July 2007 Archives

Strangers With Candy

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Click for availability and more information Strangers With Candy

If you live and die by political correctness, are easily offended and have no sense of humor, you'll want to stop reading this review. Now.
Okay, you were warned, so don't come crying to me when your delicate sensibilities get all roughed-up and trampled on by this movie.
Before its untimely cancellation a few years back, Strangers With Candy was a cult hit television series on the Comedy Channel that starred Amy Sedaris (sister of comedy writer David Sedaris), Paul Dinello (also one of the show's writers, like Amy Sedaris), Stephen Colbert (if you haven't heard of Stephen Colbert by now, I can't even imagine the size of the rock you live under), and others too numerous to mention here, but including cameos from a major star every now and then.
In a nutshell, Strangers With Candy is about ex-con Jerri Blank, "a boozer, a user, and a loser" who decides at the tender age of 46 to leave her sordid life of drug abuse, thievery and prostitution behind and go back to high school in an attempt to start her life over. Jerri returns home to her "family" to find that her father is in a permanent coma while her step-mother is having an on-going affair with the meat man, and her nemesis half-brother is a dim-witted jock aspiring to the school's varsity "squat-thrust" team. At school, her manically egocentric science teacher, Charles "Chuck" Noblet is having a torrid love affair with art teacher Geoffrey "Joffrey" Jellineck. Jerri, meanwhile, throws herself at pretty much anything that moves (including new friend and fellow freshman, Tammi Littlenut), while Principal Onyx Blackman rules over all with the eagle eye and firm resolve that come with his need to manipulate school resources to cover his gambling debts.
Now, I know you must be asking yourself, "But what's the twist, library-man?" I'm so glad you asked. The twist is that Jerri's misadventures are treated like so many of those banal after-school specials you may have been forced to endure while growing up. You know--the ones where the main character learned some kind of poignant lesson or moral at the end of the story? But I'm pretty sure the lessons Jerri Blank learns were never covered by any network television after-school special; network censors would never have allowed it. Strangers With Candy, the movie, is like a 90-minute episode of the show. It may not break new ground, but it doesn't disappoint either. All of the irreverent, rude, crude, and politically-incorrect humor is there, and the cast is in terrific form. The only thing this reviewer was left wanting for was more.
-Will

Avengers '62

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Click for availability and more information Avengers '62

Fans of 60s television remember The Avengers, which first aired here in 1966-69, as a colorful, tongue-in-cheek send-up of the spy genre, with various science fictional elements thrown in, as well as Patrick Macnee as suave agent John Steed and Diana Rigg and intelligent, sexy and independent partner Mrs. Peel. Well, before the Macnee-Rigg episodes were first produced, the series had already run in England since 1961, shot in one-take-only sequence, in black and white and on videotape. The earliest surviving episodes have now been collected as part of the Avengers '62 DVD set  and they're quite a contrast to the later episodes. Fourteen episodes from 1962, featuring Macnee's Steed working with three different partners (only one of which, Honor Blackman's Mrs. Cathy Gale, would last beyond three episodes; Blackman stayed with the series until 1964) and going after mundane killers and enemy spies. Yet the shows do have a certain crude charm (the fight scenes, done live, are unintentionally funny), with a slowly developing sense of wit coming through (such as a hitman using a teddy bear to interview clients) that would develop in future seasons. Plus, Blackman's Cathy Gale predates Rigg's Mrs. Peel as an independent and self-reliant woman, able to take care of herself without any help from men, which wasn't the norm back in the early 60s. Recommended episodes: "Mr. Teddy Bear", "Death Dispatch", "Propellant 23".
-Ed

Raining Stones

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Click for availability and more information Raining Stones

Director Kenneth Loach has always championed the downtrodden and the underdogs in his films. The reality he puts forth in these films is stunning in its authenticity. The locale here is Manchester in the north of England, specifically a council estate and the people who live there.
While starting out as a bit of comedy, the heart of the film is an out of work man named Bob Williams and his desperation to get the money together to pay for his daughter's Catholic Communion outfit. Although he tries very hard to get the money honestly he ends up borrowing money from loan sharks, and things begin to go downhill. His overwhelming love for his daughter is evident and his struggle to provide for her and his wife is both heartbreaking and inspirational.
As often with Loach, behind an ostensible political message, lies a complex moral analysis of real people's lives, handled with great sensitivity.
-Stephen

