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  • Are you a DF!? Steve Almond is...

    Steve Almond does not question whether rock 'n' roll can save your life; he outright proclaims in his new book that it will. There's one catch: You have to be what Almond has dubbed a DF, drooling fanatic, one who devotes way too much time to listening to and obsessing over music.

    Since the Boston writer is an admitted DF, "Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life" is as much memoir as it is discussion about music as emotional, spiritual, and psychological balm. And as pilgrims go, Almond is a pretty funny seeker.

    Almond traces his obsession to his boyhood and stuffs self-deprecating wit into his tales about developing musical tastes by trying to follow an older brother's lead or making his teachers suffer through piano lessons. Yet, after describing how intently he and a middle-school buddy listened daily to an AC/DC record, Almond pauses the laugh track to make the observation, "Drooling Fanaticism boils down to undivided attention, which is not only our most endangered human resource, but the first and final act of love." (More via the Boston Times...)

  • How did an eccentric drifter and inconsequential artist become one of history's most powerful rulers? Claus Hant's controversial "non-fiction novel", Young Hitler, takes a closer look at this momentous transformation (with more information at

    This is the story of the young Adolf Hitler, an insignificant young man from provincial Austria who suddenly emerged as a momentous historical figure and ultimately the very personification of evil. How did that happen? To answer this question, the narrative takes the reader into the mind of the man before the monster. 150 pages of intriguing appendices substantiate the work's provenance. It tells the story of the seventeen-year-old school drop-out and starving artist; the vagrant who spends years on the streets and in the shelters of Vienna; the Lance Corporal who is fatefully changed by the First World War. In the aftermath of that Great War, amongst the ashes of a demoralised and bankrupt Germany, the narrative follows the bizarre series of events that culminate in this lonely and eccentric young man becoming 'The Fuhrer' of the Third Reich.

  • James Lamont reviews Gandhi: Naked Ambition by Jad Adams (via the FT):

    A section of the popular Bahri Sons bookshop in New Delhi's Khan Market is devoted to books about Mohandas K Gandhi, India's liberation leader. Now, 62 years after the Mahatma's death, yet more books are about to be added to its well-stocked shelves. Ramachandra Guha, a Bangalore-based historian and author of India after Gandhi, is writing a two-volume biography, while former New York Times editor Joe Lelyveld's book on Gandhi is to be published next year.

    Jad Adams has got in there ahead of such distinguished rivals with his readable and provocative Gandhi: Naked Ambition. A British historian and research fellow at London University's School of Advanced Study, Adams has already published books on Rudyard Kipling, as well as on India's ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Here, he focuses on Gandhi's personal and political contradictions in a chronological account of his life. He begins with Gandhi being married off at the age of 13, when he was a not particularly promising student in Gujarat, and ends with the body of one of the world's most celebrated advocates of non-violence being drawn by 200 uniformed servicemen in a state funeral in Delhi (more...)

  • "Who is the notorious lover of women? The author gives us an unexpected portrait that challenges the traditional ideas surrounding him." Natasha Randall reviews Don Juan: His Own Version by European master Peter Handke (via the LA Times):

    Peter Handke isn't interested in damnation. He said as much in an interview published in the Drama Review in 1970: "Morality is the least of my concerns... To me, morality in a society that -- however moral its pose -- is hierarchically organized is simply a lie, an alibi for the inequalities that exist in society." And so Don Juan: His Own Version is a story without a moral. It is episodic and uncapped, a text that neither delivers nor allows judgment.

    The legend of Don Juan may be one of the most retold stories in literature. More than 1,500 versions of the tale have been written since the 17th century. The earliest known version was published in 1626, called "El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra" by the priest Tirso de Molina. As you might expect from a priest, Tirso's Don Juan was a villainous scoundrel sent to hell for his sins. Subsequent stories tend to damn Don Juan variously -- and to damn the women who succumbed to or partook in the seduction too. But Handke is defiant of these versions, and his Don Juan isn't corralled into any tidy deliverance (more...)

  • This is the video trailer for Ted Mooney's fourth novel, The Same River Twice (pre-order now; out in a week). According to YouTube, "it is, with the exception of the trailer for Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, the first video trailer for a work of serious literary fiction, and it is made by a serious new-media artist, John Gara. As all book trailers are meant to do, it serves to introduce the viewer to a book soon to be published, but in this case it is also to be enjoyed in its own right, as a separate work of art. The basic plot of the book can be deduced from the succession of images, but it also stands up to repeated viewings on its own terms, not least because of its ingenuity in solving various artistic problems inherent in the form. This video is an uncannily close interpretation of the novel and its themes -- less an "advertisement" than a companion piece -- and that makes it a rarity":

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