Malcolm Jones

Stories by Malcolm Jones

  • 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:...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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....
  • AN EMPIRE OF STORIES

    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, Kurds 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 in their radically varying tales, 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 nothing like its predecessor's central love affair to soften its tragedy. Near the novel's beginning, de Bernieres introduces Philothei, his fictional village's most beautiful woman, about whom one character says she "reminded you of death," because to look upon her was to know that "everything decays away and is...
  • HIGH ART

    Sometimes Art Spiegelman has a little trouble figuring out who he is. Especially when he travels, he says, "it's really an identity crisis. You know that form you fill out when you get on an airplane going abroad? I've used every possible description--journalist, writer, graphic artist, whatever. Then, finally, and rather proudly, cartoonist. For a while, I was sort of embarrassed, because for much of my life, being a cartoonist had about as much status as being a plumber. Now one can say it with actual glee." Sitting in his downtown Manhattan studio, a Camel Light seemingly surgically attached to his right hand, Spiegelman makes an uncharacteristic pause, and then plunges on. "But I don't like being noticed. I like when the work is noticed. But not me. When I wrote down 'cartoonist,' I was stopped by a customs guard and asked, 'You make comics? Spiegelman? You make "Maus"?' All of a sudden I'm talking about my life with a customs guard. After that, I decided to go back to 'small...
  • AN EYE WITHOUT EQUAL

    Few people have led more storied lives than Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died last week at the age of 95. Born rich into a family of French thread merchants, he trained as a painter enamored of the surrealists. After a trip to Africa in 1930, where he wound up nearly dying from blackwater fever, he returned to France and took up photography. Almost immediately, his work set a standard for excellence that has yet to be matched. Art photography, portraiture, photojournalism--there was nothing he could not do with a camera.As a French soldier and Resistance fighter during World War II, he escaped from German prisoner-of-war camps three times. After the war, he was one of the founders of Magnum, the photojournalists' cooperative for which he shot the rise of communist China and the fall of British India. Then, when he was in his 60s, he abandoned photography, shelving his camera in favor of a pencil and sketch pad. Drawing became his passion for the rest of his life.To Cartier-Bresson,...
  • SNAP JUDGEMENT: BOOKS

    Country of Origin by Don LeeIt's 1980, and Lisa Countryman, an exotic young American, goes missing in Tokyo. She had been working as a hostess at an exclusive bar, claiming to be doing research on Japanese women for her dissertation. But Lisa, half Asian and half black, has a secret agenda, which becomes clear only late in the book. Almost all the characters--including a junior U.S. diplomat assigned to her case and a Japanese cop on her trail--have complex issues with race. In this innovative first novel set on the eve of Japan's economic boom, Lee, a Korean-American who grew up in Tokyo and Seoul, tells a poignant story of prejudice, betrayal and the search for identity.The Generation of 'Uchira' and 'Osoro' by Yasuko NakamuraIn Japan, high-school girls have created numerous fads, including Tamagotch, extra-baggy white socks and text messaging. Nobody knows them better than Nakamura, Tokyo's teen-marketing guru, who has worked with 100,000 girls during her 18-year career. This...
  • BOOKS: BEACH PAPERBACKS

    Everybody knows "beach reading" is a contradiction. Too much sand, sun and glare. But if you insist on it, bring along one of these.The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard. Winner of the National Book Award for fiction, it charts three lives as they intertwine in the devastation of post-World War II Japan.The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is built around the troubling fact that occasionally, African-Americans also owned slaves in the antebellum South.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Summary (an autistic boy solves a dog's murder) doesn't do justice to this beguiling novel.I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company by Brian Hall. A fine fictional re-creation of the odd partnership between Lewis and Clark and their female Indian guide, Sacagawea.Positively Fifth Street by James McManus. As always with Las Vegas, fact trumps fiction as --the author goes to cover the World Series of Poker.
  • WAITING FOR THE MOVIE

    You don't usually go to government reports for arresting prose. But consider this sentence: "Indeed, at the current rate of loss, literary reading as a leisure activity will virtually disappear in half a century." Yikes. And that's not the half of it. According to a report on the reading habits of Americans issued last week by the National Endowment for the Arts, less than half of the adult American population now reads for pleasure. Using Census Bureau data, the NEA found that the number of Americans who say they've even opened a single book of fiction, let alone a poem or a play, over the course of a year has declined by 10 percent, from 56.9 percent in 1982 to 46.7 percent today. It gets worse. Young adults between 18 and 34, a category that once claimed the status of most-active readers, is now the lowest, dropping 28 percent since 1982. And by literature, "we're not talking about the number of people who reread Proust," says Dana Gioia, chairman of the NEA. "Literature" means...
  • A 'SMILE' WORTH THE WAIT

