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Prize Stories 1999 : The O. Henry Awards (Prize Stories (O Henry Awards))
by LARRY DARK
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (14 September, 1999)
list price: $23.00 -- our price: $23.00
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Editorial Review

Some readers anxiously monitor each year's O. Henry anthology likedoctors taking vital signs at a bedside, looking for clues to the current state of the American short story. Good news: the patient is alive and well--it's officially time to stop monitoring her pulse. Chosen by this year's prize jury (Sherman Alexie, Lorrie Moore, and, oddly enough, Stephen King), the three top winners are a satisfying mix of psychological realism and mild formal innovation. Best of all, they are as different from one another as chalk from cheese. Those looking for "trends" may come away disappointed, but anyone in search of a good solid read will find plenty to choose from here.

The year's first-prize pick is Peter Baida's "A Nurse's Story," a quiet, moving tale that manages to skirt sentimentality by possessing that rare literary gift, perfect pitch. "A good death. That's what everyone wants," longtime nurse Mary McDonald tells us, but Baida's story serves instead as a tribute to a good life--and all the other lives it ripples out to affect. The second-prize winner is a more unsettling and ambitious fiction, Cary Holladay's "Merry-Go-Sorry." Ostensibly about the rape and murder of three little boys, it somehow encompasses putative satanism, teenage alienation, hopeless love, grief, affliction, mystery, and everything else that makes us all human. The word merry-go-sorry "means a story with good news and bad," the accused killer's mother tells us, "joy and sorrow mixed together..."Holladay's story is indeed a merry-go-sorry, and in its juxtaposition of despair and hope it reminds us that, as in the wake of an Arkansas storm, sometimes "what's beautiful happens by accident." Rounding out the three prizewinners is a story by Alice Munro, a writer who deserves every prize extant and maybe a few not even thought of yet. Her "Save the Reaper" loosely reworks Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," but instead of a savage Southern parable, she produces what Lorrie Moore calls "a kind of pagan prayer," shot through with love, loss, mourning, and death.

Standouts from the rest of this collection include the splendid rodeo fiction "The Mud Below," by Annie Proulx, George Saunders's bizarre, tragic, and sidesplitting "Sea Oak," and something everyone either really really loves or really really hates, David Foster Wallace's footnote-enhanced "The Depressed Person." (This reviewer thinks it's funny, sad, and brilliant in an unrestrained and very Wallacean way.) As always, there are a few stories here that the clients in Saunders's male strip bar might rate "Stinker," but overall the miss-to-hit ratio is surprisingly low. Another year, another lively--and impressively vital--anthology. --Mary Park ... Read more

Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars i might be a bit generous with the stars
I've found the O. Henry Awards series to be a pretty uneven collection of stories, but still one i eagerly await each year, because in each volume you find several good stories, and one or two gems. The 1999 collection is no exception. Sure I found most of the stories to be trite and dull, but hidden amongst the poorer work were really good stories by W.D. Wetherell, Michael Chabon, Charlotte Forbes, and Annie Proulx. And the second place story, Cary Holladay's 'Merry-Go-Sorry' is a great story that deserves to be anthologized many, many in the years to come. And Stephen King and Lorrie Moore's introduction were eloquently written, and a joy to read in their own right.

5-0 out of 5 stars Like a fabulous buffet
I'm not sure what the Kirkus Reviewer wants from the genre but I am sure that every other reader will find something here to admire.I agree with previous reviewers about "Sign" and "Merry-Go-Sorry," (they are horrifyingly good)and would like to add my praise for the fine contributions "Sea Oak" and "Nixon Under the Bodhi Tree."Both stories examine mortality in very different ways but reach equally exquisite conclusions.Although the author has received enormous praise for the eponymous collection, "Interpreter of Maladies" is just a wonderful story about travel, confession, nationality and marriage.I love this collection and cannot believe that any sane person would worry about the future of the short story as long as such treasures are being created.

On a side note, Stephen King's introduction is eloquent and poignant.He was probably a great asset to the panel of judges and may even bring his own readership to the short story in general.

4-0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Strong Year for the O'Henry Awards
I tend to prefer the Best American series,but this year O'Henry is far more surprising and varied. I'm not sure what grudge is being held by the Kirkus Reviewer above(I suspect that he/she is some sort of failed MFAcandidate?) BUT there's clearly strong work here.Larry Dark shows a muchsurer hand here than he has in previously edited volumes. He's stillobviously got a thing for the "quirky"and strange--it's nosurprise that he's also editor of "The Literary Ghost"sincethere's a kind of gothic sensibility at work in many of the chosen stories, but there's also a greater variety here than you'll find in this year'sBest American. My personal favorites include Sheila Schwartz'sstunning"Afterbirth;"Cory Halliday's "Merry-Go-Sorry,"whichperforms some wonderful technical feats with its multiple narration;andof course Alice Munro's story. There are weak spots, of course:the PamHouston story(mentioned by a previous reader;)and Annie Proulx's story,which just seems to me to be an awfully cliched rendering of the Westernpersona. Nevertheless, all in all,a very respectable collection. ... Read more

Isbn: 0385493584
Subjects:  1. 20th century    2. American Short Story Collections    3. American fiction    4. Anthologies (multiple authors)    5. Fiction    6. Fiction - General    7. Short Stories (Anthologies)    8. Short stories    9. Short stories, American    10. Fiction / Anthologies (multiple authors)   


$23.00

Cold Mountain : A Novel
by CHARLES FRAZIER
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (12 August, 1998)
list price: $14.95 -- our price: $10.17
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Editorial Review

This unabridged audio version of Cold Mountain, read by author Charles Frazier, deserves at least as much acclaim as the bestselling print edition, which won the National Book Award. The tale chronicles a Confederate army deserter's search for home and love in the last days of the Civil War.

