Racism and adultery drive Spencer’s novel
Daniel Emerson is afraid of black people. After a chance encounter with a group of violent African American teenagers left him with a broken wrist, a chipped tooth and an abiding belief that he is going to be killed by either one of his clients or a crack addict, the young lawyer persuades Kate, his current helpmate, to sacrifice the advantages of the big city for the pastoral peace of his hometown, Leyden.
Bringing out the horror of teen angst
In recent years, there has been a kind of Swedish literary invasion in America, especially in the horror genre. Perhaps the most notable is John Lindqvist, who wrote the cult classic, Let the Right One In, which became an international bestseller two years ago. The film version that followed was enthusiastically endorsed by Stephen King as a landmark in “intelligent and provocative horror film.” Shortly afterwards, Lindqvist released Handling the Undead and The Harbor, which immediately became bestsellers.
The stuff of dreams: Important 20th century poet discovered in new book
As the poet Yvan Goll lay in a hospital in Paris dying of leukemia, a continuous line of some of the most celebrated artists and writers of the first half of the 20th century formed to donate blood to keep Goll alive while he struggled to finish his final volume of poems Dreamweed. With the blood of poets and painters coursing through his veins, he completed his masterwork and quickly died.
Books for holiday gifts can be a risky business
Think of the times someone has said to you: “You’ll love this book!” This well-intentioned person then shoves a book into your hands and dances off, leaving you gripping a volume, white-knuckled, you are now required to love. Though occasionally you’ll open the book and find yourself surprised by its pleasures, more likely you will read a few lines and sink slowly into the nearest chair as full of lead as Bonnie and Clyde.
Byer’s book brings us a sense of place
Kathryn Stripling Byer lives in Cullowhee. Poet Laureate Emeritas of North Carolina for a number of years, she was this year inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. I’ve known her since 1973 … so I’m going to call her Kay. The lines quoted below are from the opening and closing stanzas of “Morning Train,” the first of 26 poems in her absolutely remarkable new collection titled Descent (Louisiana State University Press, 2012).
Novel is both shocking and admirable
Anyone who remembers Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967) and the Roman Polanski film that came out about a year later, then you have a handle on a spooky plot wherein two New York parents-to-be are faced with the daunting possibility that the wife may be pregnant with (and by) something that is “not of this earth.” I’m still haunted by Mia Farrow’s tortured dilemma as she stands before the crib that contains “the spawn of Satan” ... stands with a knife in her hand. Which is stronger, a mother’s love or her moral obligation to protect mankind from evil?
Diversity within unity — a book for the ages
From the foothills of the Southern Appalachians, and in the tradition of such spiritual classics as Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men, comes Carolyn Toben’s Recovering a Sense of the Sacred: Conversations with Thomas Berry at a time that is not only propitious, but providential.
Maybe once every hundred years someone emerges from the shuddering mass of humanity who speaks to us with a kind of clarity and wisdom that is universally profound. Father Thomas Berry is such a figure. He was born and raised in a lush and verdant part of the country where nature and beauty trumped progress and development. In this place and in a special meadow near his boyhood home near Greensboro, the seeds of a universal vision for the earth and humanity were cultivated and nurtured — seeds which grew eventually to become a vision that is biblical in its insights, wisdom and compassion.
Lahane scores with steamy suspense novel
I have been a Dennis Lehane fan for about two decades now, and after reading classics like Mystic River, Shutter Island and the short story collection, Coronado, I can easily recognize the author’s “signature” talents: cliff-hanger chapters, passages of riveting suspense/terror and, a marvelous gift for writing introductory paragraphs that hook the reader immediately. Here is the opening of Live by Night:
A flawed story that is still worthwhile
Mark Helprin drives me crazy.
Helprin’s novels — he is the author of A Soldier of the Great War, Freddy and Fredericka, and a half-dozen other works of fiction — remind me of my great-grandmother’s engagement ring, which I took to a jeweler for assessment before giving it to my daughter. The jeweler examined the diamond through her loupe, pronounced the gem chipped and somewhat flawed, then declared that it nonetheless was of excellent value because of its size, its old-fashioned, European cut and its character.
MacDonald may be innocent after all
I always thought he was guilty. Any doubts that I might have felt vanished after I read Joe McGinniss’ Fatal Vision. Jeffery MacDonald had murdered his wife and two daughters, stabbing and bludgeoning them to death in their apartment at Fort Bragg. I did not believe his story about the “hippies” who broke into his house at 3:30 in the morning chanting “Acid is groovy” and “Death to the Pigs.” In essence, I guess I agreed with the military police, the FBI and the Fayetteville Police Department that it sounded like an unconvincing, “copycat” version of the Manson murders some six months before (the word “Pig” written in blood was also at the murder scene).