California Literary Review

Books

Book Review: Diaries by George Orwell

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August 28th, 2012

Europe had yet to recover from the First World War and the Allied peoples were at a grave psychological disadvantage in comparison with the civilian population of Nazi Germany. Through nearly a decade of political indoctrination, news censorship and threats of imprisonment or worse, the German people were schooled for war. To Orwell, the only things that could shake the British out of their complacency were the drone of the engines of German aircraft over London and the detonation of the bombs they dropped.

Book Review: The Chinatown War: Chinese Los Angeles and the Massacre of 1871 by Scott Zesch

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August 22nd, 2012

As the 1860’s ended, the steadily growing numbers of Chinese immigrants led to fears that eventually their numbers would outstrip those of California’s white population. And the Chinese themselves became more “Americanized” in their response to insults, assaults and robbery attempts. As attacks by Anglos and Latinos escalated and as factional fighting grew in their own ranks, Chinese in California increasingly armed themselves with Colt 45s. Increasingly, they began to shoot back.

Book Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French

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August 15th, 2012

Right out of the gate, French displayed a gift for rich psychological plots, complex characterizations, and evocative prose. With her fourth, Broken Harbor, she continues to mature as a writer and (one hopes) to delight and collect more readers across the English-speaking world.

Book Review: True Believers by Kurt Andersen

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August 13th, 2012

Nevertheless, Andersen’s willingness to digress, to reflect in Karen’s voice on the implications of her experiences and perceptions, to cram in yet another observation, yet another illustration of The Way We Live Now (or The Way We Lived Then), ultimately emerges as the novel’s strength.

Book Review: The Lower River by Paul Theroux

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August 9th, 2012

She cautions him, “They will eat your money,” she said. “When your money is gone, they will eat you.” Soon after, Hock is awakened in the middle of the night to the beat of drums and strange rituals that he sneaks out to watch. The entire village participates in a dance, thinking he is asleep, mocking him as a white man, acting out harming him. Hock is ready to leave, but he is now under constant surveillance in the small village at the end of the world. Nobody knows he is there and no one will help him.

Book Review: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman

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August 8th, 2012

A potential reader sizing up Liza Klausmann’s new novel, Tigers in Red Weather, would do well to pay more attention to the cover art – a vintage photo from the Conde Nast archives showing two models on a beach, their red straw hats and parasols silhouetted against the blue sea – than to the knowledge that Klausmann is Herman Melville’s great-great-great granddaughter and that the title is taken from a Wallace Stevens poem. The book, in the end, is a bit more upscale beach read than Great American Novel.

Book Review: In One Person by John Irving

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July 9th, 2012

And therein shines the beauty of Irving’s tale, who we used to be as a society and who we have become. How these people who dared to feel different about their sexuality were treated, ridiculed, harassed, ignored, suppressed, repressed and in many cases cast aside. But over the five decades that we see Billy, we are shown a society that has grown more informed if not more compassionate; a society that has grown more tolerant if not more accepting and a world that makes place for acknowledging everyone instead of treating them as if they were invisible.

Book Review: Mike Wallace, A Life by Peter Rader

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July 2nd, 2012

He suffered, too, the tragic loss of his oldest child, Peter, who disappeared while backpacking across Europe after his sophomore year at Yale. His father went looking for him in Greece, where he had last been seen–and it was Mike Wallace himself who found his son’s body beneath a precipice that had given way and sent him to his death.

Book Review: The Second World War by Antony Beevor

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June 25th, 2012

Hitler’s Final Solution was not a separate campaign of mass murder, parallel to the fighting on the battlefronts. Instead, the Nazi assault on the Jews was characteristic of the depraved nature of the entire war. Daring commando raids and tank attacks were the stuff of movie newsreels. The “real” war was prosecuted with civilian-targeted aerial bombardments, starvation as a weapon, orgies of rape and torture and other government-sanctioned acts of mass homicide.

Trailer Watch: Les Misérables

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May 30th, 2012

This is, in showbiz terms, the textbook definition of “a big deal.” After all this anticipation, it will almost certainly become the definitive film version of the show, for good or ill. And so it must be done right the first time. We are a long way from Spider-Man now.

Book Review: Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins

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May 24th, 2012

Her measured and elegant style does indeed evoke Austen, and the grace of the writing makes the book all the more chilling. With pitiless clarity, Jenkins limns the process of self-deception by which four people, for the most ordinary of motives, bring themselves to commit murder by deliberate neglect.

Book Review: Naples Declared: A Walk Around The Bay by Benjamin Taylor

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May 16th, 2012

Considering how “casual” the work is in its approach, you could, I suppose, call it a mere glimpse into the turmoil and tragedies that overcame Naples. Yet, in some ways, this technique proves far more vibrant than the traditional presentations of historical events which most of us have experienced in the course of our schooling. Not to say Taylor hasn’t studied his subject or done his extensive research.

Book Review: The Poems of Jesus Christ Translated by Willis Barnstone

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May 9th, 2012

As Barnstone notes in his introduction, Aramaic has verse forms that are difficult to render in Western languages like Greek, Latin and eventually English. The Gospels, the “Good News” of Jesus, were written down and shared with the rest of the world in prose, not poetry. A vital link to the actual words of Jesus was lost.

Book Review: HHhH by Laurent Binet

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April 25th, 2012

What results, however, is an awkward success story. Unseasonably dedicated to fact and accuracy, positively frightened of omission, Binet has written a tale of Heydrich to defy most academic study. Moreover, Binet has managed to engage.

I Say! Hammer Plans A Woman In Black Sequel?

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April 5th, 2012

The Hammer Studio has announced a sequel, but what are we to expect in revisiting the tidily packaged horror of The Woman In Black?

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