Salon recommends

A mysterious rebel leader, a mom who leaves no corner of her daughter's life unsupervised and more.


Salon Staff
May 7, 2001 11:07PM (UTC)

What we're reading, what we're liking

Amy's Answering Machine: Messages From Mom by Amy Borkowsky
You don't have to have an overprotective control-freak mother to find Amy Borkowsky's collection of verbatim answering machine message transcripts hilarious -- I know, because I don't. Amy's mom must ring her daughter several times a day to offer advice on every aspect of life, from suggesting that Amy go braless when flying so that the underwires in her bra don't set off the airport metal detector to reminding her that "the wait is very long" at the DMV and "before you get in line, you might wanna empty your bladder." My all-time favorite, though, is the one where Amy's mom calls up to insist that if her daughter must use a personal stereo ("the foam earpiece on the headphones is a prime breeding ground for bacteria") then she "may wanna take an antibiotic." I'm giving this to my mom for Mother's Day to thank her for having a life of her own.

Advertisement:

--Laura Miller

Our Word Is Our Weapon: Selected Writings by Subcomandante Marcos
This collection of writings by the spokesman for the Zapatista movement is an excellent window into the conflict between indigenous Mexicans and the government over the distribution of land in the Chiapas region. Marcos captured the world's attention in 1994 when his small, disciplined guerrilla group seized several mountain towns from the Mexican army. What's so riveting about the Chiapas story is not just the David-and-Goliath aspect of the Zapatistas' victories but the way in which their grass-roots, democratic agenda was articulated by Marcos -- this was a rebel with a brain, as well as a heart. He's also created some mystery around himself, never appearing in public without the Zapatistas' trademark black ski mask, to symbolize his determination to be "a selfless self, a person without a face" committed to serving as "the voice of the voiceless." It turns out that Marcos is actually university-educated and of European, not indigenous Mexican, extraction, but perhaps that makes his struggles on behalf of the landless people of Chiapas even more moving. Marcos writes in a number of styles -- the book includes his Calvino-style folk tales as well as impassioned letters to dignitaries and writers around the world -- and there's no doubt more in this massive volume than most readers will want to take in. But there's a palpable feeling of excitement about many of these pieces, as if we're privy to the ground-floor thinking of that rare thing, a principled, ethical person who is trying to change history.

--Maria Russo

Recent books praised by Salon's critics

Forces of Habit by David Courtwright
Drugs like alcohol and tobacco created the modern world, argues one historian, but caffeine still rules it.
Reviewed by Maria Russo [05/03/01]

Double Fold by Nicholson Baker
A crusading novelist indicts America's libraries for destroying precious archives of newspapers and books -- and puts his own savings on the line to rescue them.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek [04/27/01]

Advertisement:

Body of Secrets by James Bamford
The author of a pioneering work on the NSA delivers a new book of revelations about the mysterious agency's coverups, eavesdropping and secret missions.
Reviewed by Bruce Schneier [04/25/01]

What to read: The best of April fiction
Louise Erdrich's tale of a Catholic priest who's secretly a woman, Haruki Murakami's story of a vanished lover, a hilarious debut novel about a fake feng shui master who cons New York society and more.
By Salon's critics [04/19/01]

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Marukami
A cult-favorite novelist's seductive, eerie tale of a vanished lover
Reviewed by Laura Miller [04/19/01]

This Is Not a Novel by David Markson
Another cheeky, strangely moving tour de force from a master of experimental fiction
Reviewed by Maria Russo [04/19/01]

Advertisement:

Fixer Chao by Han Ong
A con artist posing as a feng shui master infiltrates New York high society in an acclaimed playwright's hilariously bitchy first novel
Reviewed by Amy Benfer [04/19/01]

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
The author of "The Beet Queen" delivers an enthralling tale of a Catholic priest who's secretly a woman
Reviewed by Amy Reiter [04/19/01]

The Gardens of Kyoto by Kate Walbert
A dazzling, intricate novel spins out the back story of American soldiers sent overseas, and the women they left behind
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen [04/19/01]

