Thursday, April 03, 2008


Ron Liebman: Death By Rodrigo (2007)
Enjoyed this tale of a pair of bottom-feeding lawyers (ex-cops Junne Salerno & Mickie Mezzonatti) in rotten Camden NJ who get manipulated into defending a very powerful, very deadly El Salvadorean drug lord. The colorful, slightly exaggerated Jersey dialect is as unaffected as possible. Gives some real thought to the plot, too. Favorite scene: Our counselors bring two pricey whores (gifts from a pimp client) as dates to a bar association banquet in Atlantic City, bribe a waiter to seat them at a head table with a Jersey Supreme Court Justice, who happens to be a regular customer of one of the professional ladies. In Jersey, perhaps this is not an utterly fantastic scenario. Later on, the Judge wanders back into the story. Justice does get served in its skewed way. The novel is a successful attorney's appreciation of all the hustling esquires with night school law degrees who do so much of the grunt work in the criminal justice system. Hope I meet these likable guys again at the Camden County Courthouse. But I don't plan on going there in person anytime soon.

Bill Bryson: Shakespeare; The World as Stage (2007)
Everything we really know about Shakespeare's life, which is almost nothing, including his physical appearance. So the book is mostly everything we think we know that actually can't be verified or is an outright invention. With many amusing digressions into Elizabethan culture. Bryson is John McPhee without The New Yorker polish. This book was tucked away on a high shelf of the branch library's minuscule large print nonfiction section & I'm probably the only patron who will ever check it out.

Gary Wills: What Paul Meant (2006)
The first book by Gary Wills I ever read! First, Wills tosses out six of Paul's epistles as inauthentic. Then establishes that Paul is closer to the the early Jesus communities than any other Biblical texts, so we have to trust what he has to say about those communities & what they already believe. But I was most impressed with his prosaic translations from Greek. Wills also writes as a Catholic, although he knows what he writes subverts many Catholic as well as protestant practices & beliefs. But ultimately, he's a fairly orthodox Christian, which makes this a good alternative to some of the other popular revisionist Pauline books on the market now.

After this I read his Pulitzer book, Lincoln at Gettysburg. About 2/3rds of the way through, & about the 30th time I had to read the text of the speech, I went into scan mode through the finish. Now I'm reading What Jesus Meant. Good. But the novelty is gone.

Randy Wayne White: Shark River (2002)
Reliable entertainment. I don't read any mystery or detective character series in sequence. Sometimes this makes backstory references confusing. "Doc" Ford is a marine biologist running his own small business out of a run down Florida marina. His lifestyle is modest, his needs are few. His best friend is an aging bohemian, Tomlinson. The marina has become his home & family. But Ford used to be the most secret of secret agents (Tomlinson was once one of his targets for assassination), he's drawn into complex situations he didn't seek out, & every novel no matter how quietly it runs its course ends in an explosion of the kind of terrible violence Ford has worked to leave in his shadowy past. Always great scenery thanks to White's own experience as a fishing guide. All these long-running character series are now divided into before & after everyone carries cell phones. For private eyes, the Internet radically changed the routines of basic investigation. So I like Sue Grafton's sleuth, Kinsey Millhone, who was created in the 1980's & has stayed there for 20 books.

April is National Poetry Month & I promised myself I'd look through Vol. 1 - 1909-1939, of William Carlos Williams Collected Poems. Williams thought his most experimental poems were his later ones in Vol 2, & the collage work, Paterson. Up to now I've disagreed with Dr Bill. I want to see those older poems again, particularly the rare ones from the 1920's. Might amuse my muse, too. She's only shown up in dreams lately, not via a real human in a long time. I have to call it over from the Main Library downtown.


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