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Michael D. LanganNEWS BOOK REVIEWER


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Wait a minute. Isn’t this the book, “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate, that won the Newbery Medal? You know, it’s about a silverback gorilla that “… makes a new life for himself after being moved from a tiny cage in a mall to a zoo”?No, this review isn’t about that book, although two books about gorillas, specific and universal, may be a reflex of mankind’s co…

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“Benediction,” Kent Haruf’s new novel, is spare and unencumbered. It is the story of Dad Lewis, age 77, suffering from terminal cancer. Dad owns a hardware store and lives with his care-worn wife, Mary in the fictional city of Holt, Colo.Haruf is an American writer whose great skill is in describing the plain ways of people who live in small places. The son of a minister, …

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The future has always been just ahead of us. The pace of change in the last 25 years, however, has more than quickened. It is racing at warp-speed that we don’t even sense.The result, if we don’t do something about it, is that emerging forces – drivers, as Al Gore calls them – are reshaping our world without our even knowing it.Gore, former vice president of the United Sta…

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The English writer, Will Self (1961), uses a quote from James Joyce about an umbrella to begin his impressionistic novel, “Umbrella.”Joyce wrote, “A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella.” And Stanislaus, one of Joyce’s brothers, could verify the quote’s accuracy, except for when James wanted money or a favor from him, which was often. In a sense, Will Self asks a…

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J.G. Ballard’s autobiography, “Miracles of Life,” is a splendid remembrance of his journey – from Shanghai to Shepperton - written with intense scrutiny, mordant humor, a touch of pathos and a dash of regret.As a boy in the early and mid-1930s, he lived with his family in the tony International Settlement of Shanghai that English expats, as well as Germans, White Russians,…

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The American agnostic Robert Ingersoll (1833–1899) receives star treatment in a book about freethought, “The Great Agnostic”, by Susan Jacoby.Raised in a Catholic home, Jacoby is an atheist and secularist whose goal in “The Great Agnostic,” is to call attention to Ingersoll’s intellectual tradition that extends from Jefferson to Thomas Paine to the current generation of “n…

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Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Collapse” and “Guns, Germs and Steel,” has written a new book, “The World Until Yesterday,” whose title is a shorthand for how “… it was only yesterday, in evolutionary terms, when everything changed.”Diamond’s professional skills include anthropology, sociology, evolutionary biology, linguistics, history and other acade…

By Michael D. Langan

Sat, Dec 29, 2012

Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Collapse" and "Guns, Germs and Steel," has written a new book, "The World Until Yesterday," whose title is a shorthand for how "… it was only yesterday, in evolutionary terms, when everything changed."Diamond's professional skills include anthropology, sociology, evolutionary biology, linguistics, history and other acade…

By Michael D. Langan

Sat, Dec 22, 2012

This novella should more aptly be titled "Colm Tóibín's Testament Of Mary."Creative writers do what they do, they create; and that's what Irish novelist Tóibín has done in his ugly transformation of Mary. His revisionist Mary may appeal to his naturalist sensibilities. His portrayal, however, does not comport with the vision of the woman millions have known and loved since…

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Robert Gottlieb, former editor of The New Yorker, could write a history of bananas and I’d read it. In his new book about the sons and daughters of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Gottlieb is informative, understanding and humane as he looks at the progeny of the Great One and what happened to them. Dickens fathered 10 children, and perhaps 11, according to Gottlieb. When Dic…

By Michael D. Langan

Sat, Dec 15, 2012

Robert Gottlieb, former editor of The New Yorker, could write a history of bananas and I'd read it. In his new book about the sons and daughters of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Gottlieb is informative, understanding and humane as he looks at the progeny of the Great One and what happened to them.Dickens fathered 10 children, and perhaps 11, according to Gottlieb. When Dick…

By Michael D. Langan

Sat, Dec 15, 2012

Robert Gottlieb, former editor of The New Yorker, could write a history of bananas and I'd read it. In his new book about the sons and daughters of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Gottlieb is informative, understanding and humane as he looks at the progeny of the Great One and what happened to them.Dickens fathered 10 children, and perhaps 11, according to Gottlieb. When Dick…

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“Finding the soul of the book” should be the goal of any reviewer. It is easy enough to do in Michael Gorra’s new tale of the life of a book, the dramatic story of Henry James’ greatest novel, “Portrait of a Lady” (1881).Gorra reminds readers of its basic story, “… a girl named Isabel Archer; a girl who claims she’s fond of her freedom but who stands just the same, after t…

By Michael D. Langan

Sat, Nov 24, 2012

James D. Tabor's startling analysis in "Paul and Jesus" discloses that Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, transformed Christianity as we know it. His contention is that "Paul is the most influential person in human history … he has shaped practically all we think about everything." This is a large claim. Let us see if Tabor can prove it.Tabor is an academic historian and s…

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James D. Tabor’s startling analysis in “Paul and Jesus” discloses that Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, transformed Christianity as we know it. His contention is that “Paul is the most influential person in human history … he has shaped practically all we think about everything.” This is a large claim. Let us see if Tabor can prove it.Tabor is an academic historian and s…