Black Snake Dîamond Röle

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Click for availability and more information Black Snake Dîamond Röle, by Robyn Hitchcock

I am going through a period of musical nostalgia, revisiting some of the records that were influential and important to me in my younger years. For the most part I come away underwhelmed. Records that seemed brilliant when I was 18 haven't aged very well. One glaring exception is Robyn Hitchcock's first solo record.
After his band, the Soft Boys, disbanded in 1980 Hitch set off alone, recording this record with a few of his former band mates but this time, the songs and vision put forth are his alone. This is where he introduced his brand of twisted psychedelic pop; an amalgam of Syd Barrett, John Lennon and the Byrds, filtered through a post-punk sensibility. The beautiful 12 string guitar chime of "Acid Bird" shows one side of Hitchcock's song-writing prowess, the flipside being the thunderous rancor of "Brenda's Iron Sledge." It is a decidedly British record both thematically and aurally. Hitchcock delivers his lyrics with a fantastic accent that adds much to these songs.
This record was the beginning of a prolific career; Hitchcock is still releasing great records; check out his record "Spooked" from a few years back to see what I mean.
-Stephen

Year Zero

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Click for availability and more information Year Zero, by Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor's vision of America and the world fifteen years from now is a nightmare. Los Angeles is in ruins after terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb, America is invading other countries (surprise surprise), and the government has been usurped from within by right-wing religious fanatics who keep the citizenry cowed by propaganda, drugging the water supply, and silencing opposition via the "Bureau of Morality" (not unlike 1984's "Ministry of Love"). Meanwhile, the environment continues on its own downward spiral (think: plenty of new waterfront property), and amid all the violence, paranoia and hysteria, thousands of people world-wide witness a gigantic ethereal hand reaching down from the sky...
The first of a 2-part concept album (the second is expected to be released early next year), Year Zero's dystopian themes should be familiar by now to all of us. But what really sets this album apart, aside from Trent Reznor's as-always amazing musical stylings, is the back-story, which has complemented the album as an alternate reality game of clues, hidden messages and Web sites that has kept fans busy since even before the album's official release in April.
Whether you're already a Nine Inch Nails fan, or a critic of America's current administration, or simply curious to hear what Trent Reznor sounds like after he's been reading Noam Chomsky, you'll want to give this one a listen.
-Will

Yours Truly, Angry Mob

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Click for availability and more information Yours Truly, Angry Mob, by Kaiser Chiefs

Yours Truly, Angry Mob, by the UK's Kaiser Chiefs is an exhilarating album of British power-pop/garage band fusion. Amusing, ironic lyrics mixed with up-tempo and bouncy hooks make this collection fun to play. Best numbers: "Ruby", "The Angry Mob" and the defiant "I Can Do It Without You".
-Ed

Just Like That

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Click for availability and more information Just Like That, by Toots and the Maytals

The Library recently added this 1980 release to its CD collection.  Toots Hibbert and Co. are in absolutely top form throughout, with the leader proffering some of the most soulful vocals you're ever likely to hear in Reggae or any other genre; particularly on the title cut.  On this song, the influence of the singer's idol, Otis Redding, is clearly discernible as Toots whimpers, groans, babbles and generally crashes and burns at the departure of a lover.  Whew! On more upbeat selections, the groove's the thing, as on two instrumentals: Turn it Up and the Dub-style Turn it Over.Throughout, the band is tight and the Maytals' sweet harmony vocals are used judiciously to spice up the proceedings.But the star of the show is the boss, a Reggae icon, who takes the listener through the extremes of joy and sorrow.  The passage of more than twenty-five years has not diminished my affection for this album.
-David

Click for availability and more information Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick

Mayflower received much praise after its publication and deservedly so. Listed as one of the best non-fiction books of 2006 by The New York Times Book Review, Philbrick has written a gripping and very well-researched book about the history of the Pilgrims. He begins by tracing their English roots and search for a haven from religious prosecution in England. After settling in Holland for years, the Pilgrim leaders decided to leave Europe and set off on their harrowing sail on the Mayflower to America. The early days of their settlement in America were bleak and filled with illness and death. But, their determination to survive, in spite of their terrible living conditions, carried the Pilgrims through those tough years. Most interesting for this reviewer was the detailed manner in which Philbrick writes of the relationship between the Pilgrims and the various Indian tribes with whom they were in contact. While the two groups did live with peace between them for some years, the relationship between the Indians and Pilgrims often involved bloody fighting, most notably with the outbreak of King Philip's War. Also of interest for those readers familiar with Massachusetts and Rhode Island is how so many of the modern names of cities and other locations are derived from the original Indian population of those areas. This book is highly recommended.
-Roy