Advertisement:

The Far Field by Edie Meidav
In an eagerly anticipated debut novel, a colonialist in Ceylon faces political deception, erotic intrigue and the failure of his own ideals. Reviewed by Amy Benfer [04/19/01]

The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami
A Canadian-raised orphan returns to her grandparents' Indian village in an irreverent look at the clash between tradition and modernity.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen [04/19/01]

The Rights of Desire by Andre Brink
A May-December romance set in a post-Apartheid South Africa where violence is always ready to erupt.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles [04/19/01]

Advertisement:

Buddha by Karen Armstrong
A former Catholic nun's short biography of the Buddha explains the elusive Eastern sage in terms that even drama-hungry Westerners can understand.
Reviewed by Laura Miller [04/18/01]

My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum A former Gen X journalist finds fodder for her essays in an Internet romance, going broke in New York and hating science fiction fans.
Reviewed by Laura Miller [04/16/01]

Secret Places: My Life in New York and New Guinea by Tobias Schneebaum
Amateur ethnographer and author Tobias Schneebaum has lived and among former headhunters -- and even sampled their cuisine.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank [04/13/01]

The Immortal Class by Travis Hugh Culley
A suburban lad tells how he found guts, glory and a sustainable transit option in the renegade world of bike messengers.
Reviewed by Maria Russo [04/10/01]

Advertisement:

"Surviving Galeras" and "No Apparent Danger" Nine scientists met grisly deaths in a 1993 eruption in Colombia, but the battle over who was to blame rages on in two new books. Reviewed by Laura Miller [04/11/01]

Stoned: A Memoir of London in the 1960s by Andrew Loog Oldham
The man who turned the Rolling Stones into bad-boy icons tells his story, and a fan weighs in.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[04/06/01]

Crawling at Night by Nani Power
In this complex, erotic novel, Asian and Western characters pursue desire's mysterious byways.
Reviewed by Mary Gaitskill
[04/05/01]

Facing the Wind by Julie Salamon
The author of "The Devil's Candy" tells the true story of the ideal family man who suddenly plunged into homicidal madness.
Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir
[04/04/01]

Advertisement:

Going up the River by Joseph Hallinan
Nonviolent criminals go in and sadistic thugs come out, but with military spending down, America's small towns are hooked on prisons, a new book says.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[03/29/01]

Stalingrad 1942-1943: The Infernal Cauldron by Stephen Walsh
Two books tell the truth about Stalingrad, the most horrific battle of our time -- and a movie desecrates it.
Reviewed by Gary Kamiya
[03/28/01]

Carry Me Home by Diane McWhorter
A golden girl from Birmingham's elite takes a cold, hard look at her hometown's ugly past -- and her own father's role in it.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[03/26/01]

"The Dream of Reason" and "Socrates Cafi"
Two authors explain philosophy's mysteries to the layman, but which book is better?
By Laura Miller
[03/23/01]

Advertisement:

What to Read: March Fiction
Allegra Goodman's hilarious tale of promiscuous spiritual seeking, Pat Barker's tough-minded look at a child who murders, Nuala O'Faolain's searing novel of middle-aged sexuality and more.
By Salon's critics [03/15/01]

Seabiscuit, An American Legend by Laura Hillebrand
Surprise! The book everyone is reading and loving stars a stocky, funny-looking hero with four legs -- the champion racehorse Seabiscuit.
By Charles Taylor [03/14/01]

Inside Pitch by George Gmelch
Podunk towns, brutal competition, wooden bats and dirty laundry -- an anthropologist shows what the lives of pro baseball players are really like.
Reviewed by King Kaufman
[03/09/01]

Buried Alive by Jan Bondeson
Has it happened? Does it still happen? A new book tells the strangely hilarious history of the ultimate horror.
Reviewed by Gary Kamiya
[03/07/01]

Advertisement:

