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Michael D. LanganNEWS BOOK REVIEWER


By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Oct 21, 2012

Arlen Specter, who died last Sunday, served more than 30 years in the Senate and was a friend of mine. Politicians make a sport of having "friends," but Arlen was my friend because of a sport. We both played squash together for a number of years.When I moved to Washington, D.C., to work on the Hill in late 1984, I joined a squash club near the Rayburn Building and it was t…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Oct 21, 2012

John Banville's new novel, "Ancient Light" is about the unreliability of memory. As one moves toward the end of life, it is a condition that dodderers among us recognize and which Banville calls "a gradual shipwreck."Regrettably, "Ancient Light" is a shipwreck itself, a hard-to-accept pastiche of Banville's earlier novelistic plotting all dumped into his latest novel.Here'…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Sep 30, 2012

Bob Woodward's new book, "The Price Of Politics," his 17th, is the close-up story of how governance in Washington is broken and the country suffers.More broadly, the book addresses what seem to be unending presidential and congressional campaigns, the American economy and its parlous state of disrepair."The Price" is replete with the usual Woodward fare: notes, documents, …

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Sep 2, 2012

In the past I've been critical of Martin Amis wasting what talent he possesses. You may remember two forgettable novels, written as if his teeth hurt, "Yellow Dog" and "The Pregnant Widow," reviewed in this space.Now comes "Lionel Asbo: State of England" and it is, mirabile dictu, more over–the–top satire from Amis; a critique from the bottom of what's wrong in England, wh…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Aug 26, 2012

"Only when we know what existed can we truly mourn what was lost."- Vaddey RatnerThink about the huge odds against a 5-year-old Cambodian girl eventually escaping her country in the clutch of the murderous Khmer Rouge. That crazed regime killed almost 2 million people in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.Vaddey Ratner is that girl. She has lived to tell of that massacre, des…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Aug 19, 2012

"Silver, Return to Treasure Island" is a wonderful tale well-told, in the mode of old-fashioned story-telling. I can't remember when I turned the pages of a book with such anticipation.Andrew Motion, the former British Poet Laureate, has updated the original Robert Louis Stevenson story with a tale that is nearly as good as the first. Motion's story takes place around 1820…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Jul 29, 2012

The apparently hip, alliterative title, "The Thing About Thugs," telegraphs, surprisingly, a complex novel of ideas. The book works well on a number of levels.It's a historical fiction with insight into the dark side of the English character, its capacity to think that Caucasians are a superior race and have the obligation to convert the rest of the world to its brand of …

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Jul 1, 2012

A book about Winston Churchill's life in war and peace can have no better send-up than an "atta boy" from his own private secretary, Cecily "Chips" Gemelle, who remarked about this book: "… people who think they know everything there is to know will still find something new. What a treasure trove."The author, Barry Singer, is proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New Yo…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Jun 24, 2012

Michael Frayn, sometimes called the farceur "by whom all others must be measured," doesn't breast the tape a winner in "Skios," his race-to-the-bottom Greek comedy. Instead he's tripped himself up along the way with a stale plot of mistaken identities festooned with so many improbabilities that it's tough to suspend one's disbelief.Readers may remember the success of Fra…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Jun 17, 2012

"Istanbul Passage" takes place in that perennial city of intrigue on the cusp of Europe and Asia. It was founded as Byzantium in 660 B.C.; renamed Constantinople in 330 A.D. and Turkish authorities retitled it Istanbul in the 1930s."Passage" by Joseph Kanon is a first-rate spy novel whose layers of deception remind me of Graham Greene's 1939 novel, "The Confidential Agent"…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Jun 10, 2012

Gordon Bowker's new life of James Joyce (1882–1941), according to his publisher, is the first in more than 50 years. First published in Great Britain last year, it is based, we are told, "on new material that has recently come to light." Bowker says his book is an "exploration of the inner landscape" of that extraordinary life.I'm not sure that this explanation is complete…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Jun 3, 2012

Nobel Prize-winning South African author Nadine Gordimer has written a post-apartheid novel, "No Time Like The Present," at the age of 88. She sticks with what she knows best: an explanation of the links between her country, culture and its people.Gordimer's style is piercingly simple, her observations complex. In this, she is at one with her characters, Steve and Jabulile…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, May 6, 2012

"The Passage of Power," the in-depth telling of Lyndon Johnson's seven-week transition that led to the presidency, is a magisterial reading of political power -- its loss and acquisition -- that rivals Machiavelli's "The Prince.""Passage" is the latest of four volumes of Lyndon Johnson's rise to political power by Robert A. Caro. The book assesses Lyndon Johnson …

By Michael D. Langan

Thu, Apr 26, 2012

The Secret Service scandal reminds us that, with so much testosterone and flabby willpower on display, a little character-maintenance within the Service is in order.The embarrassment in Cartagena is more than a temporary falling off. It is a blot on the character of the good men and women in the service. It is a disappointment to me, as well.In my experience in fed…

By Michael D. Langan

Sun, Apr 15, 2012

English writer A.N. Wilson has written a brief biography of a lonely, lazy youth with few skills, a youth who bullied others and threw tantrums when he didn't get his way.This indolent art student and Austrian army draft dodger's name was alternately spelled: "Hiedler/Huttler/Hitler, all variations of the same name, which means "one who lives in a hut" and who e…