Fiction

Remember Me, by Trezza Azzopardi (Grove Press)
Reviewed by Christina Schwarz ("In the Dark," June 2004)

"Azzopardi skillfully sets up and reveals secrets, though the plot staggers under a few too many coincidences, and the miraculously consistent voice she achieved in The Hiding Place sometimes wavers here, as if she is occasionally pulling back to make sure readers know what's what."

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The Rules of Engagement, by Anita Brookner (Random House)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Judd ("Fortress of Solitude," March 2004

"The acerbic, perverse, and preternaturally compelling narrator of The Rules of Engagement revels in dignified misery, dismissing those who yearn for happiness as either monstrous or emotionally stunted."

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Don Quixote, Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman (Ecco)
Reviewed by Terry Castle ("High Plains Drifter," January/February 2004)

"The best thing to say up front, perhaps, is get hold of Don Quixote and make time for it. It will be worth the television sitcoms you skip, the thirty or so quiet evenings you spend on it. Edith Grossman actually makes it easy for you, O frazzled reader, because she has produced the most agreeable Don Quixote ever."

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Four Souls, by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Jon Zobenica ("Laff Tracks," July/August 2004)

"Four Souls juxtaposes the silly and the somber, the ribald and the elegiac. Nuance heeds the DO NOT DISTURB sign and generally stays away."

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Madame Bovary, by Gustav Flaubert, translated by Margaret Mauldon (Oxford)
Reviewed by Clive James ("No Way, Madame Bovary," October 2004)

"No doubt this new translation of Madame Bovary is a labor of love. But affection and affectation don't sit well together."

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Faith Fox, by Jane Gardam (Carrol & Graf)
Reviewed by Christina Schwarz ("Neat Structure, Grand Notions," May 2004)

"Gardam couples her genius for the close-up, perfectly rendered portrait with a taste for satisfyingly neat structure and grand notions of hope for humanity; those detached characters are all wearing their hearts on their sleeves by the novel's finish."

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New Grub Street, by George Gissing (Modern Library)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," May 2004)

"Very few novels paint so unsparing yet subtle a picture of the selfishness of most human motivation; and though this intricate, perfectly plotted story is unrelievedly grim ... it's also—unbelievably—ceaselessly absorbing, ironic, and often extremely (if truly darkly) funny."

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The Late George Apley and Wickford Point, by John P. Marquand (Back Bay Books)
Reviewed by Martha Spaulding ("'Martini-Age Victorian,'" May 2004)

"To some, Marquand's books may seem period pieces, his sentences old-fashioned and formal, his stories' frameworks too similar. Nevertheless, he reaches out from recent history with an intensity of feeling, a beguiling humor, and a magical facility with the sounds and rhythms of language that can lift readers up and carry them away."

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Runaway, by Alice Munro (Knopf)
Reviewed by Lorrie Moore ("Leave Them and Love Them," December 2004)

"Munro's world, with its small violent corners, is a revelation of a specific element of human experience: the impossibility of life without tedium, surprise, or paradox. There seems nothing missing in this yet again brilliant collection."

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Snow, by Orhan Pamuk (Knopf)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("Mind the Gap," October 2004)

"Prolix and often clumsy as it is, Pamuk's new novel should be taken as a cultural warning."

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Swann's Way, by Marcel Proust, translated by Lydia Davis (Viking)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("The Acutest Ear in Paris," January/February 2004)

"This is a work of memory like no other: it is conscious of itself even as it relies on the subliminal, the associative, and the contingent."

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Fidelity, by Michael Redhill (Little, Brown)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," April 2004)

"In fact there's very little fidelity, at least as conventionally defined, depicted in this hushed but stupendously accomplished story collection, largely devoted to the family, sexual, and marital lives of very middle-class Canadians."

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Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus, Giroux)
Reviewed by Mona Simpson ("The Minister's Tale," March 2004

"Gilead is an almost otherworldly book.... Obviously a work of enormous integrity, it feels different in kind from the work of writers who produce a book every couple of years, rushing to meet alimony payments, one imagines, or wanting to renovate kitchens.... One hesitates to define Gilead exactly as a novel. It is a beautiful book of ideas."

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The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin)
Reviewed by Clive James ("Fatherland," November 2004)

"Insecurity saturates The Plot Against America. Unfortunately, the saturation goes right down to the level of its telling. For a writer blessed with the eyes and ears to find real life fantastic in every detail, fantasy is the wrong form."

