cousin Patricia Llosa, with whom he has three children: Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a writer and editor; Gonzalo, a businessman; and Morgana, a photographer.  

 

 

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(04/12/2008) Shame The Devil by George P. Pelecanos. Boston. 2000. Little Brown. keywords: Mystery Washington DC Pulp. 300 pages. Jacket design by Tom Brown.Jacket photograph by Joshua Sheldon/Photonica. 0316695238. January 2000.

This remarkable tale of loss and redemption caps off a series of three crime novels set in Washington D.C., not the Washington D.C. you might think you know, but a city of crime and shadows. This book took my breath away.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The Farrow Brothers have come to the city with mayhem on their minds. Setting out to rob a restaurant, they see the job go spectacularly wrong: While Frank kills several of the restaurant's workers, a cop spots Richard in the getaway car and kills him in a gunfight. Speeding away, Frank hits and kills a young boy out for a walk with his mother. It's a disturbingly bloody and ruthless encounter, even for D.C. DIMITRI KARRAS, the father of the boy, joins a grief-counseling group for survivors of the murders. But Frank Farrow hears of the group and joins it in his own way: He vows to take vengeance for his brother by killing everyone who had a hand in his death. Karras realizes it's up to him to stop Farrow - if he can come up with a plan that will work, and if he can overcome his own fears and scruples. SHAME THE DEVIL is the profoundest kind of crime fiction, a story with a heart-stopping pace and the most evil killers this side of Elmore Leonard - but with an eye on the hereafter and the real cost of violence. As it builds to a showdown worthy of Sam Peckinpah, SHAME THE DEVIL explores the very essence of human nature, the beliefs that give lives meaning, and what people do when they see those beliefs broken. Written with the visceral plotting and searing language that have led other writers to call George Pelecanos 'one of the best crime novelists alive'(Dennis Lehane) and 'among the finest ten or twelve novelists working in the U.S. today'(James Sallis), SHAME THE DEVIL is more proof that Pelecanos has 'carved out a territory and a language of danger all his own' (Chicago Tribune).

 

 

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(04/11/2008) The Sweet Forever by George P. Pelecanos. Boston. 1998. Little Brown. keywords: Mystery America Washington DC. 300 pages. Jacket design by Tom Brown.Front jacket photograph by Marina Dodis. 0316691097. August 1998.

The second in this series of hard-boiled novels set in 1980s Washington D.C.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Before you can thrive you have to survive. When cocaine hit Washington, D.C., in the mid-1980s, the city became nearly unlivable. Gun-carrying kids turned entire neighborhoods into war zones. Zombies walked the sidewalks on weeklong binges. Many police officers and public officials, flush with drug money, looked away. Set amid this chaos and danger, THE SWEET FOREVER captures an unforgettable fight for survival as two men confront the most soul-chilling violence ever to visit the city. Marcus Clay is proud of his small chain of record stores, and proudest of his new store, right in the old neighborhood-now the epicenter of the drug trade. But a black man can't get a break, even on his home turf, when the whole town is going crazy. Even his best friend, Dimitri Karras, who manages the store, is coming to work with his jaw wired tight from his newly acquired cocaine habit. A bad situation turns lethal when a car crashes in front of the store and Marcus sees someone grab a bag out of the backseat and run. The local drug lord wants what's in that bag-and will do whatever it takes to prove that he is the law in this neighborhood. Nobody, certainly not a small-time businessman, is going to stand in his way. In searing confrontations, Marcus and Dimitri must defy the darkness close to home - fighting for their lives, their livelihoods, for the very soul of the city. Opening up the shadowy territory where private sin connects with larger, deadlier evils, George Pelecanos weaves familiar details from the recent past into a thriller of compelling menace and power. With characters as real as your own flesh and a relentless, dazzlingly original story, THE SWEET FOREVER is a classic thriller from one of the most inspired writers at work today.

 

 

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(04/10/2008) King Suckerman by George P. Pelecanos. Boston. 1997. Little Brown. keywords: Mystery America Washington DC. 264 pages. Jacket by Michael Ian Kaye/Kristian Russell. 0316695904. August 1997.

KING SUCKERMAN kicks off my favorite trilogy of George Pelecanos novels. It also reintroduces Dimitri Karras, who we met as a child in THE BIG BLOWDOWN.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   KING SUCKERMAN is a thriller that weaves the blaxploitation films, the drug deals, the soul music, and the racial tensions that defined the seventies into a story of natural-born killers and two men who risk everything to bring them down. Dimitri Karras and Marcus Clay are old friends whose affection transcends the barriers of race. Clay is a Vietnam vet trying to make a go of his own small business, while Karras is drifting, playing pickup basketball and supporting himself with small-time drug dealing. When Karras takes Clay with him to make a buy from a new supplier, they cross paths with Wilton Cooper - and enter a world where merciless, unpredictable violence is the only certainty. Cooper cuts a swath of bloody mayhem that leads straight to Karras's door, and Karras has the battle of a lifetime to keep his walk on the wild side from destroying his entire world.

 

 

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(04/09/2008) Shoedog by George P. Pelecanos. New York. 1994. St Martin's Press. keywords: Mystery America Washington DC. 200 pages. Jacket art by John Dawson. 0312110618. May 1994.

SHOEDOG was the first George Pelecanos novel I ever read. I was completely blown away. If you like edgy noir, this book is for you!

