Malcolm Jones

Stories by Malcolm Jones

  • Spin Doctor

    Genius. By James Gleick. 532 pages. Pantheon. $27.50. Consider the problem: You're reading James Gleick's biography of Richard Feynman (1918-1988), a great scientist who helped chart the course of modern theoretical physics, was one of the builders of the atomic bomb during World War II and four decades later proved the most clearsighted member of the team investigating the Challenger space-shuttle explosion. He was a gifted teacher, a great talker and legendary for his many extracurricular activities, which ranged from compulsive womanizing to bongo playing to safecracking (a tension-relieving diversion at Los Alamos). Moreover, the story is being told by the author of "Chaos," a man famous for his ability to broker the intricacies of science to the general public. So, all the elements that should constitute a fascinating equation are present. And yet, some crucial element is missing. ...
  • Anatomy Of A Fire

    Norman Maclean got many good reviews for "A River Runs Through It," but none pleased him more than the letters he got from fishermen. "There's no bastards in the world who like to argue more than fishermen," he once said, "and not one of them corrected me on anything. That is my idea of a good review." ...
  • Please, Mr. Postman

    Nick Bantock got the inspiration for the best-selling Griffin & Sabine (Chronicle. $16.95) four years ago, after a bout of postal envy. One day, after withdrawing his mail from his post-office box, the Vancouver artist was grumbling over the usual assortment of bills and circulars when a man nearby extracted from his box a "really nice looking letter from overseas." Walking home, Bantock found himself craving exotic mail. "Then it occurred to me, if you want a letter, write it yourself." ...
  • Just Too Good To Be True

    Michael Her Many Horses remembers the first time he doubted Chief Seattle's famous speech about caring for the planet. It was a TV program about the Northwest rain forest. The narrator quoted the 19th-century Suquamish Indian's plea for living in harmony with nature. "My reaction was that here's a guy that understood what the environment could provide for his people," recalls Her Many Horses, executive director of the Oglala Sioux tribe on the Pine Ridge (S.D.) Reservation. But somehow the chief's words didn't ring true. "It made me feel good, but it seemed too perfect." ...
  • Who Has What It Takes To Be A Hero?

    Michael Lesy grew up Jewish in a Protestant prep school where compulsory chapel tortured the freshly bar mitzvahed adolescent with questions of his own blasphemy. Even hymns posed problems. Was lip syncing enough to keep him out of hell? Guilt ridden, he came alive to the lyrics of "Once to Every Man and Nation." Here was his challenge: would he ever, at the crucial moment, choose the right? Did he have what it took to be a hero? Lesy is now in his 40s, but those chapel-forged questions linger on, as he admits in "Rescues: The Lives of Heroes" (Farrar Straus Giroux. $18.95), a meditation on heroism's guises and a search for its sources. ...
  • Down And Out In The City Of Angels

    The notion of a fictional black detective in '40s Los Angeles sounds gimmicky, but on the first page of his first novel Walter Mosley proves he has the talent to make this idea work. Audaciously, he steals the opening of Raymond Chandler's "Farewell My Lovely"--where white detective Philip Marlowe visits a black bar--rewrites it from the point of view of a black customer, and turns a familiar world inside out.Mosley has a lot of fun upending our preconceptions. His hero, Ezekial (Easy) Rawlins, doesn't set out to be a detective. He's just a laid-off aircraft factory worker looking to make his mortgage payment by hunting for a missing white woman known to frequent black nightclubs. But by the end of the story, he's been beaten by cops, shot at by gangsters and lied to by everyone from a mayoral candidate to the eponymous Daphne Monet--and he loves the work enough to make a career of it."Nobody knew what I was up to and that made me sort of invisible," Rawlins explains. "People...

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