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The Whole Story and Other Stories, by Ali Smith (Anchor Books)
Reviewed by Brooke Allen ("Gender-Neutral," May 2004)

"Smith's vision, like her prose, is startlingly fresh; her stories are short and suggestive."

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The Finishing School, by Muriel Spark (Doubleday)
Reviewed by James Wood ("The Prime of Ms. Muriel Spark," November 2004)

"The Finishing School satirically assails, among other things, the culture of spectacle that has grown up around novel-writing, and in particular around novel-writing by attractive young people."

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A Bit on the Side, by William Trevor (Viking)
Reviewed by Joseph O'Neill ("The Real Thing," October 2004)

"This is [Trevor's] tenth collection of new stories, and his famous economy and fluidity are as much in evidence as ever."

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The Amateur Marriage, by Anne Tyler (Knopf)
Reviewed by Christina Schwarz ("Life Sentence," March 2004)

"In this story of two good people who make each other miserable, Tyler eschews her stock of whimsical oddballs and instead brings her famed empathy to bear on strikingly realistic characters."

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Honored Guest, by Joy Williams (Knopf)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Cheap at $13,000," December 2004)

"A supremely controlled writer, [Williams] narrates her off-kilter stories ... in a flat, perfectly modulated voice, deploying startling yet precise diction and smoothly rapid, almost cinematic transitions."


Non-Fiction

Imperial Hubris, by Anonymous (Brassey's)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Wolves, Actors, Jihadis," September 2004)

"Those looking for forceful dissent and a genuine alternative to the foreign-policy status quo should eschew the intellectually slippery Noam Chomsky, the sadly muddled Gore Vidal, and (most of all) the partisan hack Michael Moore—and instead examine the tough-minded neo-isolationism espoused in this book."

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Scouting for Boys: The Original 1908 Edition, by Robert Baden-Powell (Oxford University Press)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("Young Men in Shorts," June 2004)

"[Baden-Powell] had charm and courage, and a knack with the young, and he could draw excellent freehand illustrations. All these qualities are evident in this best-selling manual of 1908, now cleverly reissued by Oxford University Press."

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Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School, by Michael Bamberger (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Reviewed by Tom Carson ("The Kids Are All Right," July/August 2004)

"Wonderland isn't just an uncommonly rich and intimate look at high school life; it's the best piece of decent-minded, unpatronizing Americana I've read since Jim Wilson's Vietnam-themed The Sons of Bardstowns (1994)."

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Anthony Powell, by Michael Barber (Overlook).
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz, in ("The Glass of Fashion." October 2004

"This is that rare literary specimen: a pretty good bad book."

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Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath: A Memoir, by Jillian Becker (St. Martin's Press)
Reviewed by Christina Nehring ("Domesticated Goddess," April 2004)

"There's a new memoir, by Jillian Becker, a friend who knew Plath for a few months before she died.... Becker, who cared for Plath during the last weekend of her life, paints a very different woman—one almost indifferent to her kids."

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Who the Hell's in It, by Peter Bogdanovich (Knopf)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Wolves, Actors, Jihadis," September 2004)

"Although it reads as if it were too hastily assembled, this book is among the richest (and most delightful) ever written about Hollywood."

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Kim Jong Il: North Korea's Dear Leader, by Michael Breen (John Wiley and Sons)
Reviewed by B. R. Myers ("Mother of All Mothers," September 2004)

"The only comfort to be had from the new batch of Korea books is provided by Breen's biography of Kim Jong Il, which details a hedonistic streak as wide as the DMZ."

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The Origins of the Final Solution: September 1939-March 1942, by Christopher Browning (University of Nebraska Press)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz, ("New and Noteworthy," March 2004)

"Browning—one of the world's greatest scholars of the Holocaust—has taken on the most contentious and knotty aspect of the Final Solution: how and why Nazi policy evolved ... from the persecution and planned expulsion of Jews to the detailed strategy of systematically murdering all Jews within Germany's grasp."

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Heloise & Abelard, by James Burge (HarperSanFrancisco)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Wolves, Actors, Jihadis," September 2004)

"The terrible love story that this book illuminates is also highly convoluted.... Nevertheless, this is a great tale, which Burge tells vividly and economically."

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Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," April 2004)

"Too often in Chernow's account of Hamilton, his allies, and his rivals come off as guys in powdered wigs.

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My Life, by Bill Clinton (Alfred A. Knopf)
Reviewed by Tom Carson ("Policy Wank," September 2004)

"Decades from now, all those fading thumbprints alongside 'Flowers, Gennifer' and 'Lewinsky, Monica' will be of use in authenticating first editions, and only true sentimentalists will leave a similar smudge next to 'Dole, Bob, 1996 election and.'"

