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Reviews Written by
Charles J. Rector (Woodstock, IL United States)

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Oracle Night: A Novel
Oracle Night: A Novel
by Paul Auster
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Work By An Underappreciated Writer, July 13 2004
This review is from: Oracle Night: A Novel (Hardcover)
Paul Auster is both one of the best writers around and also one of the most underappreciated. However, he does enjoy a certain cult status with readers who appreciate truly imaginative fiction.
The book begins when one Sidney Orr goes out and buys a blue notebook. That does not sound terribly interesting, but its what Orr does with the notebook that makes this book special.
Orr writes a novel in the blue notebook purporting to forcast future events. As the novel progresses, it exerts a strange influence on the folks in Orr's life.
As the above demonstrates, Oracle Night is a strange work, but its the wonderful writing that makes it hard to put the book down. This is truly a magnificent piece of work.

The Havana Room
The Havana Room
by Colin Harrison
Edition: Hardcover
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars God Noir Fiction, July 13 2004
This review is from: The Havana Room (Hardcover)
The Havana Room by Colin Harrison is a good example of what might be called Fiction Noir. The main character is one Bill Wyeth, formerly a big shot lawyer who has just everything including his family.
Depressed, Wyeth hangs out at a local steakhouse that features a bar-room called the "Havana Room." The strange and mysterious events that center around the Havana Room make for thrilling, suspenseful reading.

Some Hope
Some Hope
by Grove/Atlantic
Edition: Paperback
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Literary Artwork, July 13 2004
This review is from: Some Hope (Paperback)
Some Hope by Edward St. Aubyn is a trilogy of novellas about the cruel and sadistic British aristocrat David Melrose. In some ways, the book is really about son Patrick Melrose who suffers at the hands of both his perverse father and his drug-addicted mother.
The first novella is literally saturated with examples of the evility of David Melrose and the sufferings of his family at his hands. In the second novella, son Patrick trudges through the harrowing New York City scene mingling with all those lowly commoners called Americans. The third novella concerns Patrick's experimenting with various and sundry illegal drugs.
This trilogy of novellas shows how being raised by twisted parents
leads to the children becoming equally twisted adults themselves. This is a most unusual and excellent work of literary art.

Someone to Run with
Someone to Run with
by David Grossman
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from CDN$ 2.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Young Adult Novel Set in Israel, July 12 2004
This review is from: Someone to Run with (Hardcover)
David Grossman is a major contemporary Jewish novelist whose writings have focused on Israel. His latest novel, Someone To Run With is a Young Adult novel about growing up under the strain of the constant threat of terrorism that Israelis have to face every day.
It is a novel with both fear and romance in its heart. One of the characters is a lady who has not gone outside for 50 years because of the terror threat. Despite the ever present threat of terrorism, this is at heart an optimistic novel in which the author clearly expresses his belief that things will get better soon.
Someone To Run With is both a great read and is recommended reading for these troubled times.

Simple Justice
Simple Justice
by Richard Kluger
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Classic About Civil Rights History, July 11 2004
This review is from: Simple Justice (Paperback)
The 1954 Supreme Court Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education decision was, according to Richard Kluger in Simple Justice, one of the high court's single most important rulings. This decision invalidated the ruling in the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson case that held that segregated facilities were acceptable as long they were "separate but equal." The court also overruled a lower court ruling that the Topeka schools were substantially equal and hence constitutional.
In reaching its decision the court found that it was inconclusive if the original framers of the 14th Amendment intended to outlaw segregation in educational facilities. Actually, it is clear from the historical record that the authors of the 14th Amendment did not intend banning such segregation. The court also took the attitude that social circumstances had changed regarding the role of public education since 1896 so much that the court simply could not be held by the Plessy ruling any more. The court also took the position that segregation was inherently harmful to minority groups.
Another related case to Brown was the Bolling case regarding school segregation in the District of Columbia. In this case, the court held that the 5th Amendment applied to racial segregation. In the Brown and Bolling decisions, the court held that referees should be appointed by the lower courts to supervise the end of segregation.

