Saul Bellow, Thomas McGuane, and Other Hot Reads
This week: a legendary gambler's wild life exposed, the great Saul Bellow's enchanting collected letters, a hilarious memoir of overcoming disability, the American man reconsidered in Thomas McGuane's latest, and super-lawyer Alan Dershowitz tries out thrillers.
Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet On Everythingby Kevin Cook
Alvin "Titanic" Thompson was America’s original road gambler whose life was just as wild as any fictional ‘20s gangster.
Award-winning sportswriter Kevin Cook turns his attention to Alvin “Titanic” Thompson, a man who could have been a professional golfer if such a profession existed, but instead became one of the highest-rolling grifters of his day. Thompson won and lost millions as he golfed and gambled his way across the country, carrying his clubs, a .45, and a suitcase of cash. He killed five men and married five women, conned Al Capone, and traded card tricks with Houdini. Mark Frost, bestselling author of The Greatest Game Ever Played, called Titanic "a delightful, breezy account of the most outrageous grifter who ever worked the dark side streets of the American dream."
Saul Bellow: LettersEdited by Benjamin Taylor
One of America’s greatest writers and the recipient of the Nobel, Saul Bellow was a prolific letter-writer as this elegant edition proves.
In addition to writing some of the greatest novels of the 20th century, Saul Bellow wrote insightful and engaging letters. Editor Benjamin Taylor has collected decades of Bellow’s letters to childhood friends, wives, lovers, sons, and fellow authors, including letters to Philip Roth, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, and Martin Amis. To John Cheever he writes, “There’s nothing that counts really except this transforming action of the soul. I loved you for this. I loved you anyway, but for this especially.” The letters also provide new insight into the relationship between Bellow’s life and his art. Says Benjamin Markovits of The Guardian, when Bellow begins work on Augie March, his letters take on the “tone of someone who has opened up a new vein inside himself and is watching it draw blood and feeling it draw blood at the same time.”
You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Knowby Heather Sellers
A wry memoir about disability, an eccentric family, embracing the past and looking toward the future.
Heather Sellers grew up with prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, a rare brain disorder in which the afflicted cannot recognize faces—not the face of her paranoid schizophrenic mother, nor that of her hard-drinking, cross-dressing father. In You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, the author revisits her alternately heart-wrenching and dryly, bizarrely hilarious upbringing, and tells the story of how only in accepting the past can we let it go. Booklist calls You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know “an acutely perceptive tale of triumph over parental and physical shackles.” A reviewer for The New York Times said, “Unless I’ve got prose blindness, Sellers is an ace.”
Driving on the Rimby Thomas McGuane
In this latest exploration of American masculinity from a veteran writer, a misanthropic small-town doctor reflects on his life while his future hangs in the balance.
Berl Pickett describes himself as “irritable, hypercritical, obsessively orderly, claustrophobic, impatient, antisocial, and agoraphobic, filled with objectless dread, pessimistic and fault-finding.” But he is also a good doctor, with a wry sense of humor. Pickett’s story is told in Driving on the Rim, the 10th novel from the New Englander-cum-Montana rancher, Thomas McGuane. Murders and suicides trace their way through Pickett’s small hometown, bringing his medical practice into question as he himself becomes a suspect. In Driving on the Rim, Pickett looks back at his strange misadventures—like when his parents caught him in bed at 14 with his aunt—while navigating the social minefield of small-town Montana. The New York Times said, “there are riches here, especially sentence by crackling sentence, and McGuane is as good as ever on the redeeming aspects of a troubled country”.
The Trials of Zionby Alan M. Dershowitz
From a Harvard super-lawyer, a smart, provocative thriller straddling two of the world’s most dramatic stages.
An act of terrorism destabilizes the Middle East just as a young Jewish-American lawyer joins the defense team of a Palestinian man—until the young woman herself becomes a target. In The Trials of Zion, Harvard law professor and bestselling novelist Alan M. Dershowitz offers up a courtroom drama that is at once gripping and provocative. Combining the built-in theater of a courtroom with the richly layered history of the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Dershowitz’ latest effort is a page-turner and a conversation-starter. Steven Pinker, author of The Stuff of Thought, called The Trials of Zion “a thought-provoking thriller.”