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Vicious, by Jon Coleman (Yale)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz, ("Wolves, Actors, Jihadis," September 2004)

"This is a sick-making book.... [Coleman] seeks to fathom the 300-year history of limitless sadism that attended the wolves' extermination."

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North Korea: Another Country, by Bruce Cumings (The New Press)
Reviewed by B. R. Myers ("Mother of All Mothers," September 2004)

"[Cumings's] compulsion to prove conservative opinion wrong on every point inspires him to say things unworthy of any serious historian—that there was no crime in North Korea for decades, for example—and to waste space refuting long-forgotten canards and misconceptions."

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Family Fortunes, by Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall (Routledge)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," June 2004)

"A history of religion, business, architecture and gardening, currents of thought, civic life, the family, and the changing conceptions of childhood, femininity, and masculinity, the book examines what the authors argue was the provincial middle class's rise and consolidation between the end of the eighteenth and the middle of the nineteenth century."

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Teen TV: Genre, Consumption, and Identity, edited by Glyn Davis and Kay Dickenson (BFI Publishing)
Reviewed by Tom Carson ("The Kids Are All Right," July/August 2004)

"If you haven't seen, say, Dawson's Creek or Smallville, you might never guess from this baker's dozen of feminist, queer-theory, and truth-or-Derrida glosses that teen soaps are entertainment—fairly frothy, at that—and not the Dead Sea Scrolls."

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The Prophet Armed: Trotsky 1879-1921, The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921-1929, by Isaac Deutscher (Verso)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens, ("The Old Man," July 2004)

"To re-read this magnificent trilogy today ... is to be overcome by a sense of melancholy and waste."

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The Greeks and the Irrational, by E. R. Dodds (California)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," June 2004)

"Among the most influential works of classical scholarship of the past sixty years, Dodds's book, based on his 1949 lectures at Berkeley and just reissued, uses the insights of psychology and anthropology to illuminate the primitive and irrational—and to the modern mind, often repulsive and frightening—aspects of the ancient Greeks' mentality."

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War Under Heaven, by Gregory Evans Dowd (Johns Hopkins)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," July/August 2004)

"A stylish writer with a talent for compression, Dowd engages and advances scholarly debates while making the lines of those debates clear to the general reader. His book (the paperback edition has just been released) is the best account of [Pontiac's War]."

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Public Lives, by Eleanor Gordon and Gwyneth Nair (Yale)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," June 2004)

"The superbly researched and just published Public Lives ... probes the lives of the inhabitants of one middle-class neighborhood in Glasgow (the second largest city in Britain) by evaluating sources ranging from letters and diaries to business papers, census reports, and probate records."

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Israel on the Appomatox, by Melvin Patrick Ely (Knopf)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("The South in Black and White," November 2004)

"Ely, a historian at William and Mary, has unearthed a remarkably rich story. In 1796 Richard Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's cousin, manumitted his ninety slaves and settled them on land he owned, which they christened "Israel Hill." In a creative and exhaustive feat of archival research, Ely scrutinizes this group's relationship with the white community and, more generally, the relationship between blacks—free and slave—and whites throughout the county from the end of the eighteenth century through the beginning of the twentieth."

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The Coming of the Third Reich, by Richard J. Evans (Penguin Press)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," January/February 2004

"An always reliable, often magisterial synthesis of a vast body of scholarship, and a frequently deft blend of narrative and interpretation, Evans's book is an impressive achievement. If in his subsequent volumes he avoids the laxness that vitiates this one, his opus will be one of the major historical works of our time."

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Inside Hitler's Bunker, by Joachim Fest (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," March 2004)

"It's a stupendous story, and Fest, one of Germany's renowned historians of the Nazis, tells it well. But it's been told better before."

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Inside the Victorian Home, by Judith Flanders (Norton)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," June 2004)

"The book, which was successful commercially and even more so critically in Britain, where it was first published last year, takes an inventive and compellingly voyeuristic approach by exploring a Victorian house room by room"

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Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?, by David Fromkin (Knopf)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," July/August 2004)

"Although Fromkin conducted no archival research, he's fairly well acquainted with the historiography of his subject (the diplomatic maneuvering and the military preparations directly preceding the conflict), and he therefore avoids the worst flaws that plague popular history."

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The War for Righteousness, by Richard M. Gamble (ISI Books)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," May 2004)

"In this careful and incisive work of intellectual history Gamble dissects the origins and first flowering of liberal internationalism, and the relationship between it and progressive, social-gospel... It's a story of a largely self-righteous and unlovely dogma."

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The Making of the Poets, by Ian Gilmour (Carroll & Graf)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," April 2004)

"[An] extraordinarily elegant and deeply researched portrait of Byron and Shelley."

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Will in the World, by Stephen Greenblatt (W.W. Norton)
Reviewed by Christina Nehring ("Shakespeare in Love, or in Context," December 2004)

"Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare is, more than anything else, the biography of an age."

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The Encyclopedia of Chicago, edited by James R. Grossman, Ann Durkin Keating, and Janice L. Reiff (Chicago)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Cheap at $13,000," December 2004)

"The writing in this unusually handsome and functional 1,104-page volume ranges from clear if pedestrian to pithy and clever, and in fact the editors have brilliantly met the greatest challenge that such a project presents: reconciling depth and breadth."

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Korean Endgame:, by Selig S. Harrison (Princeton)
Reviewed by B. R. Myers ("Mother of All Mothers," September 2004)

"The thrust of Harrison's book is valid... [But] it is a shame that Harrison does not place greater stress on the need to extricate our troops [from South Korea] even if the arms-control process fails, because it's hard to see how it can succeed."

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Rosamond Lehmann, by Selina Hastings (Vintage UK/Trafalgar Square)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz (New and Noteworthy, January/February 2004)

"In this portrait, at once acerbic and compassionate, gossipy and astute, Hastings balances sympathy and judgment: the men Lehmann picked may have been lousy, but she herself was a demanding and histrionically self-absorbed lover."

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Screenwriting for a Global Market, by Andrew Horton (California)
Reviewed by David Kipen ("Offshoring the Audience," June 2004)

"This volume starts with fifty pages or so of the author's war stories from his days not only as an Oklahoma film professor and convener of screenwriting seminars but also as a co-writer on various international co-productions.... There follow forty pages of Horton's frankly feeble attempts at film criticism"

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Landon Carter's Uneasy Kingdom, by Rhys Isaac (Oxford)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," July/August 2004)

"Isaac probes and interprets Carter's journals to reveal the attitudes and values of the Virginia gentry and the collapse of the established social order that attended the Colonies' rebellion against Britain."

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The Bastard on the Couch, by Daniel Jones (William Morrow)
Reviewed by Sandra Tsing Loh ("A Gloom of One's Own," October 2004)

"Hats off to Daniel Jones, who has now compiled the knowingly titled The Bastard on the Couch, a men's answer to The Bitch in the House."

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The North American Prairie, by Stephen R. Jones and Ruth Carol Cushman (Peterson Field Guides/Houghton Mifflin)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," July/August 2004)

"Bring the book along on a car trip out west this summer; get off the freeways and drive, say, Highway 3 across the Oklahoma Panhandle to see the light change abruptly from the soft, hazy glow of the East to the brilliance of the West."

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The Guardians, by Geoffrey Kabaservice (Henry Holt)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," June 2004)

"Could we possibly need a 550-page biography of Kingman Brewster? Well, yes, because this deftly woven portrait of Brewster and his close friends—McGeorge Bundy, Elliot Richardson, John Lindsay, Cyrus Vance, and Paul Moore—is among the most revealing books ever written about the liberal establishment."

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The Lesser Evil: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1945-1959, by Victor Klemperer, translated by Martin Chalmers (Phoenix Books)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("Survivor," December 2004)

"The Klemperer we come to know is a shrewd man, somewhat impatient with others and somewhat insecure, and fairly honest with and about himself."

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Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940, by David E. Kyvig (Ivan R. Dee)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Editor's Choice: The Glass of Fashion," October 2004)

"In examining the impact of cars, electricity, radio, and the movies on daily life, and in exploring changes in fashion, buying habits, family relations, and religious practices, Kyvig regularly comes up with illuminating details.... This is an unusually satisfying book."

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The Children's Blizzard, by David Laskin (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz in ("Cheap at $13,000," December 2004)

"Laskin skillfully weaves together a clear report and explanation of the meteorological ... with harrowing accounts of slow death, loss, and survival."

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Chicago, by A. J. Liebling (Nebraska)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Cheap at $13,000," December 2004)

"This thin and angry book ... exemplifies the worst kind of Manhattanite's sneering parochialism and willful ignorance of the lands beyond the Hudson."

