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Sunday, December 14, 2003

On a chilly Sunday morning 

Where the news is that Saddam Hussein was captured. My first response: how do they know it's not a clone? Evidently DNA tests are being performed. Ah, the wonders of forensic science....

But on to matters of some frivolity for now, as I don't much like to talk about the war efforts (that's why there are warblogs.) At the Observer, Tim Adams feels that Jonathan Lethem has finally "caught up" to his Bennington classmates Donna Tartt and Bret Easton Ellis in writing challenging literature. Granted, the only Lethem book I've read so far is his futuristic take on the PI novel, GUN, WITH OCCASIONAL MUSIC, but that proved enough for me to both seek out future work and to classify him as a hell of a lot better than Donna or Bret.

Evidently Susanna Moore's raison d'etre in her fiction, including her latest novel ONE LAST LOOK, is that she wants to champion women and their struggles. Okay....

Peter Guttridge loves Minette Walters' new novel DISORDERED MINDS. While I'm sure it's deserving of all the raves, I have a wee suspicion that it won't make the Dagger shortlist next year. I mean, she did win the damned thing this year, can't some other writer get a chance? Although knowing the CWA, they'll piss people off further by awarding the Gold Dagger to another novel in translation.

Robert McCrum examines the tenuous link between alcohol and writing. Evidently HL Mencken once wrote that "the cocktail was the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet. " I can think of a couple of people who would take such a saying to heart, likely for different reasons....

Oline Cogdill's latest mystery column takes an in-depth look at Louis Bayard's historical thriller MR. TIMOTHY and a couple of paperback originals. The first one is Elaine Viets' MURDER BETWEEN THE COVERS, which is set in the bookstore and evidently is a hell of a lot of fun, according to one of my bookseller friends.

Maud Newton read Bernard Schlink's THE READER over the weekend and it struck a very resonant chord with her. I read the short novel a couple of years or so ago and had a decidedly different reaction. For one thing, like a lot of novels in translation, I felt I was missing something which perhaps the original German may have offered. More importantly, THE READER struck me as kind of an apology after the fact, and seemed awfully close to a cop-out. Good writing, but at least for me, provoking in a negative sort of way.

The National Post profiles journalist Martha Gellhorn, who was once married to Ernest Hemingway. A fascinating woman who was far more committed to her life and work than being an ordinary wife, she travelled the world and was quite the pioneer, it seems, although she didn't much want the role:

Gellhorn never considered herself a pioneer. Too feisty, too idiosyncratic, she lived her life in a kind of isolation: "My chosen and projected status is that of an outsider. I have never seen any place or group I wanted to join; not their taboos, rules, games, ambitions ... I am an onlooker."

And finally, Reinhold Neibuhr's Serenity Prayer has been co-opted by a great many celebrities, organizations, never mind AA. But he was far more than that--a religious thinker and philosopher. The Boston Globe takes a closer look at the all-but-forgotten man.

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