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Constantine is a drifter, a man with a lot of miles behind him and a lot more ahead and a number of jobs in between that never showed up on anyone's books. 'He hitches a ride on a bright spring morning with a little man named Polk. Heading down a country road in Folk's hopped-up muscle-car, the two men share a few cigarettes. This is how it starts. 'Later, when Constantine walks toward the big brick house, the Beat in his head, the grip of the. 45 warm in his hand, the siren wailing in the night at his back, he thinks that the whole thing started on that road, with the car stopping for his upturned thumb. He thinks that the things that happen to a man are put in motion by something just that small, that random. He thinks about that, and he laughs. But he keeps walking. SHOEDOG is noir writing at its finest, a modern crime novel with the lingering resonance of good whiskey and the brutal recoil of a shotgun blast.

 

 

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(04/07/2008) Nick's Trip: A Nick Stefanos Mystery by George P. Pelecanos. New York. 1993. St Martin's Press. keywords: Mystery America Washington DC. 276 pages. Jacket art by John Dawson. 0312088620. March 1993.

NICK'S TRIP continues the journey of Nick Stefanos, who looks for a friend's missing wife while tending bar and generally leading a life of dissolution. Sound wholesome? Not even close. But a hard-boiled novel of great power and heart, it definitely is.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

  

After his 'promising' (Kirkus Reviews} debut novel. A FIRING OFFENSE. George Pelecanos has come into his own with this complex and powerful new novel of virtue and betrayal. Nick Stefanos, having earned his P. I. license, quickly discovers that snapping photos of unfaithful husbands isn't his thing. Tending bar at the Spot, Nick is closing one night when his high school friend Billy Goodrich shows up. Billy's wife is gone. Nick says he'll find her. And with that first step. Nick sets out on a one-way path that'll take him through a sewer of theft and intrigue and love. Exceptionally moving and true-to-life, NICK'S TRIP is a virtuoso work from one of today's hottest voices in hard-boiled fiction. 'NICK'S TRIP is the kind of book you're always hoping to find and so rarely do. What an authentic, human voice. ' - James Sallis.

 

 

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(04/06/2008) A Firing Offense by George P. Pelecanos. New York. 1992. St Martin's Press. keywords: Mystery Pulp. 216 pages. Jacket painting by Tony LiMuaco. 0312069707. April 1992.

Nick Stefanos, advertising manager of the stereo store, Nutty Nathans, turned private detective, searches for a missing boy as a favor, and uncovers much more than he would have ever expected in this hard-boiled first novel.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A rock gets pushed at the top of a hill, and it begins to roll, and then it doesn't matter who did the pushing. What matters is the damage done. So how it started, I suppose, is insignificant. Because what sticks now is how it ended: with the sudden blast of smoke of automatic weapons, and the low moan of those who are about to die. As the advertising director of Nutty Nathan's - 'The Miser Who Saves You Money!' - Nick Stefanos knew all the tricks of the electronics business. Blow-out sales and shady deals were his life. When one of the stockboys disappears, it's not news: just another young metalhead who went off chasing some dream of big money and easy living. But the kid reminded Nick of himself twelve years ago: an angry punk hooked on speed, metal and the fast life. So when the boy's grandfather begs Nick to try to find the kid, Nick says he'll try. And once it begins to roll, it doesn't matter who did the pushing. What matters is the damage done. A FIRING OFFENSE is a debut novel packed with exceptional veracity and tenacious emotion, a tough and tender view of both the Washington, D. C. , that lies behind the politician's lies and of the truths that lie within our hearts.

 

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(04/05/2008) The Big Blowdown by George P. Pelecanos. New York. 1996. St Martin's Press. keywords: Mystery Washington DC. 314 pages. Jacket Design And Artwork By Charles Rue Woods. Jacket Photograph By Eve Arnold/Magnum. 0312142846. May 1996.

George Pelecanos is one of the best of American crime fiction writers. He is a modern-day Balzac, featuring a host of returning characters throughtout his novels. Major characters from one novel will often make cameo appearances in other stories, giving the reader an opportunity to see those personalities in a whole new light. The Big Blowdown, while not his first novel, is chronologically first in the series. I would recommend starting here, but it is not absolutely essential that you do.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   For Joey Recevo and Pete Karras, two kids from one of Washington's rougher neighborhoods, the easiest work to find after the War is all criminal - providing a little muscle for a local boss. But Karras is soft on his fellow immigrants, and the boss can't let his mob get soft, so one of his boys gives Karras a painful lesson. Three years later, it's this same mob that figures big Nick Stefanos's grill needs protection - and this decision will, once again, bring Joey and Pete face-to-face. In this final confrontation, the two of them will find the meaning of friendship and honor, and its cost. Powerfully told, elegantly wrought, THE BIG BLOWDOWN delivers on all of George Pelecanos's early promise and establishes him at the forefront of today's crime writers. 'Bold and broad-shouldered, a crime epic filled with passionate characters and the gritty life of the street. Strongly felt and sharply written. Pelecanos lifted me from my chair and hurled me right into the mean D. C. streets of the 1950s. Bravo!' - T. Jefferson Parker, author of SUMMER OF FEAR. 'Pelecanos's books get into your blood like a shot and a beer after a third shift. Definitely my favorite writer working today. You can stay in on Saturday night now - Pelecanos will fill you in on what happened. ' - Peter Farrelly, author of OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE.