Much has been made of the story's homage to The Odyssey, the origins of which are found in an oral tradition. One can't help but hear echoes of Homer when listening to Frazier's soft, deliberate voice give life to his lyrical writing and to his understated, yet convincing rendering of the overwhelming events of war. Both Frazier's prose and reading are leisurely, recalling a slow foot pace. His delivery is uniquely suited to Innman's arduous, adventure-filled walk toward home and to the possibility of a reunion with Ada, the woman he loves. The author's reading does equal justice to Ada, who is being transformed by her struggle for survival on her father's farm. There is precious little dialogue, and Frazier makes no effort at acting out the characters.

One small irritation in the production is a beeping noise at the end of each side. Another minor complaint is that the tapes don't have individual boxes, which was perhaps an attempt to make the overall package appear more booklike. The recording does, however, make deft use of two brief musical interludes. In a subtle twist, the fiddle music that opens the first cassette, when repeated as an accompaniment to the epilogue, carries a bittersweet and unexpected resonance. By all means, forgive Random House Audio the tiny glitches, pass over that slender abridged version, and take home the real thing. This audiocassette is a journey that will leave few listeners unchanged by the experience. (Running time: 14.5 hours, 12 cassettes) --Naomi J. Cohn ... Read more

Reviews (1443)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Book, Average Movie
If you haven't read Frazier's justly acclaimed novel 8 years on from publication, in all likelihood you've traced Inman's oddessy to his beloved, Ada, via Minghella's film. Frazier's collaboration with the filmaker not withstanding, the book dwarfs the film in the way Cold Mountain's natural force pales even the spectre of the Civil War. This is attributable to the level of artistry brought to the book and the film and, quite bluntly, Frazier's vision and touch is more richly felt than Minghellas' who seems bereft of metaphoric resource. Frazier's language throngs with Thoreauvian detail and would require a director attuned to macroscopic subtleties which might wring some parallel weightiness from the camera. Frazier's conjures the cadence of the rural patois of mid century mountain people. Both the narrator andcharacters show reserve through their archaic pronouncements and the euphemistic flourishes about their world. They are at once cautious, and pragmatic. Together with naive, citified Ada, our eyes are toured and educated into the region's affinities bythe feral Ruby, sent to tide Ada after the grief of losing her father. The obdurate Cold Mountain is contrasted with the shifting detritus of the war as Inman traipses its ruined economies and casts of misfits, none more repugnant than Teague and his Home Guard ruffians. That deserters were hunted thus was a revelation to me. The book runs soft at its end, a perfect option for the type of conclusion in Minghella's films. Old Stobrod, a besotted wreck even before the war, survives as an unlikely grandfather, redeemed through his fiddle-playing. This permits Frazier to voice his adoration for the genre. The soundtrack captures this. The music remains with me, along with Jude Law, who now wears Inman's face. For the rest, the mist over Cold Mountain has lifted leaving only Frazier's singularly sublime anti-war text.

2-0 out of 5 stars Anything he can do, she can do better
SPOILER ALERT - DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED THE NOVEL!

Not bad - but so politically correct I nearly threw up. All the men (except for the hero) are idiots; all the women are self-sufficient (eventually) and the last thing they need is a man, except for the bare essentials (which is symbolically illustrated in the lovers one-and-only tryst, which spawns a lovely little girl). Your move.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Spectacular Novel With A Great Knowledge of History
I read this book, because I loved the movie and I found the book do be one of the best and most interesting books I have ever read. Charles Frazier has not only provided us a wonderful love story, but also a bit of a history lesson. The man has a great knowledge of history and this is apparent from the first page. The novel is about Inman. Inman is a confederate soldier in the hospital with a bullet wound on his neck, when the wound heals he will be forced to go back to war. Inman doesn't see a point in the war, so one night he hops out the window and begins to walk back to Cold Mountain and the woman he loves: Ada. Ada lives on a farm with her father, who dies, and she is left to fend for herself. Even though it's been four years since she has seen Inman, she still waits for him to return.
Then we meet Ruby is is sent to help Ada. While this is not the greatest synopsis in the world, I would highly recommend this book, it is great. The story is very well told, I was hooked on every word and read it in a matter of days. A+ ... Read more

Isbn: 0375700757
Subjects:  1. Civil War, 1861-1865    2. Fiction    3. Fiction - Historical    4. Historical - General    5. Historical fiction    6. History    7. Love stories    8. United States    9. Fiction / General    10. Reading Group Guide   


$10.17

Vietnam Wars 1945-19
by Marilyn Young
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (25 September, 1991)
list price: $14.00 -- our price: $11.20
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Reviews (11)

4-0 out of 5 stars A good (but biased) popular history
You'll notice that the reviews posted so far for Marilyn Young's "Vietnam Wars" are quite polarized (1 star vs. 5 stars). Some complain of Young's agenda and anti-American viewpoint, while others find her tone appropriate and the book revealing; all of these points are valid. This book is biased, frustratingly so at times, but it is also informative and a good read.

"Vietnam Wars" covers the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France, the war with the US, and the war with China, naturally focusing on the American war. The substance of the book is a mix of details of the actual war and the politics concerning it, with ample, though not exhaustive, footnotes and plenty of fascinating anecdotes. The level of detail is perfect for a popular history.

The tone of the book is distinctly anti-American, partly because of the author's own bias, but also partly because of the information available. The details of North Vietnam's motivations, actions, etc. are lacking, I imagine because there are so few sources. As a result, the viewpoint is American, and the mistakes made by the US are on full display; I found these to be the most interesting aspects of the war, e.g., the astounding naiveness of Psy Ops.

