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Chronogram's Choice

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:42 pm
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Chronogram has run reviews and Short Takes of over 100 new books since last November’s Literary Supplement. Books Editor Nina Shengold offers a second look at some outstanding titles by regional authors.

FICTION

THE FUTURIST
James P. Othmer (Anchor Books, 2007, $13.95)
“A wickedly deft satire that is by turns hilarious, touching, foreboding, frightening—and consistently brilliant. The novel cuts a swath through political culture, national governments, corporate hegemony, religious fundamentalism, mass media, advertising, activism, fashion, Faith B. Popcorn, Bill Gates, and assorted other major players....Othmer has done a marvelous dissection of early 21st-century culture, tossed the pieces into a blender, and poured out a first-rate satirical novel in which tomorrow is to die for.”
—Kim Wozencraft, 6/07


RUSSIAN LOVER
Jana Martin (Yeti, 2007, $15.95)
“A well-done short story feels miraculous, the selection of just the right moments and details to create an entire reality in a bite-sized handful of pages. Woodstock author Jana Martin gets it right. The reader knows everything he or she needs to know; the characters breathe and sweat and could go on with their lives for a novel’s worth of time, and we’d not be bored.... Martin’s rich imagery brings to vivid life the exotic side of the mundane, and reveals the mundane within the exotic worlds of a dominatrix or a topless dancer.”
—Anne Pyburn, 9/07

THE SECOND COMING OF MAVALA SHIKONGO
Peter Orner (Back Bay Books, 2007, $13.99)
“In chapters ranging from three pages to a single, muscular sentence, Goas, a school for farm boys in the middle of the drought-ridden South African veldt, shimmers and materializes before the eyes like a mirage. Bard Fiction Prize winner Orner possesses the rare ability to craft irreverent, pithy last sentences that make The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo impossible to put down.”
—Bri Johnson, 5/07


TRASHED
Alison Gaylin (Obsidian, 2007, $21.95)
“A delightful romp though the sordid and deliciously sleazy world of the Hollywood tabloid media machine and the seriously neurotic, occasionally psychotic stars who feed it, Trashed is funny, suspenseful, and oddly touching. It is both a thriller and a send-up of the genre, a giddy frolic through La-La Land with a cast of characters that leaves the reader smiling at human folly, and guessing at whodunit until the very end.”
—Kim Wozencraft, 9/07

TRESPASS
Valerie Martin (Nan A. Talese Books/Doubleday, 2007, $25)
“Keenly insightful, masterfully written...Trespass employs a broad canvas, but it isn’t just a political story. Valerie Martin peels back big issues to reveal the bigger ones beneath, like the difference between the frightening and the truly dangerous, the possibility that our worst enemy lies within, and the absurdity of professing a liberal mind without also having a liberal heart.”
—Susan Krawitz, 10/07

MEMOIR

CLIMBING MANGO TREES:
A MEMOIR OF A CHILDHOOD IN INDIA
Madhur Jaffrey (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006, $25)
“An enchanting and heady mix of childhood stories and recipes from pre-Partition Northern India....Each person and place encountered by Jaffrey is connected with a food described so explicitly, gracefully, and lovingly that reading this book literally makes the mouth water.”
—Susan Piperato, 12/06


LAND OF STONE: BREAKING SILENCE THOUGH POETRY
Karen Chase (Wayne State University, 2007, $15.95)
“Chase begins her preface by calling Land of Stone ‘a story of silence and kinship.’ It is also a story about love, healing, and the redemptive power of poetry, and it is unlike anything you’ll ever read. In a time when hope is as hard to come by as affordable housing or a teenager without a cell phone, Land of Stone is singular in its power to inspire.…The narrative bravely explores the subtlely in relationships—between silence and word, patient and therapist, teacher and student.”
—Caitlin McDonnell, 9/07


THE LAST DEAD SOLDIER LEFT ALIVE
Richard Boes (iUniverse Inc., 2007, $12.95)
“A ripped-from-the-heart memoir of the years of struggle, substance abuse, and failed relationships that followed [Boes’] combat experience. It’s painful, yet richly rewarding. Imagine sitting down in a pub next to a slightly scary-looking fellow who buys you a round and then begins to talk, his words spilling out in a heated rush, things bottled within him flooding to the surface. And although some of what he is saying is hard to hear, it’s made compelling by his wry, ironic perspective and stream-of-consciousness style, which is akin to that of Henry Miller or Jack Kerouac.”
—Anne Pyburn, 6/07


NINE WAYS TO CROSS A RIVER: MIDSTREAM REFLECTIONS ON SWIMMING AND GETTING THERE FROM HERE
Akiko Busch (Bloomsbury USA, 2007, $19.95)
“In the case of Dutchess County resident and design writer Akiko Busch, rivers invite her to enter the water, body and soul, to experience the sensual pleasure of swimming, to speculate, to ponder, to dream. Her thoughtful volume chronicles nine swims across eight rivers (she swam the Hudson twice) over the course of four years....Each crossing not only provides the occasion to recall details of the swim itself, but functions as a creative springboard for meditations on a variety of diverse subjects.”
—Kim Wozencraft, 7/07