    I'm sitting in a huge sound-stage in Burbank, Calif., and I've got a serious case of the willies. First off, I still can't believe what I'm seeing: Brian Wilson, fronting a 10-piece band, poised to launch into a rehearsal of "Smile." This is so surreally unbelievable--like an acid flashback to something that never actually happened. In the heavily chronicled legend of Wilson and the Beach Boys--a story that begins in innocence and ends in drugs, mental illness and acrimony--"Smile" is the enigmatic centerpiece. It is the most famous pop-music album never released. Imagine that "Sgt. Pepper" hadn't come out but remained only a rumor. That's the story of "Smile."Wilson started work on it in 1966, after completing "Pet Sounds." By then he had quit touring with the band and had become a total creature of the recording studio. With his lyricist, Van Dyke Parks, he labored for more than a year on what was to be an epic album-length musical meditation on America. Conceived and created just...
  • THE TWELFTH BOOK OF REVELATION

    Beverly Reynolds got to the Christian Supply Store in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at 5:30 p.m. Along with 900 other fans, she was waiting in line recently to buy a signed copy of "Glorious Appearing." The 12th volume in the "Left Behind" series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, describes the events leading up to the last days, when Christ returns to earth. The authors, kicking off a 12-city U.S. promotional tour, weren't due to start signing until 7 p.m. But while the crowd was patient and polite, everyone was eager to get a book. This, after all, was the installment in which Christ triumphs over Satan and begins his 1,000-year reign over the earth. Reynolds, who had read all the novels, said she had stopped attending church before she read the first one, "Left Behind," which appeared in 1995. "Nobody wants to be left behind," she said. "When the time comes, I want to go to heaven." When they turned the lights out at Christian Supply that night, the store had sold 1,100 copies...
  • CLINTON: SELLING HIMSELF

    Bill Clinton's keynote address to Book Expo America earlier this month in Chicago was a reminder that nobody sells Clinton like Clinton. Promoting his autobiography, "My Life," to the annual convention of the nation's publishers and booksellers, he began by saying, "People tell me books like this are boring and self-serving. I just hope mine is interesting and self-serving." If the book is anything like his speech, no worries. A typical response: Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books in Oxford, Miss., walked out of the speech and immediately upped his advance order from 100 to 200 copies.The campaign goes into high gear when the book appears June 22 in a one-day laydown nationwide. The week kicks off with a "60 Minutes" interview, followed by appearances on "Oprah," the "Today" show, "Larry King" and "Charlie Rose." To accommodate demand beyond the 2.3 million copies ordered by retailers, Knopf has already reserved press time at the printer's and stockpiled paper for subsequent...
  • DIVING INTO A MYSTERY

    When the seeker dropped anchor out in the Atlantic miles off the New Jersey coast in the fall of 1991, the 13 wreck divers on board were simply looking for their idea of a good time. That is, they were preparing to dive 200 feet into uncharted waters and risk their lives exploring an unidentified object on the ocean floor. They didn't know what they would find. So when the first divers surfaced with the news that they had discovered a submarine, the men were ecstatic. When subsequent dives proved the sub to be a Nazi U-boat not recorded on any chart, the men knew that they had stumbled on the wreck diver's grail--a piece of history that was theirs for the taking. What none of them knew then was that they had embarked on a journey that would last most of a decade, turn what had been a weekend hobby into an obsession, ruin two marriages and cost three men their lives."Shadow Divers," first-time author Robert Kurson's pulse-quickening account of the attempt to explore and identify the...
  • Bumpy Road Ahead

    Experience teaches us that when we are approached on the street by a man carrying a sign announcing the end is near, we should do two things: give the guy a wide berth and don't believe a word he says. But what if the person carrying the sign turns out to be a highly respected social critic or a noted cultural historian? Maybe we should stick around and listen up.Back when Jane Jacobs published "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" in 1961, city planners and traffic engineers did their best to laugh her out of town. In the intervening decades, we have come to see the wisdom of almost everything she had to say about neighborhoods as the pulse and soul of city life. So when Jacobs hits us with a new book--her seventh and most accessible--titled "Dark Age Ahead," arguing that we're stumbling into the same cultural decline that befell the Roman Empire, we at least know enough to put our skepticism on hold. And when Samuel P. Huntington tells us in "Who Are We?" that massive...
  • Fiction: New Snack Attack

    Tom Perrotta's new novel, "Little Children," appeared in March to glowing reviews. The critics loved his darkly comic story of what happens to a quiet suburb when a convicted child molester moves back to town. Then readers started loving it, too. The book has been back to press six times, with 95,000 copies now in print. But as St. Martin's Press, the book's publisher, discovered a few weeks after publication, not everyone was a fan. The folks at Pepperidge Farm, in particular, were unhappy--not with the book but with its cover, on which their Goldfish crackers were prominently displayed without the company's permission. According to Dori Weintraub, associate director at St. Martin's, Pepperidge Farm insisted that "those fish were their fish." St. Martin's could only agree. So "Little Children" got a makeover. The crackers were replaced by chocolate-chip cookies. And this time Weintraub made sure those cookies wouldn't make any trouble. "I baked them myself," she says.