The author's bias is irritating, though thankfully clear. While she does not engage in outright revisionism (her facts are supported by references), she does selectively emphasize information. For example, while civilian deaths inflicted by US firepower are mentioned repeatedly, over many pages, atrocities commited by the North are downplayed, in oneliners along the lines of "Only 15-thousand Vietnamese civilians were executed by the VC, not 500-thousand, as claimed in US propaganda!". Despite this selectivity, sufficient facts are presented to convey the moral ambiguity that surrounds the conflict.

Read skeptically, Marilyn Young's "Vietnam Wars" is an excellent starting point for understanding Vietnam.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the BEST books on Vietnam i have ever read.
The book has a bias. i will agree to this, however the book does show the reader patterns in the conflicts that need to be seen by a student of history. if you are looking for a book about battles and generals look somewhere else. this book is about vietnam its people and the policys that killed millions of them. i hope and pray by reading this book it will never happen again.

1-0 out of 5 stars The worst book on Vietnam I've ever read!
Please, if you want to know something about the Vietnam War, this is not the book to read. It is so heavily-biased that I stopped believing in the validity of what the author was saying after a few chapters. Unfortunately, I was forced to read this for a college course. I am a book-lover who keeps the dumbest of novels because I can't throw a book away, but this goes right into the trash when I finish the course next week. Thankfully, the book will no longer be used by the college after my class is ended.

First of all, Young draws on a lot of resources to give you her story. Sometimes these resources are not identified and you wonder if a friend of hers may have been quoted. She quotes people who have the worst of things to say, but you never know who these people are to say such things. She blames the US for everything awful that ever happened in Vietnam and the vicinity. (on pages 283-284 she actually blames US bombing for the horrors commited by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge!) Chapter 8, which begins US ground troops in Vietnam, starts out with, "The growing disaster..." Disaster? The war hasn't even gotten underway and already it's a disaster. She omits the crimes of the Viet Cong or the NVA or sometimes skims over them as if they were no big deal.

I have always been fully aware that the US did some awful things in Vietnam, but this book insists that we were the devil at all times who were out only to murder and terrorize the Vietnamese, while the NLF were angels who only wanted to do what was best for the poor people. 2 million people fled Vietnam in boats after the communist take-over of the country, across cruel ocean waters, but according to the book (page 310) they did so because of the US trade embargo.

This is an author with an agenda that means more to her than fairness or accuracy. It does not give you the Vietnamese side of the story, but an anti-American side of the story and that's not the same thing. Please, if you want to learn something about the Vietnam War, do yourself a favor and read something else. ... Read more

Isbn: 0060921072
Sales Rank: 181175
Subjects:  1. 1945-1975    2. Asia - Southeast Asia    3. History    4. History - General History    5. History: American    6. Military - Vietnam War    7. Vietnam    8. Vietnam War, 1961-1975    9. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975    10. History / General   


$11.20

In a Dark Wood Wandering/a Novel of the Middle Ages
by Hella Haase
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 May, 1991)
list price: $21.95 -- our price: $14.93
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Reviews (16)

3-0 out of 5 stars Worth the Read
If you are wondering, 'Should i bother reading In a Dark Wood Wandering?Some say its dull,' then i must tell you: it is a bit tedious at parts, but worth the read for the poetry (which is nice if you know French because it loses something in translation), and the historical information you can reap.This is quite a long book, and i suggest you skim through the parts that bore you.The settings are well-described, but the development of a lot of the characters isn't great.Haase puts readers on enough of a personal level with the Duke of Orleans to care what happens to him- maybe even stir us to tears if we are the sentimental type, yet we really don't give a damn about his wife.She is quite a flat character, as are all of the female characters in this book--even Jeanne D'Arc (Joan of Arc) who is only vaguely referred to.Haase tends to barrage the reader with politics without actually going into the minds behind these political moves, which is why it can be called 'textbook' at some points.It's a hard read and my copy has bookmarks everywhere to mark important events.All in all, i'm still glad it was dug out of that closet!

5-0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!!!
Want conflict, turmoil, love, betrayal, affairs, and the ultimate family battles?Grab this book, and settle down for a long but incredibly satisfying read.Maybe I'm just such a lover of historical fiction, that I'm biased.I absolutely could not put this book down.The writing was beautiful, especially considering it was translated.I found myself almost in tears during Charles' confinement, his anguish at being seperated from his wife, and his resolute determination to be true to his country, even as his family suffered greatly.Fantastic, is all I have to say on this one!

2-0 out of 5 stars Can't decide to keep it or sell it
As far as readability goes, this book pretty much stinks.The author follows tenaciously the life of Charles D'Orleans, whose father was the brother of King Charles the Mad.Now, most historical fiction that I have read focuses on characters that actually DO something.Napoleon.Louis XIV.Henry VIII.But Charles of Orleans (at least as he is portrayed here) is a spectator of the parade of life.Haase glosses over Joan of Arc and her importance to France's history in just a few paragraphs here and there - giving the basics but not really involving us in Joan's work - while spending chapters and chapters describing Charles' 25-year captivity in England.He sits and stares out windows.He composes poems.He thinks about his brothers and what is happening in France.Why has this book been *wasted* writing about this dreary portion of Charles' life?!The book is lackluster.At points it is strongly written, but most of it was skimworthy.

Also, throughout the book various characters make reference to a popular medieval image called "The Forest of Long Awaiting."Many times.Yet the publisher's introduction says that he, Haase and the translator fought over and discarded several possible titles for the English version of the book.In the end they decided on the title used, which is a quote from Dante.Why did they not use "The Forest of Long Awaiting"?? I just don't understand this."The Forest of Long Awaiting" appears to be very close to the original Dutch title.Why then the long debates with the publisher, author and translator?

