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NEW YORK (AP) — Thomas Berger, the witty and eclectic novelist who reimagined the American West in the historical yarn "Little Big Man" and mastered genres ranging from detective stories to domestic farce, has died at age 89.
Berger's literary agent, Cristina Concepcion, said Monday that he died in Nyack Hospital on July 13, just days before his 90th birthday. He had been in failing health, Concepcion said. One of the last major authors to have served in World War II, Berger wrote more than 20 books, including the autobiographical "Rinehart" series, a "Little Big Man" sequel and "The Feud," about warring families in a 1930s Midwest community. "The Feud" was recommended for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize by the fiction jury but was overruled by the board of directors, which awarded another Depression-era novel, William Kennedy's "Ironweed."
Berger's biggest mainstream success was "Little Big Man," published in 1964 and an ultra-wry tale of 111-year-old Jack Crabb, who alleges that he was abducted by Indians as a young boy and later fought with the Cherokees in the Battle of Little Big Horn. The novel was adapted into a 1970 movie of the same name, starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by Arthur Penn. A leading American Indian writer, Sherman Alexie, would cite "Little Big Man" as an influence on his screenplay for the 1998 movie "Smoke Signals."
Other Berger novels made into films include "Neighbors," which starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, and "Meeting Evil," featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Luke Wilson.
Never as famous as such contemporaries and fellow veterans as Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut, Berger became the kind of writer who made fans feel special just for knowing about him. Admirers regarded him as unique and underappreciated, a comic moralist equally attuned to the American past and present.
"Berger's books are accessible and funny and immerse you in the permanent strangeness of his language and attitude, perhaps best encapsulated by Berger's own self-definition as a 'voyeur of copulating words,'" Jonathan Lethem wrote in a 2012 essay. "He offers a book for every predilection: if you like westerns, there's his classic, 'Little Big Man'; so, too, has he written fables of suburban life ('Neighbors'), crime stories ('Meeting Evil'), fantasies, small-town 'back-fence' stories of Middle American life, and philosophical allegories ('Killing Time')."
Berger was born in Cincinnati, the son of a public school business manager and a housewife. He was a dreamer, seeking out new worlds on the nearest bookshelf. His favorite works included the legends of King Arthur and, since he was born close enough to the 19th century to hear firsthand accounts, histories of the Battle of Little Big Horn.
"Very early in life," he once said, "I discovered that for me reality was too often either dull or obnoxious, and while I did play all the popular games that employ a ball, lower hooks into the water, and, especially fire guns, I preferred the pleasure of the imagination to those of experience, and I read incessantly."
Berger served in the Army from 1943 to 1946 and used some of his experiences in Germany for his debut novel, "Crazy in Berlin." He was an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, then a graduate student at Columbia University, where he studied under the critic Lionel Trilling and attempted a book on George Orwell, a lasting influence.
Berger worked in libraries as a young man and for a variety of publications, from The New York Times Index to Popular Science Monthly. At a workshop at The New School for Social Research, Berger met such fellow students as Jack Kerouac, Mario Puzo and William Styron and a painter, Jeanne Redpath, who became his wife. He wrote short stories in his 20s but disliked the art form, believing he needed more space "to create my alternative reality."
"Little Big Man" was his third novel. As he told American Heritage magazine, he began the book in 1962 with "the intention of comprising in one man's personal story all the themes of the Old West that have since become legendary."
Jack Crabb was based on a fictional character, the blowhard Kit Carson in William Saroyan's play "The Time of Your Life."
"The book's appeal traces to two main currents: one, it's a tall tale in the great American tradition of Mark Twain, and, second, it's hip, modern and funny and anticipates appreciation and understanding of a vanished Indian culture by decades," the critic Allen Barra wrote for Salon.com in 2006.
