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Salon Staff
August 21, 2000 11:31PM (UTC)

Cathedrals of Kudzu: A Personal Landscape of the South by Hal Crowther
Hal Crowther is a sword-swallower of an essayist: He'll ingest almost any subject, and -- with his gutsy, even intemperate elan -- leave you gasping and, if not shouting hoorah, at least shouting. In this, his second collection (published by LSU Press), Crowther chews on bits of his homeland, the American South, with a range that takes in Cormac McCarthy, George Wallace, Erskine Caldwell, Elvis and more. Crowther applies the take-no-prisoners brashness of a deadline columnist to the more ambiguous and airier realms of ideas and ideologies. The result: Passionate, epigrammatic essays, with nary a dull edge in sight.

-- Jonathan Miles

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The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders, Illustrated by Lane Smith
I'm a big fan of George Saunders' darkly hilarious fiction, but when I learned he had written a "children's" book, I was nonplussed. So, apparently, was his publisher, who has been officially insisting that this picture book is really for adults. It's the tale of a little girl named Capable who battles the strange creatures of the title and in the process learns that her neighbors aren't very neighborly: "Not that we're saying we're better than you, necessarily," one responds to her request for help, "it's just that, since gappers are bad, and since you and you alone now have them, it only stands to reason that you are not, perhaps, quite as good as us." Do some folks think that this fable about self-justifying selfishness is too pointed for tots? Let's give the kids more credit than that. I bet they've figured it out by now.

-- Laura Miller

Recent books praised by Salon's critics

What to read: The best of July's fiction
Novels of love and evil, from lesbian Victoriana to deft, Vonnegut-style humor and gritty Indian realism.
By Salon's critics
[07/24/00]

The Heartsong of Charging Elk by James Welch
In this moving, nourishing novel the Native American writer probes the culture shock of an Oglala Sioux abandoned in France by Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles
[08/15/00]

The Making of Intelligence by Ken Richardson
A new attempt to answer a stubborn old question: If humans are such an intelligent species, why can't we figure out what IQ tests measure?
Reviewed by Christine Kenneally
[08/09/00]

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Writing on Drugs by Sadie Plant
The author embarks on a stimulating trip into literature's strangest, smokiest den.
Reviewed by Gary Kamiya
[08/04/00]

The Dragon Syndicates by Martin Booth
The blood-soaked history of the Chinese secret societies that started the heroin trade and invented the "death by myriad swords."
Reviewed by Greg Villepique
[08/02/00]

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom
A collection of stories that look frankly at the lives of transsexuals, adulterers, cancer survivors and angry teenagers.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Macklin
[08/01/00]

Herman Melville by Elizabeth Hardwick
A great critic takes on a great novelist, finding agony, homoeroticism and, ultimately, mystery.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[07/26/00]

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Assassination by Miles Hudson
A historian coolly assesses whether killing a leader is a useful political tactic.
Reviewed by Matthew DeBord
[07/25/00]

An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
The author of "The Girl in the Flammable Skirt" creates a heroine with violent dreams, a passion for numbers and some problems with sex.
Reviewed by Mike Albo
[07/20/00]

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
[07/18/00]

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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]

The Language War by Robin Tolmach Lakoff
From hate speech laws to the battle over Native American sports team names, a linguist shows why we're so worked up about the power of words.
Reviewed by Virginia Vitzthum
[07/11/00]

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
[07/10/00]

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Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
A strangely powerful first novel about spelling, mysticism and finding God in the details.
Reviewed by Gavin McNett
[07/05/00]

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
[06/30/00]

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
[06/28/00]

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]

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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
[06/09/00]

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
[06/20/00]

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
[06/15/00]

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
[06/08/00]

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Stork Club by Ralph Blumenthal
A history of the club where Jack and Jackie and Joltin' Joe and Marilyn and Grace and Rainier and J. Edgar all rubbed shoulders.
Reviewed by George Rafael
[06/02/2000]

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
[05/26/00]

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
[05/25/00]

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
[05/24/00]

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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
[05/22/00]


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