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Book Notes From The Underground: April 2014



All The Rage: Stories by A.L. Kennedy

A boy won’t name a new puppy because he knows his mother will eventually take it away from him in a fit of pique; a disfigured introvert wanders into a sex shop and feels she has to buy something just to get away from an overly-aggressive clerk; a younger partner in a May-December romance asks his lover “What should I wear at your funeral?” Scottish writer Kennedy’s penetrating observations about these flawed, discomfited people and her crystalline prose make her a master story teller. Her talent has always been underappreciated in this country. Perhaps this book will correct that error.



Bohemians: A Graphic Anthology edited by Paul Buhle and David Berger

A sweeping graphic history of the contrarians and artistic free-thinkers who gave us.... today's hipsters. Besides profiling the likes of Thelonious Monk, Walt Whitman and Josephine Baker, Buhle and Berger also highlight the arrival of modern art in New York in 1915 and the confluence of the labor movement and folk music that began in the early 20th century.




Can't And Won't: Stories by Lydia Davis

Besides being an award-winning translator of Flaubert and Proust, Davis is also an award-winning short story writer (2013 Man Booker International Prize). Although many of the stories in her latest collection are less than a page long, her trenchant insights into human nature keep them from being "too postmodern." Do you have 30 seconds? Then what have you got to lose? Give Davis a try!




Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill

Vaill follows the lives, loves, betrayals and rivalries of six journalists covering the Spanish Civil War: Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gelhorn, Robert Capa, Gerta Pohorylle, Arturo Barea and Ilsa Kucsar. With cameo appearances by John Dos Passos, Stephen Spender and George Orwell, this book captures the high drama and charged atmosphere of 1930s Spain.




Terms & Conditions by Robert Glancy

Is contract attorney Franklin Shaw an unreliable narrator? It’s hard to tell since a car accident left his mind wiped clean, and his gradually recovered memories don’t jibe with the things that his friends and family tell him. Are they lying? Are his memories real? Glancy has written a wry, bleak comedy of (lawyer’s office) manners.




Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval

There have been books about coal mines, fire houses, factory floors and schools—all interesting (and sometimes dangerous) places. But what about the office cubicle—the place, in fact, from which I’m writing this right now? Where is that book? Well, by drawing on film, popular books, comic strips and business literature, Nikil Saval has written just that book: a cultural history of the office. Cubed is an enlightening, entertaining and witty examination of the evolution of the office space.




Family Life by Akhil Sharma

There is no shortage of books about the trials and tribulations of immigrants. So why should you read another one? Well, for one thing, maybe you can’t get enough immigrant stories. If so, then you’ll definitely want to read this one. Otherwise, you may want to read it because Sharma’s semi-autobiographical tale of the Mishra family moving to America in the 1970s is a moving, beautifully crafted portrait of displacement, assimilation and overcoming adversity.




The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare

Part paean, part lyrical love story, The Sea Inside describes the author’s journey across the world’s waterways as he encounters other humans, whales, dolphins, and shore birds. Hoare believes that the sea is in all of us, and that life in the sea is not different from life on land: they are both equally wondrous and fascinating.




The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling

In Spurling’s latest novel, he fictionalizes the life of minor functionary and artist Wang Meng who follows his artistic muse in the countryside while also serving as a military strategist for the White Tigress. With the intricate delicacy of a Chinese landscape painter, he has composed a picture of 14th century China that is as brutal and breathtakingly beautiful as you'd imagine it would be.




Revolutionary Russia , 1891-1991 by Orlando Figes

The Russian Revolution? Most would say it occurred in 1917. Russian scholar Figes argues that the Russia’s revolutionary period began in the late 19th century and continued—in fits and starts—up until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. An incisive overview of the history of Soviet Russia.


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