In more recent novels, Berger satirized the frustrations of contemporary domestic life. In "Best Friends," he contrasted the overachieving Roy Courtright and the underachieving Sam Grandy, with Grandy's wife trapped in the middle. "The Houseguest" was a comic gangster story in which a thug ingratiates himself with a Long Island family, then keeps them hostage — at least they think he does. In "Adventures of the Artificial Woman," a technician unlucky in love constructs an ideal partner, only to have her leave him and become a movie star.
"I ... have never thought of my work as being funny except incidentally," Berger once said, disputing the idea that he was a comic novelist. "I write as I do because that's the way I instinctively look at things."
Article written by By Hillel Itale
image (Ella Cohen)
A new study shows that many people would rather get an electric shock than just sit and think
Doing nothing but thinking can be profound, but is it fun?
It is summer time, and the living is easy. You can, at last, indulge in what is surely the most enjoyable of human activities—doing absolutely nothing. But is doing nothing really enjoyable? A new study in the journal Science shows that many people would rather get an electric shock than just sit and think.
Neuroscientists have inadvertently discovered a lot about doing nothing. In brain-imaging studies, people lie in a confined metal tube feeling bored as they wait for the actual experiment to start. Fortuitously, neuroscientists discovered that this tedium was associated with a distinctive pattern of brain activity. It turns out that when we do nothing, many parts of the brain that underpin complex kinds of thinking light up.
When people lie in a tube with nothing else to do, they reminisce, reliving events in the past ("Damn it, that guy was rude to me last week"), or they plan what they will do in the future ("I'll snub him next time"). And they fantasize: "Just imagine how crushed he would have been if I'd made that witty riposte."
Though we take this kind of daydreaming for granted, it is actually a particularly powerful kind of thinking. Much more than any other animal, we humans have evolved the ability to live in our own thoughts, detached from the demands of our immediate actions and experiences.
Descartes had his most important insights sitting alone in a closet-sized stove, the only warm spot during a wintry Dutch military campaign. When someone asked Newton how he discovered the law of gravity, he replied, "By thinking on it continually." Doing nothing but thinking can be profound.
But is it fun? Psychologist Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia and his colleagues asked college students to sit for 15 minutes in a plain room doing nothing but thinking. The researchers also asked them to record how well they concentrated and how much they enjoyed doing it. Most of the students reported that they couldn't concentrate; half of them actively disliked the experience.
Maybe that was because of what they thought about. "Rumination"—brooding on unpleasant experiences, like the guy who snubbed you—can lead to depression, even clinical depression. But the researchers found no difference based on whether people recorded positive or negative thoughts.
Maybe it was something about the sterile lab room. But the researchers also got students just to sit and think in their own homes, and they disliked it even more. In fact, 32% of the students reported that they cheated, with a sneak peek at a cellphone or just one quick text.
But that's because they were young whippersnappers with Twitter-rotted brains, right? Wrong. The researchers also did the experiment with a middle-aged church group, and the results were the same. Age, gender, personality, social-media use—nothing made much difference.
But did people really hate thinking that much? The researchers gave students a mild electric shock and asked if they would pay to avoid another. The students sensibly said that they would. The researchers then put them back in the room with nothing to do but also gave them the shock button.
Amazingly, many of them voluntarily shocked themselves rather than doing nothing. Not so amazingly (at least to this mother of boys who played hockey), there was a big sex difference. Sixty-seven percent of the men preferred a shock to doing nothing, but only 25% of the women did.
Newton and neuroscience suggest that just thinking can be very valuable. Why is it so hard? It is easy to blame the modern world, but 1,000 years ago, Buddhist monks had the same problem. Meditation has proved benefits, but it takes discipline, practice and effort. Our animal impulse to be up and doing, or at least up and checking email, is hard to resist, even in a long, hazy cricket-song dream of a summer day.
written by Alison Gopnik
written by Mark Rubinstein, author of Mad Dog House, Love Gone Mad and The Foot Soldier
"Michael Connelly's books have been translated into 36 languages and have won many awards. His best known crime fiction series features LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. His other hugely popular series features criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller. Michael has been a crime reporter, has written the Jack McEvoy series, stand-alone novels, many short stories, as well as non-fiction.