 

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(04/04/2008) Hamlet: A Study In Critical Method by A. J. A. Waldock. Cambridge. 1931. Cambridge University Press. keywords: Shakespeare Literary Criticism. 102 pages.

A fresh look at Hamlet that is unencumbered by much of the crusty literary criticism that preceded it.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

  'Many of Shakespeare's plays have puzzling features, but HAMLET is unique in that it provokes real uncertainty concerning the dramatist's main intention. Our efforts to discover what Shakespeare meant by it still go on. But if the accumulation of comment means anything, it means that we need no longer expect a solution in which all our perplexities will magically vanish. Some of the difficulties are in the play to stay. My concern, in this attempt to estimate the present situation in HAMLET criticism, has been as much with procedures as with results. Nothing, plainly, can be more important in such a case than that we should be clear regarding the valid canons of critical method. That question is paramount. ' - from the preface by A. J. A. Waldock.

 

 

 

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(04/03/2008) What Happens In Hamlet by J. Dover Wilson. New York. 1936. Macmillan. keywords: Shakespeare Literary Criticism Hamlet. 334 pages. Cover: The actors appearing in the role of Hamlet shown on the front cover of this jacket are as follows: E. H. JOHNSTON FORBES-ROBERTSON, JOHN PHILIP KEMBLE, F. R. BENSON WALTER HAMPDEN LAWRENCE BARRETT, DAVID GARRICK, EDWIN BOOTH, BARRY SULLIVAN, CHARLES DILLON, ROBERT MANTELL, M. MOUNET-SULLY, MR. RAE OSMOND TEARLE, & G. V. BROOKE LOUISE POMEROY.

A thoroughly engaging exploration of Shakespeare's Hamlet that takes the reader through the play scene by scene.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   HAMLET is the most famous and the most often performed of Shakespeare's plays. But there are many difficulties and apparent inconsistencies facing those who would produce the play on the stage as well as those who would read Hamlet with an intelligent appreciation of what is going on. One example of these difficulties is in the 'play scene'; it can be expressed in a nutshell by the question: 'Did Claudius see the dumb-show - and if not, why not?' This problem engaged the attention of Dr. Dover Wilson on a dreary train ride in 1917 and immediately set him on an excited pursuit of all sorts of clues and questions which opened up fresh difficulties the more he pursued them. Before reaching his quarry, the trail led to a complete recension of the text of HAMLET and the editing of the play in The New Shakespeare Series. Now after eighteen years of keen detective work, Dr. Dover Wilson has completed his quest. The results of his discoveries are presented in WHAT HAPPENS IN HAMLET.

 

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(04/02/2008) Hamlet by William Shakespeare. New York. 1980. Penguin Books. Edited by Professor T. J. B. Spencer. Introduced by Anne Barton. keywords: Drama England Literature. 384 pages. Cover illustration by Paul Hogarth. 0140707344.

The greatest of Shakespeare's plays. I have read this play over and over, and I prefer the Penguin edition because of the quality of the notes, even though they are located in the back and results in a lot of page-flipping.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601. The play, set in the Kingdom of Denmark, recounts how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle Claudius, firstly for murdering the old King Hamlet (Claudius's brother and Prince Hamlet's father) and secondly for then succeeding to the throne and marrying Gertrude (the King Hamlet's widow and mother of Prince Hamlet). The play vividly portrays real and feigned madness - from overwhelming grief to seething rage - and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.

 

 

 

 

 

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(03/31/2008) The Big Lebowski by J. M. Tyree & Bern Walter. London. 2008. British Film Institute. keywords: Film America. 123 pages. 9781844571734.

'The Dude abides. ' This film has become a cult classic since its release in 1998. Here, the Coen brothers deliver a take on the classic LA Chandleresque mystery. In their version however, 'the detective' is a person who on the surface seems to be the person least capable to figure out what is going on. Both film and the BFI book are highly recommended. The British Film Institute produces a great series of film books. Each of their 'film classics' explore individual films and are excellent companions to the films themselves.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Ethan and Joel Coen's 'The Big Lebowski' was released in 1998 to general bafflement. A decade on, it has become a cult classic, inspiring a thriving circuit of 'Lebowski Fests' during which costumed devotees gather at bowling alleys and guzzle White Russians. Beyond its superabundance of deliciously quotable lines, how has the movie inspired such remarkable affection? And why does its critical stock continue to rise? The film's unlikely anchor is Jeff Bridges' career-best performance as Jeffrey Lebowski, a fully-baked 1960s radical turned Venice Beach drop-out known to his friends as 'the Dude'. Mistaken for an identically-named grandee whose young trophy wife is in trouble, the Dude finds himself embroiled in an impossibly convoluted kidnap plot involving pornographers, nihilists and threats to his 'Johnson'. Worst of all, it conflicts with his bowling commitments. In part an irreverent pastiche of Raymond Chandler's 'The Big Sleep' (as filmed by Howard Hawks), 'The Big Lebowski' is also a jukebox of film history, littered with playful and subversive references to everything from Hitchcock and Altman to Busby Berkeley. This riot of addled quotations reflects the film's Los Angeles setting, a discombobulated world inhabited by flakes, phonies and poseurs with put-on identities. Like many Coen works, the movie plays havoc with the conventions of the crime genre and the absurdities of classical American 'heroism'. But The 'Big Lebowski' is also that rare thing, a comedy that gets richer, funnier and more affecting with each viewing. Beneath its breakneck pacing and foul-mouthed ribaldry, the Dude's story offers disarmingly humane lessons in the value of simple things: friendship, laughter and bowling.

