Salon recommends

Deep thoughts on "Star Wars" and more of our favorite books.


Salon Staff
September 23, 2002 8:21PM (UTC)

What we're reading, what we're liking

A Galaxy Not So Far Away: Writers and Artists on Twenty-Five Years of Star Wars by Glenn Kenny, ed.
I'm not even a particular fan of the "Star Wars" series, but I acknowledge the awesome, Force-like sway the movies have held over the minds of more than one generation. And I've been beguiled by the artful, evocative and hilarious essays in this collection, which do a better job of explaining how George Lucas' imaginary universe (cobbled together from various science fiction classics and Akira Kurosawa's glorious "The Hidden Fortress" -- forget the cheesy bid for intellectual legitimacy that dragged in Joseph Campbell) works its magic than an evening with the videotapes ever did. Some of the wonkier pieces had me scratching my head, but the essays that weave in personal history -- Lydia Millet writing on Darth Vader's weird sexiness and her own childhood encounters with the mysteries of power, is a stand-out, as is Jonathan Lethem's memoir of seeing the film, in one of 21 viewings, with his dying mother -- are some of the best writing I've seen lately on how pop culture weaves through our most intimate moments.

Advertisement:

-- Laura Miller

Recent books praised by Salon's critics

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King
The master of horror ends his recent slump with this skeptical tale about a strange car, a troop of state police and the fundamental unknowability of the universe.
Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir
[09/19/02]

Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam 1862 by James M. McPherson
The great historian James McPherson presents his account of Antietam, the savage Civil War battle that made the freeing of the slaves possible.
Reviewed by Katharine Whittemore
[09/17/02]

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
A "This American Life" commentator celebrates nerds and explains how to love your country without turning into a boorish, jingoistic, kitsch-crazed lout.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[09/11/02]

Tourmaline by Joanna Scott
An American family seeking its fortune hunting precious gems on the island of Elba, finds mystery and adulterous passion instead.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[09/05/02]

Advertisement:

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
A bereaved man becomes obsessed with the riddle of a great silent film star's disappearance.
Reviewed by Michelle Goldberg
[09/05/02]

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
This wondrous epic from the author of "The Virgin Suicides" travels from Mt. Olympus to Detroit to tell the story of an all-American hermaphrodite
Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir
[09/05/02]

Advertisement:

One Man's Bible by Gao Xingjian
From China's Nobel Laureate, the story of a writer who survived the Cultural Revolution and the price he paid to do so.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[09/05/02]

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith
From the author of "White Teeth," the story of a dealer in celebrity signatures who has serious girl trouble and a chance to sip from the toxic cup of fame.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[09/05/02]

Things You Should Know by A.M. Homes
Urgent, hungry stories about the nightmare of suburban marriage (and one hilarious visit to a lonely Nancy Reagan), courtesy of a master of the form.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[09/05/02]

Advertisement:

After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
From the author of "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," mysterious stories of love, loss and frogs set in a Japan harrowed by earthquakes and terrorism
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[09/05/02]

Defying Hitler by Sebastian Haffner
A newly discovered memoir by a German classified as "Aryan" describes the insidious early spread of Nazism and how hard it was to resist.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[09/03/02]

Cicero by Anthony Everitt
Ancient Rome's greatest politican and public speaker lived a life of intrigue, betrayal and violence -- and no American leader today can hold a candle to him.
Reviewed by Lawrence Osborne
[08/27/02]

Advertisement:

Gettysburg by Noah Andre Trudeau
A new book proves that you can tell the story of this legendary battle in a new way -- from the point of view of the men who fought it.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[08/21/02]

Heat Wave by Eric Klinenberg
The 739 people killed by Chicago's 1995 heat wave were the victims of a mayor who believed in running his city like a business.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[08/20/02]

After Shakespeare by John Gross, ed.
Victor Hugo raised him in a siance, Voltaire ripped him off and Byron called him a vulgar dog. The world's great writers just can't leave Shakespeare alone.
Reviewed by Jonathon Keats
[08/07/02]

Barbed Wire: A Political History by Olivier Razac
Here's how a simple twist of spiked metal ravaged the American West, crucified a generation of young men and terrorized millions of Europeans.
Reviewed by Damien Cave
[08/06/02]

Advertisement:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
From heaven, a raped and murdered 14-year-old girl watches her loved ones -- and her killer -- go on with their lives.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[2002-08-01]

The Girl From the Coast by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
A poor fisherman's daughter is plucked from her village to be the practice wife of a local aristocrat.
Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir
[2002-08-01]

The Whore's Child by Richard Russo
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls presents stories of brutal compassion about ordinary people confronting their pasts.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[2002-08-01]

The Weather in Berlin by Ward Just
A washed-up American filmmaker returns to Berlin, where he made his one masterpiece and a mystery from his past awaits.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[2002-08-01]

