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Fri, 25 Sep 2009 03:11
Natural history writing just gets better and better... Witness this excellent new book, Terra, from Richard Hamblyn:
Blending history, science and eye-witness accounts, and arranged in chapters corresponding to the four elements (earth, air, fire and water), Terra explores the relationship between the planet and the humans who inhabit its surfaces. Through four case histories -- the Lisbon earthquake of 1755; the weather-panics of the summer of 1783; the eruption of Krakatau in 1883; and, the Hilo tsunami of 1946 -- Hamblyn reminds us of the earth's unimaginable force and describes what happens when that force is unleashed, both in terms of the immediate human consequences and the longer term economic and scientific implications.Serving, ultimately, as a stark and incontrovertible reminder of our vulnerability when the earth 'goes wrong', Terra also asks why we don't seem fully able to learn from the catastrophes, mistakes and responses of the past.
Fri, 11 Sep 2009 04:26
This never-before-translated masterpiece -- by a heroic best-selling writer who saw his life crumble when he wouldn't join the Nazi Party -- is based on a true story. It presents a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis and tells the sweeping saga of one working-class couple who decides to take a stand when their only son is killed at the front. With nothing but their grief and each other against the awesome power of the Reich, they launch a simple, clandestine resistance campaign that soon has an enraged Gestapo on their trail, and a world of terrified neighbors and cynical snitches ready to turn them in.
In the end, it's more than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, more than a moving romance, even more than literature of the highest order -- it's a deeply stirring story of two people standing up for what's right, and each other.
Hans Fallada was one of Germany's best-selling authors -- ranking with Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse -- prior to the rise of the Nazis. But while those writers fled Germany, Fallada stayed. Refusing to join the Nazi Party, he suffered numerous difficulties, including incarceration in an insane asylum. After the war, he wrote Every Man Dies Alone based on an actual Gestapo file. He died just before its publication in 1947.
Fri, 11 Sep 2009 03:59
Cool. Balanced. Modern. The precisions of science, the wild variance of lust, the catharsis of confession and the fear of failure -- these are things that happen in the Glass Room. High on a Czechoslovak hill, the Landauer House shines as a wonder of steel and glass and onyx built specially for newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer, a Jew married to a gentile. But the radiant honesty of 1930 that the house, with its unique Glass Room, seems to engender quickly tarnishes as the storm clouds of WW2 gather, and eventually the family must flee, accompanied by Viktor's lover and her child. But the house's story is far from over, and as it passes from hand to hand, from Czech to Russian, both the best and the worst of the history of Eastern Europe becomes somehow embodied and perhaps emboldened within the beautiful and austere surfaces and planes so carefully designed, until events come full-circle.
Fri, 04 Sep 2009 04:34
The new novel "from one of American literature's brightest stars", author of the Pulitzer Prize winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler's "uproarious new novel" is set in the underworld...
Its main character, Hatcher McCord, is an evening news presenter who has found himself in Hell and is struggling to explain his bad fortune. He's not the only one to suffer this fate -- in fact, he's surrounded by an outrageous cast of characters, including Humphrey Bogart, William Shakespeare, and almost all of the popes and most of the U.S. presidents. The question may be not who is in Hell but who isn't. McCord is living with Anne Boleyn in the afterlife but their happiness is, of course, constantly derailed by her obsession with Henry VIII (and the removal of her head at rather inopportune moments).
Butler's Hell isn't as much a boiling lake of fire -- although there is that -- as it is a Sisyphean trial tailored to each inhabitant, whether it's the average Joes who die and are reconstituted many times a day to do it all again, or the legendary newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, doomed to obscurity as a blogger mocked by his fellows because he can't figure out CAPS LOCK. One day McCord meets Dante's Beatrice, who believes there is a way out of Hell, and the next morning, during an exclusive on-camera interview with Satan, McCord realizes that Satan's omniscience, which he has always credited for the perfection of Hell's torments, may be a mirage and Butler is off on a madcap romp about good, evil, free will, and the possibility of escape. Butler's depiction of Hell is original, intelligent, and fiercely comic, a book Dante might have celebrated.
Fri, 04 Sep 2009 04:21
Not just for the Trekkies this one, I assure you... This is a warmly written and winning account of why and how Star Trek went global. Without venturing anywhere near "cultural studies" it also does a good job of saying why pop culture matters:
Beginning in 1966 as something a little out of the ordinary for prime-time TV, and suffering from shaky ratings throughout its entire run, Star Trek went on to spend the better part of the next three decades exploding into a worldwide, billion-dollar industry. How did this happen? What made the show so unique that it spawned a devoted global following?
A living pop culture legend and one of American film and television's most enduring stars, William Shatner will forever be associated with the role of James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise. Star Trek Memories is Shatner's own behind-the-scenes look at the legendary series that continues to put forth movies, books, and series spin-offs decades after the last episode aired. Avid Trekkers are sure to be delighted with this first-hand account from Captain Kirk himself. And fans of the later Star Trek incarnations will get to see where it all began.
Originally written in 1993 and now in trade paperback for the first time, William Shatner's Star Trek Memories is the definitive reminiscence of the show that has become a true cultural phenomenon.
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