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Reviewing the Reviews

May 26-27.

Publication: Tribune

Cover: Sara Peretsky sits on a table, for a review by Samuel G. Freedman of her latest, Writing in an Age of Silence. Didn't read the review.

Other News and Reviews of Note: The Sun Farmer: The Story of a Shocking Accident, a Medical Miracle, and a Family's Life-and-Death Decision. The Tribune headline: "What Price Life? This tale of injured Illinois farmer raises questions about science and ethics." Between that and the exceedingly long book title, I sense I'm being given a really hard sell about a book that doesn't live up to its billing.

Also: Former Tribune investigative reporter William Gaines reviews Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life. Interestingly, Gaines says Gup's book is "a frontal attack on secrecy" but that "Something is amiss. Journalism is supposed to be fair, and Nation of Secrets is instead a one-sided diatribe."

And: "Literary Editor" Elizabeth Taylor interviews Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and Thomas J. O'Gorman, authors of End of Watch, which reconstructs every Chicago police officer ever killed in the line of duty. This sort of exercise of a book makes me squeamish, like opportunistic enforced patriotism and nationalistic myth-making. I'm also not comfortable with interviews of political subjects on topics of their own self-interest who are otherwise generally unavailable to news reporters with tough questions at-hand. Fuck Ed Burke.

Finally: The Trib's Steve Mills serves up the second review I've seen of Kevin Davis's Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County Public Defender's Office that describes the book's real life characters as hardly being the idealistic people's lawyers we might hope and presume work in that unit. "Indeed," Mills writes, "the book sends a signal that many readers will find troubling: that defense lawyers simply want to win - rather than vigorously challenge the state's evidence and protect their client's rights - even when the evidence is overwhelming that their client is guilty." Public defender Marijane Placek is the book's main protaganist.


Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: Somewhat nonsensical but not entirely aesthetically unappealing art to decorate the pairing of reviews of two books about the rich: Robert Frank's Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and The Lives of the New Rich; and Frances Kiernan's The Last Mrs. Astor.

Scott Jacobs, a Bucktown writer who, we are told, summers in Highland Park, does a nice job with Frank's book, including nuggets such as:

"Being rich is not as easy as you may think. When you have mansions in Chicago and Palm Beach, a yacht in St. Marten and a ranch in Montana, just getting from one to the next on your private jet requires a fair amount of scheduling.

"To be certain they are the residences of your dreams - and that you have the right clothes, toiletries and other assumed comforts when you get there - you can easily maintain a staff of 100 employees.

"The first thing Frank discovered is that, when you are rich, you are not a family anymore. You are a small business."


I didn't read Lisa Lenoir's review of the Astor book; no reason other than disinterest. It doesn't appear to be available online.

Other News and Reviews of Note: The S-T also reviews The Sun Farmer.

Also: The rest of the S-T's reviews are more intriguing than what the Trib offers up this week: The Other Woman, a collection of 21 true stories; The Entitled, by Frank Deford; Presence, by Arthur Miller; Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje; and an interview with Marco Pierre White, author of The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef.


Publication: The New York Times

Cover: An arresting piece of art based on the iconic 9/11 photo of the man falling from the World Trade Center, with the body now a smudge. For a Frank Rich review of Don DeLillo's Falling Man. Didn't read it; grew weary of Rich a long time ago, and from what I've read elsewhere, this isn't a particularly transcendent work.

Other News and Reviews of Note: The Times also reviews Devil in the Kitchen; Steven Pinker likes Natalie Angier's The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science.


- The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Freres & Co., under the headline "Bankers Behaving Badly." By William D. Cohan.

Pull Quote: "For more than a century, Lazard Freres engendered awe among Wall Street insiders; not anymore." Reviewed by Richard Parker.

- The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War. By Dan Gilgoff.

Pull Quote: "Dobson conferred with Karl Rove about a Supreme Court nomination; he received a thank-you note from Samuel Alito." Reviewed by Jacob Heilbrunn.

- The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace. By Ali Allawi.

Pull Quote: "Who are Iraqi's leaders? They are warlords living in compounds walled off from the rest of the country." Reviewed by Edward Wong.

- Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr. By Nancy Isenberg.

Pull Quote: "The Burr you know is the bad boy of the early Republic. The one Isenberg knows is witty, wise and sexy." Reviewed by Jill Lepore.

Charts: Subjects of the top three best-selling non-fiction books.

1. Einstein.
2. George Tenet.
3. Chef Paula Deen.

God slips to No. 4.


Posted on May 30, 2007

MUSIC - Pandemophenia.
TV - NBC's Bicentennial Special.
POLITICS - Defund Private Schools.
SPORTS - Beachwood Sports Radio & A Blackhawks Proposal.

BOOKS - The Slave Who Escaped George And Martha Washington.


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