Click for availability and more information Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits, by David Ortiz

Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits by David Ortiz as told to Tony Massarotti is a great read for any baseball fan - regardless of team loyalty.  Ortiz relates his colorful baseball career, while giving great insight into the behind-the-scenes action of management.  Born in the Dominican Republic, where baseball is more popular than even the United States, David excelled at baseball under the supervision of his father, Enrique (Leo), who was himself a promising pitcher at one point.  Ortiz started in the minors and eventually played for the Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins and finally the Boston Red Sox.  While the Twins tried to teach him to settle for base hits, the Red Sox wanted him to swing away.   He helped the Sox win their first World Championship in 86 years through his great heroics.  Surprisingly, he expresses a great deal of admiration and respect for his arch rivals, the New York Yankees.  After all, he reasons, everyone is after the same thing - a World Championship. Players may end up on the same team over time with the most unlikely teammates, and teams play each other an average of 19 times a year so you do get to know a fair number of people.  This book represents a down-to-earth view of life on a major league team. Despite glaring typographical and grammatical errors, this is just the right book to take to the beach while on vacation.   Play ball!!
-Carl

Click for availability and more information I Spy: A History and Episode Guide to the Groundbreaking Television Series, by Marc Cushman and Linda J. LaRosa

Authors Marc Cushman and Linda J. LaRosa chart the production history of the popular 1965-68 NBC television series I Spy which starred Robert Culp and then-newcomer-to-dramatic-acting Bill Cosby as undercover American agents Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott in a fascinating way. Beginning with showing how the show originated (both Culp, also a writer, and producer Sheldon Leonard came up with a similar idea to do a series with a globetrotting hero filmed in actual foreign locations), the authors cover such items as the selection of Cosby, then best known for his comedy monologues on TV and record albums, the back-end deals Leonard made with the network and foreign governments to fund the series, creative conflicts between the stars and the producers (both Culp & Cosby liked to depart from the script during filming, especially when they didn't care for the writing), Culp's rocky personal life, his feud with Leonard, & his struggles to write for the series, and the never-before-revealed reason why I Spy was cancelled after three successful seasons. There are also amusing stories about working with guest stars like Martin Landau, Jim Brown, Boris Karloff, Nancy Wilson, Greg Morris, Godfrey Cambridge and Peter Lawford, on-set pranks, a hilarious tracking of the number of times the leads were always held in locked rooms in certain episodes, and the experiences of working in foreign lands & how unpredictable things could be. (While filming in Greece in April, 1967 for example, Culp, Cosby, Leonard & the production crew wound up in the middle of the Greek military's infamous overthrow of that country's government. For awhile, it seemed as though the stars might never be allowed to leave the country.) Actual locations where the show was filmed included Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Greece (just barely), and in the USA, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
But aside from being a belated, albeit well-written (with several rare photos and production stills), & researched history of the series with critical reviews of the show's individual episodes (of which Culp wrote seven, as well as directing one of them) included, the authors also point out the social and political significance of I Spy. It was the first hour-long dramatic series with an African-American actor as one of the leads. Cosby's Scott is an equal (and sometimes superior to) Culp's Robinson, with the two often acting more like brothers than partners. (None of that "opposites attract"-type stuff, where the leads childishly bicker with each other to Show They Really Care, made famous by the Lethal Weapon films, that's still a lazy storytelling device used to derive cheap laughs in movies & TV today, appears in I Spy.) Both men are depicted equally as quick-witted, resourceful and, most importantly, steadfastly loyal to each other, even under overwhelming odds. This was especially notable in the mid-60s when the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to make great strides for African-Americans and other minorities, and where the idea of equality for all, regardless of race, could be achieved. (In fact, several NBC stations, fearing backlash from bigoted viewers, actually refused to air the program in their markets.) Even more importantly, Bill Cosby, thanks to his genuine talent, professionalism & overall charisma, was able to become one of the biggest stars television helped develop, as well as helping provide opportunities for other minority performers in the medium. That might not have been possible if Sheldon Leonard and Robert Culp hadn't stood up for Cosby. (NBC was originally very skittish about airing the series, even going so far as pushing for Cosby's dismissal after the first episode was filmed, but thanks to Leonard & Culp's tenaciousness and Cosby's subsequent rising popularity, NBC backed down.)
As both a chronicle of a still-fondly remembered television series and as a document of the social & political period I Spy was created and produced in (yes, there's also good show-biz gossip)  Cushman and LaRosa's I Spy: A History and Episode Guide to the Groundbreaking Television Series (with a foreword by Culp) is essential reading.
-Ed