I'm strongly inclined to get rid of it, but it does cover (however sketchily) a part of European history that I was vague on, so I will probably keep it. ... Read more

Isbn: 089733356X
Sales Rank: 304239
Subjects:  1. 1394-1465    2. Charles,    3. European - German    4. Fiction    5. Fiction - Historical    6. Historical - General    7. Middle Ages    8. Poets    9. d'Orleans,    10. d'Orlâeans,   


$14.93

Why the Tree Loves the Ax: A Novel
by Jim Lewis
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 June, 1999)
list price: $12.95
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Editorial Review

"I was twenty-seven years old and I had lost my way. I found myselfdriving on an unlit highway through the middle of a black summer night: it wasn't whereI'd intended to be." In his second novel, Why the Tree Loves the Ax, JimLewis uses the conventions of the mystery to explore the space between what is lost andwhat is found. When a car accident brings Caroline Harrison to Sugartown, Texas, she isrunning from her past, but what she finds are the kind of secrets that simmer beneath thesurface of small-town America. At first Sugartown seems like a good place to settle, andCaroline finds a home, a job, and a new, anonymous existence. Eventually, however, thecreepy sense of foreboding Lewis has skillfully built in early chapters explodes inviolence and Caroline is driven out of Sugartown, fleeing first to New York City andfinally to upstate New York for the novel's disturbing denouement.

Why the Tree Loves the Ax is a suspense novel at heart, but when it movestoward its climax, the reader is left with the uncomfortable realization that Lewis hasdeftly deconstructed our notions of Caroline's role as narrator. As events unfold, itbecomes clear that her past and her motives are as mysterious as those of any othercharacter, and that the conundrums this mystery seeks to unravel are those of the soul.Lewis wraps his plot in layers of intensely poetic language--a technique that ischallenging at first, but ultimately rewarding. Characters seem to exist behind a mist ofimagery that keeps us at arm's length, creating a dreamily menacing atmosphere that willlinger long after the final page has been turned. ... Read more

Reviews (16)

1-0 out of 5 stars women are from Pluto
After leaving New York and the man she didn't have a child with, the next station of a 27 years old woman's odyssey is Sugartown, middle of nowhere. The beginning of the book is promising, its poetry in describing the desolation of settling in an unknown, economically depressed town is beautiful. After that, the story continually disappoints. That is, because the protagonist, - who has been running away from her past, kills a cop and then really needs to run -, is devoid of any capacity for judgement and logical reasoning. Jim Lewis has been praised for writing about the female phyche like few people can. The protatgonist's thought and choices are mainly impulsive and irrational.

The motive of the book as I read it is interesting, - mistakes which at first seem inconsequentional and which we ignore to confront derail us and spin into something bigger that we try to control. The implementation is poor, however. The story doesn't explain what compels the protagonist to leave a typical life after college in NYC and drift through Americas heartland. We never learn what was so traumatic in the relationsship with her boyfrind to do that, - at best this may be an anti-abortion book. Second, the plot lives of choices which any human being who has its basic intellectual capacities intact would not make. Alongway, we again and again gethammered into our brain how women supposedly think. For instance, their instincts are that every traffic cop whom they meet may beat them, they have to deal with menstruation, and they listen to the advice of about every man they meet. Also, there are too many mentionings of wet vaginas. They seem to occur whenever the author wants to make a point of something, but perhaps is not sure what exactly.

The troubles of the protagonist are resolved, at least temporarily, by a gang of wholesome men who are just plain criminals. They really are the most sympathical characters in the book. One of them wants to make a 'gentle revolution from within', or something like that. Maybe this book after all is meant as manifesto for anarchism, -?

3-0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but Curious
I wanted to see Caroline get her due in the end, but was denied the opportunity, which was a shame since we saw every other secret detail of the tightly knit sphere of neuroticism and borderline insanity she lived in. Beautiful writing but sometimes the layers hindered the plot instead of advancing it. But then when did Caroline ever make anything easy?

5-0 out of 5 stars Wry, inventive, provocative, ingenious, and yes, maddening
This is one of the darkest, most concise, most excrutiatingly beautiful tales I've ever read.It has all the marks of a cult classic masterpiece waiting to be read by many.One finds him or herself so detached and confused by what drives Caroline, the book's protagonist, that they literally begin to understand, in a weird kind of twilight-zone empathy, her nature, and thus our common human nature.The extremes of this novella are shocking at first, yet Lewis's imagery blends what can only be said to be THE most innovative techniques of metaphor and simile in modern fiction with a suspenseful plot that keeps you guessing and wanting to read on.

I love how Lewis remains fundementally seperate from his character yet imbues her with such amorality that the reader can't help but reaccess their own lives and values.It's not moral, or IMMoral- the things Caroline does are mistakes, and we all make them, and the books deals with how life goes on either way.

Those who see this book as mediocre may not see the poignant commentary found even in the title- than even when we're being killed, or killing, we have a love for each other, for our humanity, for our innocence, lost.An absolutely unforgettable, affecting read. ... Read more

Isbn: 0425168646
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - Psychological Suspense    3. Mystery fiction    4. Psychological    5. Suspense   


A Blessing on the Moon
by Joseph Skibell
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (10 January, 1997)
list price: $21.95 -- our price: $21.95
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Editorial Review

Chaim Skibelski rises from a pit of slaughter, leaving his dead townsmen and family behind, and returns to his home--now occupied by non-Jews. "In front of every house were piles of vows and promises, all in broken pieces. How I could see such things," he wonders, "I cannot tell you." So begins this magic-realist fiction, which is also a keen allegory of European Jews' war and postwar experience. "You think they can't kill us as often as they wish?" the narrator cries, and his distrust seems right. Though Chaim and the Rebbe are the only ones to have escaped the sudden roundup, they too, it soon becomes clear, are dead. The Rebbe has been transformed into a crow while Chaim's body seeps with blood and half of his face is missing. But if he's dead, why isn't he in the World to Come and why can some Poles and one German soldier see and hear him?

