Nadine Gordimer, Leslie Sanchez, Susan Cheever, and Other Hot Reads
This week: Herman Melville’s tortured genius revealed in a new novel, how the 2008 election changed things for women, Nadine Gordimer’s stunning collected fiction, a fresh look at Louisa May Alcott, and a haunting investigation of a Holocaust photo.
The Passages of H.M. by Jay Parini
A glimpse into the life of Herman Melville—drunkard, abusive, and desperately trying to write the next great novel.
As he did in The Last Station, Jay Parini once again penetrates into the mind of a great novelist. But the story of Herman Melville, as portrayed by his wife, Lizzie, is that of decadence. Melville’s success after Moby-Dick did not pan out quite the way he hoped, and he struggles to figure out his next great novel while meandering around New York’s docks with a customs inspector. The book alternates between Lizzie’s perspective and a third-person portrait of Melville, all the while detailing a man who is sexually inclined to men, desperately seeking sanity, and sympathetic to no one but himself. “Parini’s bold and mesmerizing novel ultimately deepens the mystery of Melville’s incandescent genius,” writes Donna Seaman for Booklist.
An insightful look at the 2008 presidential election’s affect on women through the political stories of Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton.
Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez dissects the 2008 presidential elections: a pinnacle moment for women in politics. She writes based on the reactions that Americans from small towns to big cities had toward the three powerhouse women who dominated the election. She also looks at how Palin, Obama, and Clinton entered the 2008 political arena, what were their successes, failures, and their impact on the future of women in politics. Don't be fooled by her political affiliation either—Sanchez tackles the issue of women in politics squarely, and woos politicians and analysts from across the spectrum. As Paul Begala says, "In a call to action only Leslie Sanchez could make, she challenges us all—Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike—to truly consider the concept of equality."
Life Times: Stories, 1952-2007 by Nadine Gordimer
A lifetime’s worth of stunning short fiction from the Nobel laureate—and a follow-up to her nonfiction collection, Telling Times.
Harnessing the racial and political tension of her native South Africa, Nadine Gordimer produced a half-century of stirring, unflinching short fiction, now elegantly collected in one volume, Life Times: Stories 1952-2007. This collection of 30 stories, including two unpublished works, explores the complications of marriage, interracial violence, and overt political repression. On a business trip to London, a man drunkenly writes his wife, asking for a divorce, and wakes up sober, hoping that a postal strike will prevent the letter’s delivery. A white South African couple buries a Rhodesian illegal immigrant who dies on their property. Gordimer was awarded the Booker Prize for her 1983 book The Conservationist, and was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. The Dallas Morning News called Life Times, “A fascinating portrait of contemporary South Africa,” revealing Gordimer as “a writer willing to face issues of cruelty, hypocrisy, and despair, and refusing to back down.”
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography by Susan Cheever
An intimate biography of an outspoken progressive activist and the author of a treasured American novel , Little Women.
Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women hesitantly, because she needed the money, after resisting calls from her publisher for such a book. The novel became an icon of Americana unto itself, but it was in a Civil War hospital in Washington, D.C. that Alcott first found her voice, as she cared for the wounded and dying, helping to pen, and sometimes finish, their letters home. Such are the revelations in Susan Cheever’s engaging and refreshing new book, Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography. The writer identifies with Alcott, drawing comparisons between their upbringings, and brings Alcott to life through the intimacy of her prose. “Cheever brilliantly lays out Louisa May Alcott’s riveting, often heart-wrenching story, seemingly as unlikely as a fairy tale,” said Judy Collins. “Louisa will grip your heart, as Cheever does.”
The Boy: A Holocaust Storyby Dan Porat
A human story of the Holocaust through the history of one iconic photograph.
An 8-year-old boy stands with arms raised, worry in his face, and a flurry of activity in the background. This hauntingly unforgettable photograph has come to symbolize the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest of the Nazi’s ghettos. In The Boy: A Holocaust Story, Dan Porat conducts an historical investigation into the lives of the people in the photograph, and the man behind the camera, to deepen our understanding of this iconic image. The New York Times calls it, “A gripping, harrowing Holocaust story,” while Kirkus Book Reviews calls it, “A scholarly detective story,” and “a remarkable work and an essential document in the vast library devoted to the Shoah.”