I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita
Panorama of Life
A review by Scott Bryan Wilson
One of those mammoth (over 600 pages) "kitchen sink" novels, Karen Tei Yamashita's I Hotel is ridiculously ambitious -- and, happily, quite successful. Yamashita writes about the decade from 1968 to 1978 in San Francisco, from the perspective of the Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and other Asians who were living there. Beginning with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and ending with a protest/demonstration to save the I-Hotel, which housed hundreds of single Chinese and Filipino men, her tale is populated by poets, scholars, laborers, musicians, factory workers, left-wingers...
The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics by James Oakes
Lincoln and Douglass: Great Men Who Didn't See Eye to Eye
A review by Chuck Leddy
Early on the morning of Aug. 10, 1863, former slave, renowned black leader, and newspaper editor Frederick Douglass stepped from his Washington, D.C., hotel room, in hopes of a meeting with Abraham Lincoln.
The Civil War was raging and the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed but Douglass was far from complacent. Black troops were fighting on the Union side, but not receiving equal pay, uniforms, or rations. Also, there were reports that captured black soldiers were being tortured and killed in cold blood by rebel troops -- reports that spurred little or no response from Union leaders....
The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge by Jamie James
Why There Are't Many Old Macho Men
A review by Doug Brown
Joe Slowinski was one of the head herpetologists for San Francisco's renowned California Academy of Sciences (or Cal Acad, as it is known among zoologists). He had starred in a National Geographic special called Cobra Hunt, about his pursuit of a new species of spitting cobra in Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar -- James calls it Burma throughout the book, and in an afterword gives a good defense of the practice). Slowinki's lifelong offhandedness (no pun intended) with freehandling venomous snakes almost caught up with him during the filming of that special, when one of the aforementioned cobras bit his ...
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
"Werewolf" Simmers with Hot, and Hairy, Love
A review by Jessica Ferri
For Jake Marlowe, the last werewolf on Earth in this rollicking novel by Glen Duncan, the difference between werewolves and vampires is simple:
The vampire gets immortality, immense physical strength, hypnotic ability, the power of flight, psychic grandeur and emotional depth. The werewolf gets dyslexia and a permanent erection. It's true that werewolves often pale in comparison. Vampires are paragons of romance and refinement, werewolves are embodiments of horror (An American Werewolf in London), camp (Teen Wolf) or, most recently, unintentionally hilarious sexual...
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
A review by Andrei Lankov
There is no shortage of books on North Korea. Thanks to its nuclear ambitions, it attracts a surprising amount of attention for a country whose population and economy are roughly the same size as Ghana's. But little is said about average North Koreans. They come across as faceless people who obediently follow the orders of their Dear Leader, as Kim Jong Il is officially known, and his opaque inner circle. Nothing to Envy, by journalist Barbara Demick, rounds out the picture. Working in Seoul and Beijing as a Los Angeles Times correspondent, she interviewed numerous people who had fled North...
What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response by Bernard W. Lewis
How to succeed in religion
A review by Ruth Walker
Bernard Lewis has pulled off the kind of coup scholars hope for: A book long in preparation suddenly validated by external events, in this case the Sept.11 terrorist attacks and the attendant surge of American interest in learning about Islamic and Arabic culture.
As multitudes throng bookstores and libraries in search of answers to President Bush's question, "Why do they hate us?" Lewis will be one of the sources they turn to. But this slender book, a compilation of lectures by the Princeton professor emeritus, sometimes described as the doyen of Middle East scholars, may pose more...