“Crash”

Sometimes a movie or a book can rock us like a hook to the jaw. This movie, which tells the stories of a dozen or more people as they crash in and out of one another’s lives in a 36-hour period, whaps us upside the head with a flurry of these hooks.

In Marshall Frank’s latest Miami detective novel, The Latent (ISBN 1-4137-9890-X), a serial killer is terrorizing Miami’s gay community. Rockford “Rock” Burgamy, the detective assigned to the case and a stranger to the gay subculture, must not only track down the vicious killer known as J.D., but must also struggle with his own personal problems.

Narratives of confinement have long held a fascination for readers. From Saint Paul’s account of his imprisonment to modern stories of Turkish prisons, Alcatraz, and the Hanoi Hilton, we find ourselves roused by stories of courage and tenacity shown in the face of punishment and prison.

In the last 40 years, the living waters of American law and politics have flattened into a bog of faction and dissent, of lawsuits and grievance groups, of hatreds both petty and grand.

In need of help

Steve Salerno’s SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (ISBN 1-40005409-5, $24.95) is not only an attack on the self-help movement — SHAM is the acronym for Self-Help and Actualization Movement — but also a very amusing book.

During my senior year of high school, my brother, some friends, and I went to a James Bond film festival. If I remember correctly, we entered the theater around seven in the evening and staggered out about one the next morning. It was an interesting experience. With the exception of “Goldfinger,” which I‘d seen in the seventh grade while away at school (and yes, I lied at that time to get into the theater), all of the movies I saw that night ran together in my head. I literally couldn’t separate one plot from another.

Spill the beans

Confession is good for the soul.

As any practicing Catholic will tell you, that old tune still plays true. You may dread going to confession — I don’t know anyone who enjoys spilling out his faults and sins before a priest, who quite literally speaks for Christ in granting forgiveness, but the feeling on leaving the confessional is frequently one of mild ecstasy, of actually feeling forgiven, of being clean.

In April I began working a few weekend hours in a bookshop in Asheville. Having operated my own bookstore for more than 20 years and having worked in bookstores for 10 years before that, I took up this newest position as a way of keeping my rather dusty, book-begrimed hand in the business.

Well, it’s spring — a beautiful spring indeed this year — and that time on the calendar when a young man’s fancy turns to love.

Besides being what T.S. Eliot called “the cruelest month/Breeding lilacs out of the dead land,” April is also National Poetry Month. To do honor to poetry, let’s look at two books that have much to do with the poem and with the poet.

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