Malcolm Jones

Stories by Malcolm Jones

  • APPRECIATION: SHELBY FOOTE, VOICE OF THE SOUTH

    If Foote, who died last week at 88, had never written "Shiloh," his terse, unsentimental novel about the 1862 Civil War battle, he might not have gone on to become the best-known narrative historian of the Civil War. He certainly would not have become an unlikely celebrity as a result of his involvement in Ken Burns's 1990 PBS documentary about the war. But when "Shiloh," the fifth of Foote's seven novels, was published in 1952, it caught the eye of Random House publisher Bennett Cerf, who asked Foote to write a one-volume history of the Civil War. Foote replied that he couldn't do it in one book; it would take three. And at that point, Foote began a project that would consume 20 years, produce 1.5 million words and secure his reputation as one of the finest nonfiction writers of the 20th century.Foote acted and spoke like a Southerner from Central Casting--the beard, the drawl and the habit of writing with a dip pen all made him look and sound like someone who'd been in the Civil...
  • Big Brother Is Watching

    George Orwell spent five years as one of the British Empire's policemen in Burma in the '20s. The experience provided him with the raw material for his novel "Burmese Days" as well as several of his best essays. It also soured him forever on imperialism. In 2002 Emma Larkin, an American journalist, spent the better part of a year traveling Myanmar--as the ruling military junta has renamed Burma--using Orwell's writing as a guidebook and revisiting locations where he had lived. The more she saw, she says in her sobering journalistic memoir "Finding George Orwell in Burma" ( 294 pages. The Penguin Press. ), the more convinced she became that Orwell had written not one but three novels about the country. "Burmese Days" is a withering description of the British occupation, which he observed firsthand. But his two novels about totalitarianism, "Animal Farm" and "1984," were, to Larkin, hideously predictive of modern-day Burma. When she tested her thesis on the locals, they were quick to...
  • FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES

    You can't read James Frey's memoir "My Friend Leonard" without thinking, this guy Leonard is unbelievable. He's a Las Vegas mobster, a high-level bookie, a bon vivant who can charm young hipsters and stodgy parents, a loving friend who's always there when you need a savvy sounding board, and an expert on just about any kind of visual art you care to mention. And he always picks up the check. But if you plan on confronting Frey with the idea that the main character in the follow-up to his best-selling debut, "A Million Little Pieces," sounds more like fiction than fact, know this: Frey's ready for you. "People always said, 'This guy's too good to be true,' when they met Leonard. And he was," Frey says in an interview in a coffee shop near his apartment in lower Manhattan. "But that's the thing about the people you meet in rehab. Normal, sane, healthy people don't wind up there. Knowing him was completely ridiculous and surreal."A crack addict and an alcoholic by the time he was a...
  • A HIGH-STAKES DEBUT

    Elizabeth Kostova is so squeamish that she has never read a Stephen King novel. It's not that she's afraid of scary stories; she just doesn't like gore. So when she began her novel about Dracula, "The Historian," she promised herself that "I would only spill a cup of blood in the whole book." She pauses to do a little silent calculating and then smiles. "I don't think I exceeded my limit by much." But if Kostova's debut novel is short on gore, it is far from bloodless. The corpses start mounting up early, and the chill factor is severe from start to finish. You don't have to read far to see why Little, Brown paid $2 million for the manuscript, or why the rights have been sold in 28 languages, or why Sony Pictures bought film rights for $1.5 million. Kostova knows how to get the most out of her cup of blood."The Historian" is a long book (642 pages), with no fewer than four stories going on at once. It starts in the '70s, when a 16-year-old girl discovers a strange book in her father...
  • THE VIEW MASTER

    The world according to Lee Friedlander is an unmistakable place. The combination of intention, point of view and subject matter is so distinctive that you could pick one of his photographs out of a lineup every time, though the variety of his work still manages to stun. The Museum of Modern Art, where a retrospective exhibit of Friedlander's work opens on June 5, needed almost 500 images to adequately display his accomplishments. Over half a century, he has photographed nudes, landscapes, himself, street scenes, jazz musicians, factory and office workers, patriotic monuments, plant stems, cacti and graffiti. And that list gives only an inkling of his scope. The MoMA show makes it easy to believe that Friedlander, 70, has shot contemporary life, right down to the vacant lot on the corner, from every angle, in every weather. Anything is a candidate for his camera.Consider the photograph above, made in Las Vegas in 2002. It's part of a series where a car interior is used to frame a...
  • DYSFUNCTION JUNCTION

