Salon recommends

The mysteries of finite and infinite games, a rousing family saga set in Canada and more.

By Salon Staff

Published February 12, 2001 9:43PM (EST)

What we're reading, what we're liking

Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse
Although I've got a couple dozen other books I ought to be reading, I keep dipping into this fascinating work, which I first learned about in "Full of Secrets," an anthology of essays about the David Lynch TV series "Twin Peaks." It's a work of "amateur" philosophy in which Carse, a professor of religion, muses on the difference between "finite games," those whose purpose is to establish a winner, and "infinite games," in which the purpose is to keep playing. Although I was first drawn to the book because I thought it might help me clarify my reasons for disliking sports, I can already tell it will illuminate much more than that.

--Laura Miller

No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
For me, the notion of a "writer's writer" usually conjures the image of something prickly and rarefied, the kind of writing that takes some effort to warm up to, though the rewards may be great. I was surprised, then, to pick up Alistair McLeod's recent novel "No Great Mischief" and find that this distinguished Canadian author has an amiable, bighearted, altogether inviting voice. The story he's telling is one that in lesser hands could easily turn maudlin: A big, dirt-poor, Gaelic-speaking Scottish clan living in remote Cape Breton toughs out the harsh winters and usual family disasters (family members lost to the bottle or to freakish accidents). Can the narrator both honor his family's past and move beyond its pathologies? With his fluid prose and easygoing emotional acuity, McLeod makes you care desperately about the answer.

--Maria Russo

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