In his first novel, Joseph Skibell has created a fantasia both hideous and beautiful, a combination of mysticism, nightmare, and even humor. After Chaim and the Rebbe dig up other putrefied victims, the sorry, brave group moves painfully away from the village. Freezing days pass, perhaps years. "If you were the Rebbe, floating high above us, what you would see would be a great river of blood cutting a swath through the frozen winter hills." The author anatomizes the pilgrims' differences, cultural and religious, with love and wit. They are disputatious even in death--their debates threatening to overwhelm what holds them together. Though the phrase tour de force has been much abused, A Blessing on the Moon is exactly that: a daring fiction that shouldn't succeed on any level yet works on many. ... Read more

Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Book
Those who didn't "get" parts of the plot or some of the metaphors should wonder at how they so easily focused on the details of plot and forgot all about the enormity of the murdered people at the beginning of the story. Did they "get" the Holocaust? Do they "understand" it? Surely, not understanding why the rebbe turned into a crow or why Ola was attracted to Ola as she was, etc, etc, shouldn't be more vexing than our inability to "get" the enormity of the Holocaust and so many people so easily slaughtered.

Genocide is a singularity. In the width and breadth of its design and its reality, in the evil manifested in it, in the way it challenges both man and God for their passivity and complicity. It lays bare the worst in us. The Nazi Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide and the Armenian genocide are different events. They had different causes, different timelines and evolutions. They are not the same events. Each has its own horror. But the evil laid bare is the same ineffable singular reality.

We are creative creatures, though, and even though we cannot possibly understand and explain the Holocaust or the abiding reality of Genocide and evil that lurks beneath the surface of things, we have to try. We're built that way. And we succeed most when we look at bits and pieces of the whole. It's like looking at the sun. You can't do it directly. So things like filters and lenses come into play.

Skibell has found a wonderful way of doing this, telling us the story of Chaim and his journey through the filter of Hasidic stories. I hesitate to call them folktales or legends, because that would be to misunderstand the role of such stories in Hasidic life. The fantastical stories one reads involving miracles and magic are part of Jewish religious ideas and practice, not fiction. And I read this story as one of those Hasidic tales, rather than as a novel. There are deep truths in it, and some of the most concrete and beautiful images I can remember in fiction.

5-0 out of 5 stars A blast and mostly satisfying
I thought this book was very engaging and superb at the emotional play.There's a scene where, after encountering the horrors of his fellow Jews beginning to rot, Chaim meets a soldier (now beheaded and carrying his head around) and in a fury starts kicking the head down the hill.And yet later, he carries the soldier's head for him.To me, that combination (horror, hilarity and unowed kindness) somehow characterizes the experience of the Jewish people in an intimate, gut-level way that is hard to capture.

Though other readers may be disconcerted by a certain lack of connection between the pieces, I enjoyed it quite thoroughly.

2-0 out of 5 stars The Truth Was Disturbing Enough
Magical Fiction about the Holocaust, how will this instruct us when the truth was more unsettling than anything that can be imagined? This novel was well-written, yes, disturbing and painful to read, as any fiction with such subject matter must be, but I found myself wondering why I went on this journey and what the young American author felt he could tell me that survivor fiction and non-fiction had not already.I felt the Holocaust exploited and regretted having read this book.I'm going back to my Primo Levi, my Paul Celan. ... Read more

Isbn: 1565121791
Subjects:  1. American First Novelists    2. Fiction    3. Fiction - General    4. General    5. Historical - General    6. Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)    7. Jews    8. Literary    9. Poland    10. World War, 1939-1945    11. Fiction / Literary    12. Reading Group Guide   


$21.95

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Modern Library)
by MARK TWAIN
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (08 June, 1993)
list price: $16.95 -- our price: $11.87
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Editorial Review

A seminal work of American Literature that still commands deep praise and still elicits controversy, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is essential to the understanding of the American soul.The recent discovery of the first half of Twain's manuscript, long thought lost, made front-page news.And this unprecedented edition, which contains for the first time omitted episodes and other variations present in the first half of the handwritten manuscript, as well as facsimile reproductions of thirty manuscript pages, is indispensable to a full understanding of the novel.The changes, deletions, and additions made in the first half of the manuscript indicate that Mark Twain frequently checked his impulse to write an even darker, more confrontational book than the one he finally published. ... Read more

Reviews (298)

3-0 out of 5 stars Mr. poppers penguins
Mr.poppers penguins is a very good book. It is very funny. If you were to read this book you would be laughing as hard as you ever have. When I first read the bok I thought it was going to be worse, but it was very funny. I would recomend this book to people 10 and under.

2-0 out of 5 stars One Lousy Escapade
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is a dull book that is kept alive only by its strong moral lesson that contradicts the rights of slavery.Jim, an African-American runaway slave, is on the search for his own freedom by escaping to the south.Shortly into his journey, he phenomenally runs into and befriends Huck, a rambunctious wild child who is also coincidentally running away from home!Although the lesson is important, I found that it clouded Twain in his ability to entertain me as a reader.Insignificant chapters and random characters slowly drag along as Huck defeats all odds in his unrealistic encounters that take place on the Mississippi River.Repeated character personalities and storyline ideas created confusion for me as I was also perplexed by Jim's heavy dialect.I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who is actually looking for an actual action plot as it is a huge disappointment as a sequel to the thrilling Tom Sawyer novel.

