Michael Langan, The Buffalo News
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Michael Langan

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NONFICTION Draw Your Weapons By Sarah Sentilles Random House 320 pages, $28 This book is a meditation “on art and war.” It’s meant to provoke you by changing the way that you see the world. Our author writes about how "art and metaphor condition us to accept violence,” and offers a corrective about how to break its stranglehold on our sensibilitie…

FICTION The Typewriter’s Tale By Michiel Heyns St. Martin’s Press 288 pages   $25.99 Before reading the novel, “The Typewriter’s Tale”, by South African Michiel Heyns (1943 - ), it would be helpful to remember Henry James (1843 – 1916). James was the American-born British resident who was known for novels featuring his characters’ point of…

FICTION The Dark Flood Rises By Margaret Drabble Farrar, Straus and Giroux 326 pages, $26.00 The title of the new Margaret Drabble (1939 - ) novel that temporizes death takes its cue from a poem of D. H. Lawrence (1885 – 1930), “The Ship of Death,” written far earlier. Postponing death’s inevitability is futile. But making life comfortable for tho…

NONFICTION The Way Of The Strangers: Encounters With The Islamic State By Graeme Wood Random House 317 pages $28 What’s the big deal about this book? There are at least two important reasons for reading it. First, Canadian author Graeme Wood makes the case that “The Way of the Strangers” outlines “the definitive, electrifying account of the str…

FICTION The Signal Flame By Andrew Krivák Scribner 288 pages   $26 In the small town of Dardan in northwestern Pennsylvania, Hannah and her son Bo are the only ones left at home in an immigrant family scarred by deaths of their menfolk in successive wars.  It is 1972. This is the start of a fine novel, “The Signal Flame” by Andrew Krivák, who ear…

NONFICTION Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty -- An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother By Kate Hennessy Scribner 384 pages,  $27.99 Dorothy Day (1897 – 1980) was called a “great American” by Pope Francis on his recent visit to the United States. Note that the pope didn’t call her a "saint," as she is not; although the Catholic Church…

NONFICTION Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide To Thriving in The Age Of Accelerations By Thomas L. Friedman; Farrar, Straus and Giroux 463 pages,  $28 Thomas L. Friedman is an imaginative conceptualist and "explainer."  His writing has garnered three Pulitzer Prizes for him in his last 21 years with The New York Times. Friedman’s 2005 best- …

NON-FICTION Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital By David Oshinsky Doubleday 387 pages, $30 Pulitzer Prize winner David Oshinsky is out with the remarkable story of Bellevue Hospital on New York City’s East Side. It’s the place where we usually think only the poor are taken for treatment. What a mistake. …

Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius By Laurence Bergreen Simon & Schuster 502 pages, $32.50 Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798), was more than a Venetian seducer. To his compeers in 18th century Europe, he was “a spy, duelist, gambler, escape artist, and author of nearly one hundred novels, poems, and treatises.” This according to Laurence Bergreen, Ameri…

My wife and I were out shopping recently. We promised to meet in about an hour, at the front of Lord & Taylor's in the mall. That way, I could do some secret 47th anniversary shopping for her and also get out of her hair.Speaking of hair, I just got a haircut, so I looked about as good as I'm going to look. I swaggered over to check out the pearls in the jewelry department…

Irish writer John McGahern, born in County Leitrim in 1934, adds to the rich literature of growing up in Ireland with his memoir, "All Will Be Well."The title refers to an encouraging remark of the author's mother in a letter to her husband about troubles in the family. McGahern explains: "This is the story of my upbringing, the people who brought me up, my parents and tho…

Dan Okrent, until recently public editor of the New York Times, asked me what factors I kept in mind as I reviewed books. Okrent planned a column on this topic and I'm sure that he contacted other reviewers as well. I've reviewed books for The Buffalo News for a number of years, as well as the Boston Globe and the Irish Jesuit quarterly Studies. This is what I told him.How…

Constantine's Sword: The Church and the JewsBy James CarrollHoughton Mifflin752 pages, $28Thinking of the Holocaust and all that led to it, what kind of God presides over such history? . . . What kind of God shows favor to a beloved Son by requiring him to be nailed to a cross?James Carroll, former Catholic priest and author of the memoir "An American Requiem," asks these …

THE COMPLETE STORIES OF EVELYN WAUGHLittle, Brown 536 pages; $29.95Reading the English author Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) is an acquired taste. Waugh was a blue stocking who detested modernity. His legacy comes quickly to mind: novels like "Brideshead Revisited," "Vile Bodies," "Scoop," "The Loved One," "Put Out More Flags," and the biography "The Life of Ronald Knox" are no…

I was writing Christmas cards the other day and began thinking about all the teachers I've had in my life. Most are deceased now, but I have a vivid memory of each that keeps them alive in my heart.So in the spirit of the Christmas season, here's a wish to my teachers in the 1940s at Franklin Elementary School in Lackawanna:- Miss Anderson, my kindergarten teacher. Even th…