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Bookshelf / Reader's Choice

Tale of Vampires Takes a Bite out of the Big Apple

October 29, 1998

"The Time of Feasting" describes a community of New York City vampires in a state of crisis. Every seven years, these vampires are impelled to suspend their civilized veneer--modern vampires subsist on packaged product expropriated from hospital blood banks--and to roam wild in search of fresh sustenance. Can even the maelstrom that is New York City mask their activities? The young vampire Kurt Carfax sees in the unstable situation an opportunity to overthrow the lodge's leader, Victor Renquist.

Meanwhile, a defrocked priest, Gideon Kelley, detects Renquist's vampiric presence and locates the commune. Kelley sees the routing of these vampires as a means to his own redemption. He is assisted reluctantly by two police detectives, who realize they must conceal their activities until the results can be entirely justified.

Author Mick Farren provides illumination as to the history, customs, language and origin (extra-terrestrial!) of nosferatu, as vampires prefer to be called. This information is particularly useful and welcome in America today, where sensitivity to diversity is such an issue.

NANCY HAYES

Los Angeles

*

"The Inheritance" by Louisa May Alcott was discovered at Harvard in its original manuscript form, handwritten in a red notebook. The author specified that it was her first novel. Not until the 1990s was it printed by a publisher.

This melodramatic novel has an ingenious plot and quaint, young-adult characters. The story deals with class distinctions (Edith is an orphan teaching music in an aristocratic house in 19th century England), and the transformation of artificial manners into some sense of true values creates an impression.

"The Inheritance" is a stirring mixture of sunshine and shadow, presenting the striking contrast between the strength of a truly sunny disposition and the weakness of a shadowy false face. Written by a teenager, it reveals the quality of ripe wisdom, and has the flavor of a classic.

KAREL A. RUECKERT

Santa Monica

*

Robert Benchley, of the Algonquin Round Table, was a deliriously delicious devil: an incisive writer of humor, warm, economic, human and generally the butt of his own jokes. "The Benchley Roundup," compiled by his son Nathaniel Benchley, is a collection of short pieces in which the wit, wordplay and nonsense hold up as well as they did when the pieces were written, between 1915 and 1945.

There are gems like "The Social Life of a Newt," in which the author experiments with mating newts. Replacing the female newt with an eraser, he found that the male "was unable to detect the change . . . and continued, even in the presence of the rubber eraser, to gyrate and undulate in a most conscientious manner, still under the impression that he was making a conquest."

Go home, relax and read a few of these. As far as humor goes, Seinfeld has nothing on Benchley.

MEREDITH BESSER

Santa Monica

*

With all the hoopla surrounding Princess Diana's death last year and the media blitz that occurred around the anniversary of her death, I became interested in finding out as much as I could. Michael Levine's "The Princess and the Package" answered all my questions and more.

Without being judgmental about the princess herself, Levine examines the relationship between the woman and the media and how they used each other. He looks at the media world straight on, and he sees deep and wide. He doesn't miss a thing. Levine is bold about offering analyses. They are never less than refreshing, even at their most contrarian.

I came away from this with a much better understanding of how celebrity is created and manipulated. In addition, I learned enough about the princess' life to make my own judgment about whether she deserved all the praise and accolades she received. I encourage other readers to do the same.

Another plus is the style in which this book is written. Its easygoing, conversational tone makes it very easy to read. I would recommend this to anybody.

ADAM C. EBMEIER

Upland

*

For those wondering what FM rock was like before the intervention of the omnipresent conglomerates, I recommend "Radio Waves" by Jim Ladd. Portions of Ladd's novel mirror the rise and ultimate demise of the late, great Los Angeles radio station KMET, where Ladd once ruled the airwaves. The self-proclaimed "Lonesome L.A. Cowboy" takes the reader on a magical trip that begins in the late '60s with the emergence of free-form radio play at FM station KAOS. The tale ends with the onslaught of corporate greed at a station fittingly named KASH.

As someone who grew up with Ladd providing (as he so eloquently describes it) "the soundtrack" of my youth, I appreciated the opportunity to relive that era. A longtime deejay in the Los Angeles market, Ladd is known as much for his irreverence as for his dedication to providing a true musical experience. This book does not lack his attention on either count.

JAYNE FINK

San Dimas

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