Monday, April 30, 2007

Pg. 69: Robert Sawyer's "Rollback"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Robert Sawyer's Rollback.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dr. Sarah Halifax decoded the first-ever radio transmission received from aliens. Thirty-eight years later, a second message is received and Sarah, now 87, may hold the key to deciphering this one, too ... if she lives long enough.

A wealthy industrialist offers to pay for Sarah to have a rollback — a hugely expensive experimental rejuvenation procedure. She accepts on condition that Don, her husband of sixty years, gets a rollback, too. The process works for Don, making him physically twenty-five again. But in a tragic twist, the rollback fails for Sarah, leaving her in her eighties.

While Don tries to deal with his newfound youth and the suddenly vast age gap between him and his wife, Sarah struggles to do again what she’d done once before: figure out what a signal from the stars contains. Exploring morals and ethics on both human and cosmic scales, Rollback is the big new SF novel for 2007 by Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Robert J. Sawyer.
Among the reviews and endorsements for Rollback:
"An early candidate for sci-fi book of the year."
Kansas City Star

"Rollback gets my vote as SF novel of the year. A joy to read."
—Jack McDevitt, author of Odyssey

"Canadian author Sawyer once again presents likable characters facing big ethical dilemmas in this smoothly readable near-future SF novel. Sawyer, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards, may well win another major SF award with this superior effort."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Thoughtful, low key, and convincing. One of Robert Sawyer's strongest points as a writer is that his characters are always real people. Sawyer has repeatedly shown that he can portray very dramatic situations in an effective but unmelodramatic fashion."
Don D'Ammassa, the long-time book reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle

"I highly recommend Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback. It's a shoo-in to be short-listed for next year's major awards."

"A fascinating human drama, where joy and tragedy take human form, rather than apocalyptic ones. All in all, it's a 'skytop' story, worth reading by genre and mainstream readers alike."
Visit Robert Sawyer's website and blog, and read an excerpt from Rollback.

See the entry for Rollback at "My Book, The Movie."

The Page 69 Test: Rollback.

--Marshal Zeringue

Orville Schell and important books

In the May 7, 2007, edition of Newsweek, Orville Schell, dean of the journalism school at the University of California, Berkeley, responded to some questions about important books:
An Important Book you haven't gotten around to reading:

Any excellent new book that helps assess the challenges of global climate change ... even if it's by Al Gore.

The book you most care about having children read:

Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino. My kids would not tolerate anything like Grimm's fairy tales; they were too dark and depressing. But there was something playful about the Italian fairy tales that they adored.
Schell also named his five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pg. 99: Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.

Patsy Stoneman, a leading authority on the nineteenth-century novel, especially on the works of Elizabeth Gaskell and the Brontë sisters, applied the test to the Oxford World’s Classics edition for which she has written the Introduction.

About Wuthering Heights, from the Oxford University Press:
First published in 1847, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights is set on the bleak Yorkshire moors, where the drama of Catherine and Heathcliff, Heathcliff's cruel revenge against Edgar and Isabella Linton, and the promise of redemption through the next generation, is enacted.
Stoneman's bottom line about page 99:
Overall, the page suggests complex interactions between characters of very different motivations and moral attitudes, played out in dramatic and vivid language and promising unpredictable developments. If you read on, you are likely to get deeply involved; you will have to try to solve puzzles and to make judgements, in situations which raise fierce emotions.
And do read on, because Professor Stoneman gives three particular reasons why page 99 is an especially enticing peek into this classic novel.

The Page 99 Test: Wuthering Heights.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Claire Zulkey reading?

The writer Claire Zulkey edits the blog, where she often runs interviews and many other engaging items.

Check out the current feature at "Writers Read" to see what she's been reading.

A recent item from her Diary opens:
Dear Donald Trump:

F you. Seriously. Two big middle fingers up to you.

You know why? [read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

"A Shot To Die For," the movie

Over at "My Book, The Movie," Libby Fischer Hellmann shares some ideas about casting the possible film adaptation of the latest volume in her award-winning amateur sleuth series featuring Chicago video producer Ellie Foreman, A Shot To Die For.

Here, from the author, are the basics of the story:
I’m a former film-maker myself, and no one was more surprised when I “came back to words” and wrote four novels. But I haven’t completely given up the ghost – my protagonist, Ellie Foreman, is a documentary film producer, and she’s always producing some sort of show in each book. In fact, I’ve often thought about who might play Ellie and the other characters in the series.

A Shot To Die For is the fourth Ellie book. In it, Ellie is at a rest stop near the resort town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where she’s producing a video when she witnesses what appears to be the work of a Chicago-area sniper. She does her best to stay out of the investigation, but when the victim's family prevails upon her to investigate, Ellie feels compelled to do what she can. That decision leads her into the twisted lives of Lake Geneva's gentry, as well as a relationship with one of the suspects that might be amorous — or dangerous.
Read on for Hellmann's casting ideas.

Read more about Libby Hellmann's novels and short stories at her website. She also blogs at "The Outfit."

The Page 69 Test: A Shot To Die For.

--Marshal Zeringue

Mohsin Hamid's most influential book

Mohsin Hamid, author of the recently-released The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was asked about the book that most influenced his life or career as a writer. His response:
Toni Morrison's Jazz. Not because it is her best book, nor because it is my favorite book, but because it was the first book of hers I read and also the book I was reading when she read me. I wrote the first draft of my first novel, Moth Smoke, for a creative writing class with her in my final semester at Princeton. When she read my words aloud I understood something about writing, about the power of orality, of cadence and rhythm and the spoken word, that unlocked my own potential for finding voices and shaped everything I have written since. This book opened a door that I walked through without ever, in fourteen years, looking back.
In the same interview, Hamid talked about his ten favorite books. One of his choices would certainly be on my top ten; two others quite likely would make my list as well. Read about these three books.