About Alice

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Click for availability and more information About Alice, by Calvin Trillin

About Alice, by Calvin Trillin, the New Yorker staff writer and author, is an achingly beautiful portrait of his marriage to his late wife, Alice. Trillin wrote about the enigmatic Alice throughout his career with great humor and tenderness. A non-smoker, Alice was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 38, underwent extreme radiation treatment and had a portion of her lung removed in 1976. She died on September 11, 2001 from heart failure caused by the radiation. Trillin brings Alice to life in the pages of this book in ways that leave the reader laughing and crying. He writes of getting sympathy notes from people who felt that they knew Alice, including a young woman who sometimes looked at her boyfriend and thought, "But will he love me like Calvin loves Alice?" Beautiful, talented and giving, Alice was an accomplished wife and mother who, in the words of a friend "managed to navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in." Trillin said he never quit trying to impress Alice. His book dedication reads, "I wrote this for Alice. Actually I wrote everything for Alice." Calvin Trillin has created a beautiful gift for his readers and to the love of his life, Alice.
-Kathy C

Click for availability and more information The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, by Marilyn Johnson

The subject is death, the content is lively. In Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, Marilyn Johnson explores the state of the art of obituary writing, detailing its maturation from stuffier times to today's often expansive print presentations and the internet's alt.obituaries newsgroup. Wittily, revealingly, touchingly she writes of the obituarists she's come to know (and of their obituaries) in addition to the fascinating life stories of their subjects--the universally celebrated and those who should be celebrated for their everyday feats. She's a regular at the annual Great Obituary Writers World Conference. In an old Las Vegas hotel in 2004, just as the meeting was adjourning, word spread about the demise of Ronald Reagan. Johnson described it as "the perfect eleventh hour death." The writers sprinted off in all directions. Johnson did prodigious research in the records of London's Times, Telegraph, Independent, and Guardian. After two of the four began featuring photos in their death features a few decades back, an "obituary renaissance" took hold. Fierce competition lifted standards across the U.S. as well. I read a critic's comment somewhere that mused it was a bit ironic that the status of the obituary is at an all-time high even as electronic media vultures circle our newspapers.
-Sue

Click for availability and more information In An Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Understanding, by Lee and Bob Woodruff

Ripped from the media headlines concerning the injuries of the distinguished journalist Bob Woodruff while he was covering the Iraqi war, this book gives the reader a deeply personal narrative not only the details of that event, but an inside view of the impact those injuries had on his family. Written, in alternating sections, by Lee Woodruff, Bob's wife, and Bob himself, In an Instant also is the story of Woodruff's working career and his path which led him to be appointed co-anchor of World News Tonight. Barely one month after he began this assignment for ABC News, he suffered extremely devastating injuries after a road-side bomb exploded while he was covering the war in Iraq for that program. One interesting aspect of this book is the exact description of the composition of these bombs that can inflict such terrible damage to humans. They can be particularly deadly since they contain stones and rocks. Those elements were driven into Woodruff's head by the impact of the bomb's explosion and created Woodruff's severe medical problems. Lee Woodard writes so eloquently and personally on the roles she had to assume not only as mother to their four children, but wife to a deeply-wounded husband, as well as, the advocate for the proper plans to embrace during her husband's medically-complex recovery period. Added bonuses to their story are Lee and Bob's most-interesting sections about how he changed careers with great determination from attorney to reporter. The Woodruffs' story is terrifically well-written and makes for absorbing and moving reading. In an Instant is highly recommended.
-Roy

The Road to Calabria

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Click for availability and more information The Road to Calabria, by Susan Bria

