Share this article

print logo

Books in brief


UnBEElievables: honeybee poems and paintings by Douglas Florian; Simon & Schuster, Beach Lanes Books ($16.99). Ages 5 and up.

A gifted poet and artist offers a dazzling collection of poems about honeybees, endowing his bees with personality through whimsical, colorful collage illustrations and with a beguiling mixture of amusing wordplay giving voice to the queen, the drones, the worker bees, beekeepers.

Each poem is accompanied by a nugget of factual information. Accompanying the first poem, "Welcome!," is a painting of bees with bodies twisted into letters spelling "welcome." The amusing "Bee Anatomy" begins with "Lovely legs, lovely hue, Lovely long antennae too " and concludes with "but ouch! How in the end it stings." Florian depicts a queen bee with crown, scepter and royal robes proclaiming, "I am no ordinary bee: I'm royalty, a queen you see!" "Drone" is a rap: "Brother! Yo, BROTHER! Bee-have in your hive!" In "Worker Bees," the sisters are "Always working, building, slaving. Never ever Miss-bee-having." One of the loveliest, "Summer Hummer," perfectly distills the essence of "bee-ness": "I'm a nectar collector a seeker of scent./A zigzag flyover/A thing heaven-sent./I'm a dancer, a prancer/My own pollen nation/A Flower enhancer/A summer sensation."

-- Jean Westmoore

* * *


Clawback by Mike Cooper; Viking, 400 pages ($26.95)

Mike Cooper's fresh approach to the financial thriller in "Clawback" mixes high-octane action with the details of banking and money management for a solid plot.

Silas Cade is a former black ops soldier who works as a consultant, forcing sleazy investment managers to give back millions to managers who are a little less sleazy. Silas makes sure those former Masters of the Universe, as Tom Wolfe called them, are no longer on top of the world.

Silas has just finished retrieving $10 million for a hedge fund manager when his client is murdered. But this may not be the first money manager killed. Wall Street mogul Quint Ganderson claims that several other managers -- each with a history of losing money -- have been murdered, and he hires Silas to ferret out the assassin. Clara Dawson, a financial blogger looking for a big story, joins Silas' investigation. Silas' network of shadowy computer experts follow the money to track down who is killing the hedge-fund managers, while Clara researches the backgrounds of the companies.

Cooper, the pseudonym for a former investments executive, brings an insider's view of the financial world.

-- McClatchy Newspapers

* * *


The Hunger Angel by Herta Mueller, translated from the German by Philip Boehm; Metropolitan Books, 290 pages ($26).

Put yourself in the place of gay 17-year-old Leo Auberg, taken from his home in Romania in January 1945 and deported to a camp in the Soviet Union. His mother cries as the police show up in the middle of the night. As he's hurried out the door, Grandmother says, "I know you'll come back."

Later, Leo couldn't help remembering his grandmother's words, carrying them to the camp. Grandmother's words had a will of their own. They "worked inside me, more than all the books that I had packed," he remembers. " 'I know you'll come back' became the heart-shovel's accomplice and the hunger angel's adversary" for the next five years, he says.

Leo is put to work in a coke-processing plant. Each day he is close to starvation and wonders how he'll find bread to live.

Herta Mueller won the 2009 Nobel Prize for depicting the "landscape of the dispossessed" with "the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose." This novel came out that year in Germany under the title of "Atemschaukel," which can be translated as "the act of breathing." It continues the tone of her earlier fiction, "The Land of Green Plums" and "The Appointment."

In an afterword, Mueller gives thanks to the poet Oskar Pastior, a former deportee from her village who offered his recollections for a book they had planned to write together. He died unexpectedly in 2006. Mueller incorporated his material into her novel.

A caution: Before you buy "The Hunger Angel," make sure you can stomach its frankness. An instance: Leon tells of being packed for 14 days into railroad cars with neighbors. In transit, they were hauled off into the Russian night by guards for "Ubornaya," a communal toilet stop.

About this Leo remarks, "High overhead, very high, the round moon. Our breath flew in front of our faces, glittering white like the snow under our feet. Machine pistols on all sides, leveled. And now: Pull down your pants. The embarrassment, the shame of the world. How good that this snowfall was so alone with us, that no one was watching it force us close together. How mean and how still this night land was, how it embarrassed us as we attended to our needs."

Leo returns to his village but never quite recovers his mental balance after five years of starvation. He says, "Once a dusty raisin was lying underneath the little white formica table. And I danced with the raisin. Then I ate it. And then there was a distance deep within me."

-- Michael D. Langan