There's a fascinating story how at age 16 your interest in crime peaked. Tell us about that.
One night, I was driving my beat-up VW home from my job as a dishwasher and was stopped at a traffic signal. I saw a man running with something in his hand. As he passed a hedge, he shoved it into the hedge and kept going. When the light turned green, I made a U-turn, drove over to the hedge and pulled out a shirt wrapped around a gun. I put it back in the hedge. This was before cell phones, of course, so I walked to a gas station and called my father. Very soon, police cars with flashing lights descended on the area. I realized something had happened and flagged down a cop. I told him what I'd found and that I'd seen the guy run down the street and go into a bar. I became a partial witness to what had happened earlier, namely a man had attempted to hijack a car at gunpoint. His gun had gone off and the victim was shot.
The guy looked like a biker: he was big and had an unruly beard. There were a bunch of motorcycles parked in front of the bar. The police entered the place looking for a guy who fit my description. But all the guys in the place were big and had beards. The cops took them all to the police station. I spent most of the night looking at lineups, trying to identify the guy I'd only glimpsed for a few seconds. I was certain he'd gone in that bar and left through the back door. None of the men in the lineups were the one I saw.
The detective questioning me was a rough kind of guy. I could tell he didn't really believe me and thought I was a scared kid who was afraid of fingering somebody. It was frustrating--not being believed. The experience hooked me on the idea of learning more about detectives. From that night on, I found myself reading crime stories in newspapers. I began reading true crime books looking for that rough kind of detective--like the guy who questioned me.
I had been reading some mysteries my mother read, but she preferred the soft-boiled, cozy ones. So I began reading the hard-boiled stuff, which led me to loving the genre, and thinking I'd someday write this kind of stuff. That's how it all began.
Tell us about the influence Raymond Chandler played in your writing life.
At first, my interest in crime fiction was contemporary stuff. I avoided old mysteries, and never read Raymond Chandler's novels. His most recent novel at that time was twenty years old, and there was stuff going back forty years. That wasn't my cup of tea. So, I never read anything by Chandler, even as I was immersing myself in crime fiction.
When I was in college, there were dollar movie nights. I went to see The Long Goodbye, which was based on one of Chandler's books, but was contemporary and set in Los Angeles in 1973. I loved the movie which motivated me to read the book. As I read it, I realized it was set in the 50s, not the 70s. It was a great book. I read all his novels in about two weeks. I got over this dumb idea of only reading contemporary crime fiction. I not only read Raymond Chandler but read all the crime fiction classics. I was hooked. A light bulb went off and I knew what I wanted to do.
You've said that you and Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch share some similarities. What are they?
It depends on which Harry Bosch book you're reading. I've been so lucky to have written about him over a period of twenty years. When I first began with him, I didn't know if it would be published. So to make it interesting and fun, I wrote about a guy completely opposite of me. He's a smoker; I'm not. He's an orphan; I come from a big family. He's never been lucky in romance; I've been married for a long time.
I got lucky and the first book, The Black Echo, got published. I'm the luckiest writer on the planet: it's twenty years later and I'm still writing about this character. He's had to evolve, just like anybody would. In the process of his evolution, I started sharing more of myself with him, so he wasn't that different from me. It turns out he's left-handed, just like I am. He has a daughter who's the same age as mine. It's not only a sharing of these basic things, but Harry's come to a world view that I have. Yet, in some ways he's different from me. He's a reactionary guy. He's undaunted and relentless. He's out there solving murders and carrying a gun. That's quite different from me. But if he stepped back and looked at the larger world picture, I think we would have a very similar take.
In that first Harry Bosch novel, The Black Echo, Harry is haunted by his Vietnam experience. What made you choose claustrophobia as a feature?
