Salon recommends

What we're reading, what we're liking

By Salon Staff
July 21, 2000 12:03PM (UTC)
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Wainewright the Poisoner by Andrew Motion
How do you write a biography of a historical figure so notorious, so reviled, so blown up into a boogeyman of his age that most accounts of his life and doings can't be trusted? Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, a Regency-era painter, dandy, forger and murderer, was a bit like the Charles Manson of his time in that he befriended many notables (including the poets William Blake, Lord Byron and John Keats). Once it was revealed that he'd probably poisoned three relatives in order to inherit the family estate that obsessed him, his old chums renounced him and got rid of his letters and drawings. Andrew Motion (poet laureate of England) takes the scanty and contradictory historical evidence of Wainewright's peculiar life and uses it as the base for a stylish first-person "confession," a riff that displays all of Wainewright's dangerous charm.
--Laura Miller

The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design by Galen Cranz
You might laugh at the idea of an entire book about an everyday object we take entirely for granted, but that's exactly the point of this cool and unusual book, which recently came out in paperback. Kranz is on a mission to convince us to think twice about sitting in chairs: There's no perfectly comfortable chair, she says, because chairs themselves are the problem. What's more, the only reason we sit on them (rather than squatting on the floor) is that centuries ago Westerners needed a way to express social hierarchies. Eastern and African cultures squatted more and to this day suffer fewer back problems as a result. In this century, chairs have also become a showcase for architects and sculptors, and if you want to brush up on your Eames and Le Corbusier, the book is also a groovy guide to chair design.
--Maria Russo


Recent books praised by Salon's critics

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling:
The plot deepens as the fourth Harry Potter book takes Rowling's young hero to his darkest adventure yet.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor

Collapse: When Buildings Fall Down by Phillip Wearne:
Read the hair-raising details of how and why man-made structures come tumbling to Earth!
Reviewed by Greg Villepique
[July 13, 2000]


Little Saint: The Hours of Saint Foy by Hannah Green:
On the trail of a French martyr beheaded by her father for embracing Christianity instead of the goddess Diana.
Reviewed by Laura Morgan Green

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg:
A strangely powerful first novel about spelling, mysticism and finding God in the details.
Reviewed by Gavin McNett

The Moose That Roared by Keith Scott:
A fact-crammed history of the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" show and its gleefully prankish creators.
Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Williams


Gig edited by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe and Sabin Streeter:
In an update of Studs Terkel's "Working," Americans tell all about the jobs they hate and love.
Reviewed by Ann Marlowe

Vertigo by W.G. Sebald:
The tale of a strange quest, haunted by the ghost of Kafka, from one of the oddest great writers around.
Reviewed by Brigitte Frase
[June 26, 2000]


Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris:
In another sidesplitting collection, the author writes about his foulmouthed brother, his hopeless French and his brief career as a speed-freak performance artist.
Reviewed by Greg Villepique

Living to Tell by Antonya Nelson:
From the author of "Nobody's Girl," a dazzling novel about a lovably screwed-up family reunited under one roof.
Reviewed by Patricia Kean

Bodies in Motion and at Rest by Thomas Lynch:
The popular literary undertaker takes on some tough life issues: divorce, abortion and putting a hated cat to sleep.
Reviewed by Lorin Stein


The Angel on the Roof by Russell Banks:
In stories from nearly four decades, the writer demonstrates an astonishing range, a wonderful eye and a finely tuned talent for breaking hearts.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles

Stork Club by Ralph Blumenthal:
A history of the club where Jack, Jackie, Joltin' Joe, Marilyn, Grace, Rainier and J. Edgar all rubbed shoulders.
Reviewed by George Rafael

Experience: A Memoir by Martin Amis:
The renowned novelist opens up on the subject of his famously vile father, Sir Kingsley, and the $30,000 fortune he spent repairing his own famously vile teeth.
Reviewed by Andy Roe


Of Two Minds: The Growing Disorder in American Psychiatry by T.M. Luhrmann:
A subtle study of the conflict between talk-oriented and drug-oriented psychotherapy -- and a frightening demonstration of how medical budget-cutters are betraying the mentally ill and putting the rest of us at risk.
Reviewed by Laura Miller

Plowing the Dark by Richard Powers:
A riveting novel conjures up the bygone days of virtual reality and the promise of the unreal world that might have been.
Reviewed by Pam Rosenthal

Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss:
A daring first novel probes the psychological -- and sexual -- lives of the celebrated Siamese twins.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles

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