Purified by Fire by Stephen Prothero
Denounced as "heathen," then touted as tasteful, cremation in America has lately taken a turn for the tacky.
By Laura Miller
[03/07/01]

Salon Book Awards
Salon's book editors pick the ten books from 2000 we wished would never end.
By Laura Miller and Maria Russo
[12/18/00]

White-Collar Sweatshop by Jill Andresky Fraser
Bullying bosses, 24-hour on-call weeks, shrinking benefits -- and corporate workers never got their cut of the '90s boom.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[03/01/01]

"Dreamcatcher" by Stephen King and "Ordinary Horror" by David Searcy
King's latest book takes a page from "The X-Files," while an elegantly literary debut tells of creeping, formless suburban terror.
By Laura Miller
[02/22/01]

Advertisement:

Love, Etc by Julian Barnes
The eternal triangle returns in this story of a woman who has left her stolid, successful husband for a charming wastrel.
Reviewed by Amy Benfer
[02/21/01]

The Body Artist by Don DeLillo
A grieving woman, an almost empty house and a very strange visitor add up to a metaphysical puzzle by this American master. Reviewed by Maria Russo
[02/21/01]

A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore
In this Gothic wonder of a novel, madness, incest and even worse follow a mother's ruthless desertion.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[02/21/01]

Rides of the Midway by Lee Durkee
With this full-tilt novel of youthful catastrophe and hellbent debauchery, a bartender kicks in the door of Southern literature.
Reviewed by Jonathan Miles
[02/21/01]

The Lecturer's Tale by James Hynes
In this academic satire with a supernatural twist, a beleaguered adjunct lecturer acquires the power to fulfill his dreams -- for good and evil.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[02/21/01]

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
This tale of a misbegotten quest to find the Garden of Eden in Tasmania effortlessly blends the hilarious and the heartbreaking.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[02/21/01]

Everyday People by Stewart O'Nan
In a neighborhood on the brink of exile, the author of "Prayer for the Dying" sets a family of criminals, converts, adulterers and saints.
Reviewed by Amy Benfer
[02/21/01]

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
The best-selling author returns to the epic, cross-generational storytelling that made "The Joy Luck Club" an international hit.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[02/21/01]

Crooked River Burning by Mark Winegardner
This unexpected but moving fictional tribute to Cleveland teems with real-life figures like Eliot Ness and Alan Freed.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[02/21/01]

The crime of my life
Election and recession getting you down? Check out the mystery novels that got me through a very tough year.
By Charles Taylor
[01/03/01]

"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser
A stomach-churning critique of the health and labor practices of the burger business argues that Americans should change their dietary habits. Good luck.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[02/08/01]

Our man in the shadows
With his romantic, complex spy novels about prewar Europe, Alan Furst is the heir to John le Carri.
By Charles Taylor
[01/24/01]

The Man Who Found the Missing Link by Pat Shipman
A new biography recounts the story of the brilliant scientist who fought priests, politicians and jungles to prove Darwin right.
Reviewed by Edward McSweegan
[01/18/01]

The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrire
A new book probes the case of the phony doctor who killed his family rather than confront a life of lies.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[01/12/01]

The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi
A disfigured girl spins out the secrets of her family's disastrous history in this Booker Prize-nominated novel by a new Welsh writer.
Reviewed by Maria Russo
[01/11/01]

The Biographer's Tale by A.S. Byatt
A disillusioned student forsakes literary theory to unearth the truth about an enigmatic writer in the latest feast for the mind by the author of "Possession."
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[01/11/01]

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
A legendary Australian outlaw relates his adventures in this rousing tale of injustice and defiance from the prize-winning author of "Oscar and Lucinda."
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[01/11/01]

Demonology by Rick Moody
A collection of inventive and passionate stories by one of today's most acclaimed young writers.
Reviewed by Amy Benfer
[01/11/01]

The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
Life, death and forbidden love feed the feuds in a Bombay apartment building in this elegant, clever first novel.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[01/11/01]


Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Books

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••


Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •