Current Affairs December 2006

Cover to Cover

A guide to additional releases

Ringside
by Budd Schulberg (Ivan R. Dee)
In this anthology of boxing reportage, the veteran novelist and screenwriter casts his eye on the sweet science, from Tom Molineaux and Tom Cribb’s marathon thirty-nine-round bare-knuckle brawl in 1810 to the more recent exploits of Lennox Lewis and Floyd Mayweather Jr. There’s an operatic, carnival-barker quality to Schulberg’s reporting (Evander Holyfield’s Tyson-nibbled ear becomes a “cannibalized auricle,” and said nibbling is judged “sick, sad, sordid, and psycho”) that reflects the high-low vertigo of the best sportswriting.

Spy: The Funny Years
by Kurt Andersen, Graydon Carter, and George Kalogerakis (Miramax)
An anthology/memoir tracking the first seven years of the legendary satire rag, compiled by three of its original editors. When the authors note in the introduction that it would be simply too self- promoting to endorse one journalist’s recent claim that “We’re all Spy now,” all parties seem to have it right.

From Counterculture to Cyberculture
by Fred Turner (Chicago)
Disentangling strands of beaded network cable, Turner recaps the turn of events by which the hippieish brain trust behind the Whole Earth Catalog helped bring about the digital age, co-opting in the process the very military-industrial-technology complex its members once railed against.

FICTION

The Light of Evening
by Edna O’Brien (Houghton Mifflin)
With her lush prose, the prolific O’Brien sensually evokes the early-twentieth- century Irish experience. The story is typical and, because it is so vivid, unique to her protagonist, a seventy-seven-year-old woman, seriously ill, who reviews her life as she awaits the arrival of her daughter. Less arresting sections of the novel are from the overly intellectual daughter’s point of view. Despite love affairs and marriages, it’s the expectations and disappointments between mothers and daughters that form the heart of this book.

Every Eye
by Isobel English (Black Sparrow)
This brief, emotionally restrained novel, released in Britain in 1956 but only now being published in the United States, is one of just three written by English, whose talents Muriel Spark and John Betjeman enormously admired. The plot, in which the narrator’s honeymoon on a Spanish island collides with her half-understood past, is mostly too subtle for drama (although the moment of impact provides a nice punch), but English’s writing is both dead-on and gorgeous.

Inés of My Soul
by Isabel Allende (Harper Collins)
Passionate and bold, like Allende’s fictional women, Inés Suárez escaped a life of tatting in sixteenth-century Spain and became, arguably, the mother of Chile. In her authoritative style, Allende has dramatized actual events to produce an epic about the career of this little-known but significant conquistadora that’s well-grounded but doesn’t linger over historical detail. As always, Allende focuses on the story, in this case one propelled by lusts of various kinds.

Julius Winsome
by Gerard Donovan (Overlook)
At once elegantly written and gripping, Donovan’s third novel—in which a book-centric, reclusive, and disturbingly sympathetic man exacts revenge after his dog is deliberately shot by a hunter— juxtaposes an understated tone and the unforgiving, inhuman landscape of northern Maine with extremes of human emotion and action.

Nature Girl
by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf)
Hiaasen drags us through the Thousand Islands with a relentlessly dysfunctional and immensely entertaining cast of characters. There’s half-Seminole Sammy Tigertail, to whom bad things keep happening and who just wants to be left alone. There’s the engagingly manic-depressive Honey Santana and her long-suffering twelve-year-old son, Fry. There’s Honey’s ex-husband, who still loves her against his better judgment. And then there are the villains, who all get what they deserve (and then some). This is a fun, fun ride.

Hollywood Station
by Joseph Wambaugh (Little, Brown)
Wambaugh, one of the originators—if not the originator—of the modern police novel, returns after a long hiatus to the fictionalized inner workings of the LAPD. Here he tracks a series of seemingly unrelated stories in the jurisdiction of L.A.’s Hollywood Station, and offers all the characteristic Wambaugh magic: unlikable and conflicted characters we grow to love; a perfect mix of good guys and bad (and a confusion, sometimes, about which are which); and small vignettes that tie together seamlessly by the end.

NOTE:

The Atlantic's April, 2005, cover story, "Host," by David Foster Wallace, has been included in The Best American Magazine Writing (2006), published by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Presented by

Benjamin Healy is an Atlantic Monthly deputy managing editor.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

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