Mar 23, 2009

Peter's Book Suggestions for April


The books that I have selected for review for the April meeting are a combination of ones that I have read and ones that I want to read. I will not elaborate here too much on each one as I will have that chance on Tuesday 03/24. Needless to say I think all four will provide satisfying reading to such an august literary assembly. Please find the following notes from publishers and a few selected reviews.

In the Lake of the Woods – Tim O’Brien. A novel that, while imbued with the troubled spirit of Vietnam, takes place entirely after the war and in the United States. The main character, John Wade, is a man in crisis: after spending years building a successful political career, he finds his future derailed during a bid for the U.S. Senate by revelations about his past as a soldier in Vietnam. The election lost by a landslide, John and his wife, Kathy, retreat to a small cabin on the shores of a Minnesota lake--from which Kathy mysteriously disappears. Was she murdered? Did she run away? Instead of answering these questions, O'Brien raises even more as he slowly reveals past lives and long-hidden secrets. Included in this third-person narrative are "interviews" with the couple's friends and family as well as footnoted excerpts from a mix of fictionalized newspaper reports on the case and real reports pertaining to historical events--a mélange that lends the novel an eerie sense of verisimilitude.

The Queen's Gambit – Walter Tevis. Eight year-old orphan Beth Harmon is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she’s competing for the U.S. Open championship. But as she hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting.
"Ultimately, this is not really a novel about chess....It can be read with intense enjoyment by those who know nothing about the game, as long as they are interested in what it means to be human at the deepest levels." The Washington Post

Crossing to Safety - Wallace Stegner. Since its publication in 1987, Crossing to Safety has established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.
Review: "A magnificently crafted story of the remarkable friendship between the Langs and Morgans....A novel brimming with wisdom on subjects as diverse as writing for money, solid marriages, and academic promotion policies — with page after page of the superb descriptive writing that has been a hallmark of his (Stegner’s) work. The Washington Post Book World

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II - Douglas A Blackmon (Non – Fiction). In this groundbreaking historical exposé, Douglas A. Blackmon (Wall Street Journal) brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history—an “Age of Neoslavery” that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II.
Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations. The neoslavery system exploited legal loopholes and federal policies that discouraged prosecution of whites for continuing to hold black workers against their wills. Based on a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Slavery by Another Name unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude.
Review:"Wall Street Journal bureau chief Blackmon gives a groundbreaking and disturbing account of a sordid chapter in American history — the lease (essentially the sale) of convicts to 'commercial interests' between the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th. Blackmon's book reveals in devastating detail the legal and commercial forces that created this neoslavery along with deeply moving and totally appalling personal testimonies of survivors…..." Publishers Weekly

1 comment:

jeff said...

Guys-

I'll check back later, but . . .

If O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods was chosen for your April read, I've got a copy I'll share. Same rules as last time: first to email me an address gets it.

Hope y'all enjoyed those deep fat fried bulls balls last night!