4-0 out of 5 stars Huckleberry Finn Review
I gave this book four out of five stars for a couple of different reasons.First of all the book clearly shows the reader what is taking place in the U.S. at this time and it helps set the plot of the story.The second reason I gave it this rank is because throughout the whole book there is always something exciting taking place and plenty of action.This helps keep the reader focused and into the book.Another reason for my ranking is because even though the book is mostly serious, Mark Twain adds some comedy into the book to help reveal some of the more serious times in the book.The length of the book is just about perfect, because the author doesn't try and drag on a certain part of the story.This makes the book more interesting.Finally, the reason I didn't give this book a perfect five out of five is because of the ending.I feel that the ending doesn't fit the book.This is cause throughout the whole book there is always action taking place, and then at the ending of the book it kind of stops at a dull point.I think the ending could have been changed or something a little more exciting could have took place. ... Read more

Isbn: 0679424709
Subjects:  1. 19th Century American Novel And Short Story    2. Action & Adventure    3. Classics    4. Fiction    5. Finn, Huckleberry (Fictitious    6. Finn, Huckleberry (Fictitious character)    7. Literature - Classics / Criticism    8. Literature: Classics    9. Male friendship    10. Mississippi River    11. Runaway children    12. Fiction / General   


$11.87

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 October, 1987)
list price: $7.00 -- our price: $7.00
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Reviews (253)

5-0 out of 5 stars A demonstration of the great power in liturature
Light- hearted, funny,inventive and full of warmth. These are just some of the good feelings you can sense flowing from the pages of Tom Sawyer. Though Huck Finn is regarded as one of the highest American novels ever, Tom Sawyer gives off these good feelings with a more consistant and loving attitude then Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer's darker sequel. The novel centers mainly around two boys, the main character Tom and his friend Huck. These two boys just want to live in a world of adventure, fun and peacfulness, but the introduction of a murder and the attacker's safe getaway sharply snaps the boys into the harsh realities of a twisted world. However, Twain elegently puts small events of comic relief and highly amusing antics, and then combines them with master storytelling to create a great novel.

5-0 out of 5 stars A demonstration of the great power in liturature
Light- hearted, funny,inventive and full of warmth. These are just some of the good feelings you can sense flowing from the pages of Tom Sawyer. Though Huck Finn is regarded as one of the highest American novels ever, Tom Sawyer gives off these good feelings with a more consistant and loving attitude then Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer's darker sequel. The novel centers mainly around two boys, the main character Tom and his friend Huck. These two boys just want to live in a world of adventure, fun and peacfulness, but the introduction of a murder and the attacker's safe getaway sharply snaps the boys into the harsh realities of a twisted world. However, Twain elegently puts small events of comic relief and highly amusing antics, and then combines them with master storytelling to create a great novel.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer is all boy. He thinks like a boy. He talks like a boy. He acts like a boy. This book is all about Tom Sawyer and his great adventures. From the white washing incident to numerous others, these adventures are full mischief, humor, pranks, robberies and many other events. This book is a critique on humanity. In this book, Mark Twain is speaking as clearly as he can about his understanding of humanity and how it should act. I thought it was a brilliant novel, and I really enjoyed it. I also highly recommend it. ... Read more

Isbn: 0140390839
Sales Rank: 1489
Subjects:  1. Children: Young Adult (Gr. 7-9)    2. Classics    3. Literature - Classics / Criticism   


$7.00

Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, The
by NormanCantor, HaroldRabinowitz
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (01 June, 1999)
list price: $45.00
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Editorial Review

As greater numbers of naysayers look forward to the collapse of civilization, perhaps it's best to see what happened last time. It turns out the Dark Ages weren't so bad--in fact, after reading through The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, you might find yourself pining for the good old days before the Renaissance. Historian Norman F. Cantor has assembled a crack team of experts to unleash their copious knowledge on our modern world; better still, Viking Press has enlisted excellent designers to present the information efficiently and even beautifully. You'll find yourself irresistibly drawn from one entry to the next (there are over 600, so leave time for browsing) as the story of the Council of Nicaea leads on to explorations of medieval Christianity and much more. Twenty longer essays on general topics provide the foundation for the rest of the Encyclopedia and make great reading on their own, but the meat of the book is in the details. Lavishly illustrated in both color and black-and-white, including artworks, maps, and timetables, this reference work looks as good on the shelf as it does on the coffee table. --Rob Lightner ... Read more

Reviews (12)

3-0 out of 5 stars good work but typos?? hurt
This is a beautifully produced book with hundreds of color plates. There are many areas barely touched upon, but this is not a deep work, just one meant to acquaint people with Medieval times and possibly lure to a more in depth study. But since this is an "encyclopedia", I ask did you ever get in depth works there? They are merely the start of a journey. If you think along those lines you will have a clear view of how this books works and serves. So approach it as that and you will be pleased.

It is merely a starting point. Some inaccurate information, so beware to double check sources when using information. Not sure if the errors were done in actual research (hard to believe of a Rhodes Scholar) or just typos. Either way, in a work such as this they really hurt the credibility.

4-0 out of 5 stars 1000 of History
'The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages', edited by Robert Cantor (Rhodes Scholar, Fulbright Fellow, &c.) is a good reference work, an encyclopedic dictionary, covering the roughly 1000 years from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance. In addition the usual definition-explanation entries, it has three types of sidebar essays: Illuminations, which focus on sources, Life in the Middle Ages, which talks about common life details, and Legend and Lore, which explores imaginative concepts which informed medieval life.

There are maps, literally hundreds of photographs and illustrations, a layout that is inviting for study, reference, or general reading. It is 'easy on the eyes', much more so that a usual encyclopedia.