J.M. Tyree is a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University. Ben Walters is Deputy Film Editor at Time Out London and has written books on Orson Welles and 'The Office'.

 

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(03/30/2008) Miss Silver's Past by Josef Skvorecky. New York. 1974. Grove Press. Translated From The Czech By Peter Kussi. Foreword By Graham Greene. keywords: Literature Translated Czech Eastern Europe. GP-723. 297 pages. Cover design by Kenneth R. Deardoff. 0394492935. Originally published as LVICE, 1969 - Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, Prague, Czechoslovakia.

An early book from Josef Skvorecky.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Josef Skvorecky has become a major literary figure in postwar Europe, and his first novel, The Cowards, was greeted with acclaim both here and abroad as an extraordinary achievement, and certainly the most important postwar novel from Czechoslovakia. Its publication caused a scandal in Prague when it was first published there, and the publication history of Skvorecky's new novel, MISS SILVER'S PAST, has been equally stormy. Made into a film in 1968, the entire second printing of the novel - some 80,000 copies-was seized by the Czechoslovak government in the fall of 1970. In his new novel, Skvorecky tells a spellbinding story of moral corruption and political cynicism in the guise of a love story that turns into a murder mystery. Karel Leden falls in love with Lenka, a beautiful girl with shiny black hair, the minute he sees her on the beach clad in a scanty bikini. But Lenka rebuffs Karel's advances, preferring instead the company of Karel's boss, a balding, middle-aged Communist party official. after a nocturnal boat ride with Lenka his body is washed ashore. The police call it a tragic accident. Who is Lenka? A girl with a mysterious past, a beautiful tramp who teases her lovers? Karel can't make her out, In anguish he begins to drink, in desperation he plays detective. What he discovers is part of the gruesome history of our time. And what had begun as a story of love's labors lost suddenly turns into a political whodunit in which the victim, instead of the murderer, is the criminal. But beyond being a diverting thriller, this novel also offers a remarkable account of life among the privileged few in a Communist society, the first book to give us a glimpse of the underworld of intellectual pimp and literary prostitute that rules the cultural establishment. Never before have we had so authentic a picture of the corrosion of the spirit that besets the party hacks and party-line writers, of hypocrisy rewarded and idealism betrayed. Skvorecky sets his story against the background of a State run publishing company, and he provides an astonishing tour of the literary machine of a Communist state: the technique of repression, how party censorship prevail against a young, audaciously talented writer, how the editors walk a daily tightrope between expediency and courage Skvorecky gives his story dramatic dimension by showing his people in crisis, with a all-seeing eye for the absurdities of the world, the foibles and weaknesses of me and women in a society where survival is the final test. This is a rare blend-a novel of suspenseful action, as well as a chilling examination of a corrupt society blighted by fear a completely compelling work from a master storyteller.  

 

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(03/29/2008) Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. New York. 1980. Random House. keywords: Literature India. 446 pages. Jacket design by Paul Bacon. 039451470.

The book that put Salman Rushdie on the map. A big rambling magical tale of the birth of both the Indian and the Pakistani nations.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This huge, ebullient, operatic, comic, serious - and important - novel establishes Salman Rushdie as a major new writer from India. It is a novel whose twin protagonists - Saleem Sinai, the indefatigable narrator, and modern India itself--we follow from the moment of their simultaneous birth through all the convulsions and comedies of their childhood, adolescence, and somewhat questionable maturity. Baby Saleem - greeted by fireworks displays and cheering crowds, celebrated in the press, welcomed by Prime Minister Nehru himself--grows up to learn quickly the ominous consequences of the coincidence of his birth: his every act is mirrored, magnified, in events that sway the course of national affairs; his life and health are inextricably bound to those of his nation/twin; his biography is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of independent India. And he is blessed with remarkable aptitudes. His uncanny sense of smell enables Saleem to sniff out troubles others fail to perceive - but never, of course, to distance himself from them. His extraordinary telepathic powers, first revealed to him accidentally in his mother's laundry hamper in his ninth year, link Saleem with his multitudinous siblings: the 1,000 other 'midnight's children' of India, all born in the initial hour of their country's independence, all fatefully endowed with unusual features and magical gifts. Telling his story, furiously recording it for posterity in a quiet corner of a Bombay pickle factory as he awaits his own imminent death, Saleem takes us first into the lives of his improbably eccentric forebears. He then plunges headlong into the fantastic events of his own life - sexual escapades, family quarrels, sicknesses-unto-death, mirade cures, incredible perils, miraculous escapes - a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs in which we see reflected modern India at its most impossible arid glorious. Funny, moving, explosively alive, MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN is at once a fascinating family saga and a wild, astonishing evocation of a vast and complicated land and its people--a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy, Indian style.

