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Monday, Oct. 31, 2011

Donna Johnson's compelling, exquisitely detailed memoir

A book has to go a long way to live up to the opening, “I heard Daddy's gonna try to raise Randall from the dead. Call me.” Happily, Donna Johnson's memoir does, and in spades. Holy Ghost Girl (Gotham) is the most compelling, exquisitely...
Monday, Oct. 3, 2011

New biography examines controversial star

When Jane Fonda was about to turn 60, she asked her daughter Vanessa to help her put together a short video of her life. Replied Vanessa: “Why don't you just get a chameleon and let it crawl across the screen?”
Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011

Whimsy, humor and anger drive debut novel

Molly Makepeace Jamison, a mid-30s Chicago-area suburbanite, wakes in the morning to find her husband, Bob, dead in bed beside her, one day after learning that he has been having “illicit nooners” with a friend named Shirley. Molly is shocked, of course, but also feeling guilty...
Monday, July 18, 2011

Scott Miller studies the 'Dawn of the American Century'

Our libraries do not suffer from a shortage of books about President William McKinley, the Spanish-American War or the dawn of American imperialism, yet Scott Miller's The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century (Random House) is a welcome and useful addition. It examines two swelling historical forces of the late 19th century to explain what led to the assassination of the president at the Pan-American Exposition...
Monday, June 6, 2011

Rudolph Herzog examines comedy in Nazi era

Is it permissible to laugh at Adolf Hitler? The opinion of Rudolph Herzog and many others is that not only is it permissible, but it is a necessary reaction to Hitler and all tyrants. In any event, Germans always did laugh, even during Hitler's reign—but carefully...
Monday, May 9, 2011

Andrew Kersten's take on famed attorney for the have-nots

I now have two books on my shelves with “American Iconoclast” in their titles, Andrew E. Kersten's Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast (Hill & Wang) and Marion Elizabeth Rodgers' life of H.L. Mencken. They are fitting titles in both cases, for the two men were, besides being friends, dedicated to...
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Novelist Philip Kerr revisits his hard-boiled sleuth

The epigraph to Philip Kerr's seventh Bernie Gunther novel, Field Gray (Putnam), is from Graham Greene's The Quiet American: "I don't like Ike." The choice of epigraph is as apt as it is pointed, for Greene did not like Americans, period, and neither does Bernie. But then, Bernie does not like many nationalities. And with good reason...
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Joshua Foer explores 'The Art and Science of Remembering Everything'

Forgetting is easy. But not forgetting lies in a curious and complex place, journalist Joshua Foer tells us in Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Penguin), a beguiling exploration of the manifold aspects of memory and memorizing...
Monday, Feb. 7, 2011

Concluding volume in Jonathan Rabb’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’ traverses Europe on the brink of war

In the (admittedly small) thriller subgenre of historical European noir, two names dominate: Philip Kerr and Alan Furst. Bringing up the rear and not closing fast, if The Second Son (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is any evidence, is Jonathan Rabb. Of course, Rabb is something...

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