The Page 69 Test: Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: John Gribbin's "The Fellowship"

Today's featured book at the "Page 69 Test" is John Gribbin's The Fellowship.

About the book, from the publisher:

Seventeenth-century England was racked by civil war, plague, and fire; a world ruled by superstition and ignorance. But then a series of meetings of ‘natural philosophers’ in Oxford and London saw the beginning of a new method of thinking based on proof and experiment. And at the heart of this Renaissance were the founding fathers of modern western science: The Royal Society.

John Gribbin’s gripping, colorful account of this unparalleled time of discovery explores the birth of the Society and brings its prime movers to life, including: William Gilbert, Francis Bacon, William Harvey, Christopher Wren, Robert Morey, Robert Hooke, and his ambitious rival Isaac Newton.

This compelling book shows how the triumph of the revolution that changed our world — and still continues 350 years on — was ultimately not the work of one isolated genius, but of a Fellowship.

From Publishers Weekly:

"In his latest book, astrophysicist and veteran science writer Gribbin (In Search of Schrodinger's Cat) sweeps away the dust of historical distance to offer a detailed look into the lives and obsessions of the men at the heart of the scientific revolution and the birth of the Royal Society: 'the right people, in the right place, at the right time.' Italy, says Gribbin, would have birthed the scientific revolution, building on Galileo's efforts, but for the stifling interference of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile William Gilbert was studying magnetism in England and advocating the use of hands-on methods — experimentation — countering the rigid, traditional Aristotelian view that pure thought was enough to understand the workings of the universe. The value of testing hypotheses through experimentation was reinforced by Francis Bacon and created a new generation of thinkers, led by Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle, who created the Royal Society. At first the society was financially dependent on wealthy amateur scientists, but soon Robert Hooke's experiments in physics and chemistry made the society justly famous. Isaac Newton 'completed the task of turning a somewhat dilettante gentleman's talking shop into a truly learned society.' Gribbin is an ideal and entertaining narrator for this lively story of intellectual discovery and brotherhood."

Visit John Gribbin's website, and learn more about The Fellowship.

Gribbin recently named a "five best" list of "scientific works [that] are also literature of a high order" for Opinion Journal.

The "Page 69 Test": The Fellowship.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Pg. 99: Ted McClelland's "Horseplayers"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Ted McClelland's Horseplayers: Life at the Track.

About the book, from the publisher:
This fun and witty exposé of horse racing in America goes behind the scenes at the track, providing a serious gambler's-eye view of the action. Ted McClelland spent a year at tracks and off-track betting facilities in Chicago and across the country, profiling the people who make a career of gambling on horses. This account follows his personal journey of what it means to be a player as he gambles with his book advance using various betting and handicapping strategies along the way. A colorful cast of characters is introduced, including the intensely disciplined Scott McMannis, "The Professor," a onetime college instructor who now teaches a course in handicapping, and Mary Schoenfeldt, a former nun and gifted handicapper who donates all of her winnings to charity. This moving account of wins, losses, and personal turmoil provides a sobering look at gamblers, gambling, and life at the track.
Among the praise for the book:
"Ted McClelland's Horseplayers ... is a zippy, fun and well-written romp around the racetrack. The book includes portraits of all sorts of characters McClelland meets through his habit. And McClelland, a staff writer for the Chicago Reader, also offers novices a thorough glossary of terms to help them understand how to watch and even bet on horse races. So not only is this a lively telling of a live subject, it's educational, too."
--New York Post

"EVER wondered if you could cut it as a professional punter? Ted McClelland, a columnist for the Chicago Reader, spent a year at racetracks and American off-track betting parlours to see if he could make a living from betting on horses, using as a bankroll the $4,000 he received from his publisher as an advance on the project. Regardless of the outcome, it was money well spent. This is a fine book, a witty examination of life among the community who inhabit the track on a daily basis, trying to scratch a living from playing the horses. Along the way, McClelland encounters a fascinating cast of diverse characters on the Chicago circuit, among them 'Professor Speed' Scott McMannis, a time-figures expert who hosts seminars at the racetrack and despairs of pupils ignoring his precepts. This immensely readable account, by a brutally honest writer who never pretends to any finer feelings or sentimentality when a bet is involved, is a gambler's book that is well worth a punt."
--The Racing Post
Ted McClelland's stories and essays have been published in Salon, Utne, Mother Jones, the Chicago Tribune, Slate, and Potomac Review. Many of his articles are available online and at his website, including "How Obama learned to be a natural" (Salon, February 12, 2007) and "Horse Racing's Plastic Surgery" (Slate, April 12, 2007).

Visit Ted McClelland's website and read an excerpt from Horseplayers.

The Page 99 Test: Horseplayers: Life at the Track.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "The Making of an Economist, Redux"

The current feature at the Page 69 test: David Colander's The Making of an Economist, Redux.

About the book, from the publisher:

Economists seem to be everywhere in the media these days. But what exactly do today's economists do? What and how are they taught? Updating David Colander and Arjo Klamer's classic The Making of an Economist, this book shows what is happening in elite U.S. economics Ph.D. programs. By examining these programs, Colander gives a view of cutting-edge economics -- and a glimpse at its likely future. And by comparing economics education today to the findings of the original book, the new book shows how much -- and in what ways -- the field has changed over the past two decades. The original book led to a reexamination of graduate education by the profession, and has been essential reading for prospective graduate students. Like its predecessor, The Making of an Economist, Redux is likely to provoke discussion within economics and beyond.