 

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(03/27/2008) Essays And Aphorisms by Arthur Schopenhauer. New York. 1976. Penguin Books. Translated From The German & With An Introduction & Edited By R. J. Hollingdale. keywords: Penguin Classic Paperback Translated Literature Germany Philosophy. 238 pages. Cover shows a detail from a portrait of Schopenhauer by Ludwig Sigismund Ruhl. 0140442278.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   An excellent selection of some of Schopenhauer's most important writings. The introduction by R. J. Hollingdale is a perfect gem all by itself. This selection of thoughts on religion, ethics, politics, women, suicide, books, and much more is taken from Schopenhauer's last work, Parerga and Paralipo-mena, published in 1851. Contents - Introduction; Essays - On the Suffering of the World; On the Vanity of Existence; On the Antithesis of Thing in Itself and Appearance; On Affirmation and Denial of the Will to Live; On the Indestructibility of our Essential Being by Death; On Suicide; On Women; On Thinking for Yourself; On Religion: A Dialogue; Aphorisms - On Philosophy and the Intellect; On Ethics; On Law and Politics; On Aesthetics; On Psychology; On Religion; On Books and Writing; On Various Subjects.

 

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(03/26/2008) On The Eve by Ivan Turgenev. Baltimore. 1967. Penguin Books. Translated From The Russian By Gilbert Gardiner. keywords: Penguin Classic Paperback Russia Translated Literature 19th Century. L9. 234 pages. The cover shows a detail from 'The Aristocrat at Breakfast' by P. A. Fedotov.

A novel of love and revolutionary fervor from Ivan Turgenev.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

Though essentially a love story with a historical background, ON THE EVE hints in its title at social and political implications which no Russian reader could miss when it appeared in 1859. Turgenev's study oh Elena Stahov, in love with a Bulgarian revolutionary, is a memorable achievement of character-drawing, but the authors artistry is nowhere more clearly shown than in his development of the minor characters. Turgenev's touch is light and his sense of humour delicious, and the story, as it moves to its inevitable and tragic conclusion, is never oppressive.

 

 

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(03/25/2008) Strange Loyalties by William McIlvanney. New York. 1992. Morrow. keywords: Literature Scotland Mystery. 281 pages. Jacket design & illustration by Lawrence Ratzkin. 068811413.

The third book in William McIlvanney's Laidlaw Scottish mystery series. As much a study of loss and guilt as a traditional mystery. McIlvanney's people are real and well drawn.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw is back. It is a tribute to William McIlvanney that the occasion should be so eagerly anticipated. The normal mode for building an audience for a fictional detective is a large number of titles delivered in quick succession by contrast, LAIDLAW - the first novel of McIlvanney's sequence - appeared in 1977, and the second, THE PAPERS OF TONY VEITCH, only after a long interval in 1983. Now, eight years later, he makes his third appearance in STRANGE LOYALTIES. As in the earlier books, he is obsessed by an obscure death and is seen by his colleagues as a man near breaking point, driven by a private morality to work at the profession's outer edges. This time, however, the line between investigator and victim is blurred. The dead man is Laidlaw's younger brother, and the investigation takes him back to his roots in Ayrshire from which the not-so-grieving widow has departed and where Laidlaw learns from others of the breakdown of the marriage and his brother's increasing unpredictability in the months before his death under the wheels of a car. With a week's leave and a bottle of Antiquary, Laidlaw sets himself the task of finding out more. To this main plot is added a murder investigation being conducted back in Glasgow into the killing of drug pusher Meece Rooney. The linking of plot and subplot is achieved with the craft of an experienced novelist. The criminal Eddie Foley, for example, is seen in a similar light to the businessman Dave Lyons, who regards the law as 'a set of rules for those who get caught. ' Laidlaw himself is never more persuasively a policeman than when he is passing judgment: a drug dealer gets the thumbs down; an adulterous wife is convicted of lacking the courage of her sins; he scrutinizes himself constantly for lapses from his own standard of conduct. To live behind hedges, draw the curtains, shut out others, begins to seem like the humanist equivalent of sinning against the Holy Ghost. Laidlaw's antecedents are an odd mixture of traditions. There is recognizably a strain of Chandler, the writer who gave crime back to the people who commit it and sent Marlowe down mean streets armed only with integrity and a wisecrack. But it is the unrelenting seriousness of his moral concern which makes Laidlaw different. As a crime novel, STRANGE LOYALTIES does not engage the Glasgow underworld with the ferocious infatuation of the earlier books. It contains instead some of McIlvanney's best set pieces on suburban values; and arguably the finest ending he has achieved. Crime fiction needs Laidlaw back before another eight years have passed.' - The Scotsman.

 

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(03/24/2008) The Papers Of Tony Veitch by William McIlvanney. New York. 1983. Pantheon Books. keywords: Mystery Scotland Literature Glasgow. 255 pages. Jacket illustration by Susannah Kelly. 0394424379. May 1983.