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John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier, by Andrew Lownie (David R. Godine)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("Great Scot," March 2004)

"It has been almost forty years since the first [Buchan] biography was published; this more recent effort, by another Scot, is intended to acquit Buchan of charges of bigotry and also of obsolescence."

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The Reformation, by Diarmaid MacCulloch (Viking)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," May 2004)

"MacCulloch has taken on this vast subject and produced one of the most magisterial and stylishly written historical works to be published in a decade. Throughout, MacCulloch, professor of the history of the Church at Oxford, explicates complex theological issues with startling lucidity."

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Wodehouse: a Life, by Robert McCrum (Norton)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("The Honorable Schoolboy," November 2004)

"If anything could ever put one off being a Wodehouse fan, it would be the somewhat cultish element among his admirers and biographers.... Robert McCrum is by no means immune from the lure of all this, but his biography has a tendency to let in daylight upon the magic."

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Picturing Faith, by Colleen McDannell (Yale)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("The South in Black and White," November 2004)

"This striking book, with its lengthy and intelligent (if at times overly interpretive) text by the historian of religion Colleen McDannell, collects the Farm Security Administration photos of rural religious culture [taken during the Depression by photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans]."

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Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, by Bradley K. Martin (St. Martin's Press)
Reviewed by B. R. Myers ("Mother of all Mothers," September 2004)

"Although hardly definitive, it is still an excellent book, well researched and lucidly written. It is especially refreshing to find someone showing serious interest in North Korean propaganda instead of merely hooting at it."

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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Cheap at $13,000," December 2004)

"The editors of this entirely new edition have retained the best features of the original, and they've accomplished the extraordinary: their work, on nearly every level, outshines its predecessor."

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The Pig Who Sang To The Moon: The Emotional World Of Farm Animals, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (Ballantine)
Reviewed by B. R. Myers ("Nasty, Brutish, and Short," April 2004)

"Masson... may be just the sort of spokesman the animals have been waiting for. His approach is so divertingly amateurish, his logic so far from airtight, that we see no harm in letting him ramble on for just one more chapter—only to find we've turned the last page, and he has affected us by the simple decency of his example."

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Somerset Maugham: A Life, by Jeffrey Meyers (Knopf)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("Poor Old Willie," May 2004)

"Throughout Jeffrey Meyers's book one is reminded of the remarkable difference made to English letters by the Victorian-era law that prohibited homosexual conduct."

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Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, A Marriage, by Diane Middlebrook (Viking Press)
Reviewed by Christina Nehring ("Domesticated Goddess," April 2004)

"This is the place to find a fair-minded and eminently readable guide to Plath and Hughes's artistic collaboration as well as to their erotic strife."

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Freaks, Geeks, And Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption, by Murray Milner Jr. (Routledge)
Reviewed by Tom Carson ("The Kids Are All Right," July/August 2004)

"Milner has a larger thesis to share—or, rather, since it's only tenuously connected to much of the behavior he elaborates, a rant: '...high school status systems have played an important role in the development of consumerism in the United States.'"

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Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood, by Steven Mintz (Harvard).
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("The Glass of Fashion," October 2004)

"[Mintz is] intent on showing that childhood (including attitudes toward children) is what he calls 'a social and cultural construct' that has changed according to historical circumstances. There's much truth to that point of view. But Mintz overstates his case."

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Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Knopf)
Reviewed by Robert Conquest ("The Terrors," July/August 2004)

"Sebag Montefiore is at his best when writing about the dramatic days just before and after Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union—a story whose details come almost entirely from the new records and from the memories of crucial people in Moscow."

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The Birth Of The Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, by Benny Morris (Cambridge)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New & Noteworthy," April 2004)

"This new edition—which is 640 pages, compared with the original's 380—greatly enhances the book's initial strengths, supports but modifies its earlier conclusions, and deepens its sense of ambiguity as well as its implicit pessimism."

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Norman Parkinson: Portraits in Fashion, by Robin Muir (Trafalgar Square)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("The Glass of Fashion," October 2004)

"The book is divided into chapters by decade, and I found my interest flagging in the 1960s and diminished entirely in the 1970s and 1980s, as his photos, in keeping with the times, grew increasingly garish and outrageous."

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Conjectures of Order, by Michael O'Brien (North Carolina)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("The South in Black and White," November 2004)

"[A] hugely ambitious, sweeping yet recondite, keenly intelligent but often wrongheaded two-volume, 1,354-page history of intellectual life in the American South from 1810 to 1860. This is a work of lasting significance—it will (eventually) alter and widen our conceptions of the antebellum United States and of the currents of American thought."