My father was a builder. During my high school years, I worked for him. One summer, I was working with a guy who had just come back from Vietnam and had been a tunnel rat. He wouldn't talk about the experience, but it sounded really scary to me. There was no Internet back then, but there were some books about tunnel rats. It seemed to connect to my own life. When I was a kid, I had some claustrophobia about things. I slept on the bottom bunk and felt like I was in a coffin. That always bothered me. There was a rite of passage in my neighborhood where kids had to crawl through a storm drain. I had a fear about when my time would come to do it. So, the idea of a tunnel rat played into my life, long before I became a writer.
I moved to Los Angeles and worked at the LA Times. Just as I arrived, a big news story broke about a heist where the robbers used storm water tunnels beneath the city to get inside a bank. They then dug their own tunnel into the vault. As a police reporter, I was getting inside details from the detectives. It struck me that this could be the plotline of a novel. I could connect it to a detective whose past included tunnels. That became the framework for the plot of the first Harry Bosch novel.
What made you name your most famous character Hieronymus?
You draw from stuff you know, and from the past. Realizing I wanted to be a writer, I took lots of English and art history classes in college. I had a humanities professor who was enamored of Hieronymus Bosch, the 15th century painter. His work was very dark stuff and stuck with me.
So fifteen years later, while putting together this book, it seemed an appropriate name because this detective would be treading across terrain similar to those paintings. Bosch's paintings are about a world gone wrong and the wages of sin. You can ascribe that to a crime scene. And Harry Bosch would decipher crime scenes, the way fifteen years earlier in class, we looked at paintings and tried to read then--understand what they meant. So, his name, Hieronymus, came from that. I have some Hieronymus Bosch prints hanging in my house and office: The Garden of Earthly Delights, and the darkest one, called Hell.
You've said your "real" job is to write about Bosch. What did you mean by that?
Bosch is my real focus. To keep writing about him, I need to move away from him at times. The Mickey Haller novels really derive from the need to keep Harry Bosch alive. The other books might have varying degrees of success, but my main focus is Harry Bosch. With the movie, The Lincoln Lawyer, the Mickey Haller novels are more successful than the Harry Bosch books, but Mickey was really born out my need to take time off from Harry Bosch.
Mickey Haller is one of the most intriguing characters in contemporary fiction. Is he based on anyone you know?
Writers take from everywhere. He really comes from three points. One is that years ago, I met a guy--a lawyer--at a baseball game. During the game, we talked about our lives. And, he's the one who told me he worked out of the back seat of his car. I thought that was an intriguing set-up and someday I might write about that.
When it came to doing research about a criminal defense lawyer, I went to a couple of lawyer friends. They allowed me to be a fly on the wall in their lives. So, Mickey Haller came from these three lawyers.
Your fictional universe has Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch interacting. You've compared your work to a canvas with the characters floating across it as currents on a painting. Will you elaborate a bit?
I compare them to the Hieronymus Bosch paintings. They're busy with stuff happening in every quadrant of the painting. It's not all related, but yet, it is. In a Bosch painting, you can spend an entire day looking at one corner, and look at another corner of the painting the next day. That infused my thinking about the series. Of course, the same character moves through the books, but I wanted a mosaic of interlocking characters; and, if you look hard enough, you find connections between them all.
Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller are half-brothers, and often represent opposing interests. Does this represent the duality of human beings?
I don't know if I would reach that high in my thinking. I needed to take a break from Harry Bosch and wanted to challenge myself with something different, but within the genre. From page one, Harry Bosch is a good guy trying to solve murders. The reader is on board, riding with him. But, I wanted to write about a character who would have to earn the reader's empathy. I chose to write about a defense lawyer because he's not trying to solve a murder; in fact, he might be defending a murderer. There's a duality within the criminal justice system. It's sanctioned by our laws, and a defense lawyer, like Mickey Haller, is required to do what he does.
Having read the Mickey Haller novels, it's difficult to believe you're not an attorney. Their verisimilitude is astounding. What kind of research or collaboration do you do?
I have more than just professional relationships with the lawyers I've consulted, they're friends. One was a college roommate. I run my ideas by them, write the book, and then they vet it for me. I have no legal experience so I use this team of lawyers.