The second book in the Laidlaw Scottish mystery series.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Gritty and psychology. 'It was Glasgow on a Friday night, the city of the stare. ' So begins William Mcilvanney's new novel, and at once we are plunged back into the world of that incomparable detective Jack Laidlaw - a world of hard men and harder truths. No truth comes harder to Eck Adamson, vagrant and alcoholic, than that he is dying. To his bed in the Royal Infirmary he summons Laidlaw, perhaps his only friend in the entire city, who reaches him just in time to hear his last desperate words and to receive a cryptic note with three names: Paddy Collins, Lynsey Farren, and the Crib, a local workingman's pub. Few men would have bothered with Eck, an old tramp, whose time had run out - that's the official verdict, anyway. But Jack Laidlaw is a man violently opposed to all 'official' assumptions and rationalizations, both of police work and of the modern state. Convinced that Eck was murdered, Laidlaw follows the only clues he has. For a start, Paddy Collins is part of Glasgow's underworld - or at least was until a few days before, when he was found brutally, and fatally, stabbed. Lynsey Farren? She's Lady Lynsey Farren, beautiful, rich, a rather unlikely patron of the Crib, and one-time girlfriend of a young Glasgow student, Tony Veitch. But Veitch has not been seen for several days, and Miss Farren is unwilling to say anything that might help matters. As Laidlaw relentlessly pursues the investigation, tracing even the wildest and most incongruous leads. Two clear facts emerge: Tont Veitch is the only man who can answer the questions surrounding Eck's death, and Jack Laidlaw is not the only person tracking him down. When LAIDLAW was published by Pantheon in 1977, Ross MacDonald wrote: 'McIlvanney is to be congratulated on his talent and his daring. ' Both readers and critics were overwhelming in their praise of the book, not just as a crime story but as a fine novel in its own right. THE PAPERS OF TONY VEITCH is its direct sequel, an outstanding story of the people who inhabit Glasgow's hard world and the policeman who attempts to live with and understand them.

 

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(03/23/2008) Laidlaw by William McIlvanney. New York. 1977. Pantheon Books. keywords: Mystery Scotland Glasgow. 224 pages. Jacket illustration by Jack Tulling. 0394412532. June 1977.

The first in a series of crime novels set in Glasgow, Scotland featuring the angry and compassionate police detective, Laidlaw. Don't miss this series. The books are much more than crime novels and McIlvanney is a writer of great depth and psychological insight. Mcllvanney's earlier works were set in Glasgow, and he has not abandoned this regional setting in turning to crime. On the contrary, Glasgow itself becomes one of the protagonists of the book.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Laidlaw, the other protagonist, is far from being a classic English police detective. Indeed, the relationship between the police and the criminals, and the alliance they ultimately form to find the villain of the book, seem far more American than British. In its toughness and realism, LAIDLAW is reminiscent of the Sjowall-Wahloo Martin Beck series. Yet Glasgow is a drearier and poorer city than Stockholm, its slums and underworld much more like our own. But while McIlvanney's book can be compared to others, it is very much an original, a promising beginning to a series that will replenish the all-too-thin ranks of really first-rate crime novels.

 

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(03/20/2008) The In-Between World Of Vikram Lall by M. G. Vassanji. New York. 2004. Knopf. keywords: Literature India Africa Kenya. 373 pages. Jacket photographs: Untitled, 1962, by Malick Sidibe, Borje Tobiasson /Panos Pictures. Jacket design by Peter Mendelsund. 140004216x. September 2004.

A novel of Kenya in the 1950s from the point-of-view of an East Indian Kenyan. This novel provides an interesting fictional counterpoint to Caroline Elkins' award-winning book on the Kenyan gulags after World War II.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   WINNER OF CANADA'S PRESTIGIOUS 2003 GILLER PRIZE. Kenya, 1953: The British colony celebrates Queen Elizabeth's coronation, just as the Mau Mau guerrilla war begins to gain strength. In the midst of a violent and fearful climate of racist attitudes and calls for freedom, a diverse group of children meet and become friends in a small upcountry town. Eight-year-old Vic and his younger sister, Deepa, of Indian descent; Njoroge, an African boy; and British siblings Annie and Bill play all sorts of make-believe games reflecting the surrounding reality. When one day their innocent games are brought to a brutal conclusion, their world tumbles around them. Against the backdrop of a chaotic and changing Kenya, we follow Vic into an adulthood still shrouded by the fear in which his childhood ended. He is an 'inbetween man. ' An Asian, he stands between the white colonials and the black Africans; his homeland is Kenya, but in the 1960s-in the early, heady years of independence and of Jomo Kenyatta's presidency-he feels unimportant and irrelevant to the new nation. He is a man who learns early not to take too strong a stand but to simply remain in-between and go along. When Vic takes a job in civil service, he becomes an in-between man of another sort: a conduit for influence brokers. And as the hopefulness of the 1960s gives way to the pervasive corruption and repression of the 1970S and 1980s, Vic is drawn deeper and deeper into the official orbit of graft and power-brokering, pocketing ever-larger bribes, buying protection from Kenyatta himself-finally earning 'the distinction of having been numbered one of Africa's most corrupt men, a cheat of monstrous and reptilian cunning. ' At the same time, we see how Njoroge lives through the remnants of his youthful idealism, taking hold of unexpected opportunities-as a Kikuyu, he is a member of Kenyatta's ruling class and reigniting in adulthood the abiding love for Deepa that began when they were children. But neither Njoroge's idealism nor Vic's cynicism will be powerful enough to stave off the tragedies that await them. Narrated by Vic-now living in temporary hiding and seclusion on the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario, captive to 'the mind's demonic theatre'- THE IN-BETWEEN WORLD OF VIKRAM LALL is stark and moving, a haunting story of great depth and breadth about the betrayal of the innocence and hope of youth.

M. G. Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. Before moving to Canada in 1978, he attended M. I. T. and the University of Pennsylvania, and later was writer in residence at the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa. Vassanji is the author of four acclaimed novels: The Gunny Sack, which won a regional Commonwealth Prize; No New Land; The Book of Secrets, which won the very first Giller Prize; and Amnriika. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.

 

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(03/18/2008) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. New York. 1985. Penguin Books. Edited By Angus Calder. keywords: Literature England 19th century. 512 pages. The cover shows a detail from 'A Country Blacksmith Disputing the Price of Iron' by J. M. W. Turner. 0140430032.

