I am often astonished by the degree of liberty that today's political biographers take when investigating a person's life. It is not uncommon for the public to know, and even expect from a book, the most intimate details about a person's private life. This kind of writing belongs in the same category of sleazy tabloid journalism that prowls for opportunity to make quick, easy bucks. That Smith uses these trifling tidbits of information to try to humanize the queen — who at various points throughout her reign seemed so relentlessly inhuman — is, I suppose, consolation.
In the homophobic world of high school athletics, Anderson's happiness was short-lived. People keyed his car. Students tagged the word "faggot" on his team's bus. They harassed and bullied his straight team members for being on the "gay team." On one occasion they even assaulted and broke the jaw of a team member.
Helen Thayer was 64 years-old when she and her husband Bill set out to walk 1,600 miles across the Mongolian Gobi Desert in the middle of summer. He was 74. They battled scorching 126-degree heat, ferocious sand storms, deadly scorpions, dehydration, and dangerous drug smugglers.
In 1936, he ran for U.S. Olympic team in the 5000 meters in Berlin. Although he finished in eighth place, his final lap time of 56 seconds, an unprecedented time for a final lap of that distance, caught the attention of many people, including that of Adolf Hitler, who watched in his stadium balcony. The two met face-to-face. "You're the boy with the fast finish," Hitler told him while shaking his hand.
This is King's stab at hardboiled crime fiction. It's an inverted detective story (the identity of the killer is revealed very early on) with a locked-room mystery built into it. (How exactly did the Mercedes Killer steal the supposedly locked luxury vehicle used to plow into the unsuspecting city crowd?) Most of the detective action takes place on an anonymous Internet chat site named Debbie's Blue Umbrella, where Hodges exchanges messages with the psychopath.
It is as a mother that Morrison is able to tap into her greatest powers of literary imagination. She knows there is nothing so intimate and powerfully affecting as a mother’s actions towards her child. When Sweetness instills inferiority into her daughter growing up, she leaves scars that may never heal. But Morrison also knows that eventually we all have the capacity to nurture and heal ourselves.
The book is patient and wise, but also frenzied, angry — kind of wild. It's loose and free, but also elegantly written. The work is a trip, full of humor, wit and wisdom. The kind of thing you read in slow, measured sips. It's your grandfather on Sunday afternoons, after his scotch, plunked down on the beat-up old armchair that became his honorary pedestal.
Joshua Isard's debut novel, “Conquistador of the Useless,” is about the idealization of youth by a man who has grown up into stasis. As a late-term Generation Xer, Nathan Wavelsky was all about flannel shirts and Nirvana in high school; he formed his whole identity around the undirected soul-searching that was endemic to the apathetic grunge crowd.
The problem I have with these types of novels is that they inevitably sacrifice the small for the big. In the process of pursuing his thematic goals, Shacochis neglects his female character to an embarrassing degree. The reader becomes acutely aware of the unevenness of the sexual makeup of the novel. The whole gender thing gets under your skin.
The poetic starkness of Juan Gabriel Vasquez' latest novel, “The Sound of Things Falling” — about the climate of Colombia during the onslaught of the drug trade — nearly resembles post-WWII European literature in that it is concerned with both memory and its shaping of individual identity, or rather the identity of an entire generation. There's no mistaking the aptness of this comparison: Colombia during the 1970s and '80s was indeed a war zone, the most volatile and brutal period of terrorist activity in the country's history.
King has always struck me as a spiritual writer; his stories seem to stem from a drive to explore certain mysteries of the universe — life and death, and questions about the great beyond. Whether it's telekinetic teenagers (“Carrie”), the dead returning to life (“Pet Semetary”), or an apocalyptic epidemic (“The Stand”), the scares in his books are formed as much by wonder and awe as they are by terror.
The story is informed as much by war as it is by racism and sociopolitical chaos. This is the America of a growing gap between the rich and the poor, of eugenics and racial medical experimentation, of the atomic bomb and the desegregation of the armed forces, of scat and bebop music. It is a time that we may shake our heads at in disbelief, but which is really not unlike our own: a place where nothing seems to make sense anymore, and it is all you can do to keep your wits about you.