Right Livelihoods: Three Novellas by Rick MoodyI think Richard Ford, who edited the Granta Book of the American Long Story, once explained what a novella was to menot a short novel or a long short storybut now I cannot remember. As far as I know, only Jim Harrison and a very few othersand now Rick Moodyactually call some of their works novellas. The three (relatively) short fictions in Right Livelihoods appear to have their origins in commissioned pieces for The Paris Review and A Public Space (under the good offices of Bridget Hughes and Elizabeth Gaffney), and offers up Moody’s signature alternatingly perverse and earnest humorous vision.
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The Mirror and The Mask: Portraiture in the Age of Picasso by Paloma AlarcoPaloma Alarco, curator of modern paintings at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, oversaw the exhibition for which this book is a catalogue. Acknowledging the unlikeliness of the survival of portraiture in painting after the modernist explosion that came with Picasso, this book focuses on avant-garde European painting and sculpture from the 1890s to the 1980s. It’s an ambitious and visually exciting collection, and to my tastes is more compelling than the monolithic impressionist exhibitions that American big-city museums are inclined to mount.
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Pilgrims Upon the Earth by Brad LandFormer Stuart Dybek’s student Brad Land’s memoir, Goat, put him on the literary radar; Land now delivers his fiction debut. Fifteen-year-old Terry Webber, who lives in a textile factory town in South Carolina, is an alienated teen, motherless, and unattended to by an overworked and numb father. Terry pals up with black sheep Alice Washington, and they head off to Colorado and Alice’s sister’s commune. Something awful and harrowing happens and Terry must make sense of it and search for a way to live a life worth living.
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Origin by Diana Abu-JaberDiana Abu-Jaber, who happens to have grown up in Syracuse, N.Y., presents us with a forensic expert who becomes embroiled in the investigation of a series of crib deaths that would have been ruled as SIDS but for the hysterical pleadings of one of the motherswho happens to be well connected. Refocused attention suggests the harrowing possibility of a serial murderer of infants, and the above-mentioned expert deals with her own past as she delves into the current mystery. As her oeuvre exhibits (Crescent, Arabian Jazz, and The Language of Baklava), Abu-Jaber is a talented wordsmith, which is certainly welcome in the burgeoning field of literary thrillers. In the case of Origin, there is something about an ape that makes suspension of disbelief difficult. Or it could just be me.
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We’re All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age by Scott GantScott Gant, a Washington, D.C., attorney who practices constitutional and media law and who is a member of Peretz’s revanchist New Republic clique, shores up the legitimization of bloggers and other barbarians by arguingobviouslythat the internet has transformed media and journalism. Gant argues that the plethora of online info venues is suggestive of the pamphleteers in the early life of the American republic. And as the criterion for journalism shifts from the self-serving definitions of corporate mass media, the rights and privileges extended to journalists and those who should be accredited as suchwhich can become a matter of lawneed to be retooled. In fact, he forwards specific arguments about how to change existing laws and offers suggestions for new laws that acknowledge the new media reality.
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Voices of a People’s History of the United States (Audio) by Howard ZinnIn the limited argot of the Bushist lexicography, historian Howard Zinn falls into our historically challenged current president’s pool of villains: Revisionist historians is what I like to call them. As I referred to a recent junior rendition of the seminal People’s History last week, now comes an audio CD with 21 readings by Danny Glover, Sarah Jones, Paul Robeson, Jr., Lili Taylor, Wallace Shawn, Marisa Tomei, and Kurt Vonnegutbringing to life the words and sentiments of dissenters such as Susan B. Anthony, Paul Robeson, Eugene Debs, Mark Twain, and Tecumseh.
Killing Che by Chuck PfarrerFormer and decorated Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer, who wrote the well-regarded memoir Warrior Soul, crafts a well-researched thriller based on the final days and murder of Ernesto Che Guevara in the remote jungles of Bolivia. Our eyes on this piece of vital hemispheric history belong to Paul Hoyle, a former CIA paramilitary officer who has done time in Southeast Asia and in 1967 found himself an independent contractor in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. All the players in this betrayal of Guevara are given voice, including assorted spooks and the ubiquitous Cubans, who are inseparable from the covert enterprises of post-WW II years. Other than Jon Lee Anderson’s biography of Che, this is one of the more balanced portrayals of a man, by turns vilified or lionized, rarely taken stock of on his own terms. And it’s a vivid, well-wrought fiction. Yes, indeed.
» Read an excerpt from Killing Che