My favorite Dickens novel.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The central theme of GREAT EXPECTATIONS- How do men know who they are? - is one that preoccupied Dickens towards the end of his life. The story of orphan Pip and the mysterious fortune which falls into his lap, his snobbish rejection of his old friends and his growth through pain and mishap into true maturity is the basis for a story where violence and guilt jostle with sharp and grotesque comedy. From the moment the child Pip meets Magwitch the convict on the eerie Kent marshes, to the last encounter with Estella, the beautiful, heartless woman who has so fruitlessly haunted Pip’s emotions, the reader is sucked into a drama whose moral and psychological intensity never slackens. Comic, tragic, vital, full of bitter pathos and haunting memories of childhood fairytales with an added twist, GREAT EXPECTATIONS is a novel which, as Graham Greene comments, is full of secret prose giving us ‘the sense of a mind speaking to itself with no one to listen.'

 

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(03/17/2008) Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines & The Making Of The Third World by Mike Davis. New York. 2001. Verso. keywords: Famines Third World History Politics Capitalism. 464 pages. 1859847390.

A bold interpretation of the interaction of nature and history that ties the impact of El Nino and climate conditions to the globalization of the economy in the late 19th century and how these factors helped create what we now call The Third World.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Examining a series of El Nino-induced droughts and the famines that they spawned around the globe in the last third of the 19th century, Mike Davis discloses the intimate, baleful relationship between imperial arrogance and natural incident that combined to produce some of the worst tragedies in human history. LATE VICTORIAN HOLOCAUSTS focuses on three zones of drought and subsequent famine: India, Northern China; and Northeastern Brazil. All were affected by the same global climatic factors that caused massive crop failures, and all experienced brutal famines that decimated local populations. But the effects of drought were magnified in each case because of singularly destructive policies promulgated by different ruling elites. Davis argues that the seeds of underdevelopment in what later became known as the Third World were sown in this era of High Imperialism, as the price for capitalist modernization was paid in the currency of millions of peasants' lives. 'Davis has given us a book of substantial contemporary relevance as well as great historical interest. this highly informative book foes well beyond its immediate focus. ' - Amartya Sen, New York Times. 'Davis' work is the cruel and perpetual folly of the ruling elites. ' -- The New York Times. 'Davis's range is stunning. He combines political economy, meteorology, and ecology with vivid narratives to create a book that is both a gripping read and a major conceptual achievement. Losts of us talk about writing 'world history' and 'inter-disciplinary history': here is the genuine article. ' -- Kenneth Pomeranz, author of The Great Divergence. 'The global climate meets a globalizing political economy, the fundamentals of one clashing with the fundamentalisms of the other. Mike Davis tells the story with zest, anger, and insight. ' -- Stephen J. Pyne, author of World Fire. 'Eloquent and passionate, this is a veritable Black Book of liberal capitalism. ' -- Tariq Ali.

 

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(03/15/2008) The Crooked Timber Of Humanity by Isaiah Berlin. New York. 1991. Knopf. Edited by Henry Hardy. keywords: Philosophy History. 281 pages. Jacket design by Julie Duquet. 0679401318. March 1991.

No one writes about the history of ideas like Isaiah Berlin. His prose is clear and his essays invite the reader to further explore his subjects .

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Isaiah Berlin is renowned the world over for his analysis of the ideas that have influenced or transformed societies. Deeply committed to individual and collective liberty, and to moral and political pluralism, he has devoted the half-century and more of his professional life as a teacher and lecturer to exploring the conditions that allow these ideals to flourish, and those that threaten them. Now this new collection brings together the latest in a series of brilliant essays that address some of the urgent social and political questions facing our changing world. With matchless authority, Berlin writes on such immense issues as nationalism, European unity, fascism, relativism, and cultural history. The range of essays collected here is wide, though they are all concerned with varieties of antirationalism. Five of these essays have never been published in a book, including the longest, an extensive study of the late-eighteenth-century thinker Joseph de Maistre and his connection to the origins of fascism. The essays are bound together by a firm rejection of tidy answers to the great social and political problems: as Kant once wrote, 'Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.'

SIR ISAIAH BERLIN was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1909. In 1915, his family moved to Petrograd, where in 1917 he witnessed both the February and October revolutions. He came to England in 1919 and was educated at St. Paul's School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. At Oxford, he has been and is a Fellow of All Souls College and was a Fellow of New College, Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, and first president of Wolfson College He was president of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. In 1941, during World War II, he was sent to New York by the British Ministry of Information; in 1942 he was transferred to the Foreign Office, which he served in the British embassies in Washington and Moscow. Berlin's achievement as a historian and exponent of ideas has earned him the Erasmus, Lippincott, and Agnelli prizes. He has also received the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong defense of civil liberties. His address on receiving the Agnelli Prize is the opening chapter of this book.

HENRY HARDY, editor of this book, also compiled and edited Isaiah Berlin's SELECTED WRITINGS. He took his B. Phil. and D. Phil. in philosophy at Oxford, and from 1985-1990 was senior editor of political and social studies at Oxford University Press. He is now a research fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.

 

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(03/14/2008) Let It Come Down by Paul Bowles. New York. 1952. Random House. keywords: Literature America. 311 pages. Jacket design by E. McKnight Kauffer.