NONFICTION

GENERATION ON FIRE:
VOICES OF PROTEST FROM the 1960s–AN ORAL HISTORY

Jeff Kisseloff (University Press of Kentucky, 2007, $34.95)
“In giving these voices a venue, Kisseloff has created something more mind-expanding than any chemical. In and around the sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll—which are pleasingly plentiful and unapologetic—there were heroes. There was hope. There were changes made. These things are possible, a hard thing to grasp in this Orwellian third millennium of ours. Reading this book, one hopes that a new generation of believers—maybe regular folks like you and me—will be moved to stand up and achieve dramatic results, throwing fresh sand in the gears of the death machine.”
—Anne Pyburn, 3/07

THE GLORIOUS MUSHROOM
written and photographed by Frank Spinelli
(Catskill Press, 2006, $35)
“From his forays into the ‘forests, rocks, and open fields’ that fringe his home in the Catskills, Spinelli has laden these pages with a trove of toadstools, a cornucopia of boletes, and an opulence of polypores....As delectable for the eye and the mind as a brace of morels, braised in butter and lightly salted, is for the palate, this book is a choice readable.”
—Mikhail Horowitz, 2/07


KILL ALL YOUR LITTLE DARLINGS: PIECES, 1990-2005
Luc Sante (Yeti, 2007, $17.95)
“A wide-ranging, entertaining, and thoughtful collection of essays....Sante is a great historian of our era, and the best professor one could ask for in a crash course on popular culture. Despite his preoccupation with all things hip, he rarely affects the carefully cultured, world-weary tone so rampant among New York hipsters today. His attitude of interested delight, even exuberance, splashes colorfully across his descriptions of musicians, politicians, criminals, artists, and himself.”
—Bri Johnson, 10/07

PICTURE BOOKS

FABIAN ESCAPES
written and illustrated by Peter McCarty
(Henry Holt and Company, 2007, $16.99)
“Hondo the dog likes to nap and let the baby dress him up, while Fabian the cat would rather sneak out for a walk on the wild side. This sequel to Caldecott Honor-winning Hondo and Fabian features fuzzily adorable illustrations and whimsical text. Perfect read-aloud fare from Rhinebeck author McCarty.”
—Short Takes, 8/07


FIVE LITTLE GEFILTES
written and illustrated by Dave Horowitz
(Putnam Children’s Books, 2007, $12.99)
“In a creatively slanted take on a classic toddler rhyme, Horowitz combines folksy Yiddishisms, goofy rhymes, cut paper, and paint to portray a charming, pushcart-strewn, two-cent pickle version of New York’s Lower East Side....It seems this meshuga book was as much fun to write as it is to read.”
—Susan Krawitz, 2/07

MUSEUM TRIP
Barbara Lehman (Houghton Mifflin, 2006, $15)
“Not a word is spoken in this graphically striking, mind-bending tale of a boy who lags behind his group on a class trip and enters one of the artworks. His journey through an intricate series of labyrinths satisfies on every level. Hudson artist Lehman, a Caldecott honoree for The Red Book, deserves to share her hero’s medal.”
—Short Takes, 1/07

REBEKKAH’S JOURNEY
ANN E. BURG, ILLUSTRATED BY JOEL ISKOWITZ
(SLEEPING BEAR PRESS, 2007, $17.95)
“Created by a Rhinebeck writer and a Woodstock illustrator, the story is based on the little-known true tale of 1,000 World War II refugees invited in 1944 by FDR to stay at an empty Army base in upstate New York....The illustrations, mostly in tones of old-photo sepia, capture the story’s mood perfectly. Told with sincerity, restraint and age-appropriate detail, Rebekkah’s Journey is a strongly compelling tale.”
—Susan Krawitz, 2/07


POETRY

THIRST
Patrick Carrington (Codhill Press, 2007, $10)
“The winner of Codhill’s inaugural poetry chapbook contest crafts poems of glistening simplicity, as clear, hard, and vivid as stained-glass church windows. Selected by series editor and Chronogram writer Pauline Uchmanowicz, Thirst slakes the craving evoked by its title and Carla Rozman’s striking cover, leaving the reader sated.”
—Short Takes, 7/07

A WORLDLY COUNTRY

John Ashbery (Ecco, 2007, $23.95)
“The poems in [Ashbery’s] 26th collection, A Worldly Country, are dazzling thinking machines. Deeply attentive to sound, the poems are playfully formal (the title poem rhymes ‘hovel’ with ‘novel’; ‘Tweety Bird’ with ‘occurred’). If they were music, they’d be jazz–improvisational, witty, whimsical, and uniquely American.”
—Caitlin McDonnell, 5/07


YOUNG ADULT

MAUDE MARCH ON THE RUN!
OR, TROUBLE IS HER MIDDLE NAME

Audrey Couloumbis (Random House Books For Young Readers, 2007, $15.99)
“In this sequel to her acclaimed The Misadventures of Mad Maude March, part-time South Fallsburg resident Couloumbis keeps the dust churning, the bullets zipping, and the wry wit flying....Readers can hope these gals will hammer this trail yet again.”
—Susan Krawitz, 1/07

THE NEDDIAD: HOW NEDDIE TOOK THE TRAIN, WENT TO HOLLYWOOD, AND SAVED CIVILIZATION
Daniel Pinkwater (Houghton Mifflin, 2007, $16)
“An epic tale that mixes disparate genres and elements in a way only the author of The Hoboken Chicken Emergency and Lizard Music could imagine. It’s a road trip, a buddy story, a comedy, an encyclopedia, and a memoir, all of it saturated with grand mythological overtones and just plain crazy fun.”
—Susan Krawitz, 4/07

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