Unlike many writers, you listen to music while writing. Tell us about that. Harry Bosch likes jazz and your writing reflects this.
Music helps me get in tune with the character. Like Harry, I listen to instrumental jazz without lyrical intrusion because it's difficult for me to put words on a computer screen when there are vocals. There's something improvisational about jazz, and you're improvising as you're writing. It all works together for me in some way. It's a bit magical and hard to put my finger on it.
What has been one of the most surprising things you've learned about writing in creating your novels?
Basically, I write the story I would like. I write for an audience of one. What's surprised me is how storytelling is so important around the world. So, a character trying to solve a murder and find his place in the world in L.A. can connect with someone in Dublin or Paris. As I've had more success, I've had more opportunities to travel. It always surprises and fulfills me when someone stands up at a book signing in France and says they're very worried about Harry Bosch. It just connects to your heart that you created this character with this almost universal appeal. It surprised me when it first happened, and it's stayed a surprise to me.
In the just-released book, Faceoff, you and Dennis Lehane wrote a short story called Red Eye. What was that collaboration like?
It was a long-distance collaboration done with emails. Dennis and I have a twenty year relationship. I love what he does. When we were asked to do this together, I didn't have any hesitation. I have more than a twenty year investment in the creation of this character, and do I dare to want anyone else to write what Harry is thinking or might say? Dennis was the guy to do it with. I'm very familiar with his work and characters, and there's a similarity between Bosch and Dennis's character, Kenzie.
Did you write your own dialogue for Harry?
No. I sent Dennis a plan. Harry would start in Los Angeles and would end up in Boston on a cold case. I figured I'd get Harry to Boston and Dennis would take it from there. So in Boston, Harry is largely Dennis's doing. I think I sent him seven pages and he sent back thirty. Dennis wrote the parts with Harry speaking and thinking. We emailed it back and forth and fine-tuned it.
If you were to have dinner with any five people, either in literature or history, living or dead, who would they be?
An obvious one would be Raymond Chandler. The other one is easy: my father passed away before I was published and had any success, so I'd like to have a meal with him now. I was very close to a cousin who passed away when we were twelve. I'd like to catch up with her. And maybe I'd like to meet the real Hieronymus Bosch. But, he might throw soup at me for taking his name.
Tell us about the new Harry Bosch novel, The Burning Room, due in November 2014.
Harry's over sixty now and he's going to be retired soon. They partner him with a young detective, Lucy Soto, so he might mentor her. The book is primarily about their relationship. I look forward to writing about her again, possibly by herself, without Harry.
Thank you for being such a prolific artist who has provided so much pleasure to millions of people for so many years."
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?You don’t have to be a writer to enter this year’s Write a DearReader Contest,because it’s all about writing for fun.
Write about the day you wore your t-shirt inside out until some kind soul pointed it out to you. Tell us about the stray cat or dog you found curled up on your front porch, and how it was love at first sight. Write about your favorite aunt, a bizarre and whimsical woman who vacuums her living room in the buff.
Describe the overwhelming love in your heart when you held your first grandchild, or write about your fear of writing—but start writing about something—because it’s time to enter our tenth annual Write a DearReader Contest." Guidelines
How far are you into your summer reading? After a month, I've plowed through a few books on my nightstand (as well as under it). To qualify as a "great summer read," I want a book that offers sympathetic characters, depth of emotion, and a forward narrative momentum that keeps me sitting on the porch long after the fireflies have gone to bed.
Here are the beach reads I've tried so far that I thought would meet that criteria. Some did, some didn't.
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
This hair-raising mystery novel centers on Nora Hamilton, the wife of a cop whose world is turned upside down when her husband commits suicide. It soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems, and this book, with its fantastic descriptions of small-town life in the Adirondacks and tense emotions, grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. Milchman's muscular prose delivers psychological terror, creepy side characters, and amazingly beautiful (if grim) descriptions of the landscape.
