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Review-a-Day

Friday, June 22nd


 

The Importance of Being Dangerous by David Dante Troutt

Harlem Hustle

A review by Ron Charles

Rutgers law professor David Dante Troutt has written a sexy thriller fueled by racial indignation, but not enough. The Importance of Being Dangerous, his first novel, starts off with a sharp critique of American inequality, focused on three middle-class blacks. They're trying to make ends meet in Harlem during the 1990s stock market boom that's lifting all (white) boats. At the center of the story is Sidarra, a hardworking, single mom behind on her rent, her taxes and her love life. Hoping to get out of debt and secure a better future for her young daughter, she joins a local investment club for "people like her who knew nothing and had little but a job." There she meets Yakoob, a computer programmer, and Griff, a handsome civil rights lawyer.

Disillusionment has corroded all their hopes. Griff eschewed a lucrative corporate practice to counter what he calls the "thug multiplier": the tendency of a racist legal system to exagerrate the crimes of black men. But he's found no more...



Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson

A voice crying in the wilderness

A review by Ron Charles

This summer, less than a mile from my house, an image of the Virgin Mary appeared in the third-story window of a hospital. The population of Milton, Mass., doubled one weekend when 25,000 devotees came from across the country to sing, pray, leave alms, and debate the image's message for a sinful world. Stories of "Lourdes in Boston" ran in newspapers around the world. Thousands of Web pages celebrated the sighting. Unable to conduct its business, the hospital covered the window with a tarp during work hours. A month later, the archdiocese proclaimed the image was not, in fact, a miraculous...



Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya

Senselessness: A Review

A review by Chris Faatz

There are a lot of great one word descriptions that come to mind when I consider Horacio Castellanos Moya's new novel, Senselessness. Among them are driven, obsessive, wrenching, and paranoid. The one that seems best, however, is fevered, as this sums up perfectly the pitch at which this brilliant and devastating novel spins out.

Written with virtually no paragraph or sentence breaks, Senselessness is a tightly woven, brutally compelling tale of the progressive mental deterioration of its narrator, a man who has been hired to copyedit the testimonies of an unnamed country's indigenous...



Lincoln's Constitution by Daniel A. Farber

Lincoln v. Lincoln

A review by Jeffrey Rosen

Our greatest president was also our most constitutionally precise president. From his earliest days in politics, Abraham Lincoln evaluated national policies in constitutional terms, and he demanded that the government justify its actions by pointing to the legal authority that supported them. As a first-term congressman in 1847, he challenged President Polk's claim that Mexico had provoked a war with the United States by introducing "spot resolutions" demanding that Polk identify the precise spot on American soil where American blood had been spilled as a result of Mexican attacks. (In fact...



Manliness by Harvey C. Mansfield

Man Overboard

A review by Martha C. Nussbaum

I.
Suppose a philosophical scholar -- let us call this scholar S -- with high standards, trained in and fond of the works of Plato and Aristotle, wished to investigate, for a contemporary American audience, the concept of "manliness," a concept closely related to the one that Plato and Aristotle called andreia, for which the usual English rendering is "courage." (Harvey Mansfield himself tells us that andreia is his subject.) How would this scholar go about it? Well, following the lead of Aristotle, S would probably begin by laying out the various widespread beliefs about the topic...



Four Spirits (03 Edition) by Sena Jeter Naslund

The battles of Birmingham

A review by Ron Charles

Sena Jeter Naslund has proven that she can make minnows swim like whales. In her previous novel, Ahab's Wife, she hooked a single reference in Herman Melville's Moby Dick and pulled up a spectacular story of female triumph, full of transfigured myths, legends, adventure, parody, and tragedy. That remarkable feat of reimagining makes the failure of her new novel, Four Spirits, all the more surprising.

Once again, Naslund has pursued a leviathan subject, but this time its elements reside in our historical rather than literary memory: the civil rights movement and the violence in Birmingham...



Fire by Sebastian Junger

A review by Beth Kephart

Sebastian Junger was eleven years old when a terrifying experience on a snow-swollen mountain left him feeling as if he'd been "some other place these people don't even know exists." The ordinary world seemed frivolous, oddly unaware, when he made his way back to it. With Fire, the new collection of journalism by the author of The Perfect Storm, Junger proves that he will travel nearly anyplace to Kosovo and Sierra Leone, to Afghanistan and a dry-lightning fire to bear witness to life's extremes. Junger is not a moralizing journalist. His stories in Fire, many of which have been...



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