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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Quickly 

So after all this mucky-muck with the New York Times Book Review, it's obvious which place I'll link from first. So here goes:

La Stasio is back this week and doles out reviews as follows: rave for Jodi Compton's THE 37TH HOUR (which has garned much positive praise that I, for one, agree with--expect to see this novel on some shortlists next year), finds Jonathan Gash's new Lovejoy novel a lot of fun, enjoys the new installment in Kathleen Hills' historical series, is especially impressed with Elizabeth Stromme's book published by City Lights Press, and has a great time with Donald Westlake's reissued novel GOD SAVE THE MARK (which I, too, thought was hilarious and special.) My god, 5 positive reviews? What is this world coming to?

Well, even if Marilyn's being excessively cheery this week, have no fear: there's always Laura Miller for head-scratching wackiness. This time she feigns puzzlement over the idea that Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe might really be gay characters. Frankly, I think she may have drunk too much coffee and read this piece a few too many times...

Andrew Sullivan, meanwhile, reviews Irshad Manji's "The Trouble With Islam," and is mightily impressed with her spirit and passionate arguments. It garnered a tremendous amount of controversy in Canada, where the first edition was published last fall, and will no doubt do the same in the US as well.

In Margaret Cannon's crime column for the Globe and Mail, she is especially high on Natsuo Kirino's thriller OUT, Donald Westlake's GOD SAVE THE MARK, the new McBain, Dean Koontz, Eleanor Taylor Bland, and Simon Hawke's series starring Shakespeare as sleuth.

At the same paper, Martin Levin struggles to understand the wild popularity of the LEFT BEHIND books and their mutant spawn.

Now, the WaPo: Jonathan Yardley remembers Book Row, seven blocks crammed with antiquarian bookshops of every shape and form in the 1960s version of New York. Now there's a new book out about it, which Yardley sums up as follows: "They know books and bookselling, they have vigorous opinions, and they can't write."

Shelby Coffey reviews a couple of books on the journalism of old. I'm excited about James McGrath Morris's book on the dawn of Yellow journalism, if only because I'd argued years ago in a high school essay that newspaper coverage in the 1920s, as well as society as a whole, really mirrored contemporary culture (then, it was the mid 1990s.)

Yay! Katy Munger's occasional crime column is in this week's Book World. Those worthy of her scrutiny include Jim Kelly, Harley Jane Kozak, GH Ephron, and PT Deutermann.

Michael Dirda looks at Keith Coplin's CROFTON'S FIRE, a novel over 40 years in the making. Though he finds it wanting, it's only in relation to what readers are expecting these days: fabulous blockbusters. Instead, this is a quieter, less flamboyant book. I know several people who have rhapsodized about the book and I'm expecting my copy to arrive any day now, so I shall have to weigh in on some point about it.

The Guardian Review is quite chock full of morsels this week but I'll focus on Carrie O'Grady's review of Stella Duffy's new novel, STATE OF HAPPINESS. Frankly, I've been a huge fan of Duffy's books--most especially her novels of social satire. In SINGLING OUT THE COUPLES, Duffy uses the fairy princess archetype and twists it to near-sadistic proportions, for this princess's heartfelt desire is to break up happy couples in ingenious ways. It's a savage look at relationships and what it takes to keep people together and tear them apart. Then there was EATING CAKE, about a suburban woman ostensibly happy in her IKEA life trappings--except she's not. So she goes out of her way to destroy the idyllic setup by having an affair with her best friend's husband and then another woman. Then in IMMACULATE CONCEIT (recently turned into a rollicking play that ran in London last summer), a lapdancer is told that she's about to give birth to the Messiah. Can such a responsibility be thrust upon a non-believer in a modern age? I admit, this one's my favorite because it messes with religion and catechism but is never less than honest about it. So in STATE OF HAPPINESS, Duffy is less satirical and more thoughtful as she tackles a more sombre subject: the effects of illness and impending death on relationships, and the strength to get through it all. O'Grady's not sure it works as a reading experience but suggests it was cathartic for Duffy to write. For that, one would have to ask Stella herself, but perhaps the proof is in the fact that her next two books are crime novels and promise a return to her more satirical, urban-noir self. I, for one, cannot wait.

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