The scope of this work is also broader than most medieval reference texts. 'Despite what students of medieval history are accustomed to reading, life did exist outside of Europe in the Middle Ages.' That having been said, this is still a very euro-centric book. This book gives a great deal of attention to science, medicine, and other topics often ignored or pushed to the periphery of a more politically-oriented textual treatment.

There is an introductory essay that is well worth reading even if this is meant to be an on-the-shelf-for-reference-only sort of book. In talking about the influence on popular culture of the Middle Ages (everything from The Name of the Rose to the medieval garb, feudal structure and apprenticeship-education framework of Star Wars), Cantor says:

'In order to recognise [this Middle Ages influence] one has to have at some time known, and this has been the job of historians, who today painfully append to Santayana's famous saying (about those forgetting the past being condemned to repeat it) the observation that one cannot forget a history one did not know in the first place.'

Cantor describes twentieth century medievalists as being on a quest for 'wellsprings of a romantic and idealistic consciousness that would inspire a vibrant counterculture.' There is some of that in this book, but largely being encyclopedic rather than analytical and critical in nature, the reader/researcher can use the information contained herein for his own evaluations.

From the Abbadid and Abbasid Dynasties to Yaroslave the Wise and Yugoslavia, from Boethius to Wycliffe, this book has hidden treats and interesting articles for all.

1-0 out of 5 stars Not a reliable sourcebook for the Middle Ages
Supposedly, this book was put together by some of the "world's most distinguished medievalists"!One hopes not!In addition to the glaring errors of taste and judgment pointed out by some of the other reviewers, the factual errors are astonishing!One of the most egregious errors occurs on p. 138: "Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of two kings, Philip I of France and Henry I of England"!!!!! Eleanor, of course, was the wife of Louis VII of France and of Henry II of England!This kind of sloppiness is simply not acceptable in a book that purports to be by "someof the world's best medieval historians" (fronticepiece).The pictures are pretty; some of the articles are acceptable (but hardly noteworthy), but the book should be avoided at all costs by serious (or would-be) students of the Medieval Period. ... Read more

Isbn: 0670100110
Subjects:  1. Encyclopedias    2. History    3. History - General History    4. History: World    5. Medieval    6. Medieval World History (Circa 450 - Circa 1450)    7. Middle Ages    8. Reference    9. History / General   


Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
by HaroldBloom
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 September, 1999)
list price: $18.00 -- our price: $12.24
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Editorial Review

"Personality, in our sense, is a Shakespearean invention, and is notonly Shakespeare's greatest originality but also the authentic cause of his perpetual pervasiveness."So Harold Bloom opines in his outrageously ambitious Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. This is a titanic claim. But then this is a titanic book, wrought by a latter-day critical colossus--and before Bloom is done with us, he has made us wonder whether his vision of Shakespeare's influence on the whole of our lives might not be simply the sober truth. Shakespeare is a feast of arguments and insights, written with engaging frankness and affecting immediacy. Bloom ranges through the Bard's plays in the probable order of their composition, relating play to play and character to character, maintaining all the while a shrewd grasp of Shakespeare's own burgeoning sensibility.

It is a long and fascinating itinerary, and one littered with thousands of sharp insights. Listen to Bloom on Romeo and Juliet: "The Nurse and Mercutio, both of them audience favorites, are nevertheless bad news, in different but complementary ways." On The Merchant of Venice: "To reduce him to contemporary theatrical terms, Shylock would be an Arthur Miller protagonist displaced into a Cole Porter musical, Willy Loman wandering about in Kiss Me Kate."On As You Like It: "Rosalind is unique in Shakespeare, perhaps indeed in Western drama, because it is so difficult to achieve a perspective upon her that she herself does not anticipate and share." Bloom even offers some belated vocational counseling to Falstaff, identifying him as an Elizabethan Mr. Chips: "Falstaff is more than skeptical, but he is too much of a teacher (his true vocation, more than highwayman) to follow skepticism out to its nihilistic borders, as Hamlet does."

In the end, it doesn't matter very much whether we agree with all or any of these ideas. What does matter is that Bloom's capacious book sends us hurrying back to some of the central texts of our civilization. "The ultimate use of Shakespeare," the author asserts, "is to let him teach you to think too well, to whatever truth you can sustain without perishing." Bloom himself has made excellent use of his hero's instruction, and now he teaches us all to do the same. --Daniel Hintzsche ... Read more

Reviews (90)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good stuff, when he's not inventing theologies
The idea that Shakespeare created every mannerism I possess is presumptuous in the extreme, but then again, you don't become one of the most prominent literary critics of our time without being presumptuous.

In fact, all literary criticism revolves around the burning sun of presumption, and Bloom knows how to borrow that fire better than almost anyone.

Do not be fooled, this is Bloom's attempt to permanently enthrone Shakespeare above all in the pantheon of history, even above his beloved Freud.Even if he suggests Freud's analysis can lead to us Shakespeare better than anyone, he is still lifting up Shakespeare above all.The man's arms must be getting tired from constantly trying to ascend already ascended figures.

He spends a lot of time on Hamlet.A lot of time.And while this may be justified by the fact that Hamlet was the best thing Shakespeare ever wrote, there are other plays that deserve just as much space.He also ignores (basically) the sonnets, which accounts for 50% of Shakespeare genius.

However, in terms of Shakespeare criticism, you will be hard pressed to find someone who has spent more time pouring over the material, thinking about it, publishing about it, and generally living it day to day.Bloom's grasp of Shakespeare has reached a level so far above others that he's no longer considered the best there is.I remember a few years above, Stephen Greenblatt was supposedly the cutting-edge in Shakespeare.No one wanted to talk to me about Bloom in the English department, they were too busy divorcing and remarrying each other.