    If Dede Wilsey's outrage overshadows her stepson Sean's accomplishments as a memoirist, he has himself to blame. "Oh the Glory of It All" is his account of growing up as the rich, spoiled product of a famously broken home. His socialite parents' divorce didn't just get written up in the local San Francisco papers. It got ink in People and the National Enquirer. Wilsey complains about that, just as he whines about nearly every other facet of his childhood. But he saves most of his bile for Dede, the woman who Sean claims stole his father from his mother and then took all the money when Daddy died: "Inside her, I imagine wheels and racks and cogs covered in pink-and-green chintz, with lipstick-stained lapdogs making it all turn. If you want a sense of her values, rent the movies 'Gaslight' and 'Sweet Smell of Success.' The scheming lead in 'Gaslight,' who sweet talks a wealthy heiress into marrying him and then drives her mad with drugs and double-talk, is her."Not surprisingly, news...
  • DINE NOW, SIGN LATER

    Sitting in the Denver Airport one morning in January, waiting for a plane to take him to Los Angeles, Jim Fergus could have passed for a traveling salesman, right down to the carry-on and the frazzled look of a man who was out late entertaining clients. And that's exactly what he had been doing. But Fergus is not a salesman, at least not usually. Most days he's a novelist. And his "clients" were booksellers who met him for dinner at the Tattered Cover bookstore's restaurant, the Fourth Story. His merchandise was his latest novel, "The Wild Girl"--and himself.Fergus had just finished the first leg of what publishers call a presell tour, the latest weapon in the never-ending campaign to persuade readers to buy something besides John Grisham and Dan Brown. The idea is to send writers out months before their books appear. They dine with booksellers and try to persuade them to help the book when it comes out. It's usually not an easy gig, says Robert Miller, president of Hyperion, Fergus...
  • BOOKS: CONJURING UP DARK CLOUDS

    Robert Oppenheimer had a changeling's face. Seen straight on, he was beguilingly handsome. Seen from the side, he was almost goofy looking. He was slue-footed and a klutz around machines. The contradictions were not superficial: a brilliant physicist who dazzled colleagues with his intellectual improvisations, he often alienated the very people he needed to impress. And while he was notoriously absent-minded, he revealed a genius for administration when he oversaw the development of the atomic bomb in little more than two years. A great American success story, he was also a tragic figure, doomed by many of the qualities that propelled him to fame.The eldest son in a wealthy Jewish family in New York City, Oppenheimer grew up coddled--his mother wouldn't let him play with other children--and pampered: he didn't go to the barber, the barber went to him. When World War II broke out, this intellectual prodigy was teaching physics at Berkeley and Caltech--and writing checks to left-wing...
  • Chasing Kubrick

    One of my personal markers of the importance a movie has for me is whether I can remember where I saw it. According to this system, about half of Stanley Kubrick's movies rank right up at the top. I saw "Paths of Glory" as a teenager hooked on staying up late and watching old movies on television. I saw "A Clockwork Orange" as a college student visiting London. I saw "Barry Lyndon" on a long afternoon in a theater in North Carolina with about three other people, "Spartacus" in a tiny revival house that doubled as a Catholic church on Sundays in an upstate New York resort area. What's noteworthy here is that I don't like or even admire all these movies. In the case of "A Clockwork Orange," I dislike it intensely. But that's the thing with Kubrick: you can't just not care. He never gave you that option. Good or bad, what he put up on the screen is indelible.If you toss "The Stanley Kubrick Archives," published this month by Taschen, onto the scales weighing directorial greatness,...
  • PUTTING IT ALL ON THE TABLE

    Eating lunch with Ruth Reichl at a New York City sushi restaurant, you can see right off why she's so good at what she does. When the former food critic for The New York Times and current editor of Gourmet magazine confronts a bowl of soup, she takes her time inhaling the aroma and contemplating the arrangement of ground shrimp and mushroom with eel on top. When she finally digs in she practically jumps up and down. "I love this," she exclaims. "This is so good." Sure, she can write; sure, sure she knows about food. But what finally distinguishes her response is the passion she brings to the table.And now that she's no longer a restaurant reviewer, she can leave her wigs at home. At the Times, as she recalls in her beguiling new memoir "Garlic and Sapphires," if she made a reservation in her own name, the steaks got thicker, the raspberries bigger and the service downright obsequious. To find out how an ordinary diner fared, she had to impersonate one. Tucking her extravagant hair...
  • BOOK: HOW YOU FOLLOW A HIT

