June 30, 2010


Egan, Jennifer, A Visit from the Goon Squad (New York: Knopf, 2010) (From the book jacket: "A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to PowerPoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic hunger for redemption--and escape the merciless progress of time--in the transporting realms of art and music . . ." Also see, Janet Maslin, "Time, Thrashing to Its Own Beat," NYT, Monday, 6/21/2010.).

Faulks, Sebastian, A Week in December: A Novel (New York: Doubleday, 2010) ("When, or rather if, the financial crisis ever stabilized, there would be a recession in what journalists charmingly termed the 'real' economy. Millions around the globe would lose their jobs; other millions would go without food, or at least see their modest lives stripped of comfort." "But I have mastered this world, thought John Veals . . . . To me there is no mystery, no nuance and no complication; I am a man alive to the spirit of his time, the one who hears thee whispers on the wind." "A rare surge of feeling, of something like vindication, came from the pit of his belly and spread out till it sang in his veins. As he stood with his hands in his pockets, staring out over the sleeping city, over its darkened wheels and spires and dome, Veals laughed." Id. at 390. See Gregory Cowles's review, "Sins of the Capitalist," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 3/21/2010.).

Hall, Sarah, How to Paint a Dead Man: A Novel (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009) ("Of all the conditions we experience, solitude is perhaps the most misunderstood. To choose it is regarded as irresponsible or a failure. To most it should be avoided, like an illness. Inside solitude people see the many compartments of unhappiness, like the comb of a pomegranate. To be emptied from the world, to be cast away and forgotten--is this what we fear most? So we must shake hands and pass money and hear talk of society and talk of our families and our selves. We must move in and out of doors, press buttons for lifts, catch each other's colds, laugh and weep, and contribute to the din and the restlessness. We must dance and sing, and visit the courts. We must make these daily contracts." "But if it is embraced solitude is the most joyful of commitments. In the grace of these quiet rooms I know far better the taste of each day. How well I know life. I understand water in its glass. As the afternoon circles, shadows move behind the objects on the table. There is a pinch of cinnamon in Theresa's lamb casserole. Such acceptance! Such intimacy! The paint on the chassis of the easel is a thick as guano on the cliffs where seagulls nest." "I am not lonely, but receiving such a letter reminds me of the other souls in this world whom I might have liked to meet." Id. at 16.).

Harding, Paul, Tinkers (New York: Bellevue Press, 2008, 2009) (From the book cover: "An old man lies dying. As time collapses into memory, he travels deep into his past where he is reunited with his father and relives the wonder and pain of his impoverished New England youth. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature." Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.)

Hynes, James, Next: A Novel (New York: Reagan Arthur Book/Little, Brown, 2010) (See Claire Messud, Journey's End," NYT Book Review, 4/4/2010; and Janet Maslin, "A Job Interview to End All Job Interviews," NYT, 3/11/2010).

Kennedy, A.L., What Becomes: Stories (New York: Knopf, 2010) (See Robin Romm's review, "Internal Injuries," NYT Sunday Book Review, 5/23/2010.).

Lee, Chang-rae, The Surrendered (New York: Riverhead Books, 2010) (See Michiko Kakutani, "Lives Scarred by Korean War," NYT, 3/8/2010, and Terrence Rafferty, "Death Pursues Her," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 3/14/2010.).

Leimbach, Marti, The Man From Saigon: A Novel (New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2010) ("If she can find a road, she could set up some kind of ambush, waiting for ARVN or the Americans to come along, and try to get their attention and identify herself before they opened fire. With this in mind, she could make a white flag out of some bamboo and her underpants. But then she thinks how they have not crossed a road in four days of marching; she thinks she would tire of dragging the pole. The previous night, she washed her underpants in the water of a tree stump. They dried in a stiff shape as though starched, smelling of earth. She picked ants off them, then put them back on and discovered that the elastic had stretched. That, or her thighs were much thinner; the pants sagged on her, looking like they belonged to another woman. What was she going to do when they wore out completely?" "Commonplace things--roads, plates, bedclothes, running water--feel unreachable, the thought of them absurd. Where would she find new underpants? She falls asleep for a few minutes, dreaming of fresh water and roads." Id. at 114. See Elizabeth D. Samet, "Hearts in Darkness," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 3/14/2010.).

