***Content has been a little sparse lately as I try to get acclimatized to a few things. This combined with some technical difficulties has “put me off my game” as the saying goes. Look for more content after Labor Day, but the pace will still be quality over quantity. In the meantime, here are some books that have found there way to my doorstep that might be of interest.***
Starred Review. At the start of Martin’s compelling postapocalyptic novel, which reads like The Road as told by the crusty old woman from Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Mary and her husband, John, perch precariously in a tree while a huge, corpse-eating pig waits below. Flashback a few decades: Mary and John are starving in suburban Maryland outside Washington, D.C., after a disaster known as the calamity destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. The top .1% of America’s richest citizens have bought up all the commodities and withdrawn to enclaves guarded by hired thugs. After a man known as Tazza emerges as a strong local leader, John declares him king. Martin (The Crying Heart Tattoo) charts Tazza’s self-sustaining kingdom from its early bucolic beginnings to its final bloody battles against rapacious Canadians hired by a resurgent American government bent on subduing this upstart leader. Filled with action, romance and terrific characters, this intelligent cautionary tale deserves a wide readership.
Starred Review. A truck jackknifes off an “arrow straight country road” near Kearney, Nebr., in Powers’s ninth novel, becoming the catalyst for a painstakingly rendered minuet of self-reckoning. The accident puts the truck’s 27-year-old driver, Mark Schluter, into a 14-day coma. When he emerges, he is stricken with Capgras syndrome: he’s unable to match his visual and intellectual identifications with his emotional ones. He thinks his sister, Karin, isn’t actually his sister–she’s an imposter (the same goes for Mark’s house). A shattered and worried Karin turns to Gerald Weber, an Oliver Sacks-like figure who writes bestsellers about neurological cases, but Gerald’s inability to help Mark, and bad reviews of his latest book, cause him to wonder if he has become a “neurological opportunist.” Then there are the mysteries of Mark’s nurse’s aide, Barbara Gillespie, who is secretive about her past and seems to be much more intelligent than she’s willing to let on, and the meaning of a cryptic note left on Mark’s nightstand the night he was hospitalized. MacArthur fellow Powers (Gold Bug Variations, etc.) masterfully charts the shifting dynamics of Karin’s and Mark’s relationship, and his prose–powerful, but not overbearing–brings a sorrowful energy to every page.
One of the few proud neoconservatives remaining, Podhoretz offers an impassioned defense of President Bush’s foreign policy, gleefully attacking those on the left and the right who harbor suspicions that Bush fils is less than infallible. Convinced that we are in the middle of the fourth world war (the Cold War was the third), he attempts to steel us for the years of conflict to come. But Podhoretz’s argument falls flat because of his refusal to face difficult realities in Iraq. He insists that the media has resolutely tried to ignore any and all signs of progress and repeatedly asserts that those with whom he disagrees are committed to seeing the U.S. fail in Iraq in order to enhance their professional reputations. Even in describing how the events of September 11 drew America together, Podhoretz cannot resist partisan sniping: [E]ven on the old flag-burning Left, a few prominent personalities were painfully wrenching their unaccustomed arms into something vaguely resembling a salute. Podhoretz’s take-no-prisoners writing style will delight his partisans while infuriating his ideological opponents, whom he brands as members of a domestic insurgency against the Bush Doctrine.
From the DaVinci Code and Roswell to E Pluribus Unum and the pyramid on the back of every dollar bill, we all are fascinated by secrets, codes, and coincidences. George Rutler – EWTN speaker, Crisis magazine columnist, and reigning Catholic wit – offers his reflections on the coincidental links that connect the most far-flung parts of our worlds. Topics cover the gamut of human life, from Louis Farrakhan and Edgar Allen Poe to Benjamin Franklin and the propensity of Scottish physicians to dominate the Nobel Prizes for Medicine. Each 4-page reflection is accompanied by line art to give this volume the perfect feel of antiquarian delight – perfect for the language lover and curmudgeon in all of us.