    Sue Monk Kidd has a little trouble with success. Specifically, she still can't quite believe that her first novel, "The Secret Life of Bees," has sold 3-1/2 million copies since it appeared in 2002. "For a long time, I couldn't truly believe it had happened," she said in a recent interview at her home outside Charleston, S.C. Then, about a year ago, she was sitting in a Boston hotel room watching "Jeopardy!" when a contestant chose "Women Writers" for $600. "What popped on the screen was something like 'Sue Monk Kidd's debut novel is about the secret life of these insects.' I remember just sitting there staring at the screen. And that was really almost the first time I got it. And I said to myself, I guess the thing has made a bit of a splash. All right, I'll handle it."Kidd may not be able to explain why "The Secret Life of Bees" became a favorite of book clubs across the country or why it was picked by dozens of municipalities as their "city-read." But she's sure about one thing:...
  • HEAVENLY METAL

    When William Joyce met Chris Wedge in 1996, they hit it off right away. They had been introduced by an executive at Twentieth Century Fox who thought the studio's Blue Sky computer-animation division might be the shop to turn Joyce's children's book "Santa Calls" into a movie. As it turned out, "Santa" never got off the ground, but even in that first conversation, Joyce and Wedge, one of Blue Sky's founders and its creative director, knew they would work together someday on something. The one sentence they both remember from that long-ago conversation is, "Let's make a movie about robots." For the last four years--years of "white-knuckled labor," in Joyce's words--that movie about robots has been their joint obsession. In the credits, Wedge is called the director and Joyce the production designer, but both men say the titles are almost meaningless. "Computer-animation studios work the way silent-film-comedy studios worked," Joyce says. "Everybody throws in their two bits." Over the...
  • REBIRTH OF THE BLUES

    For most of his career, the jazz piano player Jason Moran, who is only 30, has been hailed as one of jazz's most thoughtful performers. The sheer clarity of his playing dispels, if only for a few minutes, the buzzing confusion of ordinary reality. But don't let this praise or the comparisons to Thelonious Monk and Jaki Byard--all true, by the way--blind you to the fact that Moran's music is sublime fun. When he and his partners in the Bandwagon, drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen, gnaw "Body and Soul" to the bone or rumble through the Afrika Bambaataa rap classic "Planet Rock," you want the songs to go on forever. This is brainy music aimed at the heart. "That's what we want," says Moran in his apartment in New York. "We want the music to get to you on an emotional front. Half of music is the listening."Versatility is the Bandwagon's watchword. The band has taken a crack at everything from Ellington to Brahms. Now, with the audacious album "Same Mother," they've planted...
  • Still Truckin'

    The most astonishing fact in "Crumb," Terry Zwigoff's 1994 documentary about the underground comic book artist Robert Crumb, was that Crumb was the closest thing to normal in his own family. And that's saying something, because by his own admission, Crumb is one odd character. For the past four decades, since his first successes in the countercultural underground "comix" of the 1960s, Crumb has made strange and hilarious art out of his own neuroses. Insecure and paranoid, obsessed with sex in general and women with big behinds in particular, mad for music recorded before World War II, Crumb has never been afraid to draw and write about his own foibles and fantasies. What's noteworthy about his efforts is that he manages to draw his viewers in, he makes us keep turning pages. He shocks us, but he makes us laugh. He repels us, but he makes us realize that we're just as much a part of this sleazy, baggy-pants world he's drawing as he is. And if he reads this, he'll probably throw up....
  • THE NOT-SO-GOOD WAR

    War is hell. But you knew that. The surprising thing is how many different ways there are to say so. Nick Arvin and Donn Pearce are both able novelists, and both cover the same ground--Europe in the closing days of World War II--but their visions could not be more different. In Arvin's "Articles of War," George Tilson (nicknamed Heck because he never swears) is an 18-year-old from Iowa who goes through combat worrying about cowardice. In Pearce's "Nobody Comes Back," 16-year-old Toby Parker spends so much time getting shot at, being captured, escaping and trying not to freeze to death that he hardly has time to complete a sentence, much less a thought. As he figures it, from the rank of sergeant and up, war is "a chess game"; below, it's "wrestling with bears."In "Articles," Arvin's first novel, Heck slogs through an ethical no man's land. He's too scared to do much but has just enough gumption not to run; like most of us, he's neither a hero nor a heel. Arvin is at his best...
  • PASSING FOR MUSLIM

