Saturday, November 2, 2013

New Fiction and Non-Fiction

Stephen King is as scary as ever and as always. "Across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless [of course]. But as Dan Torrance knows, and twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal..." (Thorndike).

Mark Lee Gardner's narrative of Jesse James is another new non-fiction book that reads like a terrific novel. Shot All to Hell: Jessee James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's greatest escape, is also terrific history, well-researched and very well written.

"Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, [Reza] Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and... the seditious "King of the Jews" whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime"( Random House). Good strong narrative that engages and holds the reader's attention.

He was a Southerner, a racist, an academic with imperial attitudes, and the genius behind the doomed League of Nations,.But Wilson did give America a model for higher education and the Federal Reserve (which slashed the incidences of bank failures). Wilson "ushered the country through its first World War" and was "the widower of intense passion and turbulence who wooed a second wife with hundreds of astonishing love letters" (Putnam).
 Anne Hillerman has picked up the mantle of her father, Tony Hillerman, and continues the tradition. Hillerman's book is a fine, fine mystery and features the beloved "tribal sleuths" Leaphorn and Chee. Set in the spectacular landscapes of Navaho country, Spider Woman's Daughter is fun, intriguing and excellent novel.

 In the Jazz Age, Harlem was bursting at the seams with creative and political energy. Carla Kaplan's Miss Anne in Harlem, offers intimate portraits of six women who crossed the color line (to varying degrees), inciting astonishment, anger, fear and loathing. The white women profiled inclde: Lillian Wood, a white woman who went to Tennessee to teach in a hardscrabble rural school for black children and stayed for the rest of her life; Texas heiress Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, who married George Schuyler and disengaged from her Texas roots; Annie Nathan Meyers, who founded Barnard College; Charlotte Osgood Mason, the wealthy patron who believed in the concept of "primitivism" and sponsored the work of Nora Zeale Hurston and Langston Hughes (and was really creepy); the novelist Fannie Hurst, and Nancy Cunard, the shipping heiress who savaged the hypocrisy of her class, compiled the anthology Negro, and who, in the end, lost everything.

Wil Haygood (Precious, Sweet Thunder, King of the Cats, In Black and White) has written "a mesmerizing inquiry" into the life and times of Eugene Allen, who grew up with Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. Allen's tenure covered almost 35 years. The movie is excellent but the book tells the real story. Want to find out what's real or fiction in the movie? Click here. (source).

"As WWII raged overseas, Harlem witnessed a battle of its own. Brimming with creative and political energy" and "a "diverse array of artists and activists" launched "a bold cultural offensive aimed at winning democracy for all Americans" (source). Remember Mary Lou Williams on WNEW? She's one of the artists profiled in Harlem Nocturne.

If You Could Be Mine (Algonquin Young Readers),Sara Farizan.

The daughter of Iranian immigrants (who came to America long before the Shah was deposed), 29-year-old Sara Farizan tells a "heartbreakingly beautiful story of first love.... The reader becomes part of Sahar and Nasrin's journey. We move through it with them with our heart in our hands" (jacqueline Woodson).

Sara Farizan lives in Massachusettes and is an MFA student at Lesley University.

Gun Dealers Daughter (WW Norton), Gina Apostol.

"A young woman pieces together her troubled past in this story of rebellion and romance set in Marcos-era Philippines.... In her American debut, award-winning author Gina Apostol merges the personal and the political to illuminate the dramatic history of a [Philippines] deeply entwined with our own" (WW Norton).

Gina Apostol's stories have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Gettysburg Review, and many other anthologies and journals. She lives and teaches in Western Massachusetts.

The Sea (Alfred A. Knopf), John Banville.

"Max Morden, the woolgathering narrator of "The Sea," is by Banville's standards
rather a benign specimen of bad-faith humanity, just an aging art critic - "a man of leisurely interests and scant ambition," he calls himself - who will never finish his long-procrastinated monograph on Bonnard because he has, by his own admission, nothing urgent or remotely original to say. Morden's wife has recently died, and he has taken a room in a boardinghouse that was occupied, more than 50 summers earlier, by the major players in his personal loss-of-innocence tragedy: the Grace family - father; mother; the twins, Chloe and Myles - and a young nanny named Rose" (Terrace Rafferty)

The Casual Vacancy (Little Brown), J. K. Rowling  

"It would be pointless to pretend I wasn't trying to make a point," she said. The Casual Vacancy was a reaction to specific concerns about Britain now: "I'm worried about the lack of empathy in our culture." If an interest in empathy is what motivates The Casual Vacancy's author, an absence of that quality is what animates the plot. If you haven't read The Casual Vacancy (and it's possible you haven't, even if it is the second-fastest selling adult novel of all time), it's set in the fictional village of Pagford, and the story hinges on a council election, the outcome of which will decide whether a whether a council estate called the Fields remains part of the village or is cast off to a neighbouring town" (SOURCE)

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