Advertisement:

You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett
Nine surprising stories by a new master about people who must choose between subduing the demons of depression or facing them head on.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[2002-08-01]

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A preposterous but utterly enchanting story about a young Indian boy adrift in a lifeboat with his good friend, a Bengal tiger, and some other zoo animals.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[2002-08-01]

The case for Raymond Chandler
The creator of Philip Marlowe has been called an imitator and a hack, but eight recently rerelease novels reveal that he deserves his lonely, disillusioned corner in the American literary canon.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[07/31/02]

Gods of War, Gods of Peace by Russell Bourne
For a handful of decades -- and a brief period of hope -- settler and Native American religions met, mingled and shaped colonial America.
Reviewed by Katharine Whittemore
[07/25/02]

Advertisement:

Sexual Selection: What We Can and Can't Learn About Sex From Animals" by Marlene Zuk
A new book examines what we can and can't learn about sex and ourselves from watching bonobos, birds and earwigs.
Reviewed by Susan McCarthy
[07/22/02]

My Jihad by Aukai Collins
The author, an American mujahedin, was a passionate convert to Islam. But his new memoir makes it clear that nothing got him more excited than the sound of a rocket-propelled grenade and the look in an enemy's eyes as he slit his throat.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[07/17/02]

Koba the Dread by Martin Amis
Amis calls out Christopher Hitchens and other friends on the left for not giving full weight to the 20 million victims of Stalin's terror.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[07/16/02]

Zig Zag Zen by Allan Hunt Badiner, ed.
A book about Buddhism and psychedelics asks whether it's best, when seeking higher consciousness, to take the stairs or the elevator.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[07/11/02]

Advertisement:

"Backpack" by Emily Barr and "Losing Gemma" by Katy Gardner
Backpacker fiction like "The Beach" explores the authenticity-grubbing subculture of the dreadlocked, ganja-scented travelers, but women have been left out -- until now.
Reviewed by Michelle Goldberg
[07/08/02]

The Pirate Hunter by Richard Zacks
A thrilling and tragic new book about Captain Kidd reveals that the infamous buccaneer was actually a man of honor wrongly accused.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[07/02/02]

Lost by Ian Phillips.
A collection of lost-pet posters offers a sad, evocative and sometimes very strange glimpse of the bond between humans and animals.
Reviewed by Ken Foster
[06/26/02]

Prague by Arthur Phillips
A group of young, American would-be bohemians congregates in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, vainly hoping to land in the center of something legendary.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[06/20/02]

Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings
A liberal young woman is forced to take a job at a Wall Street firm and learns the truth about the masters of the financial world.
Reviewed by Charles Taylor
[06/20/02]

You're an Animal, Viskovitz! by Alessandro Boffa
A lovesick fellow takes the form of such animals as a snail, a scorpion, a chameleon and a fish in pursuit of an elusive beauty.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[06/20/02]

The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford
An artist in turn-of-the-century New York is commissioned to paint the portrait of a mysterious woman whom no one has ever seen.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[06/20/02]

Big If by Mark Costello
A smart new novel about the folly of second-guessing the unexpected probes the minds and lives of Secret Service agents and computer programmers.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[06/20/02]

The Athenian Murders by Josi Carlos Somoza
A seemingly cheesy murder mystery set in ancient Greece turns into an ingenious literary puzzle about philosophical truth.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[06/20/02]

The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart
A Russian-born nebbish joins the mafiya and finds success swindling gullible young American tourists in Eastern Europe.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[06/20/02]

Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid by Robert J. Sternberg
Scholars finally tackle the question that has plagued humanity since time immemorial.
Reviewed by Gavin McNett
[06/19/02]

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young
A would-be member of the media elite describes his hilarious misadventures trying to succeed in the shallow, celebrity-obsessed world of glossy magazines.
Reviewed by Michelle Goldberg
[06/17/02]

Pot Planet by Brian Preston
A marijuana connoisseur travels around the world seeking out the people who grow, smoke and worship weed -- and the people who try to stop them.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[06/13/02]

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor
A historian describes Germany's fall to the Soviets in 1945, when civilians suffered the full fury and horror of war.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[06/11/02]

Shakey: Neil Young's Biography by Jimmy McDonough
The story of the "Godfather of Grunge" is a tale of sickness, health, overweening ego, spectacular talent and reckless abandon.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[06/05/02]

Unless by Carol Shields
In the last novel by the Pulitzer-winner, a daughter drops out to live on the street, forcing her mother to reassess her "happy" life.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/23/02]

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue
From the author of "Slammerkin," historically inspired stories of strange births, drugged bridegrooms and the intimate lives of famous thinkers.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[05/23/02]

The City of Your Final Destination by Peter Cameron
A naive young grad student travels to a crumbling mansion in Uruguay seeking authorization to write the biography of a suicidal novelist.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/23/02]