The book includes new interviews with students at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Chicago, and Columbia. In these conversations, the students -- the next generation of elite economists -- colorfully and frankly describe what they think of their field and what graduate economics education is really like. The book concludes with reflections by Colander, Klamer, and Robert Solow.

This inside look at the making of economists will interest anyone who wants to better understand the economics profession.

David Colander has been the Christian A Johnson Distinguished Professor of Economics at Middlebury College since 1982. He has authored, co-authored, or edited over 80 articles and over 30 books.

Learn more about The Making of an Economist, Redux at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 69 test: The Making of an Economist, Redux.

--Marshal Zeringue

Man-versus-nature books

James M. Tabor, author of the forthcoming Forever on the Mountain: The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering's Most Mysterious and Controversial Tragedies, named the five best first-person man-versus-nature books for Opinion Journal.

The book on the list with the most dramatic title by the author with the most English of names:
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

English aristocrat Apsley Cherry-Garrard spent 1910-13 with Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated South Pole expedition. In "The Worst Journey in the World," Cherry's writing is elegant and laced with wry English humor but also with the grim epiphanies that come only from agony. His lasted three long years; its terrible climax was the Winter Journey of July-August 1911, when Scott sent Cherry and two others into the black heart of Antarctic winter. They hauled a 757-pound sledge for five weeks through 24-hour darkness, 70-below-zero cold and hurricane storms -- on a hunt for penguin eggs that Scott wanted for scientific study. The fool's errand wrecked Cherry's body and spirit. "This journey had beggared our imagination; no words could express its horror," Cherry wrote. He was wrong, though. His beautiful, horrifying book does exactly that.
Read about the only book on the list set in the United States.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 27, 2007

What is Laura Wiess reading?

Laura Wiess is the author of Such a Pretty Girl and other books.

In January, she put the novel to the Page 69 Test.

Earlier this month she speculated at "My Book, The Movie" about the cast if the book were adapted for the screen.

Now, she's the featured contributer at the "Writers Read" blog.

See what she's been reading ... and looking forward to reading.

Visit Laura Wiess' website, her LiveJournal blog, MySpace page, Amazon blog, and the "Welcome to the Asylum" blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Philip Pullman's list

Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, named this week's list at The Week magazine.

One title on the list:
The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton

This vast attic of a book is the strangest, funniest, and most consoling work I know. It’s the last full expression of the pre-modern world, a compendium of bizarre anecdotes, rough wisdom, and sardonic commentary. Open it anywhere and you’ll find something extraordinary.
Read about another pick of Pullman's, which he calls "the funniest children’s book ever written."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test is Patricia Vigderman's The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fascinating meditation on art and personality, Patricia Vigderman’s exploration of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s famous Boston museum radiates out from its subject to investigate Gardner’s legacy of luxury and willfulness. Isabella Gardner’s high spirits and aesthetic pleasure, her women friends and female power, her friendships with the adventurers and aesthetes of her world, are gathered into this engrossing investigation of patronage and passion. Blending biography, memoir, philosophy, and detective story, The Memory Palace is more than a tribute to the museum and the woman; it is an altogether new genre. Vigderman’s witty and intimate quest for her subject sets a literary precedent for the appreciation of artistic imagination. Loosening up the past, entering its mysteries and its memories, she reminds us that we change our lives when we begin a relationship with art.
Among the praise for the book:

"What a great pleasure this gorgeous little book has given me! It should be offered everywhere indeed, and at every museum shop on earth. Quite aside from finding it one of the best things of its kind I’ve ever read, I think it offers freedom to think and to meditate, wandering through spaces that speak to sensibility. I loved the combination of felicitous language and current remark.... Oh my goodness, what didn’t I love?"
—Honor Moore

"In her journey into the worlds of the willful and wonderful Isabella Stewart Gardner and her beloved and immutable museum, Patricia Vigderman has written a book of lyrical attention and poetic fluidity. Taking her leads from Gardner's personality and life, she is as receptive to the offbeat and the forgotten as she is to the canonical. She finds in the museum's artworks and artifacts, in its eccentric installations, and in Gardner's friendships and patronages, essential clues to the secrets of an individual and institution that seem designed to resist access and change. This book makes it possible for us to feel we can touch not just a decisive 19th-century American moment but also an extraordinary and elusive person, while leaving the mystery at her center intact. After reading the book, no one will feel the same way about Gardner, her museum, and the relationship between contemporary art and the past."
—Michael Brenson, Art Critic

Patricia Vigderman's recent writing has appeared in The Georgia Review, Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, Northwest Review, Raritan, Seneca Review, and Southwest Review. She divides her year between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Gambier, Ohio, where she teaches in the English department at Kenyon College.

Learn more about The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner, and read an excerpt, at the publisher's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "The Impossibility of Religious Freedom"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Winnifred Sullivan's The Impossibility of Religious Freedom.

About the book, from the publisher:

The Constitution may guarantee it. But religious freedom in America is, in fact, impossible. So argues this timely and iconoclastic work by law and religion scholar Winnifred Sullivan. Sullivan uses as the backdrop for the book the trial of Warner vs. Boca Raton, a recent case concerning the laws that protect the free exercise of religion in America. The trial, for which the author served as an expert witness, concerned regulations banning certain memorials from a multiconfessional nondenominational cemetery in Boca Raton, Florida. The book portrays the unsuccessful struggle of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish families in Boca Raton to preserve the practice of placing such religious artifacts as crosses and stars of David on the graves of the city-owned burial ground.

Sullivan demonstrates how, during the course of the proceeding, citizens from all walks of life and religious backgrounds were harassed to define just what their religion is. She argues that their plight points up a shocking truth: religion cannot be coherently defined for the purposes of American law, because everyone has different definitions of what religion is. Indeed, while religious freedom as a political idea was arguably once a force for tolerance, it has now become a force for intolerance, she maintains.