Leithauser, Brad, The Art Student’s War: A Novel (New York: Knopf, 2009) ("The man who had always served as the family's military analyst drew on the remaining embers in the belly of his pipe. Then he said, within a sweet cloud of smoke, 'That's how it is with most wars. The origin is usually a mystery. What matters is that it comes to an end, darling. And this war's over.'" Id. at 496.).

Lipsyte, Sam, The Ask: A Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010) (" ' . . . Here's what you need to know: The boy can walk away from the ogre's castle. He doesn't have to knock. Some people will tell you that it's better the boy get hurt or even die than never know whether he could have defeated the ogre and won the ogre's treasure. But those are the people who tell us stories to keep us slaves.' " Id. at 270. See Jennifer Schuessler, "The Book of Guys," NYRB, 4/8/2010, at 16; and Lydia Millet, "Target Practice," NYT Book Review, 3/7/2010.).

Malouf, David, Ransom: A Novel (New York: Pantheon, 2009) (From the jacket cover: "A moving novel of suffering, sorrow and redemption, Ransom tells the story of the relationship between two grieving men at war: fierce Achilles, who has lost his beloved Patroclus in the siege of Troy; and woeful Priam, whose son Hector killed Patroclus and was in turn savaged by Achilles. Each man's grief must confront the other's for surcease and resolution: a resolution more compelling to both than the demands of war. . . ." Also see Steve Coates, "Troy Story," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 1/24/2010.).

Marlantes, Karl, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (Berkeley: El Leon Literary Arts; & New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010) (". . . Mulvaney turned to the large map and began outlining the next day's plan of the the ongoing operation, all the while feeling that somehow he had let his regiment down. Working with the goddamned gooks wasn't his idea of fighting a war, particularly when all that would probably happen was a few old political scores would get settled in Cam Lo. Some SEAL team had been operating in the villages for several years now, assassinating 'known Vietcong leaders,' but where the fuck did that information come from? Supposedly from the CIA, but then none of those spooks were hanging out in the villages. Christ, they're all six-foot-two white boys from Yale. So where did the spooks get their information? Probably from one of the damned secret societies who were just fingering a leader of another secret society over the control of some drug market and getting their dirty work done courtesy of the United States Navy. And Vietcong leadership, if the Vietcong existed in force there at all after their buddies from the north set them up to be obliterated by American firepower during Tet, would be long gone by the time all the security leaks from the ARVN trickled down. Yes, Mulvaney mused, power in the secret societies would definitely shift after Cam Lo, and the spooks would be played for suckers, and his Marines would pay the price. He wanted to kick the CIA's ass and break the fucking ARVN's scrawny necks. " Id. at 180. See Sebastian Junger, The Vietnam Wars," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 4/4/2010.).

McEwan, Ian, Solar (New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2010) ("'And this brings us to the central question, the burning question. How do we slow down and stop while sustaining our civilization and continuing to bring millions out of poverty? Not by being virtuous, not by going to the bottle bank and turning down the thermostat and buying a smaller car. That merely delays the catastrophe by a year or two. Any delay is useful, but it's not the solution. The matter has to move beyond virtue. Virtue is too passive, too narrow. Virtue can motivate individuals, but for groups, societies, a whole civilization, it's a weak force. Nations are never virtuous, though they might sometime think they are. For humanity en masse, greed trumps virtue. So we have to welcome into our solutions the ordinary compulsions of self-interest, and also celebrate novelty, the thrill of invention, the pleasures of ingenuity and cooperation, the satisfaction of profit. Oil and coal are energy carriers, and so, in abstract form, is money. And the answer to that burning question is of course exactly where that money, your money, has to flow--to affordable clean energy.'" Id. at 150-151.).

Morgan, Ted, Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America Into The Vietnam War (New York: Random House, 2010) ("In terms of the will to win, thought Navarre, the Vietminh were united, while the French were divided, with the Communists and Gaulists in the National Assembly opposed to the war. The Vietminh kept its secrets, while in Paris secrets were routinely leaked. Navarre didn't even know where the Vietminh headquarters--a cluster of well-guarded bamboo huts, a few dozen aides, easily movable--was. The Vietminh led a monastic life, while in Saigon, the glittering social scene was awash in champagne dinners, women with low necklines, golf and tennis, and the rumor mill. The Vietminh waged war. The French command deployed troops from their air-conditioned offices." Id. at 170.).

