Saturday, November 22, 2014

i'll give this a try:Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves by Chute, Carolyn


LJ Reviews 2014 October #2
In this latest work from Chute (The Beans of Egypt, Maine), newspaper reporter Ivy Morelli investigates the Home Place Settlement in Maine, a collective that exists outside the social and economic norms of modern America under the charismatic but troubled leadership of Gordon St. Onge. What Ivy finds is more nuanced and complex than the tempting soundbites of "cult" or "militia"; despite some unsavory aspects of Settlement life, it's hard to argue that St. Onge and his followers don't have a point about the destructive nature of much of the media and the detrimental effects on ordinary citizens of corporate and political corruption. Unfortunately, the sympathetic story Ivy relates is the first in a chain of events that threatens to break down the settlement way of life. This big, sprawling, messy, tour de force employs multiple narrators (including space aliens) and metafictional techniques. Though she does evolve, Ivy's character is so annoying and shallow that it's something of a relief when she takes a backseat in the last half of the novel and other characters emerge. VERDICT At turns funny, moving, and disturbing, this book will challenge readers to check their assumptions about how people choose to live in today's society.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

re-reading: House Rules by Jodi Picoult, very good!

Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject -- in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. The hallmarks of Asperger's can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, his family is forced to wonder: Did Jacob commit murder?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

re-reading The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill,one of the best,review by Muriel Dobbin

- - Friday, November 11, 2011
By Reginald Hill
Harper, $25.99, 528 pages
The woodcutter is a man of humble origins who achieves remarkable success in business and suddenly finds himself in jail on horrifying charges of pedophilia and corruption, deserted by his wife and friends, facing lifetime imprisonment. Wolf Hadda is entirely alone and silent in his misery. It takes seven years before prison psychiatrist Alva Ozigbo slowly persuades him to talk about a massive injustice that he can escape only by acknowledging his guilt.
“The Woodcutter” is a masterful mystery, and Reginald Hill has done a remarkable job of developing the character of the man called Wolf. He reaches far into his character’s childhood and then teenage passion for Imogen, a young woman who is as ruthless as she is rich. She becomes the wife of Wolf when he becomes not only socially acceptable to her, but is also honored as Sir Wilfred Hadda. When he is reviled and disgraced by hideous accusations, Imogen is the first to walk out.
Not only that, but she promptly gets a divorce and marries Wolf’s expensive attorney who also has turned his back on his once prize client.
As Wolf recalls it, “Once upon a time I was living happily ever after.” Over 14 years, he had become a multimillionaire with a private jet and homes in London, New York and Barbados. He had a daughter and became the recipient of a knighthood. It all ends on an autumn morning when police, led by Chief Inspector Medill, burst into Wolf’s London home and arrest him. Wolf doesn’t help his case by punching Medill hard enough to split his lip and break his nose. But that is only the beginning of the nightmare that includes a traffic accident that disfigures and cripples Wolf. He winds up silent and sullen in Parkleigh prison.
That is where Alva, a 28-year-old psychologist, finds him. She considers him “psychologically interesting,” which is a considerable understatement.
It is her theory that by persuading him to provide a “significant narrative” of the mental and emotional journey that had brought him to prison, she might be able to “lead him to a moment of self knowledge when … he would draw back in horror from the monstrous apparition before him.”
She begins by accepting that Wolf is guilty but in denial, and it is the chronicling of her conversations with him that carries the weight of the book. In painting a riveting picture of the scene, Mr. Hill is careful to leave open the possibility that the beleaguered Wolf may be guilty of the crimes with which he is charged, and that his retreat into silence may indeed demonstrate a psychological collapse.
As the relationship and the trust grow between Wolf and AlvaWolf does indeed confide in her and admit his responsibility for his guilt. It is that admission that she uses to obtain his parole, which of course is what Wolf had in mind from the day she walked into his cell.

The story of the paroled Wolf takes him back to his childhood home in Cumbria where he lives in seclusion, dutifully checking in with his probation officer, and developing a friendship with a local minister.
Yet Wolf remains not only a man of mystery but is perceived as a very real threat by those who stood by and witnessed his downfall. They include the coldblooded Imogen, now wed to his former attorney, who lives nearby. The couple are convinced that Wolf is seeking vengeance, and of course they are right. The same drive that made him successful in his previous life makes him an invincible enemy.
Like dominos, his persecutors fall, and not even Imogen can escape. Yet Wolf is wily enough to operate below the radar screen of probation and suspicion suspended over him. He has an answer for every question. He also has become a man of interest to his psychologist, who increasingly is convinced of his innocence.Alva conducts some investigations of her own and comes up with evidence of the appalling truth that Wolf seeks to reveal.
Wolf discovers what he has come to suspect, that he has been betrayed by those he trusted, who were prepared to see him dishonored and imprisoned for what amounted to selfish economic reasons.
They never thought Wolf would get out. But he has, and now they are afraid, and they should be.
Readers will not miss the presence of Dalziel and Pascoe, the Yorkshire detectives who are usually prominent characters in Mr. Hill’s many books. Wolf Hadda is a character who commands attention, and the book is so well plotted and written that despite its length, it will be difficult for readers to put down.
• Muriel Dobbin is a former White House and national political reporter for McClatchy newspapers and the Baltimore Sun.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