A clear-eyed look at the laws created to protect religious freedom, this vigorously argued book offers a new take on a right deemed by many to be necessary for a free democratic society. It will have broad appeal not only for religion scholars, but also for anyone interested in law and the Constitution.

Among the endorsements and reviews of the book:

"This is a remarkably fine work that discusses the way religion is perceived and dealt with in the United States. The subject is of great moment not only in America but also in the world at large, and Sullivan has treated it with considerable analytical skill and ethnographic detail. The result is a powerful and convincing argument."
--Talal Asad, City University of New York Graduate Center

"Provocative. Engaging. Valuable. Sullivan has created a kind of analytical triptych that captures some of the most important features of religions and law in the United States. It is a finely crafted portrait of an incredibly suggestive trial, a meditation on the political/legal status of folk religions in the United States, and a theoretical intervention into contemporary studies of religion jurisprudence."
--Jason Bivins, North Carolina State University

Winnifred Sullivan is Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Law and Religion Program at the University at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. She is currently the Lilly Endowment Fellow at the National Humanities Center.

Learn more about The Impossibility of Religious Freedom at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Impossibility of Religious Freedom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Heaven's Delight," the movie

The latest feature at "My Book, The Movie"-- Niraj Kapur's Heaven's Delight.

The story, from the author:
Set in Heaven, Hell and the UK, Heaven's Delight is the story of Beth, a cynical, self-centred angel who God sends back to earth to atone for her past sins. She has six days to help bring together four couples, to learn the real values of love, friendship and honour. If she succeeds, she can return to her old life on earth. If she fails, she will be condemned to an eternity in hell.

Matters are further complicated when she falls madly in love with Chris and has to hide her true identity from him, while the devil and his demons do everything possible to keep them apart.
So who would the author entrust to present his story on the big screen? Read on to find out.

Heaven's Delight at "My Book, The Movie" and at "The Page 69 Test."

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Wendy Werris reading?

Wendy Werris, author of An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the World of Books, is the author of the latest entry at the very cleverly-named "Writers Read" blog.

Werris's comment on one of her recent reads:
There's the new Laura Lippman novel, What the Dead Know, and as one who's new to her work I'm pleasantly surprised by Lippman's almost poetic style of characterization. It's branded a mystery, but the narrative and characters are so boldly drawn that it rises well above the genre. I'm enthralled.
See what else Werris is reading.

Among the praise for An Alphabetical Life:
"A profoundly moving and endlessly entertaining book where love illuminates every line - a young woman's love for writers and writing, a Sixties kid's love for her home town (Los Angeles) and, above all, a daughter's love for her father. Grips you from the first line and stays in your memory long after you have closed the final page. A quiet, brutally honest masterpiece."
-- Tony Parsons, bestselling author of Man and Boy and One For My Baby
Visit Werris's online journal and official website, and check out the Page 69 Test results for An Alphabetical Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David Armitage's "The Declaration of Independence"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Declaration of Independence: A Global History, by David Armitage.

About the book, from the publisher:
Among the praise for The Declaration of Independence: A Global History:
In this brilliant work, Armitage not only illuminates the American founding but offers a provocative perspective on the modern world as a whole. There is nothing on the American Declaration that compares with this extraordinary book.
--Peter S. Onuf, author of Jefferson's Empire

More so than the Constitution ... the Declaration has also become a global document, a piece of intellectual and political common property that has transcended the circumstances of its creation and perhaps even the intentions of its authors. Surprisingly, this afterlife has not received systematic and "global" treatment by historians, and David Armitage is to be congratulated on his concise and well-written study of the Declaration as, to use his own words, 'an event, a document, and the beginning of a genre.' He shows that it was first and foremost an "international" document, driven by the need to establish the legitimacy of the united colonies within the state-system and thus their right to conclude alliances against Britain.
--Brendan Simms, Wall Street Journal

[Armitage's] core argument is fascinating and significant.
--Publishers Weekly

David Armitage's fascinating and lucidly written book will establish itself as a key contribution to what is virtually a new field of study: the transnational history of ideas.
--Christopher Bayly, co-author of Forgotten Armies and Forgotten Wars

This concise, readable book makes a powerful contribution to scholarship on the Declaration of Independence. From a global perspective, it seems, the document's significance lies less in its second paragraph ('all men are created equal') than in its conclusion, where it declared independence. Armitage's argument ... needs to be taken very seriously.
--Pauline Maier, author of American Scripture

Listen to a podcast lecture by Armitage on the Declaration.

David Armitage is Professor of History at Harvard University. His other books include: (ed.) British Political Thought in History, Literature and Theory, 1500-1800 (2006); Greater Britain, 1516-1776: Essays in Atlantic History (2004); and The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000).

The Page 69 Test: The Declaration of Independence: A Global History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pg. 99: Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Donald J. Gray, Culbertson Chair Emeritus of English at Indiana University, is the editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Pride and Prejudice. He applied the Page 99 Test to the 1813 edition of Austen's novel as well as to the Norton Critical Edition.

Read about his findings.

Last month, another Austen scholar, Deidre Lynch, wrote the Page 99 Test entry for Persuasion, which she edited for the Oxford World's Classics Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Helen Epstein's "The Invisible Cure"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Helen Epstein's The Invisible Cure: Africa, The West and the Fight Against AIDS.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1993, Helen Epstein, a scientist working with a biotechnology company searching for an AIDS vaccine, moved to Uganda, where she witnessed firsthand the suffering caused by the epidemic. Now, in her unsparing and illuminating account of this global disease, she describes how international health experts, governments, and ordinary Africans have struggled to understand the rapid and devastating spread of the disease in Africa, and traces the changes wrought by new medical developments and emerging political realities. It is an account of scientific discovery and intrigue with implications far beyond the fight against one tragic disease.