    The story of a Jew masquerading as a Muslim sounds like a bad joke. But the story of Lev Nussimbaum, who became Essad Bey and then Kurban Said, is hauntingly true. Born in 1905 in Azerbaijan, the son of a Jewish oil tycoon, Nussimbaum spent most of his life on the run. He was chased by the Soviets, then the Nazis and finally the Italian Fascists. Along the way, the subject of "The Orientalist," Tom Reiss's absorbing portrait of this man and his times, turned himself into a prolific and highly regarded author, with 17 books to his credit, including early biographies of Stalin and Lenin and Azerbaijan's one literary classic, "Ali and Nino." But it was when the teenage Lev passed through Constantinople that his life changed completely: he became enchanted with the Muslim world. What he fell for was more ideal than reality--an egalitarian fantasy world of Christians, Muslims and Jews. But he wasn't just playing dress-up. Steeping himself in the history and culture of Islam, he did...
  • Strange Trip

    Reading Haruki Murakami's latest novel, "Kafka on the Shore," is a little like listening to a kid make up a story at a campfire. The kind in which one thing leads to another with no apparent logic, where the monsters come over the side of the ship and fight the pirates but don't get to kidnap the princess because she's already escaped in the spaceship, and on and on. Murakami's novel begins with a 15-year-old boy running away from home in Tokyo. Then we meet an old man who can talk to cats but has trouble communicating with humans. Before long we run into Johnnie Walker, the gent from the Scotch ads, who's decapitating cats and stealing their souls. Leeches and fish rain from the sky. Later Colonel Sanders puts in an appearance as a pimp and a sort of spiritual middleman. None of this will faze Murakami's fans, who are used to his odd tales of goofy quests featuring mysterious sheep or characters who spend most of the story at the bottom of a deep hole. A Murakami novel takes some...
  • THE CALL OF THE WILD

    Reading Haruki Murakami's latest novel, "Kafka on the Shore," is a little like listening to a kid make up a story at a campfire. It begins with a 15-year-old boy, running away from home in Tokyo. Then we meet an old man who can talk to cats but has trouble communicating with humans. Before long we run into Johnnie Walker, the gent from the Scotch ads, who's decapitating cats and stealing their souls. Leeches and fish rain from the sky. Later Colonel Sanders puts in an appearance as a pimp and a sort of spiritual middleman. None of this will faze Murakami's fans, who are used to his offbeat novels, such as "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," where a man spends a good part of the story at the bottom of a hole. Other readers may find that this novelist takes getting used to. "Kafka" is definitely worth the trouble: it may be the Japanese author's weirdest novel yet, but it's also one of his best.Murakami borrows from everyone and everything--Sophocles, horror movies, Japanese comics and...
  • TRANSITION

    SHIRLEY CHISHOLM, 80 Although she served New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Chisholm did not want to be remembered as the nation's first black congresswoman or as the first African-American to run for president. "Shirley Chisholm had guts" was her idea of an epitaph. Anyone who saw her in action--whether opposing the Vietnam War or enlisting George Wallace's help to win minimum-wage coverage for domestic workers--would have agreed.WILL EISNER, 87 Whether he was creating a groundbreaking comic strip in the '40s (the funny and noirish "Spirit") or singlehandedly inventing the graphic novel in the '70s ("A Contract With God"), Eisner took a medium associated with kids--the funnies--and taught it to grow up. As he put it, his real audience was "a 55-year-old who had his wallet stolen on the subway. You can't talk about heartbreak to a kid."FRANK KELLY FREAS, 82 He painted cheesecake babes on airplane fuselages in World War II. He...
  • WHAT LIES BENEATH