A novel of a young American's surrender to evil in North Africa.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   To Tangier, outpost of unrestrained freedom, morass of ruthless greed and opportunism, comes a young American, Nelson Dyar. Fed up with his job in a New York bank, he has accepted a position in this swarming Moroccan city where nationals of many countries mingle in a frenzy of smuggling, espionage, vice of every description. Quickly caught up in the stream of evil, Dyar discovers that the new life he seeks can be attained only by renouncing whatever loyalty he has for ethical principles. He finds, too, that casting all morality to the four winds is easy and spiritually beneficial in that it awakens him to new points of view. With the help of men and women whose varying state of depravity apparently have been achieved only after years of effort, he learns that each successive violation of a social taboo brings him nearer to self-knowledge. At the same time, because of the sanctions he fears will be taken against him, his involvement in society becomes more complete, his escape more improbable. With the skill so evident in his previous novel, THE SHELTERING SKY, Paul Bowles thrusts the reader into a setting that draws instant response from every sense. Few writers today can so readily and with such economy of expression evoke 'place. ' But places, no matter how bizarre, are backgrounds for people, and here in the revelation of the humans who share the burden of the story. LET IT COME DOWN is astonishingly rich. Whether it is Daisy, Marquesa de Valverde, who sees in Dyar a prey for her hashish-inspired impulses; or Hadija, at fifteen a thoroughly practical wench who sells to the highest bidder ; or Thami, pained by intimations of immorality but not by the money thus begotten; or Jack Wilcox, who dwells in frightened panic but who would never dream of forsaking his little racket -- whether it is any of these, or any of the others who bump momentarily against the raft of Dyar's life as it moves downstream, each assumes a reality extraordinarily sharp and clear.

 

 

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(03/13/2008) The Guinea Pigs by Ludvik Vaculik. New York. 1973. Third Press. Translated from the Czech by Kaca Polackova. keywords: Literature Translated Czech Eastern Europe. 167 pages. Jacket design by Bennie Arrington. 0893880604.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

THE GUINEA PIGS is a chilling fable about dehumanization and alienation representing Vaculik's vision of the menace of Soviet domination in the wake of the 1969 invasion. Written in 1970, it is not simply a political tract but a sweeping condemnation of totalitarianism.

 

 

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(03/12/2008) The Village Of Stepanchikovo by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. New York. 1995. Penguin Books. Translated From The Russian & With An Introduction By Ignat Avsey. keywords: Penguin Classic Paperback Russia Literature Translated 19th Century. 202 pages. The cover shows a detail from Spring by Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon reproduced by courtesy of the David King Collection. 0140446583.

Who says that Dostoyevsky can't be funny? THE VILLAGE OF STEPANCHIKOVO was trashed by many critics when it was first published who found it trivial when compared to his other work.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Dostoyevsky said he wrote THE VILLAGE OF STEPANCHIKOVO 'for the sheer pleasure of prolonging the adventures of my new hero and enjoying a good laugh at him. This hero is not unlike myself. ' Dostoyevsky's narrator has been summoned to his uncle Colonel Rostanev's remote country estate in the hope that he will act as decoy and rescue Rostanev's former ward, Nastenka Yezhevikin, from the tyranny of Opiskin, a despot and charlatan who has the whole household under his thumb. Forty-eight hours of explosive comic drama unfold, culminating in a violent confrontation between Opiskin and the ineffectual Rostanev. Dostoyevsky conveys a delight in life's wild absurdities to rival that of Gogol, yet at the same time in Opiskin, a comic monster of Russian literature, he creates an unflattering portrait of his mentor. Here we recognize the genesis of the characters and the revelatory dramatic scenes of THE IDIOT and THE KARAMAZOV BROTHERS. 'A lively rendering of an unjustly neglected work' - The Times Literary Supplement.

 

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(03/11/2008) A Fatal Friendship: Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr by Arnold A. Rogow. New York. 1998. Hill & Wang. keywords: History Alexander Hamilton Aaron Burr America. 351 pages. Jacket design by Lynn Buckley. 0809047535.

A look at the difficult and ultimately tragic relationship between two of America's founding fathers.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   For almost two centuries, historians have had difficulty explaining the extraordinary duel that in July 1804 killed Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, and ended Vice President Aaron Burr's political career. It was well known that Hamilton disliked Burr--perhaps out of a protective fear for his own power and influence, or perhaps, according to another theory, because of jealousy over the attentions of one or more women. When Burr finally threw down his challenge it followed more than a dozen years of difficult relations and political strife, culminating a few months earlier in Burr's defeat In the race for the governorship of New York, a defeat he attributed to Hamilton's machinations. But why a duel? In A FATAL FRIENDSHIP, the distinguished political scientist and writer Arnold Rogow demonstrates for the first time that the roots of the fatal encounter lay not in Burr's political or private conduct but, rather, in Hamilton's conflicted history and character. With his detailed archival research, his close examination of the friendship between the two heroic figures, and his bold, Imaginative writing, Rogow's brilliant new book will change forever our understanding of honor, politics, and friendship In the early American Republic.

ARNOLD A. ROGOW has taught at Stanford, the University of Iowa, and the City University of New York. He is the author of many other hooks, including THOMAS HOBBES: RADICAL IN THE SERVICE OF REACTION, JAMES FORRESTAL: A STUDY OF PERSONALITY, POLITICS, AND POLICY, and THE DYING OF THE LIGHT.

 

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