The AIDS epidemic is partly a consequence of the rapid transition of African societies from an agrarian past to an impoverished present. Millions of African people have yet to find a place in an increasingly globalized world, and their poverty and social dislocation have generated an earthquake in gender relations that deeply affects the spread of HIV. But Epstein argues that there are solutions to this crisis, and some of the most effective ones may be simpler than many people assume.

Written with conviction, knowledge, and insight, The Invisible Cure will change how we think about the worst health crisis of the past century, and our strategies for improving global public health.
Among the advance praise for The Invisible Cure:
"Her tone is level and undogmatic, but the news that Helen Epstein brings from the African front lines about AIDS is searing. So many lives have been lost, so much time and money wasted in badly-designed public and private campaigns against the disease. What actually works is both simple and subtle. There may be no magic bullet -- there may never be a vaccine -- but there are success stories, even in very poor countries. This is a landmark study. "
--William Finnegan, author of Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country and A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique

"Epstein is a lucid writer, translating abstruse scientific concepts into language nonspecialists can easily grasp. Provocative, passionate and incisive, this may be the most important book on AIDS published this year — indeed, it may even save lives."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Read Epstein's recent Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times, "Africa's lethal web net of AIDS."

The Page 69 Test: The Invisible Cure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Human Oddities," the movie

Like Winona Ryder, Noria Jablonski grew up in a commune in Petaluma, California. But Ryder isn't mentioned in Jablonski's ruminations on the hypothetical film adaptation of her story collection, Human Oddities.

Instead, the author focuses primarily on the possible directors of the adaptation, and her list includes several of the more celebrated names in independent film.

A few actors do get mentioned, including my hometown's favorite daughter actor as well as the Butterscotch Stallion.

Read Jablonski's write-up: Human Oddities at "My Book, The Movie."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "The New American Militarism"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Andrew J. Bacevich's 2005 book, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this provocative book, Andrew Bacevich warns of a dangerous dual obsession that has taken hold of Americans, conservatives and liberals alike. It is a marriage of militarism and utopian ideology -- of unprecedented military might wed to a blind faith in the universality of American values. This mindset, the author warns, invites endless war and the ever-deepening militarization of U.S. policy. It promises not to perfect but to pervert American ideals and to accelerate the hollowing out of American democracy. As it alienates others, it will leave the United States increasingly isolated. It will end in bankruptcy, moral as well as economic, and in abject failure.

With The New American Militarism, which has been updated with a new Afterword, Bacevich examines the origins and implications of this misguided enterprise. He shows how American militarism emerged as a reaction to the Vietnam War. Various groups in American society -- soldiers, politicians on the make, intellectuals, strategists, Christian evangelicals, even purveyors of pop culture -- came to see the revival of military power and the celebration of military values as the antidote to all the ills besetting the country as a consequence of Vietnam and the 1960s. The upshot, acutely evident in the aftermath of 9/11, has been a revival of vast ambitions and certainty, this time married to a pronounced affinity for the sword. Bacevich urges us to restore a sense of realism and a sense of proportion to U.S. policy. He proposes, in short, to bring American purposes and American methods -- especially with regard to the role of the military -- back into harmony with the nation's founding ideals.
Among the praise for The New American Militarism:

"Intellectually serious. Writing very much as a Vietnam veteran, he worries that both major political parties have become too trigger-happy, too keen to dispatch troops abroad. Bacevich takes a dim view of Bush's rhetoric about freedom and argues that the United States' dependence on oil is why it is fighting in the Middle East. He thinks that what some neo-conservatives call World War IV didn't start on 9/11 but in 1980, when Jimmy Carter, having failed to persuade Americans to cut down on their use of gas, declared that any attempt by an 'outside force' to take over the Persian Gulf would be met by a US military response. Bacevich details America's inglorious history in the region to illustrate his point."
--James G. Forsyth, Boston Globe

"A valuable account of the paradoxical consequences of the U.S. effort to recover from Vietnam.... Bacevich--a Boston University professor, West Point alumnus and Vietnam veteran -- demonstrates a fine grasp of past debates on military matters and an ability to relate them to today's events and personalities."
--Lawrence Freedman, Washington Post Book World

"Bacevich is a graduate of West Point, a Vietnam veteran, and a conservative Catholic.... He has thus earned the right to a hearing even in circles typically immune to criticism. What he writes should give them pause.... His conclusion is clear. The United States is becoming not just a militarized state but a military society: a country where armed power is the measure of national greatness, and war, or planning for war, is the exemplary (and only) common project."
--Tony Judt, The New York Review of Books

"Every thoughtful American should read this book.... He has a very important story to tell and tells it well.... Bacevich's main the most powerful and compelling part of his highly original analysis.... He concludes with a chapter on what to do, which is utterly sound if politically impossible."
--Chalmers Johnson, San Diego Union-Tribune

"Buy this, read this, and make others do the same, but only if you are open to new perspectives. Bacevich brings a gimlet eye to an array of subjects. Here are some of the freshest observations available on contemporary American military affairs, political life and popular culture -- indeed, probably too fresh and challenging for many readers, right and left."
--Thomas E. Ricks, Military Correspondent, Washington Post, and author of Making the Corps and A Soldier's Duty

Andrew Bacevich is professor of international relations at Boston University. A graduate of the U. S. Military Academy, he received his Ph. D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University in 1998, he taught at West Point and at Johns Hopkins University.

Bacevich's previous books include American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy (2002) and The Imperial Tense: Problems and Prospects of American Empire (2003). His essays and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of scholarly and general interest publications including The Wilson Quarterly, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Nation, The American Conservative, and The New Republic . His op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, among other newspapers.