    Do not judge this book by its dull, arty cover. Do not be put off by the oh-so-literary title (what were they thinking--the author, his editor, his publisher?). Go directly to the first page of Elliot Perlman's debut novel, "Seven Types of Ambiguity," and start reading. Within a chapter or so, you're bound to relax, happy in the knowledge that while this novel has been packaged as an ambitious literary event, it is, far more importantly, a page turner, a psychological thriller that is, in short, dangerous, beguiling fun.The central event in Perlman's novel--already an acclaimed best seller in his native Australia--is the kidnapping of a 6-year-old boy. Simon and Anna were college sweethearts. Ten years later, Anna is married to Joe, a stock-broker, and the mother of Sam, the 6-year-old. Simon is now an ex-schoolteacher with a drinking problem. And still nursing a passion for Anna. Then, abruptly, in an act that is, he admits, "crazy every way you could think to look at it, except...
  • WRESTLING WITH ANGELS

    Preachers get cheated in American fiction. Hawthorne wrote about them, and so did Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis and J. F. Powers. But as anyone who grows up in a clergyman's home can attest, most laymen, writers included, shy away from men and women of the cloth. A minister or a priest or a rabbi may be important in a community's life and still live in a kind of exile. With that as her premise, Marilynne Robinson fashions a novel so strangely beguiling that it fully justifies the long wait since "Housekeeping," her unforgettable 1981 debut."Gilead" is an epistolary autobiography written by the Rev. John Ames to his son in 1956; the father, dying of heart disease, is 77 and the boy is 6. A Congregationalist minister in fictional Gilead, Iowa, Ames is a bachelor until late in life and a loner even then. His grandfather was a gun-toting abolitionist who ran with John Brown. His father was a pacifist. Ames himself is, well, somewhat more equivocal than either. How to act, when to intercede,...
  • DE-LOVELY DE KOONING

    It is easy to think of Willem de Kooning as the poster boy of modern art. So much of his life--the bohemian existence in Greenwich Village, the poverty, the womanizing, the alcoholism--fits the cliche of the turbulent artist struggling to reinvent himself and his art. Then there's the art itself: big, eruptive paintings filled with odd, often frightening images of women or landscapes or outright abstractions slashed with color that seems almost coughed onto the canvas. But as his adroit biographers Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan take pains to show in "De Kooning: An American Master," this notion is a superficial take on a highly sophisticated artist for whom contradiction and ambiguity were twin grails that he sought to incorporate into every square inch of his art. The Dutch-born de Kooning put it best, in his trademark fractured English: "When I'm falling, I'm doing all right... It's when I'm standing upright that bothers me: I'm not doing so good; I'm stiff. As a matter of fact, I...
  • TAKE THE CANNOLIS

    "The Godfather" is like "The Wizard of Oz"--one of those stories that have become so embedded in the culture that their dialogue and characters can be strewn through our conversations without explanation. We all know a Fredo, a Sonny, a Michael. When it comes to "The Godfather," we're all the experts.The question is, experts in what? The Mario Puzo novel, the two movies he co-authored with director Francis Ford Coppola? (Forget the third movie, if you can.) When Random House hired novelist Mark Winegardner to write a sequel to the Puzo epic--the author gave his blessing to the project before he died--it seemed possible that the variances in the legend could be ironed out. Instead, "The Godfather Returns" trips over practically every discrepancy it encounters. In the first novel, young Vito's mother sends him to America. In "Godfather II," she's murdered on screen before he leaves Sicily. Winegardner splits the difference. He has her murdered, too, but by different means (a shotgun...
  • VOICE OF AMERICA

    Born in 1909, Johnny Mercer was nearly a generation younger than the giants of the golden era of 20th-century popular song. He hit his stride just when Broadway was beginning its slow decline and TV was eclipsing radio. To be sure, he was successful nearly all his life--as a songwriter, a singer and a businessman (he cofounded Capitol Records). Still, it ate at him that he never had a Broadway hit and that a lot of his best work ("One for My Baby," "Blues in the Night") was written for lousy movies. Maybe this helps explain why an otherwise lovable man was such a mean drunk, or why his songs are so drenched in melancholy. Whatever the reasons, he never seemed at home in the world."Portrait of Johnny," a biographical memoir by his friend Gene Lees, never stints on the backstage details--Mercer's bad marriage, his affair with Judy Garland--but as a songwriter himself, Lees knows why we should really remember his friend. At the end of his story, he recounts a conversation with a friend...
  • AUDUBON: ALLURING TO US--STILL

