Saturday, June 17, 2006

Catching up--From Alentejo Blue to Clemente

  • 50. Wolves Eat Dogs, Martin Cruz Smith. Fiction, 5-30, p. 336
  • 51. Clemente, David Maraniss. Baseball, 5-31, p. 354
  • 52. The Hard Way, Lee Child. Thriller, 6-1, p. 371
  • 53. Let Me Finish, Roger Angell. Memoir, 6-4, p. 302
  • 54. Four Souls, Louise Erdrich. Fiction, 6-8, p. 210
  • 55. Alentejo Blue, Monica Ali. Fiction, 6-14, p. 299

OK, I’m shamefully six books behind on posts. I can only offer excuses including an influx of family for 10 days and work-related travel.

Here’s a quick summary of the six:

Wolves Eat Dogs, Martin Cruz Smith. Arkady Renko ventures into Chernobyl’s Zone of Exclusion is this entertaining mystery. Renko warrants status as a classic figure in detective fiction. He would be honored in the United States for his integrity. In Russia, he’s scorned as a fool because he won’t take a bribe. Smith accurately captures Russia’s twisted version of capitalism.

Clemente, David Maraniss. This isn’t on the level of his earlier book on Vince Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered. Maraniss doesn’t manage to penetrate Clemente’s inscrutable personality and I wanted more baseball instead of the abbreviated accounted we’re offered. Only time will tell, but I don’t think this will join Robert Creamer’s Babe as a baseball classic.

The Hard Way, Lee Child. Jack Reacher is back. That’s all I have to say. It’s terrific.

Let Me Finish, Roger Angell. I’ve read all seven of Angell’s baseball books, which are uniformly marvelous, I thought, because baseball writes. Turns out Angell writes too. Most of these pieces in this book originally appeared in The New Yorker. Whether you read them there first or are reading them for the first time – they’re superb. I especially liked the essay on his step-father, E.B. White.

Four Souls, Louise Erdrich. This is a follow-up to Erdrich’s Tracks. Tracks was fine. This book isn’t. I’ve tried and failed to identify what I don’t like about it. No matter, it doesn’t work. A rare miscue by Erdrich.

Alentejo Blue, Monica Ali. I greatly admired Ali’s first book, Brick Lane. This one, not so much. She’s trying to be something she’s not, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Nothing at all wrong with the prose, but the story is an uninspired mush.

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