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Hatchet Jobs, by Dale Peck (New Press)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New & Noteworthy," July/August 2004)

"In his meticulous attention to diction, his savage wit, his exact and rollicking prose, his fierce devotion to stylistic and intellectual precision, and—of course—his disdain for pseudo-intellectual flatulence, Peck is Mencken's heir."

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Report From a Parisian Paradise, by Joseph Roth (Norton)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New & Noteworthy," March 2004)

"Lyrical, often rhapsodizing, journalistic sketches of France, a country that for [Roth] represented everything Germany was not, even before the Nazis rose to power. Taken together, these pieces mix nostalgia for a civilized, tolerant, and (Roth knew) doomed Europe with contempt for the Germans, who 'have always had the gift of killing to music.'"

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The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Caitlin Flanagan ("Do as I Say," January/February 2004)

.....

"The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands gives me the impression that [Schlessinger] has taken the final step toward conventional ultra-conservative thinking."

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The Rural Face of White Supremacy, by Mark Schultz (Illinois)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("The South in Black and White," November 2004)

"Schultz's compelling, detailed account illuminates the basic fact of southern history: the two races have always been inextricably bound together."

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Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me, by Craig Seligman (Counterpoint)
Reviewed by David Thomson ("Odd Couple," July/August 2004)

"There are plenty of times in this odd mismatch when Seligman the referee is the most absorbing person in the ring, not least when he's encouraging himself to make the most of Sontag."

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Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, by Laura Shapiro (Viking)
Reviewed by Ann Hodgman ("What's for Dinner?", June 2004)

"Shapiro ... has written a solid, admirably researched study. Still, I can't help thinking that her book would have been a lot more engaging if she'd left the library and visited a few of those women in their kitchens."

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Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy, by David Stevenson (Basic)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," July/August 2004)

"An exceedingly smart, analytical history of a hugely important subject."

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Burying Caesar, by Graham Stewart (Overlook)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy, March 2004)

"A bold and invigorating book ... focusing on the rivalry between Neville Chamberlain and Churchill."

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The First World War, by Hew Strachan (Viking)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," July/August 2004)

"Strachan writes vigorously, but ... he regularly gets bogged down in his storytelling, which renders the book somewhat bloated and unfocused."

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Dresden, by Frederick Taylor (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," March 2004)

"Although flabby, Taylor's chronicle nevertheless makes for compelling reading, owing both to his chilling depiction of that surreal and horrible night and to the obvious moral seriousness he uses to grapple with the ambiguities at the heart of his account."

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The Killing Ground, by Tim Travers (Pen & Sword)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," July/August 2004)

"This is among the most creative works of military history of the past quarter century, and was for years an exasperatingly expensive and hard to find title."

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Call of the Mall, by Paco Underhill (Simon & Schuster)
Reviewed by Sandra Tsing Loh ("Shopworn," June 2004)

"Only a retail specialist could be so attuned to the human condition in all its shabby, formless boredom."

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Defending Israel, by Martin Van Creveld (St. Martin's)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("The Glass of Fashion," October 2004)

"Like all other honest assessments of Israel's strategic situation, this slim book offers no support to either hawks or doves, or to either the Israeli or the Arab positions, as conventionally defined."

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Borges: A Life, by Edwin Williamson (Viking)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("The Immortal," September 2004)

"[An] altogether first-rate biography."

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Aftermath: The Remnants of War, by Donovan Webster (Vintage)
Reviewed by David O. Russell ("The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Humankind," December 2004)

"A testament to all that is indomitable and adaptable, for better and for worse, in the human spirit."

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London: Life in the Post-War Years, by Douglas Whitworth (Trafalgar Square)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("New and Noteworthy," March 2004)

"This poignant collection of photographs reveals [World War II's] most conspicuous ravages ... But it's most telling when it captures the drab exhaustion and wistful pride of the period, with its worn clothes and gray complexions."

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Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, edited by David J. Wishart (Nebraska)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz, ("Cheap at $13,000," December 2004)

"The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains dissects nearly every aspect of the region but is especially strong on Native American history and warfare."

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Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures With the Titans, Poseurs, and Money Guys Who Mastered and Messed Up Big Media, by Michael Wolff (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Eric Alterman ("Me and My Moguls," April 2004)

"Both [the book's] charm and its bite derive from the enormous doses of ego that Wolff manages to inject into all of his observations."

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