The Vacatoners by Emma Straub
For something a little lighter, reach for this this astonishingly clever, often side-splittingly funny romp. You think your family is dysfunctional? Check out the Posts, who take a vacation with their children and friends to the island of Mallorca, Spain. There is lust and fighting aplenty, yet somehow Straub manages to make every one of her characters likeable -- plus, she has some extremely wise, tender observations about love, family, and friendships to share along the way.
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
This is one hot mess of an almost-great book. I picked up Bittersweet because it had gotten so much media attention that I couldn't avoid it. As someone who loves a good Gothic read of any kind, I was really looking forward to this novel because it seemed to have everything I adore: a wealthy creepy family, a gorgeous lakeside setting, and a dumpy heroine looking for love in all the wrong places. I read it straight through in two days, so kudos to the author for keeping my interest. There are plenty of plot twists and enough sex to keep you turning pages. However, the writing is overwrought -- a stylistic thing, perhaps -- and, by the time I finished this book, I regretted the time spent on it. The plot twists are completely improbable (and yet predictable), one plot line is dropped completely, there were a lot of sluggish paragraphs, and the characters -- without exception -- were completely annoying. By the end of the book I was kind of hoping some giant sinkhole would swallow the entire family compound.
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
I've always liked Anna Quindlen for her heartfelt emotions, crisp writing, and the way she approaches topical issues (domestic violence, for instance) without seeming to hit you over the head with the themes. I wanted to love this book, since the themes and bones of the story are good -- they deal with a female artist who is 60 years old and believes her best years are behind her, only to discover, as she spends time alone in a cabin in the woods, that it is, indeed, possible to reinvent yourself -- as well as the nature of art and how that defines you when you succeed (or fail). However, much of the writing and story felt underdeveloped to me, and the May-December romance with the hunky roofer just feels tacked on to keep female readers happy.
White Heat by M.J. McGrath
Since we have a summer house in Canada, I've been searching high and low for great reads set in Canada. This is one of my favorites. White Heat takes place on Canada's Ellesmere Island in the Arctic circle, and it's the first novel in a series featuring hunter, tourist guide, and sometimes-detective Edie Kiglatuk, a half-Inuit woman. Here, Edie is drawn into solving a mystery revolving around the death of her stepson and two tourists. The book is rich with geological and cultural details that are almost as gripping as the mystery itself, such as when our heroine downs a bowl of seal blood, builds a snow cave for her husky, or stands still as lemmings race over her feet.
The Good Spy by Kai Bird (Library Copies)
In 1979, while I was living through a revolution in Iran that brought my family and I first to France then to the States, the shifting elements that make the Middle East the perpetual tinder box that it is were aligning in Lebanon for a firestorm that would last well into my college years in Boston. Then a young intellectual, sure that I knew all that there was about the Middle East and the ominous Arab Israeli conflict that seemed to color every event in the region, I met a few young Lebanese men who introduced me to an all too personal and painful account of their country's struggles. A Shia, a Sunni and a Christian, these three Arab Lebanese men were friends in Boston and often exchanged viewpoints and ideas with an underpinning of reconciliation that was absent, I suspect, on the diplomatic stage in the halls of power, where decisions are made to keep the Middle East on a perpetual burn.
The Good Spy by Kai Bird chronicles these events in living color through the eyes of Robert Ames, an American CIA man who eventually became the National Intelligence Officer in charge of the Middle East and advised Presidents Carter and Reagan on the events and strategies of this troubled and complicated region -- the latter with respect to Iran and the Hostage crisis along with the failed rescue attempt, the former on Arab Israeli peace that includes Palestinian Autonomy.
Ames presides over the transfer of Palestinians refugees from Jordan to Lebanon, and eventually the evacuation of Arafat and his PLO fighters from Beirut to Tunis with the promise of protection for the residents of refugee camps left behind without their strongest men. Through this gripping tale of love and war, alongside an elusive but ever present ideal for peace, Bird introduces us to the flamboyant characters of Mustafa Zein -- a business man and enabler of back-channels, and Ali Hassan Salameh -- a PLO insider and intelligence Chief who marries a beauty queen and travels to Disneyland.