The Page 99 Test: The New American Militarism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Michele Morano's "Grammar Lessons"

The current entry at the Page 69 Test: Michele Morano's Grammar Lessons: Translating a Life in Spain.

About the book, from the publisher:

In the thirteen personal essays in Grammar Lessons, Michele Morano connects the rules of grammar to the stories we tell to help us understand our worlds. Living and traveling in Spain during a year of teaching English to university students, she learned to translate and interpret her past and present worlds — to study the surprising moments of communication — as a way to make sense of language and meaning, longing and memory.

Morano focuses first on her year of living in Oviedo, in the early 1990s, a time spent immersing herself in a new culture and language while working through the relationship she had left behind with an emotionally dependent and suicidal man. Next, after subsequent trips to Spain, she explores the ways that travel sparks us to reconsider our personal histories in the context of larger historical legacies. Finally, she turns to the aftereffects of travel, to the constant negotiations involved in retelling and understanding the stories of our lives. Throughout she details one woman’s journey through vocabulary and verb tense toward a greater sense of her place in the world.

Grammar Lessons illustrates the difficulty and delight, humor and humility of living in a new language and of carrying that pivotal experience forward. Michele Morano’s beautifully constructed essays reveal the many grammars and many voices that we collect, and learn from, as we travel.

Among the early praise for Grammar Lessons:

“On one level, Grammar Lessons is a vivid, compelling meditation on traveling abroad. On another, the author, Michele Morano, uses her travel experience — the exhilarations and dislocations, the unbidden surprises and disappointments — as a lens through which she examines more deeply what it means to be human.”
—Michael Steinberg, founding editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction and author of Still Pitching

"Morano powerfully uses her personal stories to illustrate the principles of grammar — or is it the other way around? The principles of grammar exist to shed light on her highly personal narrative. Perhaps that is why this nonfiction book is so engaging."
Elizabeth Cho, KGB Bar lit

"I've never read a book quite like Michele Morano's account of her love affair with the Spanish language and with contemporary Spain. Without pretension, Grammar Lessons accomplishes so much: it is prose poetry, a traveler's tale, reflexive ethnography, a meditation on the possibilities of translation, and a gorgeous memoir of a woman's search for a new language that can help her to know better who she wants to be. This book sings to me -- to say it in Spanish, me encanta."
—Ruth Behar

"In 13 lyrical essays, Morano details the personal impact of her long relationship with Spain, beginning with her first visit at age 18, continuing through a post-graduate year teaching English in Oviedo and a series of return trips a decade later. As a guiding theme, Morano uses the rules of grammar to organize and explain how Spain has affected her life. (The word "grammar," she notes, has Latin roots meaning "the process of ingesting experience.") Against a dichotomous Spanish backdrop of stillness and bravado, Morano proves her versaility in topics such as grammatical moods, motion sickness and having (or not) the panache to dine alone. Teaching and being taught provide a recurring through-line. One lesson she teaches is that "language is power," urging her students to "take notice, again and again, until a word feels less like an enemy than like a piece of fruit they want to pick and bite into." Learning experiences include an awe-inspiring jaunt into an ancient cave and a moving visit to Guernica, in which Morano narrates, superbly, the attack that inspired Picasso's famous painting. Having carried the angst of a failed relationship with her across the Atlantic, Morano does not lack for internal dialogue and thoughtful self-questioning; these slick travel stories hide a wealth of lived experience."
Publishers Weekly

Learn more about Grammar Lessons at Morano's official website.

Read Morano's entry (March 2007) at the "Writers Read" blog.

The Page 69 Test: Grammar Lessons.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Andrew Pyper reading?

Andrew Pyper, author of, most recently, The Wildfire Season, contributed a very engaging write-up to the "Writers Read" blog. It opens:
Usually, my reading habits are against the grain: forgotten classics, obscure titles noticed in foreign reviews, pulp fiction you wouldn’t want your serious colleagues to catch you reading in a doctor’s waiting room (which, very recently, one did). The sort of books that are definitely – defiantly – not the newest TV Book Club pick or prestigious prize winner. Which, as it turns out, the latest book I finished has turned out to be.
Learn more at "Writers Read" about this latest book that Pyper encountered.

See "My Book, The Movie": The Wildfire Season.

Read the Page 69 Test: The Wildfire Season.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pg. 69: "Ladykiller"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Ladykiller, by Lawrence Light and Meredith Anthony.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the city that never sleeps, evil is wide awake.

From the bright lights of Times Square to the dark alleys of New York, the Ladykiller is at work – and at prey.

Four women savagely murdered on the mean streets of New York. The Ladykiller leaves no trail, no clues.

The pressure is on for NYPD detective Dave Dillon: either he solves the crime, or he can kiss his job goodbye. When Dave joins forces with Megan Morrison, a beautiful young social worker, the search for a cold-hearted killer leads to a hot romance. But a host of forces threaten to intrude: Nita, Megan’s jealous mentor, would delight in derailing the romance between Dave and Megan, as would Jamie, a determined detective with her own not-so-hidden agenda. And Dave’s shadowy past is never far behind. The clock is ticking for Dave and Megan. Will they close in on the shocking truth behind the crimes, or will it close in on them?

