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Michael D. LanganSPECIAL TO THE NEWS


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Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s new name, Pope Francis, conjures up a picture of St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th century saint who repaired the crumbling facade of Catholicism through a lifelong apostleship to the poor.He said the name came to him because St. Francis was a “man of poverty, of peace.” The new pope says he wants “a poor church for the poor.”But the pontiff,…

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…

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…

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…

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…