I first heard about Ali Hassan Salameh through the conversations of my Boston Arab friends. Through their personal stories of friends lost and families broken I realized that amid the frightful tactics used by many in the region in the name of nationhood, there was also a valiant fight for basic rights and self-determination that went largely ignored. I soon realized that those with the greatest fire power in the region had the biggest voice, and the more surgical the attack, the more credible the cause. One was called "terrorism" while the other was termed "the defense of state". I don't know that I agreed with either, but I began to see the frustrating fissures that fueled the venom that kept the Middle East alight, and made a resolution more complex by day. Eventually, I heard about the devastation in Sabra and Shatila through one of these Lebanese men, who seemed genuinely disappointed when he realized I didn't already know that gruesome crimes against humanity were anonymously committed in those refugee camps. I cried for the voiceless dead, but was certain that the solution to this pointless violence was within the grasp of my generation. Robert Ames probably would have agreed with me. Alas, he would fall to the blast of a bomb at the US Embassy in Beirut trying to achieve it.
The Good Spy is an account of all these events through the tale of the CIA's Ames, who had lived in the Arab world, felt the struggle of the Palestinians and become versed in the nuances that made the Arab resistance the complex battle ground that it is. He had recognized that Arab governments are not united in cause but more entrenched in personal power sources. Robert Ames, a classic American man raised in Philadelphia to a steel working father and a disciplinarian mother, had found an interest in these faraway lands and developed a liking for the Arab soul. He learned the language and internalized the struggles of an ill understood people who believe that their collective destiny has been pre-ordained by a God that loves them. Therein lies the essence of an unending struggle against an opposing people who believe the same -- and in that battle all means seem to be justified by the ends. Ames made unlikely alliances with shady personalities in whom he saw the best of their ways and was willing to lend them the credibility to negotiate. One comes away from this book wondering what the world would have looked like if some of the indiscriminate killing from both sides had stopped -- and some hard thought-out solutions were given a chance to engage long marginalized people with a chance to work towards a peace that could spare lives and give hope where there has historically been vengeance and death.
Kai Bird pieces together multiple accounts, recollections, diary entries, letters written home, diplomatic cables and embassy notes to compile a rivetingly detailed account of a time that is essential to world history. In the day of our famed "War on Terror," which seems to envelop so many indiscriminate targets, this is an essential read for anyone involved or even interested in the events that brought us to this day, through the inescapable lens of Middle East peace. On the sidelines, the 1979 Revolution in Iran seems to have provided the fuel, both ideologically and logistically, for much of the mayhem that ensued over the next few decades. In this book, Bird demonstrates through the tale of the CIA's Middle East point man and his contacts, the initial ruthlessness of the Iranian Revolution and the ideological firebrand that spread fast through much of the Arab lands looking for inspiration.
The inspiration turned out to be hollow. But the devastation it wreaked is real and continues today.
Review by Maryam Zar, founder of Womenfound, Development Director for Fistula Foundation, Communications Chair for UN Women (LA), writer, mother, wife, and humanitarian.
Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke (2012) Illustrated by Andrea Offermann
(Ages 8 and up)
Eleven year old Jon Whitcroft has been banished. Or so he convinces himself, after his mother sends him away to a boarding school in Salisbury. Jon blames his mother’s boyfriend, whom he finds so repugnant that he can’t even call him by his name. Instead, Jon has dubbed him “The Beard”. During his lonely train trip to Salisbury, Jon wallows in angry self-pity and vows vengeance, but no amount of malignant daydreams can change the situation. He would just have to endure this indignity as best he could. Little did he know that his mother’s choice of boarding school was about to put his life in real danger. On his second night at the school’s boarding house, Jon is haunted by three ghosts that only he can see. Jon quickly realizes that these ghosts have singled him out for some reason. But why? Word of his ghostly encounter spreads through the school and soon Jon finds himself confronted by a girl named Ella Littlejohn, who suggests a possible solution to his ghostly problem. It takes a ghost to fight a ghost, so she advises him to call upon the ghost of William Longspee; a knight, whom legend states will render aid to anyone who asks for it. Together they awaken the sad ghost of Longspee, who agrees to help them. After the ghostly knight defeats Jon’s tormentors, Jon finally feels safe… but things are not always what they seem. Ghost Knight is not only a great ghost story; it’s also a wonderful tale of bravery and redemption. The book is illustrated with crisp black and white drawings that add depth and atmosphere to the story. For an additional “cool” factor, the author based her historical characters on real people from England’s history. She even provides a glossary in the back of the book that will explain who these people were in real life.
Other titles by this author:
- The Thief Lord (2002) Available format: Standard print children’s book and eAudio.
- Inkheart (2003) Book 1 of the Inkheart trilogy. Available format: Standard print children’s book and eAudio.
- Inkspell (2005) Book 2 of the Inkheart trilogy. Available format: Standard print children’s book and eAudio.
- Inkdeath (2007) Book 3 of the Inkheart trilogy. Available format: Standard print children’s book and Audio book on CD.
- Dragon Rider (2004) Available format: Standard print children’s book and eAudio.
- The Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost (2006) Book 1 of the Ghosthunters series. Available format: Standard print children’s book.
- The Ghosthunters and the Gruesome Invincible Lightning Ghost (2006) Book 2 of the Ghosthunters series. Available format: Standard print children’s book.
- The Ghosthunters and the Totally Moldy Baroness (2007) Book 3 of the Ghosthunters series. Available format: Standard print children’s book.
- The Ghosthuners and the Muddy Monster of Doom (2007) Book 4 of the Ghosthunters series. Available format: Standard print children’s book.
Be sure to watch these Movies inspired by stories written by this author:
- The Thief Lord (2006) (DVD) Directed by Richard Claus; and starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jasper Harris, Carol Boyd, Jim Carter, Bob Goody and Rollo Weeks.
- Inkheart (2009) (DVD) Directed by Iain Softely; and starring: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Eliza Bennett and Andy Serkis.
Post written by C. Ford, staff member in the Collection Services Division of the Calcasieu Parish Public Library System.
Secrets From the Past by Barbara Taylor Bradford (2013)
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a powerful and emotional novel about one woman’s quest to uncover long-buried secrets about her family--secrets she will stop at nothing to uncover, no matter the consequences.
At thirty, American photojournalist Serena Stone has already made a name for herself with her unique and dramatic coverage of wars in the Middle East, following in her famous father’s footsteps. But after his unexpected death in France, she ends her job at the renowned photo news agency, weary of years of danger. Leaving the front lines behind, Serena returns to New York where she starts work on a biography of her celebrated father. When Serena discovers that her former lover Zachary North is in trouble overseas, she's forced to leave the safety of her new life, and head back to a place she was trying to escape...and her life will never be the same again. As she brings Zac back to health in Venice, she discovers a shocking secret in the archives of her late father’s work. It is a secret that will propel her back to war-torn Libya, risking her life looking for clues that she hopes will piece together the mystery surrounding her parents’ marriage and the part of their life together that she never knew.
Well-kept secrets, passionate love, obsession, betrayal, redemption, and the power of the past to control the future propel Secrets from the Past, the explosive new novel from The New York Times bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford – from book flap
Other titles by Barbara Taylor Bradford:
- Letter from a Stranger (2012) Available formats: Standard and Large print books, paperback book, and Audio book on CD.
- Playing the Game (2010) Available formats: Standard and Large print books, and eAudio.
- Breaking Rules (2009) Available formats: Standard and Large print books, and Audio book on CD.
Post written by C. Ford, staff member in the Collection Services Division of the Calcasieu Parish Public Library System.
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