In the world of the Ladykiller, passion can turn deadly in a New York minute.
Among the early praise for the novel:
"Hard, fast, uncompromising -- a truely exceptional crime novel."
--Lee Child

"I love a book that immerses me deeply in the storyline and then surprises me at the end -- and this one did both! Husband and wife Lawrence Light and Meredith Anthony make an excellent writing team. This compelling crime novel is a first-rate reading experience."
-- Tanzey Cutter, Fresh Fiction

"Ladykiller is a fast, thrilling read!"
--Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine

"I absolutely loved Ladykiller. Excellent writers, kept you wanting to pick up the book every moment you had time to read. The book will definitely be recommended to my bookclubs and anyone else I have a chance to tell."
--Barbara Liss, BookClubs

"Ladykiller is addictive, intense, and not for the faint of heart."
--Armchair Interviews
An award-winning journalist, Lawrence Light is currently the Wall Street editor for Forbes magazine. A graduate of Columbia School of Journalism, he has been a reporter and editor for Business Week, Newsday and other publications. In Washington, he covered congress for The Congressional Quarterly. He is the author of the Karen Glick novels, Too Rich to Live and Fear & Greed. Meredith Anthony has written for film, television, print and the web. As a humorist her work has appeared in MAD Magazine and the women’s humor quarterly, Hysteria. Her award-winning short film Ladykiller was shown on The Learning Channel’s “Likely Stories” series and on HBO.

The Page 69 Test: Ladykiller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Ben Greenman's A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both.

About the book, from the publisher:

From the author of Superbad and Superworse, a new collection of stories about giving, wanting, and the wonders of love.

A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both is a collection of stories about love, the most elusive and problematic of all phenomena. With a mix of traditional, literary prose and bold — some might even say irresponsible — experimentation, Ben Greenman explores the ins and outs of modern romance. Expect tears, nudity, and recrimination.

Both familiar in their humanness and wholly original, these imaginative stories take us all over the map in time, place, and circumstance. From the halfhearted summer affair between a part-time bartender and a married doctor in a Miami hotel to the cryptic pseudo-erotic love letters to a friend who is “more than a friend,” we experience the love of pop songs, the love of cohabitation in Chicago, and love that is so transporting it takes us to the moon — literally.

Among the early praise for the book:

“Just when you think Greenman has thoroughly excavated all available humor, he surprises with a snipe from an unforeseen direction.”
Time Out New York

“[Greenman] is not afraid to attach authentic sentiment and poke around at the poignant. It works, and it works quite well…. He constantly walks a narrative tightrope.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“It wouldn’t do not to mention the genius ‘Blurbs,’ which constructs an entire story out of made-up book-critic blurbs, including even one from this publication. Something extraordinary.”
Kirkus (starred review)

Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker. His short fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, Zoetrope: All Story, McSweeney’s, Opium Magazine, the Mississippi Review, and elsewhere.

Visit Greenman's website and hear him read "Black, Gray, Green, Red, Blue: A Letter From a Famous Painter on the Moon" from A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both.

The Page 99 Test: A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Terri Witek reading?

Terri Witek, holder of the Art & Melissa Sullivan Chair in Creative Writing at Stetson University, is today's featured writer at "Writers Read."

Her books include The Carnal World, Fools and Crows, Courting Couples, and Robert Lowell and Life Studies: Revising the Self.

Witek's poems have been published in The New Republic, Poetry, The Threepenny Review, Shenandoah, The Ohio Review, Slate, and other venues, and her articles have appeared in American Literature and Shenandoah.

Discover what she has been reading.

--Marshal Zeringue

James Patterson's 5 most important books

In the April 30 issue of Newsweek, the prolific James Patterson names his five most important books.

He describes Number One on his list as: "The great American novel, which just happens to be from South America."

Read more about Patterson's list.

Patterson tags two additional titles in other categories:
A Certified Important Book you haven't read:

OK, you got me — I've never read Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.

The book you care most about having your children read:

Maximum Ride. I want young Jack to know what his dad does at the office, and, hopefully, to be proud.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pg. 69: Timothy Henderson's "A Glorious Defeat"

Timothy J. Henderson's forthcoming (May 2007) book, A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States, is today's feature in the Page 69 Test series.

About the book, from the publisher:

Why Mexico Went To War With The United States

The war that was fought between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 was a major event in the history of both countries: it cost Mexico half of its national territory, opened western North America to U.S. expansion, and brought to the surface a host of tensions that led to devastating civil wars in both countries. Among generations of Latin Americans, it helped to cement the image of the United States as an arrogant, aggressive, and imperialist nation, poisoning relations between a young America and its southern neighbors.

In contrast with many current books that treat the war as a fundamentally American experience, Timothy J. Henderson offers a fresh perspective on the Mexican side of the equation. Examining the manner in which Mexico gained independence, Henderson brings to light a greater understanding of that country’s intense factionalism and political paralysis leading up to and through the war. Also touching on a range of topics from culture, ethnicity, religion, and geography, this comprehensive yet concise narrative humanizes the conflict and serves as the perfect introduction for new readers of Mexican history.

Among the early praise for the book:

"This pithy, searching account of why Mexico went to war with the United States, knowing that to do so meant almost certain defeat, is sure to empower specialists and new readers of Mexican history alike. Equally important, the volume demonstrates the War's critical role as a catalyst in plunging both nations into bitter civil wars and poisoning future relations between them. Pulling few punches in his assessment of American power and hubris, Henderson contributes meaningfully to a future collaboration among neighbors based on greater understanding and mutual respect."
—Gilbert M. Joseph, Farnam Professor of History and International Studies, Yale University

"A terrific book. In a concise and readable historical narrative, Henderson lays bare the causes for this war that reflects so much about the two countries and relations between them. His book is almost as much about the present as it is about the past."
—Sam Quinones, journalist and author of True Tales From Another Mexico

Timothy Henderson is Distinguished Research Associate Professor of History at Auburn University Montgomery.

The Page 69 Test: A Glorious Defeat.

--Marshal Zeringue

The 25th anniversary of the Falklands War

In April of 1982, Argentine President General Galtieri announced the invasion of South Georgia, a remote island off the Falklands Islands. Three days later Prime Minister Thatcher dispatched a task force to the South Atlantic.