The court decisions in the Brown and Bolling cases were written in very brief texts. They failed to convincingly explain to a skeptical public just why it was that segregation was unconstitutional. They also did not quote the lone dissenter in the Plessy decision, John Marshall Harlan, on just why segregation was inherently unconstitutional.

The content of the actual court rulings reveal that the justices failed to properly understand the evility of segregation. This showed a basic ignorance of the justices of the effects of racism upon minorities. The record also shows that Chief Justice Earl Warren prized public relations over doing his duty. Additionally, in an effort for an unanimous decision, the actual ruling in Brown was severely watered down. By doing so, the court inadvertently signaled the segregationists that it really was not serious about enforcing equality in the land. The end result was that a decade later, there was little real progress made towards racial integration in the Deep South.
As the above shows, Kluger's volume about Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education contains plenty of sharp opinions about the Brown case and its true role in the history of American race relations.
Kluger's book is also an invaluable source of information about the folks who actually filed the historic lawsuits in the first place.
Kluger's book also contains masterful character sketches of the leading figures behind the historic Supreme Court decisions. One of these heroes was the flawed Earl Warren who had earlier supported the mass detainment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The principal hero in Kluger's mind, is Thurgood Marshall. Marshall was a tireless crusader for civil rights. Marshall had been the head of the NAACP's legal division since 1938. Initially, Marshall refrained from contronting the Plessy decision head on because he realized that doing so would be counter productive. That being the case, Marshall endeavored to win victories for minorities within the separate but equal guidelines. This strategy resulted in a string of victories that encouraged Marshall to challenge the Plessy ruling.
Unlike most other authors of books about the history of civil rights, Kluger does not laud Marshall for being a latter day saint. Kluger's portrait of Marshall is both fair and balanced and takes note of Marshall's flaws.
Simple Justice is a classic work about civil rights history and as such should be required reading in American History classes.

Mr Nastase
Mr Nastase
by Ilie Nastase
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Memoir by a Tennis Legend, July 10 2004
This review is from: Mr Nastase (Hardcover)
Mr. Nastase is the long-awaited autobiography of Romanian tennis legend Ilie Nastase. Nastase was noted for his frequent temper tantrums and other forms of misbehavior which stands in sharp contrast to the polite tennis stars of today. He was also noted for playing tennis all over the world in all sorts of unlikely places simply for the thrill of it. By 1973, he was the highest ranking tennis player in the world.
Also in 1973, he obeyed the order of Romania's Communist dictator to play Wimbledon despite the fact that there was an international group of players that was boycotting the tournament. He also built a reputation as a ladies man who had affairs with numerous beauties.
Nastase defected to the West after 1973 so that he could enjoy both freedom and the ability to both go pro and keep the money he earned instead of turning it over to the Communist dictatorship in his Romanian homeland. Following his retirement from tennis in 1984, Nastase did a number of interesting things ranging from writing a pair of novels in French to running for mayor of Bucharest in 1996.
As his motto goes, "My ambition is to do a good job. I never plan anything." Mr. Nastase is a good job of a tennis memoir and is recommended to everyone who's interested in tennis and in the 1970's sporting scene.

When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School
When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School
by Sam Kashner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.95
32 used & new from CDN$ 4.70

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Memoir About an Alternative Academy, July 10 2004
When I Was Cool by Sam Kashner is one of the best books ever written about the so-called Beat poets, or as they were more commonly called, the beatniks. This is in large part due to the fact that he was in an ideal place to witness several of the leading writers in this movement do their thing for a prolonged period of time.
Kashner was the first ever, and for a time the one and only, student at the Jack Kerouac School for aspiring writers at Boulder, Colorado. This was an attempt at an alternative school that went unaccredited throughout its existence.
The Jack Kerouac School was both founded and lead by Allen Ginsberg. Among its alumni were such luminaries as William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Ann Waldman as well as Ginsberg himself.
Kashner kept copious notes and a diary in which he recorded the various goings on at the school. That being the case, When I Was Cool offers readers a portrait of a time and place and people that has since gone by the wayside. It is well worth the reading time of anyone with an interest in the 1970's scene.

