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A Compelling, If Foggy Debut

Some might grumble that the novel Out of It, with its secular, nominally Muslim, and Westernized Palestinian protagonists who oppose Islamists both for their ideology and their attacks on Israeli civilian targets, was deliberately crafted with the intent of making a much-maligned Arab people more palatable to a Western readership.

A Second Birth

When winter comes, I find myself drawn to books with a strong authorial voice that matches my inward thoughts: Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust; To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf; The Lover, by Marguerite Duras, to name just a few. Joining these is Kim Thuy’s Ru, a recently translated novel that tells the story of a young girl growing up in a fractured Saigon, eventually forced to run with her family all the way to Canada.

Against the Law

“Because I do not wish to remain in a land … where my rights are not protected,” says Kohlhaas, the protagonist in von Kliest’s short story. On Halloween last year, following Occupy Wall Street, the Guy Fawkes mask, which starred in V for Vendetta, was popular on the streets of New York. The quote from the movie, “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people,” seemed to blare at me from these costumes.

Pain on Both Sides

On the 20th anniversary of the brutal Balkan war’s ethnic cleansing crusade, two fascinating memoirs out by small presses try to reconcile the past and provide a message for healing. A Rough Guide to the Dark Side by Daniel Simpson, and Wounded I Am More Awake: Finding Meaning After Terror by Julia Lieblich and Esad Boskailo, visit my still-conflicted homeland and try to make sense out of the political insanity of the former Yugoslavia.

In Conversation

JOSHUA HENKIN with Hirsh Sawhney

In Joshua Henkin’s latest novel, The World Without You (Pantheon, 2012) journalist Leo Frankel has been killed while covering the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. One year after his death, when Leo’s family gathers to commemorate his passing, his mother announces she is separating from his father.

In Conversation

BLAKE BUTLER, VANESSA PLACE, and CHRISTOPHER HIGGS with S. Tremaine Nelson

ONE (Roof Books, 2012) contains two original manuscripts—written by Vanessa Place and Blake Butler—cut up and reorganized into a final document by a third artist, Christopher Higgs.

In Conversation

DEBRA DIBLASI and SAM WITT of Jaded Ibis Press with Liz Axelrod

Jaded Ibis Press holds an odd shaped, polished and engraved stone in a hand-carved painted slingshot. Like David, they are poised with ready aim to hit the big publishing houses dead square in the eye

On the Road Again

Carl Watson, fellow Chicagoan and friend for a couple decades, has published the novel Backwards the Drowned Go Dreaming, which is something of a re-imagining of On the Road and other mid-century odes to the highway, updating them to a period after the rebirth of feminism, which gave women a larger role to play in the public sphere and, for that matter, after industrialization, when, with the rise of outsourcing, good-paying working class jobs were in short supply.

In Conversation

Against a narcotic culture whose primary desire is stupefaction
Andrea Scrima talks to Rainer J. Hanshe, founder of Contra Mundum Press

Contra Mundum Press, founded in New York in late 2011, is an unusual new press with a distinctive list of publications to date. It debuted with a new translation by Stuart Kendall of the ancient epic Gilgamesh, which unites recent scholarship and a spare poetic sensibility to capture the consciousness of the archaic mind in the early days of our civilization.

On Board with The Atavist

I am a bit skeptical of the idea of reading a book on a screen. There, I said it. While I recognize technology’s role in society, affirm its disruptive power in the worlds of journalism and book publishing, and utilize it in most areas of my daily life (these words are being typed on a MacBook Air, I own a smartphone, I pay for wireless access at home), I still enjoy the feel and even the smell of the printed page.

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DEC 12-JAN 13

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