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Diane Prokop has commented on (11) products.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
11/22/63

Diane Prokop, January 1, 2012

This was the first King book I'd ever read and I was shocked at his masterful storytelling skills. Plus, I was totally entertained, and after the year we just had, that was a tall order. The premise is of traveling back through time to try and change history. The period the protagonist traveled back to was the time before John F. Kennedy's assassination. The dilemma is not really whether he can change the course of events, but should he.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)



Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Sixties by William Zimmerman
Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Sixties

Diane Prokop, September 19, 2011

Zimmerman gives us a riveting look at his evolution into a grassroots activist beginning in Chicago during the sixties. Not only does he articulately elucidate the reasons why we went to war in Viet Nam but he also explains the machinations of the civil rights movement. Not surprisingly, most of what he says about the sixties can be extrapolated to the present time. This book is perfect for anyone who wants to grasp corporate motives and manipulation of America at the expense of the middle class and minorities. This is a must-read primer to understanding all that ails America.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)



Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Sixties by William Zimmerman
Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Sixties

Diane Prokop, September 19, 2011

Zimmerman gives up a riveting look at his evolution into a grassroots activist beginning in Chicago in the sixties. Not only does he articulately elucidate the reasons why we went to war in Viet Nam but he also explains the machinations of the civil rights movement. Not surprisingly, most of what he says about the sixties can be extrapolated to the present time. This book is perfect for anyone who wants to grasp corporate motives and manipulation of America at the expense of the middle class and minorities. This is a must-read primer to understanding all that ails America.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)



Wire to Wire (Tin House New Voice) by Scott Sparling
Wire to Wire (Tin House New Voice)

Diane Prokop, May 3, 2011

Dark Side of the Tracks

Scott Sparling’s debut novel “Wire To Wire” is a dark panoramic view full of fleeting nightmares and bad memories racing across the electrified brain of Michael Slater. That’s because while riding atop a train through Detroit his head meets a power line that almost kills him. The “electricity used Slater’s body as a raceway, entering at his forehead and shooting through his feet, rearranging the molecules as it went.” After having his skull cut open and surgically retooled, his perspective is changed forever.
A few years later, he’s working as a video editor in New York in a cubicle with nothing to keep him company but speed and the visions of his past that insist on unfolding on the screens of his editing suite over and over and over again.
Slater recalls scenes from the desert when he was trying to live a regular life after recovering from his accident. In no time at all, he is sleeping with someone else’s girl and running from a psycho back to Wolverine, Michigan where he falls in again with his fellow train-hopping friend Harp. Harp’s girlfriend, Lane, is too much of a temptation to pass on and that creates a juicy love triangle. Soon Slater gets pulled into Lane’s brother’s nefarious ways and once again he is running for his life.
The story is classic noir fiction full of drug dealers, crooked cops, and glue-huffing losers. Sparling uses the train as a vehicle for moving the plot and the characters through a story that follows Slater and Harp through Northern Michigan’s bleak wasteland. “There was woe spread all over Northern Michigan. They’d seen plenty on the road into town. Abandoned farmhouses in fields of purple wildflowers. Rusting double-wides with big cars in front. A long stretch of fence posts where no fence remained. And the signs. Stump blasting. Worms for sale. I do drywall. People piecing their lives together.”
The characters are pitiful, but some are sympathetic as well - especially Slater who one feels is always on the verge of doing the right thing but never quite manages to pull it off. Stuff just keeps happening to him.
Murders, train-hopping getaways, and speed-addled lowlifes lurking in every shadow keep the story moving swiftly down the tracks. There is seemingly no place to hide. Slater’s girlfriend Lane sums it up best when she says, “You’re looking for a safe place... But there isn’t any. It’s all a tightwire and you never get to come down. You just get used to it... You just move from wire to wire to wire.”
Beautifully written and chilling prose makes this more than just a crime novel. The meticulous detail of the gritty and unrelenting gloom of the Northern Michigan landscape as well as the gripping scenes of riding the rails lend a persuasive feel to this brilliantly crafted thriller.
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Bright before Us (Tin House New Voice) by Katie Arnold-Ratliff
Bright before Us (Tin House New Voice)

Diane Prokop, April 29, 2011

I like when authors take me hostage right out of the gate and don’t let me go until they’ve had their way with me. That’s what Katie Arnold-Ratliff does in her debut novel “Bright Before Us.” The story begins: “We hadn’t expected it; the sky had been clear.” That’s ominous. I want to read more and as I do I watch while teacher Francis Mason discovers a dead body on a San Francisco beach. But it gets worse; he’s got his second-grade class with him.
This moment of unexpected darkness on an otherwise unexceptional day sends Francis, the young, newly-minted teacher, on a downward spiral into an abyss of shifting realities. Paranoia, grief and confusion sidle up to him and shake him silly. He has that moment of realization when you’ve graduated from college, started your first adult job and are settling into a “real” relationship when you wonder: How did I get here? Did I pick the wrong profession? Who is this woman and why am I about to have a baby with her?
For Francis, the incident of finding the body catapults him into an examination of his fixation with an unrequited love from his past as well as his dysfunctional upbringing. Nora was his friend growing up and then the object of his love obsession. There are problems with his current wife, Greta, with whom he’s expecting a baby. He also is second-guessing his career choice as a teacher where he feels inept. Suddenly, fleeing the whole mess starts to look like the only option. Arnold-Ratliff builds an interesting plot structure by alternating each chapter with the present and then the past. It creates a powerful narrative momentum that makes the book hard to put down. You need to know why he ended up held captive by a past full of mistakes and will he continue to make mistakes.
Another compelling aspect was Francis’ continuing shifts into what can only be described as altered states of deep paranoia. He reaches that sort of high-adrenaline state when perception changes slightly fueling his growing fears and insecurities. Is he a bad teacher? Is he ready to be a husband and a parent? Does he have what it takes to move forward? Up until the point when he finds the body, Francis seems to have let life happen to him and then has ridden out the consequences. He lives “the examined life” but he doesn’t put the self-knowledge he gains to any good use - at first.
“Bright Before Us” is a brilliant look at the process required of Francis to realize he must take responsibility for past choices and take charge of choices to come. The reader rides along for his transformation into adulthood as he learns that his past love is more delusion than anything else. Arnold-Ratliff lets us know that the life you get is not often the life you think you should have but it can turn out to be the life that you need to survive. I was happy for the reminder.
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