33 Artists in 3 Acts by Sarah Thornton is on my reserve list at NYPL


Booklist Reviews 2014 November #1
*Starred Review* The intrepid and inquisitive Thornton once again guides readers on a journey through the often confounding upper echelons of twenty-first-century art. In her best-selling Seven Days in the Art World (2008), this art historian, sociologist, and chief art writer for The Economist ushered us into art's spheres of commerce. In her new, even more revealing and resonant book, artists take center stage. Thornton is curious about how artists address concerns personal, societal, and professional. In the post-Duchampian world of anything-is-art-if-the-artist-says-it-is, many artists find that they cannot concentrate solely on making art because they need to establish a public persona to represent and promote their work. Therefore, Thornton perceives, artists' studios have become "private stages for the daily rehearsal of self-belief." The "3 acts" of the title refer to how this effort plays out in three realms— politics, kinship, and craft. Between 2009 and 2013, Thornton traveled to 14 countries on four continents and visited 130 artists. The 33 who made the cut are all well-established as well as, in most cases, "open, articulate, and honest." Curiously, Thornton discovered that the most problematic question she posed was, "What is an artist?" That's because, in part, the romantic view of the artist as a struggling loner has been eclipsed. Successful artists are now entrepreneurs and "ideas people liberated from manual labor" as they oversee sizable administrative and production staffs working in state-of-the-art facilities—digital versions, Thornton observes, of the bustling ateliers of top Renaissance painters. With her acutely perceptive reportorial eye and keen ear, Thornton not only discerningly profiles each artist; she also contrasts and compares them. In the book's most provocative pairing, Thornton considers the slick, calculating, megarich American Jeff Koons versus the courageous, forthright, besieged Chinese artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei, famous for such installations as Sunflower Seeds (2010), in which 100 million handmade, painted porcelain sunflower seeds covered the floor of a vast hall in London's Tate Modern. Thornton meets with cheery Koons in his fancy, high-tech command center and tries to steer him away from his "well-rehearsed patter," while she is deeply moved by Ai's candor, determination, and ethical valor when she visits him in his raided and decimated studio after his arrest and grueling detention. Thornton runs into Koons at art events all around the world, while Ai, his passport confiscated, remains under house arrest, unable to attend the installation of his own exhibits in the U.S. and elsewhere. Thornton spends time with Koons' British counterpart, headline-grabbing, big-money Damien Hirst, who is trying to return to painting after years of putting sharks in tanks and covering skulls with jewels. She also illuminates the lives and work of such thoughtful, risk-taking, socially concerned, poetic, and ironic artists as, in Mexico, Gabriel Orozco, in Chile, Eugenio Dittborn. Each encounter is a revelation. In the "kinship" category, Thornton considers complications and affirmations within a family of artists: plucky and unnerving photographer Laurie Simmons, who has recently created a series of portraits of an eerily realistic Japanese sex doll; painter Carroll Dunham, who creates comically, grotesquely, and earthily explicit figures; and their daughter, writer-director-actor-producer Lena Dunham of HBO's Girls. Kinship takes on a broader definition in Thornton's portrait of photographer and sculptor Rashid Johnson, who is "fascinated with the problem of how to be black." Thornton reveals the artist behind the many masks of photographer Cindy Sherman and the disquieting personae of gutsy performance artists Kutlug Ataman, Andrea Fraser, and Marina Abramovic, who tells her, "Artists should be the oxygen of society." Collagist Wangechi Mutu, who confesses, "I am too obsessed with the emotions that my work exudes to outsource it," answers Thornton's central question, "What is an artist?," by defining artists as "individuals that speak for the group. . . . We're like a tattletale . . . or an alarm-raiser." Mutu also muses, "Art allows you to imbue the truth with a sort of magic, . . . so it can infiltrate the psyches of more people, including those who don't believe the same things as you." Exceptionally knowledgeable, receptive, witty, and crisply expressive, Thornton conveys a phenomenal amount of fresh information and frank and vivid impressions in her eye- and mind-opening forays into the art world's inner sanctums. Taken together, these vibrant portraits constitute an invaluable, incisive, and exciting guide to today's deliriously diverse, sophisticated, scandalous, and profound art world. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.