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A CHILD CALLED NOAH : A Family Journey by Josh Greenfeld (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $7.95)

January 29, 1989|ELENA BRUNET

"A Child Called Noah" is the devastating, true account by a father, proudly recording in journal entries the development of his second son, Noah Hiro--until the progress Noah is making seems to stop at age 2. Noah withdraws and stops talking. After a battery of tests, he is variously diagnosed as being emotionally disturbed or having organic retardation, childhood schizophrenia, autism.

This volume chronicles the first few years of Noah's life (1966-71): his parents' efforts to get him the best treatment possible, the pressures on their older son, and the combustible coping between Josh Greenfeld, Jewish and Brooklyn-bred, and his Japanese wife, Foumi.

Through Noah's tests and treatments, megadoses of vitamins and operant conditioning, the Greenfelds become more expert at their son's condition than the expert physicians. Greenfeld's book is an extraordinary achievement, not only literarily. By telling his son's story and his own with harrowing candor he has crafted a testament to his family's survival.

LOVE IN THE RUINS

The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World by Walker Percy (Ivy Books: $4.95) The world is on the verge of catastrophe in "Love in the Ruins." As protagonist Dr. Tom More writes, "I have reason to believe that within the next two hours an unprecedented fallout of noxious particles will settle hereabouts. . . . The effects of the evil particles are psychic rather than physical. They do not burn the skin and rot the marrow; rather do they inflame and worsen the secret ills of the spirit and rive the very self from itself."

But in his pocket he has a cure that could inoculate a select few.

Now that he has the cure for the world's ills, the psychiatrist launches a crusade to combat the coming disaster--starting with the three girls at the Howard Johnson motel. A riveting adventure and love story by the author of "The Thanatos Syndrome."

SECRETS OF THE TEMPLE

How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country by William Greider (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster: $12.95) Winner of the 1988 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the category Current Interest, "Secrets of the Temple" unveils the mystique of the Federal Reserve, elucidating its monetary and fiscal policies in language accessible to all, not simply to financiers on Wall Street.

In this well-researched tome, William Greider, former assistant managing editor of the Washington Post, assesses the tenure of Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1979 to 1987, who is credited with "winning the war against inflation." Volcker's tactics--to tighten credit by pushing credit up sharply--brought on the recession of 1981-82, the worst since the end of World War II: "At the peak, in December, 1982, 12 million people were out of work."

"The government simply evaded the moral questions that arose from its actions," Greider continues. "If the economy was not healthier, if the benefits of stable money had not been realized, then what would the government say to all those people who had been sacrificed?"

Greider strongly faults the press for not spelling out just what course in policy the Federal Reserve was taking--and at what cost: "The press portrays reality according to a limited range of orthodox premises. . . . Most people didn't understand what was happening because nobody bothered to explain it."

As Times staff writer Tom Redburn wrote in these pages, "Greider may be remembered most for telling the epic story of our nation's struggle to control inflation so clearly that the voices of the victims can be heard in the lofty towers of the victors as well."

THE MELTING POT

And Other Subversive Stories by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (Penguin Books: $7.95) These 11 short stories present a diverse range of human experience, from mid-life crisis, acculturation to divorce and death.

Some of the stories are as finely crafted as they are clever: "What I Did for Love" tells of Chris' efforts to nurse her daughter's sick guinea pig though she has no knack with pets. "So You're Going to Have a New Body!" reads like an ironic step-by-step manual to the serious circumstance of a hysterectomy.

But not every story succeeds: "The Last Frontier" begins with the humorous premise of a homeless family living on the set of a sitcom, but when the director and cameraman make an unexpected visit, the story just ends.

FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY

A Writer's Life by Geir Kjetsaa; translated from the Norwegian by Siri Hustvedt and David McDuff (Fawcett Columbine: $10.95) Geir Kjetsaa provides an intimate portrait, full of anecdotes, of the great Russian writer. Kjetsaa's access to new archival documents, such as Dostoyevsky's underscored "New Testament," allow him to draw a unique close reading of Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed," "where the correspondences between the original divine image and the terrifying present seemed to emerge with especial clarity."

The only point where Kjetsaa clearly comes up short is in his treatment of Dostoyevsky's anti-Semitism, which is mentioned in passing in a single sentence: "From messianism it is a short distance to chauvinism, which soon led him on to anti-Semitic diatribes. . . ."

Reviewer Joan Delaney Grossman called the work "a lively, intelligent summary of Dostoyevsky's career."

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