A ten-week war followed. The conflict has already spawned 3,500 books ... with more on the way. The author of a couple of those books, Hugh McManners, has an essay in the London Times about that pile of books.

Also in the Times, Falklands veteran "Chip" Chapman named his top six military books.

One of this picks:

The Art of Maneuver by Robert Leonhard

War remains an art, not a science.

Read about another title from Chapman's list that was made into an Academy Award-winning film.

--Marshal Zeringue

Writers' charms redux

Last weekend I linked to an article in the Guardian extracted from How I Write: The Secret Lives Of Authors, edited by Dan Crowe with Philip Oltermann.

Today the Los Angeles Times is in on the act with more excerpts, including:
Ian Rankin

THE OBJECT IN MY OFFICE I treasure most is probably a framed photograph. It shows the battered signage above Edinburgh's Oxford Bar. … I've been drinking in the Oxford Bar since I was a student in the 1980s (a fellow student — one of my flat-mates — was part-time barman there). The first time I walked in, I was a stranger. By my third visit, my preferred drink was being poured before I needed to ask.

That's the "Ox" for you: It's like a private club, only with no joining fee. It's also a democratic place: Everyone's as good as anyone else, as long as they have the price of their next drink about their person. There are few frills to the Ox: no piped music, little in the way of hot foods (pies, pasties). It's a place for drink and for conversation. I decided Inspector Rebus would like it, so he started drinking there, too.

… That sign helps me get inside the head of Rebus … It keeps me grounded and also acts as a taskmaster: If I can get a good day's work done, I can reward myself with a pint later on.

Ian Rankin is the author of the bestselling "Inspector Rebus" crime series.
Read on: A.S. Byatt, Jonathan Franzen, and others chime in.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pg. 99: Lindsey Davis's "Saturnalia"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Lindsey Davis's Saturnalia.

The plot of the novel, from the author:

It is the Season of Misrule in Rome, sheer misery for Falco. Uppity slaves give orders to their cringing masters, masters try to hide in their studies, women are goosed, statues wobble, a prince has a broken heart, Helena’s brother will not decide if his heart is broken or not, children are sick and even the dog can’t stand it any more. As the festival meant for healing grudges riotously proceeds, a young man who has everything to live for dies a horrific death while the security of the Empire is compromised by the usual mixture of top brass incompetence, bureaucratic in-fighting and popular indifference. The barbarians are not just at the gates, they are right inside - and that’s just the bombasts in the Praetorian Guard, encouraged by the pernicious Chief Spy.

Doctors are making a killing. Alternative therapists are ecstatic. Members of the Didius family are about to receive some extremely unusual seasonal gifts. But for the non-persons on the fringes of society life is not so jolly, and dark spirits walk abroad (available for hire through the usual agents). Falco has a race against time to find a dangerous missing person, aided and hindered by faces from the past, while running the gauntlet of the best and worst Roman society can offer as Saturnalia entertainment. Unfortunately for him.

This is the one with the giant vegetables.

Among the praise for Saturnalia:

"Yes we’re back in the brilliantly realized Ancient Rome of Lindsey Davis again – and what unalloyed pleasure it is!"
--Good Book Guide

"It’s another entertaining adventure in which as usual a lot of wine is drunk…"
--Sunday Telegraph

‘‘The fans’ expectations are higher than ever and are unlikely to be disappointed"
--The Bookseller

“Like visiting old friends in a familiar and endearing, if sometimes bizarre, environment. Jokes and skullduggery crowd the pages.”

“Falco wisecracks his way through the empire’s sleazy underside ... Davis’s crimes are wickedly convoluted — real fun.”
Visit Lindsey Davis's website and read an excerpt from Saturnalia.

The Page 99 Test: Saturnalia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sylvia Warsh's novels as movies

The current feature at "My Book, The Movie" has author Sylvia Warsh developing casting ideas for her three Dr. Rebecca Temple mysteries, Season of Iron, Find Me Again, and To Die in Spring.

Warsh's contribution opens:
As much as I fantasize about a movie from one of my Dr. Rebecca Temple books, the reality is that they would be very expensive to translate into film. They’re not only set in 1979 Toronto, they tend to include stories from other historical eras, particularly the 2nd World War. In my latest, Season of Iron, the book follows two stories — Rebecca in 1979, and Frederika Eisenbaum in 1930s Berlin during the Nazi era. That’s not as complicated (read expensive to produce) as my second book, Find Me Again which won an Edgar. In it, Rebecca finds an historical manuscript about Catherine the Great that sweeps back to 18th century London, Warsaw, and St. Petersburg. Not that it would be impossible to do. They filmed War and Peace, right?
Read on to see who Warsh has in mind for film versions of Rebecca and other characters.

Visit Sylvia Warsh's website and read excerpts from all three novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Wyn Cooper reading?

You may know Wyn Cooper's work best from the popular song “Fun,” a poem from his first book which was turned into Sheryl Crow’s Grammy-winning song “All I Wanna Do.”

He has published three books of poems: The Country of Here Below, The Way Back, and Postcards from the Interior, as well as a chapbook, Secret Address, and many more poems in literary journals and magazines.

He is the author of the current feature at "Writers Read."

Learn more about Wyn Cooper's work at his website. Some late breaking news not yet posted there includes poems forthcoming in Poetry, Southern Review, and Crazyhorse. He and Madison Bell are going into the studio next month to record their second cd, which is based in part on poems from Cooper's most recent book, Postcards from the Interior. Songs from their first cd, Forty Words for Fear, have been used on five television shows in the past year.

Read on to discover what Wyn Cooper has been reading.

--Marshal Zeringue