Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Disappointing Novel and a Riveting Poker Read

29. A Sudden Country, Karen Fisher. Fiction, 3-27, p. 366

Karen Fisher’s debut novel, A Sudden Country, is over-written and overwrought.

Which is a shame, because a potentially compelling narrative is betrayed by the author’s strained prose and her inexplicable decision to focus on an improbable love affair on the prairie.

A Sudden Country is the account of one family’s migration to Oregon. It made the PEN/Faulkner’s shortlist of best fiction in 2006, losing to E.L. Doctorow’s The March.

In the New York Times, critic Sally Eckhoff observed that “the real fascination of this journey lies in the details of the travel itself.” Eckhoff’s right, and had Fisher been more restrained in her story and in her prose, this might have been an exceptional book.

30. The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King, Michael Craig. Poker, 3-30, p. 262

This is a fun little book, especially if you are as fascinated with the current wave of poker mania as I am.

Author Michael Craig has done fine job of ferreting out the details of a long-running poker game between banker Andy Beal and many of the newly famous Vegas poker players, such as Howard Lederer and Jennifer Harman, and the legendary Doyle Brunson.

Craig’s portraits of the poker players, who’ve become household names with ESPN’s annual telecast of the World Series of Poker, and of Beal, a self-made multi-millionaire, and the tense poker games with millions riding on the outcome, are delightful reading—especially since it’s not my money at stake.

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