May 21, 2011 |
We're living in an age of prize proliferation. It might not feel like it — especially with so many families hit hard by economic turmoil in the last few years — but it still exists, according to Joel Best's "Everyone's a Winner," a book that looks at the ways and the reasons why our society puts so much emphasis on a pat on the back. Everyone knows that the gentleman's C of years ago has become the B-plus or A-minus of today. Averages higher than 4.0 are commonplace in high schools and, at graduation time, many schools crown not one but multiple valedictorians.
February 19, 2012 |
Watergate A Novel Thomas Mallon Pantheon: 448 pp., $27.95 A few months ago I attended a book launch party for Adam Hochschild's World War I history, "To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918," where he offered a concise dissection of the difference between writing novels and writing history. To write history, he said, the story needs only to be true. To write a novel, the story must be plausible - an often much more difficult thing to accomplish.
September 13, 2011 |
Film producer Simon Lewis was driving down Beverly Boulevard with his wife in 1994 when their car was broadsided by a van traveling at about 75 mph. Lewis, then 35, had seen his biggest success with "Look Who's Talking," a comedy about a chatty baby starring John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and the voice of Bruce Willis. But after this accident his life would never be the same. An hour after emergency workers reached the scene of the accident - the car had spun through the air and smashed into a tree - they found the bloodied Lewis and were surprised to discover he had a pulse.
July 24, 2011 |
Absolute Monarchs A History of the Papacy John Julius Norwich Random House: 513 pp., $30 When preeminent British historian John Julius Norwich tells us in the introduction to his sweeping history of the Catholic papacy that his job is to give us "a straightforward single-volume history" of the world's "most astonishing social, political, and spiritual institution ever created," he's hit the nail on the proverbial head. The centuries-old Roman papacy truly is a universally unrivaled institution, and in dense detail, Norwich's book shows us the historic playbook.
June 26, 2011 |
Good Neighbors A Novel Ryan David Jahn Penguin: 280 pp., $15 paper How fair is it to hold a novel to actual events? It's a question I kept asking as I read Ryan David Jahn's first book, "Good Neighbors" (published in England as "Acts of Violence" in 2009), based on the notorious murder of Kitty Genovese, the Queens, N.Y., bar manager stabbed to death early on the morning of March 13, 1964, outside her Kew Gardens building. Although the attack continued, with a break, for 30 minutes, only one of the people who witnessed it from their apartments — 38 of them, according to an iconic New York Times story that ran two weeks after the killing — did anything to help.
October 31, 2010 |
Storyteller The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl Donald Sturrock Simon & Schuster: 658 pp., $30 I was sitting on an airplane with a copy of "Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl" when an elegant woman in the seat next to me murmured, almost to herself, "I live just down the lane from his old cottage in Oxfordshire. " Turning to her with excitement I asked if she'd ever run into him. "Oh, no, no," she said with obvious amusement, as if the very suggestion was completely absurd.