Shriver, Lionel, So Much For That: A Novel (New York: Harper, 2010) ("What do you pack for the rest of your life? . . . In the face of infinite contingencies, his impulse was to take nothing." Id. at 1. " ' Why are you trying to make your own children feel dumb?' 'I'm not! I'm trying to make them them feel uneducated, which isn't the same thing.' 'I'm willing to bet the distinction is lost on them'" Id. at 171. " 'We pay good money so these kids learn something. Instead they're so coddled that Heather doesn't even get proper grades. What do we get on her report card? 'Does consistently,' 'does usually,' or 'does with assistance.' There's no 'doesn't do,' 'won't do,' or 'does, but it's crap.' And you saw that newsletter: they won't let teachers use red pen anymore. Red's too 'confrontational' and 'threatening,' so now her tests are marked in a 'soothing' green. They've chucked the bell between classes to make the environment more 'welcoming.' They keep this up, Heather'll grow up and get a job, and the first time her boss says, 'You're late,' or has a tiny bit of a problem paying her to do work she didn't do because she didn't feel like it? She'll jump off a bridge.' . . . 'But this obsessive bolstering of self-esteem--well, I got no problem with self-regard so long as you think well of yourself for good reason. But now they're told they're God's gift, whether or not they've learned to spell. I read a study . . . in The New York Time. . . . They asked a bunch of Korean kids and a bunch of American kids whether they thought of themselves as good at math; thirty-nine percent of the Americans thought they were great at it. Only six percent of the Koreans thought they were any good, and the rest thought they sucked. But when you looked at their test scores, the Koreans were way ahead of the Americans in math. Students in this country are taught to be delusional.' " Id. at 170-171. See "Pre-existing Conditions," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 2/14/2010.).

Soli, Tatjana, The Lotus Eaters: A Novel (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010) ("Helen closed her eyes. She thought of the rolls of film in the car, the images cradled in emulsion, areas of darkness and light like the beginnings of the universe. She herself full of latent images taken over the years, and yet what she had seen would stay inside her, hidden. Linh had covered her eyes during the mission out of Dak To, because he understood that for them the eye was the most important thing. We close our eyes to spare ourselves or those we love. To see demanded responsibility. To gain power over their enemies, armies blindfolded prisoners. In the field, the Khmer Rouge had the people turn away so that the executioners would not see themselves in their victims' eyes." Id. at 373. See Danielle Trussoni, "The Vietnam Wars, NYT Book Review, Sunday, 4/4/2010.).

Syjuco, Miguel, Ilustrado: A Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010) (From the book jacket: "It begins with a body. On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River--taken from the world is the controversial lion of Philippine literature. Gone, too, is the only manuscript of his final book, a work meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the crimes of the Filipino ruling families. Miguel, his student and only remaining friend, sets out for Manila to investigate." "To understand the death, Miguel scours his teacher's life, piecing together Salvador's story through his poetry, interviews, novels, polemics, and memoirs. The result is a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing 150 years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves. Finally, we are surprised to learn that this story belongs to young Miguel as much as to his lost mentor, and we are treated to an unhindered view of a society caught between reckless decay and hopeful progress." Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. See Raymond Bonner, "Manila Vice," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 6/13/2000.).

Wilson, E. O., Anthill: A Novel (New York: Norton, 2010) ("Raff folded the moccasin encounter into his lifelong experience in the Nokobee. In time it became part of the whole. As this and the many other memories piled one upon the other, his devotion to the tract became stronger, but also more realistic. From his passion for Nokobee's wildness, he drew his version of the land ethic. Where farmers love the land for what it yields to their labor, and the hunter love it for the animals they kill and take away, Raff came to love Nokobee for its own sake. It became to him another way to look at the world, different than what he heard at school and from his parents. He constructed a broader context in which he drew a picture of humanity, and of himself. The image was at first vague, but it grew thereafter steadily in clarity. In time he understood that nature was not something outside the human world. The reverse is true. Nature is the real world, and humanity exists on islands within it." Id. at 139-140. See Margaret Atwood, "The Homer of the Ants," NYRB, 4/8/2010, at 6; and Barbara Kingsolver, "Ear to the Ground," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 4/11/2010.).