    Americans have been rediscovering John James Audubon with generational regularity since his death in 1851. The first biography, by his widow, was published in 1869, and this year there are three excellent new biographies: William Souder's "Under a Wild Sky," Duff Hart-Davis's "Audubon's Elephant" and, most recently, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Rhodes's "John James Audubon: The Making of an American." One of those very American figures, like Johnny Appleseed or Daniel Boone, who slip and slide between fact and fable, Audubon was a genuinely great artist, a serious naturalist and, on top of everything else, charming, clever and "movie-star handsome," as Rhodes described him in a brief interview last week. Audubon's talents ranged from dancing skills learned in Europe to very credible Indian war whoops. "He was someone you'd invite to every party you ever gave."What most fascinated Rhodes--and what he thinks has fascinated students of Audubon for well more than a century--was the...
  • WYNTON MARSALIS AND THE TEMPLE OF JAZZ

    Wynton Marsalis is scheduled to do an interview about Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center's $128 million new permanent home and performance space. But the interview can't get started because Marsalis, who has been JLC's artistic director since its founding in 1991, can't stop staring at the temporary stage in the Allen Room, one of Rose Hall's three sumptuous theaters. The stage that's bugging Marsalis is a modular thing on little aluminum legs. You can add or subtract pieces from it, and it's obvious that Marsalis would like to subtract. Ask anyone involved with JLC: Marsalis doesn't like stages, doesn't like being above the audience, likes to perform in the round, and on and on. There is almost nothing about this place that he hasn't put his stamp on, right down to the freight elevator, which is decorated with a scrap of the score from one of his compositions, "All Rise." He seems flustered for a second when he can't tell what kind of wood is used in the Allen Room's...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT: BOOKS

    A Bit on the Side, By William TrevorA man breaks off a longtime affair because he can't abide being the object of speculation. Over a long night, a lout's widow slowly and softly reveals how he has destroyed her happiness. In each of Trevor's new stories, nuance is everything. Whole lives are revealed in a few snatches of dialogue. Every story here is a model example of just how much a great writer can reveal in a short space. And if the outcomes of these meticulously observed tales are rarely happy, the sadness is always counterweighted by the author's genuine compassion toward his subjects.The Double, By Jose SaramagoSaramago won the Nobel before most Americans knew who he was, but damned if the Swedes weren't right: his novel "Blindness," for one, is a beautiful, ferocious book that your heart never quite recovers from. "The Double" concerns a timorous history professor who becomes obsessed with meeting a film actor who looks unnervingly like his twin. The novel starts slowly--it...
  • Delectable Detective

    Alexander McCall Smith gets away with a lot. He not only writes novels from a female perspective--he writes best- selling novels from a female perspective. His "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" mysteries--six novels set in Botswana featuring an overweight middle-aged sleuth named Precious Ramotswe--have sold more than 5 million copies here and in Britain. Smith gets away with a lot in his mysteries, too, which frankly aren't all that mysterious because, like most good crime writers, Smith uses murder only as a pretext to explore character. In Mme. Ramotswe, he minted one of the most memorable heroines in any modern fiction. Now, with the creation of Isabel Dalhousie, the amateur sleuth who debuts in "The Sunday Philosophy Club," he's done it again.Like Precious Ramotswe, Isabel is a remarkable woman--the smart, tart editor of an Edinburgh philosophical journal, the Review of Applied Ethics, she's a single woman of independent means with a penchant for meddling. On the first page of...
  • FAME AND MISFORTUNE

    AS HIS 11TH VOLUME ARRIVES, KIDS' AUTHOR LEMONY SNICKET TAKES ON NEWSWEEK'S MALCOLM JONES AND MAKES LEMONADE
  • NOVEL LAND

    Turkey is a novelist's dream, or perhaps a land dreamed by a novelist. A border country between Europe and the Middle East, it has for centuries been so many things to so many people--Christians, Muslims, Armenians, Greeks and, of course, Turks--that it has become a place where fantasies and realities collide like tectonic plates. Everybody has a story, and, as two new novels set in Turkey demonstrate, every story is startlingly unique.In "Birds Without Wings," Louis de Bernieres tackles a piece of Turkish history with the same vigor that he used to sketch World War II Greece in "Corelli's Mandolin." But this is a darker book, with no central love affair to soften its tragedy. Near the beginning, de Bernieres introduces Philothei, his fictional village's most beautiful woman. Like Eskibahce, the village she inhabits, Philothei is notable for nothing but her beauty; both are doomed. By the end of "Birds Without Wings," Eskibahce has been decimated by World War I and its aftermath....