Does your family have roots in the Cos Cob/Riverside area Do you have any ancestors that made the long ocean crossing during the late 1800's from Italy to the United States?  The Road to Calabria by Susan Bria is one woman's quest to learn more about her family history, and you just may learn something about your own family in the process.
Many of our ancestors left the beautiful rolling hills and quaint villages of Southern Italy in order to start a new life in the United States.  Susan's travels to Calabria ignited a passion for her to learn more about her family's traditions and origins.  She makes many trips to Rose, and to San Benedetto Ullano, meeting relatives and learning about family histories in the most surprising places.  Her book seems like a travel journal with its familiar characters and picturesque landscapes.
If you are interested in tracing your family history, The Road to Calabria can provide you with a "roadmap" on how to plan your journey to Calabria, and what to expect while you are there.  Susan offers many tips along the way, but the information in the book is like a biographical novel.
She has included some of her Family Trees that depict Italian settlers in the Greenwich area.  As an extra bonus, Susan has provided the reader with several well-loved and time-tested favorite recipes that have been passed down through the generations.  This was a thoroughly enjoyable book from cover to cover!
-Debbie

Click for availability and more information Hideki Matsui: Sportsmanship, Modesty and the Art of the Homerun, by Shizuka Ijuin

Hideki Matsui: Sportsmanship, Modesty and the Art of the Homerun by award-winning author Shizuka Ijuin is entertaining and insightful.  Mr. Ijuin describes how he and his wife followed Matsui's career from best hitter in the Japanese league to super star of the New York Yankees. Yet, Hideki Matsui is more than a talented and gifted athlete.  He has been a crusader for human rights. In high school he spoke out against verbal abuse and bullying. Today he is a generous benefactor who has given money to earthquake and tsunami victims.  Matsui stresses that respect is more important than scoring runs. This book provides a unique glimpse into the life of one of the greatest and dignified athletes of our time, as well as Japanese culture.
-Carl

Out of the Silent Planet

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Click for availability and more information Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis

Kidnapped by the physicist, Weston, and his gold-hunting friend, Devine, Ransom unwillingly journeys with them to Malacandra (Mars), to be offered as a sacrifice (a misunderstanding by Weston and Devine who have visited there before) to the sorns (seroni), one of the three kinds of creatures who live there. Ransom escapes his companions, eventually meets a hross who befriends him and takes him to the place where he lives. Ransom settles down there, familiarizing himself with these highly intelligent creatures and their customs and land, learning the language gradually (he is a philologist). He hears that Thulcandra (earth) is isolated from the rest of the solar system (hence the silent planet) because it was taken over by the bent (evil) one. The reappearance of his traveling companions results in the death of three of the hrossa. Ransom is given the choice of remaining in Malacandra or returning to earth with Devine and Weston. Absorbing story that is also a still valid comment on our world.
-Nancy

Four Novels of the 1960s

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Click for availability and more information Four Novels of the 1960s, by Philip K. Dick

Four Novels of the 1960s is what the title implies. Four books by Science Fiction writer & visionary Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), who received little beyond cult recognition until after his death when the film Blade Runner based on his 1968 book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (included in this collection) was released. Four Novels, in addition to Sheep (which details the hunt for human-like androids), also contains The Man in the High Castle (set in an alternative universe where the Axis won World War II; 1962), The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (involving a bizarre plot to conquer an already-decaying Earth via mass-produced drugs, ugly dolls designed to replace children and a false messiah;1964) and Ubik (1969), a comic novel involving consumer culture, drugs (again), life after death and God. All four novels stand out with their shared themes (characters searching for the truth, be it inner or otherwise; characters, good & bad, having multiple identities and personalities, some without their knowledge; children as forces for good and evil, and yes, drugs) and deliver powerful thought-provoking stories that will stick with you long after closing the covers. (You'll also want to reread the stories again as well, just to see what you may have missed the first time.) Also available: Dick's A Scanner Darkly, probably his best novel from the 70s and the basis for an okay movie released last year. (Read the book first.)
-Ed

What Makes Sammy Run?

