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BIOGRAPHY Charlton Heston: Hollywood’s Last Icon By Marc EliotDey Street Books $29.99, 576 pages By Susan Wloszczyna Over-the-hill silent-era siren Norma Desmond  protested “I am BIG – it’s the pictures that got small” in the 1950 showbiz noir "Sunset Boulevard." But Hollywood would spend much of the following post-war decade producing massive pan…

“Poems in the Manner of....” By David Lehman, Scribner, 144 pages, $18, paperback. The first thing that no doubt occurs to you is that Lehman is doing parodies for yuk’s sake. But no, that’s not really what this book is all about. The tradition in all the arts, is so much older and more complex than that, whether we’re talking about Bach and Vivaldi or Shakesp…

NONFICTION Toxic Inequality: How America's Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide & Threatens Our Future By Thomas M. Shapiro Basic Books 225 pages, $28 Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It By Richard V. Reeves Brookings Institution …

Robert Lowell--Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character By Kay Redfield Jamison Knopf 532 pages, $29.95 By William L. Morris If you lived in the 1950s you must remember the movie “The Bad Seed” starring an adorable, pig-tailed Patty McCormack as a serial killer where madness is equated with murder and innocence hides evil. At…

CHILDREN’S Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood; Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; 368 pages ($16.99) Ages 8 to 12. ... A huge wall – called “The Seven Buttons” - is all that protects the Kingdom of Lightning Pass from destruction by Marauders outside. Or so the people of Lightning Pass – and the “magical maidens” in train…

Like wine, 86-year-old Irish author Edna O'Brien seems to get better with age. O'Brien's latest novel, "The Little Red Chairs," is "her masterpiece," according to Philip Roth, one of the most celebrated American authors and two years her junior, who also proclaimed her "the most gifted woman now writing in English." O'Brien's career began with controversy. Her first …

It looked like a double whammy to end all double whammies. I don't think it is. Late last week, in two separate and unrelated announcements, we learned that the Main Street stores of both Record Theatre (in the University Plaza) and Talking Leaves (a few blocks away) will close. What's crucial to note in both cases is that, both Talking Leaves and Record Theatre's ot…

“The One Inside” by Sam Shepard, forew0rd by Patti Smith, Knopf, 172 pages, $25.95. One might, at first, think that a reader has fallen down some moral rabbit hole in Sam Shepard’s new book. It’s a collage/novel composed of very short autobiographical sketches, some less than a page. Anyone too inquisitive about what’s real in Shepard’s own life will find…

FICTION Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows By Bali Kaur Jaswal HarperCollins 304 pages, $26.99 A former co-worker who learned bare-knuckle politics in Boston during the Kennedy years had a little tradition he (may or may not have) observed when leaving one job for another: “Leave a few little bombs ticking here and there, then sit back and watch as they go …

FICTION The Strays By Emily Bitto Twelve 256 pages, $26 An idyll spawns secrets until it is no longer an idyll – and all hell breaks loose – in Australian author Emily Bitto’s impressive first novel, “The Strays.” Currently making its American debut, the book was winner of the 2015 Stella Prize, to “recognize and celebrate Australian women wri…

BIOGRAPHY How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft By Edward Jay Epstein Knopf 359 pages, $27.95 • Edward Snowden is an American patriot. He saw a wrong within his government and told the world about it – a courageous act of true patriotism. • Edward Snowden is a traitor. He revealed secrets about his government’s espion…

GRAPHIC NOVEL Fish Girl by David Wiesner & Donna Jo Napoli; Clarion Books, 192 pages $25 hardcover, $17.99 paperback Ages 10 to 12. ... Three-time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner and acclaimed author Donna Jo Napoli combine their considerable talents in this fascinating graphic novel, a magical if rather disturbing tale of a young mermaid kept in a boardwalk aqua…

NONFICTION Other People: Takes and Mistakes By David Shields Knopf 369 pages, $28.96 David Shields, at 60, is one of America's most accomplished and best writers. The trouble is that his books arrive in a vehemently, almost angrily unclassifiable form. As brilliant and joyously readable as they are, they evade all established ideas of literary genre. F…

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…

NONFICTION Pretend I'm Not Here: How I Worked with Three Newspaper Icons, One Powerful First Lady, and Still Managed to Dig Myself Out of the Washington Swamp By Barbara Feinman Todd William Morrow/HarperCollins 304 pages, $27.99 Barbara Feinman Todd learned journalism from the best -- and the worst, ethically speaking -- and shines up her literary finesse a…