Salon recommends

A thriller set in Paris on the brink of war, provocative profiles of Ana


Salon Staff
April 3, 2001 3:14AM (UTC)

What we're reading, what we're liking

Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World by Claudia Roth Pierpont
The unfortunate title of this book at first scared me off. Sounds like a series of earnest feminist portraits, is what I thought. Instead, it's a fascinating, incisive, unsentimental collection of Pierpont's superb New Yorker profiles. She captures her subjects' peculiar contradictions: Anaïs Nin's compulsive duplicity cloaked in an ostensible "honesty" about female eroticism; Ayn Rand's doomed craving for a man more overpowering than herself; Gertrude Stein's eventual embrace of the generous maternal instincts she so long repudiated. Plus, I've learned fascinating things that have not much to do with women; from the Margaret Mitchell profile, I discovered how powerfully the Scottish romance novels of Sir Walter Scott influenced American Southern culture. I always wondered why they called it the Klan.

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--Laura Miller

The World at Night by Alan Furst
Everyone's been raving about "Kingdom of Shadows," Alan Furst's new novel. (The author's devoted fans include Salon's Charles Taylor, who wrote an appreciative essay about Furst.) "Kingdom of Shadows" is the sixth book in a series of espionage thrillers set just before and during World War II in Europe. Alas, reading all six books was a pipe dream at this particular point in my life, so I decided to start with the fourth, "The World at Night." It's about a Parisian filmmaker, Jean Casson, who becomes a reluctant spy during the Nazi occupation of France. I'm only halfway through, but I'm hooked already -- it's smart, stylish and soulful. Above all, it's the atmosphere that makes the book irresistible: Everything from the Parisian women's chic outfits to the intense hum of conversation in a smoky cafe on the verge of war is described with documentary detail and romantic longing.

--Maria Russo

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