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Click for availability and more information What Makes Sammy Run?, by Budd Schulberg

Think Ari of HBO's Entourage is a new breed in Hollywood? Then meet Sammy Glick. Follow Sammy's rise to Hollywood success, living his version of the American Dream in the novel What Makes Sammy Run? Named National Critics Choice as Best First Novel of the Year in 1941, author Budd Schulberg introduces Sammy as a copy boy at a NY newspaper who never stops running, never stops looking for an angle, or a leg up...no matter who he steps on to get there. When published, the best seller was praised by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and others, even while causing a maelstrom in Hollywood, with critics and gossips trying to identify who were the real people behind Schulberg's tinsel town characters. Among his work, Budd Schulberg wrote the screenplays for On the Waterfront and A Face in the Crowd.
-Deirdre

Blaze

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Click for availability and more information Blaze, by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)

The literary world abounds with stories of those who are born into a life of desperate misfortune but manage to overcome horrible odds with a little luck, a little help from their friends, and perhaps even the sensibility of some long-wobbling cosmic karmic wheel finally straightening itself out and doing right by our beleaguered hero.
This isn't one of those stories.
Blaze is the story of a man who falls through the cracks; his family fails him, the "system" fails him, and any connections he makes in life to anyone who might have any kind of positive influence on the course of his tragic existence are severed, repeatedly, by cruel twists of fate. What makes the story most tragic is that, at heart, slow-witted giant Clayton "Blaze" Blaisdell, Jr. is a decent person--even admirable in some ways--who could have led a much different life if lady luck hadn't been quite such a witch. But when Blaze is befriended by George Rackley, a small-time con-man with a dangerously large ambition who eventually ends up dying in Blaze's arms, Blaze's fate is all but decided. Even so, maybe things could have turned out differently if George had simply stayed dead...
Blaze is the last novel attributed to Stephen King's alter-ego, Richard Bachman, and in its sensitivity and genuine portrayal of the human condition, easily stands alongside the best of the author's works.
-Will

The Boleyn Inheritance

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Click for availability and more information The Boleyn Inheritance, by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory has created yet another vivid and very readable portrait of Henry VIII's court and times with The Boleyn Inheritance. Gregory has told this story from the perspective of three women who were there - Henry's fourth wife, Bavarian-born Anne of Cleeves, his fifth wife Katherine Howard and Jane Rochford, who was the sister-in-law of his second wife Anne Boleyn. As with her other books about Henry and his family, The Constant Princess, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen's Fool and Virgin Lover, Gregory obviously has researched her subject matter so well and written yet another terrifically interesting and compelling story of the court drama and intrigue during Henry VIII's reign. In particular, these three women come alive with Gregory masterful skill and the reader gets yet another "inside look" at Henry VIII's court. This book is highly recommended, especially for those who have enjoyed Gregory's other books.
-Roy

What The Dead Know

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Click for availability and more information What The Dead Know, by Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman, the Edgar Award winning writer of the Baltimore mysteries featuring private investigator Tess Monaghan, writes an excellent thriller loosely based on actual events that happened in the Baltimore area in 1975. In the book, What the Dead Know, two young sisters, Heather and Sunny Bethany disappear without a trace from a Maryland shopping mall.  It remained a cold case, but never far from the minds of the Baltimore police force.  Thirty years later a woman is arrested for a hit-and-run accident on the Baltimore beltway, and she claims to be Heather Bethany, one of the missing sisters.  Through a series of flashbacks, the reader comes to know the tragic story from several perspectives.  The book pieces together the events of what happened in that shopping mall so many years ago.  The resolution of the mystery is twisting and surprising but the trip there is worth the bumpy ride, especially with the interesting and complex characters.  Laura Lippman is one of the most gifted mystery writers in the field.
-Kathy C

Straight Man

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Click for availability and more information Straight Man, by Richard Russo

Put any of the novels that you might have missed by the irrepressible Richard Russo on your summer reading list. Straight Man is a complete hoot.
It's a savvy, sweet satire. Russo sends up small college town life, particularly the bureaucracy of academe. Somewhere in west central Pennsylvania a not top-notch institution of higher education is struggling with its budget for the year to come. Fifty-something-year-old Hank is the reluctant English Department Head pro tem.
Hank's had a one hit wonder literary career that peaked decades ago. Not ambitious, he's riding just a bit on his father's relative literary fame.
As the inevitable year-end job slashing rumors rise, his department of quarrelsome increasingly hysterical egotistical professors plot mutiny against him and the administration bean counters. Academic love-hate relations abound. Hank is finally driven to instigate a bizarre media campaign. He's going to kill a duck a day at the campus pond for tv news until fiscal sanity (as defined by the English profs) is restored. Enjoy the romp.
-Sue

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