The problem here is that there is hardly any usefulness outside of pure inventive thought.Using this in your thesis on Shakespeare, in today's literary zeitgeist, is going to be met with a resounding groan.Bloom is too good, and he even seems to recognize this by establishing something called the "School of Resentment," which includes anyone who buys into modern literary theory.This excludes Bloom, of course, so you see the equation.The trouble is, who is being resented; Shakespeare for being so good, or Bloom for being so quick as to see how good Shakespeare really is?

5-0 out of 5 stars This book covers a lot of territory
This gigantic book summarizing a lifetime of teaching Shakespeare would not seem so familiar to me if the shocks of recognition were not always so close to the truths that I value most highly.My knowledge of Shakespeare is not much, but the information this book contains about plays that loomed large in Walter Kaufmann's books FROM SHAKESPEARE TO EXISTENTIALISM and TRAGEDY AND PHILOSOPHY largely supports a bracing view of the worst things that Shakespeare could find to say about people.A few years ago, at a performance of the play "Cymbeline," I seemed to be much more disturbed than other members of the audience, seeing it in an intimate setting that put people on folding chairs close enough to feel that we were all taking part in what was going on.Harold Bloom adds to that feeling of intimacy by declaring:

"Iago, like Hamlet and Macbeth, is beyond us, but we are Iachimo.Our bravado, malice, fearfulness, confusion are all in Iachimo, who is not much worse than we are, and whom Shakespeare intends to spare."(p. 637).

I have a DVD collection (3 discs), LIVE DEAD, THE GRATEFUL DEAD IN CONCERT, which has an interview with the band, probably the special Dead Facts fan quiz on the GRATEFUL DEAD:TICKET TO NEW YEAR'S recorded at the Oakland Coliseum on December 31, 1987, in which some fan wants to know what they think the words of the song, "Iko Iko" mean:"Jockamo fee na - ne'."It sounds like Iachimo to me, and the attitude that the band adopts to come up with a reasonable explanation which will not produce any more questions is worthy of a truly comic society.The song has been around since 1964, and one verse is like a Shakespeare play:

"Look at my king all dressed in red.
Iko.Iko, unday.
I betcha five dollars he'll kill you dead.
Jockamo fee na - ne'."

Incidentally, there is a version of "Iko-Iko" on the Warren Zevon CD "Wanted Dead or Alive," which also has his song "She Quit Me" which was used in the movie "Midnight Cowboy," which is pretty good if you want to see Dustin Hoffman playing a character called Ratso.

Bloom dates "Cymbeline" to 1609-10, with Shakespeare returning to Stratford in 1610 for semi-retirement (p. xiv), which allowed him to turn on his work with what Bloom regards as "unmistakable overtones of his personal distaste for the London of 1609-10."(p. 615).The larger question is "the question of Shakespeare himself.What was he trying to do for himself as a maker of plays by the heap of self-parodies that constitute `Cymbeline'?"(p. 621).Obviously, "Shakespeare is his own worst enemy in `Cymbeline':he is weary of making plays."(p. 621).Bloom still finds some good poetry:

"Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust."(p. 629).

The six lines of [V.iv. 146-51] are so good that they show up on page 634 and 635 as "Compulsive self-parody" which leads to "It is another of those uncanny recognitions in which Shakespeare is already beyond Nietzsche."(p. 636).

It is easy for me to look up plays that other people might think are awful.Bloom thinks that "Troilus and Cressida" was never staged at the Globe because it "might seem too lively a satire upon the fallen Earl of Essex, who may be the model for the play's outrageous Achilles,"(p. 327).Thersites denies having any honour:"no, no:I am a rascal, a scurvy railing knave:a very filthy rogue."(p. 329).Margarelon told him, "The devil take thee, coward."(p. 329).Bloom is sympathetic."If we can trust anyone in the play, then it must be Thersites, deranged as doubtless he is."(p. 332).

"Timon of Athens" is considered unfinished."Shakespeare appears to have to have abandoned `Timon of Athens,' for reasons still unclear.He never staged it, and parts of it are less finished than others."(p. 588).There are a few examples of "venereal invective" (p. 596) that were ultimately dismissed as unworthy of himself."This hymn to syphilis is unmatched and unmatchable."(p. 597).There are topics which are far more worthy of poetry in this book, and the book makes every effort to present explanations which make the poetry worth understanding.Not every reader in our society will make the effort to find what they want in Shakespeare.This book will make sense to people who would want to know all this, whether it will do them any good or not.

This is April."Shakespeare was christened on April 26, 1564, at Stratford-on-Avon, and died there on April 23, 1616."(p. xiii).He only lived to the age of 52, more or less.Many of his plays were so popular that Bloom can keep talking about characters throughout the book as if readers who have not encountered them already will know who they are someday.They should, too.

4-0 out of 5 stars Bloom on Shakespeare
Bloom's Shakepeare: The Invention of the Human is eloquent, frequently brilliant, provocative, ambitious, playful, educational, entertaining, yet flawed.Several of his major premises are unproven, and since these logical prerequisites are key to his central thesis, his whole edifice is shaky at best.For instance, he presumes, with no evidence, that Shakespeare wrote Ur-Hamlet, and this presumption is fundamental to his later review of the play.Other weaknesses come through as well.He repeats through virtually every play review his deification of Hamlet and Falstaff.He goes too far too often with little or no evidence.Yet to be fair, Bloom's book is clearly a labor of love. Even with its limitations this is an excellent book that is worth reading. ... Read more

Isbn: 157322751X
Subjects:  1. Biography & Autobiography    2. Biography/Autobiography    3. Characters and characteristics in literature    4. Drama    5. Literary    6. Personality in literature    7. Plays / Drama    8. Psychological aspects    9. Shakespeare    10. Biography & Autobiography / General   


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