Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Review | Margaret climbs a mountain of insecurities in 'A Change in Altitude'

Anita Shreve's latest book, set in Kenya, includes wild animals, dangerous jealousies and suffering natives.A CHANGE IN ALTITUDE. Anita Shreve. Little, Brown. 307 pages. $26.99.

Anita Shreve is a bestselling novelist in large part because of the economical way she builds suspense. In the first line of her new book, a young white doctor who has arrived in Nairobi to conduct research, announces, ``We're climbing Mount Kenya.'' In those four words to his wife, he suggests the story's central questions: Why is Patrick telling Margaret, with her scant climbing experience, rather than asking her? Can the young American couple rise to the physical and psychological challenge? And what will this climb allow them to discover about Kenya and about themselves?

The novel, set in the 1970s, is told from Margaret's angle and, because she is a photographer, that perspective is often visual and sharply focused. She's especially sensitive to those who claim authority, and that includes all five of her climbing partners: She and Patrick, accompanied by a guide and porters, take on Mount Kenya with two European couples well accustomed to wielding the authority of post-Mau Mau white colonials. Patrick and Margaret's landlord, Arthur, is the one who has suggested the climb, and Margaret has certainly noticed the proprietary attention he pays her. Arthur's athletic wife, Diana, has noticed, too.

Shreve's prose is workaday here, and the dialogue is occasionally stiff, but she knows how to keep a reader engaged. Sometimes, Margaret's interior monologue does a good job of explaining a bit of action: ``After she had stumbled a couple of times, she noticed that the cook, whose name she didn't know (whose name she didn't know!), stood near her in case she fell badly.'' More often, however, Margaret's thoughts are separated from the action and tend to state her dilemmas baldly. In the middle of the night, she wakes in their mountain shelter to find rats crawling over her, and allows Arthur to comfort her by taking her hand. The passage describing the morning after seems designed to reassure those readers who are a little slow on the uptake: ``She wondered who else had seen her hand in Arthur's, and if that explained the angry voices outside.''

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Herta Müller Wins the Nobel Prize in Literature

Herta Müller, the Romanian-born German novelist and essayist who has written widely about the oppression of dictatorship in her native country and the unmoored life of the political exile, on Thursday won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy described Ms. Müller, “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” Her award comes on the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Europe.Ms. Müller, 56, emigrated to Germany in 1987 after years of persecution and censorship in Romania. She is the first German writer to win the Nobel award since Günter Grass in 1999. Just four of her works have been translated into English, including the novels “The Land of Green Plums” and “The Appointment.”

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Periscope On Facebook

Sorry, no new book review posting today.  But we did want to let you know about our new page on Facebook.  This page will have the blog postings, new product information, deal offers, news stories and much more.  If you are on Facebook, please be sure to check us out!! 

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Reporting on the threat posed when reliable reporting fades away...

'Losing the News' By  Alex S. Jones
Reviewed By Erica Noonan
It has been an annus horribilis for newspapers.
Dailies in Seattle, Denver, and Tucson went dark in 2009, as did several dozen small-town weeklies. The Boston Globe was threatened with closure, as was the San Francisco Chronicle. And we still have more than three months to go.

The timing could not be more appropriate for veteran newsman Alex S. Jones’s latest book, “Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy.’’
This is not a hopeful book. It’s more of an obituary for the industry that gave Jones an enviable career, first at his family’s own small paper in Greeneville, Tenn., then as a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at The New York Times, and a plum perch at the nexus of journalism and academia as director of Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

“Losing the News’’ is one of the clearest assessments to date of the sweeping technological and financial changes that overturned the modern tradition of objective newsgathering and dissemination.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

'Evidence of Murder' By Lisa Black

Reviewed By Oline H. Cogdill
Miami Herald

In her second novel about Cleveland forensic investigator Theresa MacLean, Black constructs an involving plot that seems to have no clues. No matter how Theresa approaches her latest case, she cannot find any evidence that would reveal how a young woman died in the woods. Nothing suspicious was found near Jillian Perry's body, and forensics tests yield nothing.

