Archive for April, 2011
YOU ARE NOT A GADGET is a passionate and thought-provoking critique of Silicon Valley from behind its ramparts, and a must-read for anyone interested in the ways technology is affecting our culture. In his first book, Jaron Lanier, a visionary leader in the development of virtual reality technology (and the man who popularized the term), sounds the alarm: our humanity is under digital attack as the software that increasingly governs our lives impoverishes what it is to be a person.
VIENNA TWILIGHT, the fifth installment in Frank Tallis’s superb mystery series, focuses on a serial killer obsessed with death; a degenerate artist, Herr Ludo Rainmayr, who paints emaciated young girls in the nude; and an agitated mental patient named Norbert Erstweiler. Dr. Max Liebermann is a psychiatrist and disciple of Sigmund Freud. He also unofficially assists his close friend, Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt. Max and Oskar attend concerts, chat over meals, make music (Max plays the piano and Oskar sings in a rich baritone), drink brandy, smoke cigars, and track down felons. Max’s knowledge of abnormal psychology helps him understand the subconscious forces that drive people to commit unspeakable acts.
Those who have traveled in Southeast Asia â€“ and Korea in particular — will know right away that the number 4 (pinyin sĂ¬) is considered unlucky because it sounds like â€śdeathâ€ť (pinyin s?). Why, then, did Korean author Kyung-sook Shin carefully craft a novel from four different viewpoints?
The answer is that the members of this family are unlucky, or at the very least, careless. Through years as a family, none of them ever really knew Mom or understood the sources of her strength. And now she has disappeared in a crowded Seoul subway station, where she and her husband of 50 years were about to board a train. Her disappearance devastates those who are left behind.
Usually I review books shortly after reading them. However, Nathacha Appanahâ€™s book, The Last Brother, sat so deeply in my heart that I had to wait several days before reviewing it. I needed it to come closer to the surface, closer to that word place where emotions can be translated into language.
Nathacha Appanah is a French-Mauritian of Indian origin, born in Maruitius and now living in France. The Last Brother won the Prix de la FNAC 2007 and the Grand Prix des lecteurs de Lâ€™Express 2008. Geoffrey Strachan has beautifully translated it into English. It reads as if it is in its native language, a feat very rare for translations.
Milly and Twiss are known throughout Spring Green, Wisconsin as â€śthe bird sistersâ€ť â€“ two elderly spinsters who minister to broken birds and make them whole again. And, in many ways, the birds are a metaphor for who they are. Early on, Milly reflects, â€śThe smartest birds built their nests high up in the trees. Some birds, namely the wood pigeon, the clumsiest architect of all, began building their nests but never finished them.â€ť
The sisters would fall into that latter grouping. At one point in their lives, they were eager to take wing until the summer of 1947 changed everything. Since the story is told as a flashback, we, the readers, are charged with the task of finding out how â€“ and why.
If for nothing else, A YOUNG MAN’S GUIDE TO LATE CAPITALISM will be remembered as a clear-eyed, unsentimental look at money and our complicated relationship with it. The protagonist in Peter Mountfordâ€™s debut novel is a young biracial man, Gabriel de Boya, who is on assignment for The Calloway Group, a New York hedge fund. He finds himself in La Paz in Boliviaâ€”where the novel is setâ€”on the eve of the election that would usher in Evo Morales as President.
Gabrielâ€™s assignment is to predict first the outcome of the election, and subsequently its effect on the Bolivian gas industry. Gabrielâ€™s boss in New York, the aggressive Priya Singh, would essentially like to speculate about whether Morales would nationalize the Bolivian gas industry right away, as he promised. To obtain such sensitive information, Gabriel works incognito in the city passing off as a freelance reporter on assignment.