American Way: Family & Community In Shaping Of American Identity
American Way: Family & Community In Shaping Of American Identity
by Allan Carlson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.56
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Historical Work, July 10 2004
According to Allan Carlson, America is at a crossroads. Historically, its culture has been based on that of Europe. However, there are waves of new immigrants from Latin America who refuse to assimilate and who stubbornly hold on to their non-Eropean culture.
Carlson also holds that America has been down the wrong path ever since the New Deal when there was a massive increase in the size and role of the Federal Government.
According to Carlson, family and community have been the cornerstones of American culture ever since colonial times. This culture included the idea that men were dominant and Protestantism was the dominant religion.
Also acording to Carlson, prior to the New Deal, social welfare was handled by private agencies, many of which were created by German-Americans before 1900. There was also a moral consensus that aided the growth of the American nation. That consensus has since collapsed.
The role of family in American culture has been undermined by government policies such as outlawing workplace discrimination against women.
Carlson's book is a bit gloomy, but it is still an excellent review of the better aspects of traditional American culture.

Reckless Disregard: How Liberal Democrats Undercut Our Military, Endanger Our Soldiers, and Jeopardize Our Security
Reckless Disregard: How Liberal Democrats Undercut Our Military, Endanger Our Soldiers, and Jeopardize Our Security
by Robert Patterson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.95
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book by a Military Veteran & Patriot, July 10 2004
Reckless Disregard by Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson is an excellent book about how a certain political faction is utterly unfit to handle U.S. military and foreign policy.
According to Patterson, anti Vietnam War leftists took over the Democrat Party in the early 1970's and have retained power over it ever since. John Kerry is a "Trojan Horse" of the far left in that he is a military veteran who subscribes to its hatred of America philosophy.
According to Patterson, Kerry is a hypocrite for attacking Bush's National Guard service since Kerry originally attempted to have his student deferment extended by transferring to a French university. Upon arrival in Vietnam, Kerry did all he could to accumulate as many medals as he could so he could later use them for political advantage. Kerry even made his own home movie in which he had his crew re-enact his shooting of an enemy soldier so that he could impress the folks back home with his bravery.
According to Patterson, Kerry astounded his fellow officers and soldiers with his reckless demands for multiple Purple Hearts for even the most minor wounds. Some of his crew even suspected Kerry of self-inflicting some of those wounds. Also, just after leaving the U.S. Navy, Kerry met with a North Vietnamese official in Paris in what Patterson believes mavy have been a treasonous act. Additionally, Kerry's subsequent anti-war speeches were used as propaganda by the Communist enemy who used them in their torture of captured Americans.
Reckless Disregard is a powerful book about both a dangerous man and a political party that is literally out of control. It is must reading for all patriotic Americans.

Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film
Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film
by Peter Biskind
Edition: Hardcover
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excelent Look at The World of Independent Films, July 9 2004
Down and Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind is an excellent look at the world of independent films. To an outsider, this might not seem like a terribly interesting or important subject. However, Biskind makes it clear that independent films is where most of the creativity in filmmaking is nowadays and also this is the most consistently profitable area of movies today.
There have been numerous ultra low budget indie flicks that were bought by Harvey Weinstein's Miramax and turned into monster hits. These include Reservoir Dogs, sex lies and videotape as well as The Crying Game. Weinstein is the true kind of both Holloywood and of the independent film sector.
Biskind paints both Weinstein and his chief competitor, Robert Redford as being profit-crazed would-be moguls whose activities threaten to turn the world of independent films into just another facet of the mundane Hollywood culture.
Down and Dirty Pictures is an excellent book about an under-publicized area of the film industry by a longtime entertainment reporter. It is recommended reading to everyone who is interested in the world of movies.

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