A former escort with an adored 5-month-old baby, Jillian apparently had finally found happiness with Evan, her husband of three weeks. Evan and his business partner had just developed an innovative video game that was likely to bring them wealth -- and a bit of fame.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

'Little Bird of Heaven' By Joyce Carol Oates

 'Little Bird of Heaven' By Joyce Carol Oates
Reviewed By Malena Watrous
NY Times

Often called the “Dark Lady of American Letters,” Joyce Carol Oates is a controversial figure, simultaneously praised for her prolific versatility and taken to task for a fascination with violence that can seem prurient. In her fiction, violence is often at the root of passion, and passion almost inevitably leads to violence, a tautology and trap that we see again in “Little Bird of Heaven,” Oates’s 57th novel since 1964.

Set in Sparta, a fictional town in upstate New York, the novel explores the unsolved murder of Zoe Kruller, a bluegrass singer with a reputation for sleeping around. After she was strangled in bed, the police repeatedly detained and interrogated her estranged husband, Delray Kruller, and her married lover, Eddy Diehl. The two men were named “prime suspects” in the local paper, but neither was brought to trial. Still, the accusations marked them. The town remains split on which one must have done it. Her cuckolded husband has a clear motive (and he’s targeted for being part Seneca Indian). But their son, Aaron, insists that he was with his father during the murder. Her lover, Eddy, was not home that night, a fact that his scorned wife discloses to the cops after they search her home. She also issues a restraining order against him, forbidding contact with his children. The novel is split too, between Eddy’s daughter, Krista, and Delray and Zoe’s son, Aaron, as both try to make sense of what happened in the years surrounding the murder, and to establish their fathers’ innocence.

“That yearning in my heart!” Krista begins. Although she’s a grown woman, she still pines for her father with the rawness of an abandoned child. She was not even a teenager when Zoe died, and she lost her “Daddy,” as she continuously refers to him. Krista’s narrative, dominating the first half of the book, is riddled with exclamation points, italics and single-sentence paragraphs. The intensity grows wearisome at times, her passion verging on hysteria. But as she becomes an increasingly unreliable character witness, the story grows richer and more layered.

NY Times 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

'True Compass' by Edward M. Kennedy

Review By Tim Rutten
Chicago Tribune

"The graveyards of the world," Charles De Gaulle once said, "are filled with indispensable men."

The eloquent shrug of Gallic irony aside, the living do walk away, even from the graves of the great and good, and history -- which is life in the aggregate -- simply goes on. Yet it does no justice to the living or the dead to pretend that some losses do not diminish us in ways that impoverish our collective experience and strip away a bit of life's savor.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's recent death was such a loss, and "True Compass," his touchingly candid, big-hearted and altogether superb memoir, demonstrates precisely why. Completed in the shadow of the senator's own mortality, this is a book whose clarity of recollection and expression entitles it to share in the lineage established by America's first great memoir of public life -- "The Autobiography of U.S. Grant," which he wrote while himself dying of cancer.

There are, of course, fundamental differences: The former president and Union commander was a 19th century man setting down a public life; Kennedy is very much a man of our time, open to exploring the interplay of his inner and outer lives. Grant wrote his autobiography; although Kennedy was a devoted diarist whose natural gifts as a storyteller and as a sharp, painterly observer shine through every page, he was ably assisted not only by the writer -- and Twain biographer -- Ron Powers, but also by his wife, Vicki Reggie, and a variety of scholars, particularly those associated with the University of Virginia's oral history project.

All the Kennedy brothers were known for their superb staffs -- Teddy, most of all.

In the weeks leading up to Monday's publication of "True Compass," much of the obvious "news" in this book was leaked to the press, particularly his bitter regrets over his "inexcusable" behavior during the Chappaquiddick tragedy, the night of heavy drinking that resulted in rape allegations against one of his nephews, and the failure of his first marriage. What's far more remarkable about this memoir is its capacious and generous spirit.

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