Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bernhard Sclink - The Reader

 

From School Library Journal

YA. Michael Berg, 15, is on his way home from high school in post-World War II Germany when he becomes ill and is befriended by a woman who takes him home. When he recovers from hepatitis many weeks later, he dutifully takes the 40-year-old Hanna flowers in appreciation, and the two become lovers. The relationship, at first purely physical, deepens when Hanna takes an interest in the young man's education, insisting that he study hard and attend classes. Soon, meetings take on a more meaningful routine in which after lovemaking Michael reads aloud from the German classics. There are hints of Hanna's darker side: one inexplicable moment of violence over a minor misunderstanding, and the fact that the boy knows nothing of her life other than that she collects tickets on the streetcar. Content with their arrangement, Michael is only too willing to overlook Hanna's secrets. She leaves the city abruptly and mysteriously, and he does not see her again until, as a law student, he sits in on her case when she is being tried as a Nazi criminal. [...] The theme of good versus evil and the question of moral responsibility are eloquently presented in this spare coming-of-age story that's sure to inspire questions and passionate discussion. —Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Haruki Murakami - Norwegian Wood

In a complete stylistic departure from his mysterious and surreal novels (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; A Wild Sheep Chase) that show the influences of Salinger, Fitzgerald and Tom Robbins, Murakami tells a bittersweet coming-of-age story, reminiscent of J.R. Salamanca's classic 1964 novel, LilithAthe tale of a young man's involvement with a schizophrenic girl. A successful, 37-year-old businessman, Toru Watanabe, hears a version of the Beatles' Norwegian Wood, and the music transports him back 18 years to his college days. His best friend, Kizuki, inexplicably commits suicide, after which Toru becomes first enamored, then involved with Kizuki's girlfriend, Naoko. But Naoko is a very troubled young woman; her brilliant older sister has also committed suicide, and though sweet and desperate for happiness, she often becomes untethered. She eventually enters a convalescent home for disturbed people, and when Toru visits her, he meets her roommate, an older musician named Reiko, who's had a long history of mental instability. The three become fast friends. Toru makes a commitment to Naoko, but back at college he encounters Midori, a vibrant, outgoing young woman. As he falls in love with her, Toru realizes he cannot continue his relationship with Naoko, whose sanity is fast deteriorating. Though the solution to his problem comes too easily, Murakami tells a subtle, charming, profound and very sexy story of young love bound for tragedy. Published in Japan in 1987, this novel proved a wild success there, selling four million copies. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. 


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Philip Roth - American Pastoral

In his latest novel, Roth shows his age. Not that his writing is any less vigorous and supple. But in this autumnal tome, he is definitely in a reflective mood, looking backward. As the book opens, Roth's alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, recalls an innocent time when golden boy Seymour "the Swede" Levov was the pride of his Jewish neighborhood. Then, in precise, painful, perfectly rendered detail, he shows how the Swede's life did not turn out as gloriously as expected?how it was, in fact, devastated by a child's violent act. When Merry Levov blew up her quaint little town's post office to protest the Viet Nam war, she didn't just kill passing physician Fred Conlon, she shattered the ties that bound her to her worshipful father. Merry disappears, then eventually reappears as a stick-thin Jain living in sacred povery in Newark, having killed three more people for the cause. Roth doesn't tell the whole story blow by blow but gives us the essentials in luminous, overlapping bits. In the end, the book positively resonates with the anguish of a father who has utterly lost his daughter. Highly recommended. Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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Don DeLillo - Underworld

From Library Journal

Dennis Boutsakaris reads skillfully from DeLillo's carefully abridged opus (LJ 9/1/97), which begins with an extended prolog describing a memorable 1951 World Series game. The baseball hit in the game's climactic home run becomes a focal point for the sprawling novel. The ball's various owners are meticulously profiled as 40 years of American history and culture are sketched. The resulting panorama of the modern age is reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow's splendid Ragtime, yet ultimately the audio fails to move or engage the listener. DeLillo's powers of description are acute, and the intricate structure he has devised for his story is a marvel, but these overpowering virtues seem wearyingly mechanical. The lengthy parade of characters is collectively forgettable. The underlying theme of garbage provides an air of quiet desperation to the grim litany of current events and interwoven plot lines. Not recommended. John Owen, Advanced Micro Devices Lib., Santa Clara, Cal.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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