Lucky in the Corner by Carol Anshaw
Responsible, 21-year-old Fern tries to keep family life on track, despite her mother's wayward lesbian love affairs, an abandoned baby and a transvestite uncle.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[05/23/02]

Jihad by Gilles Kepel
Sept. 11 may have been the last gasp of militant Islam -- but while it's dying, it could strike again and again.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[05/13/02]

Mutiny on the Globe by Thomas Farel Heffernan
The true story of a whaling ship taken over by a homicidal maniac intent on ruling his own island kingdom proves that history is gorier than the movies.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[05/09/02]

Drake's Fortune by Richard Rayner
Two great American con men bilked their fellow citizens of millions by peddling goat gonad cures for impotence and shares in the estate of Sir Francis Drake.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[05/06/02]

The Bullet Meant for Me by Jan Reid
A boxing fan gets shot in the gut and winds up making a bedridden reassessment of machismo, Texas style.
Reviewed by Dan Oko
[05/02/02]

The Fasting Girl by Michelle Stacey
Victorian America's foremost anorexic became hugely famous for surviving for 12 years on a few spoonfuls of milk and a banana.
Reviewed by Kate Bolick
[05/01/02]

The Long Recessional by David Gilmour
A biography of the writer who possibly had the greatest influence on the 20th century argues that Rudyard Kipling was no mere racist, warlike champion of empire.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[04/30/02]

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
In hilariously mangled English, a Ukrainian boy describes his efforts to help a young American Jew find the village his grandfather fled in World War II.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[04/26/02]

The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
A young woman must choose between her suddenly quadriplegic fiance and a brand new life in the big city.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[04/26/02]

The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin
Stories set in other universes and in outer space explore the intimate dilemmas of religion, sex, gender and family.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[04/26/02]

The Horned Man by James Lasdun
A professor on the sexual harassment committee becomes convinced a philandering homicidal derelict is hiding in his office.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[04/26/02]

The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru
A mixed-race boy who can pass for Indian or British makes an epic, Dickensian journey through the subcontinent, Oxford and furthest Africa.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[04/26/02]

This Dark World by Carolyn S. Briggs
A woman describes her ecstatic conversion to Christian fundamentalism and her slow, difficult journey out again.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[04/16/02]

Gaudm by Gijs van Hensbergen
The man who created the world's most sexy, emotionally charged and theatrical buildings lived a life of fasting and fanatical celibacy.
Reviewed by Douglas Cruickshank
[04/11/02]

Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
Medical errors kill more people each year than auto accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. Can automating medicine prevent tragedies like the Andrea Yates case?
Reviewed by Ivan Oransky, M.D.
[04/09/02]

Stud by Kevin Conley
A New Yorker editor offers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of elite horse-breeding, where one roll in the hay is worth $500,000.
Reviewed by Damien Cave
[04/04/02]

Woman's Inhumanity to Woman by Phyllis Chesler
A pioneering feminist dares to talk about the ways women -- including famous feminists -- stab each other in the back.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[03/29/02

Indira by Katherine Frank
Indira Gandhi led the most populous democracy in the world, but finally, ruthless and paranoid, she couldn't resist the temptation of tyranny.
Reviewed by Paul Festa
[03/26/02]

The Disappearing Body by David Grand
A nifty update on the classic noir plumbs an urban underworld of dames, dope rings, double-crossing heavies and poor saps set up to take a fall.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[03/21/ 2002]

The Translator by John Crowley
A young woman's doomed affair with an exiled Russian poet takes on mystical undertones during the ominous days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[03/21/ 2002]

Violence, Nudity, Adult Content by Vince Passaro
In a satire of paranoid post-Giuliani New York, a lawyer contends with a murderous client, a bisexual stalker and a wife who inexplicably hates him.
Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir
[03/21/ 2002]

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Two real-life nannies paint a wickedly funny portrait of their pampered charges -- and the kids' even more spoiled and demanding parents.
Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek
[03/21/ 2002]

In the Forest by Edna O'Brien
In a primal tale based on a true story, the great Irish novelist describes how an innocent, sensual woman falls into the hands of a pathological killer.
Reviewed by Amy Reiter
[03/21/ 2002]

Atonement by Ian McEwan
The author of "Amsterdam" explores the devastating consequences of a young girl's lie.
Reviewed by Laura Miller
[03/21/2002]

Jerusalem Calling by Joel Schalit
A disillusioned young Israeli living in the U.S. warns the American left that it's too reluctant to criticize religious fundamentalists -- including George Bush.
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen
[03/20/02]

The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez by Jimmy Breslin
A great newspaperman returns to form with this true story of a young illegal immigrant and his horrible death on a construction site in New York.
Reviewed by Allen Barra
[03/14/02]

The Last Opium Den by Nick Tosches
A tough-guy writer elegantly mourns the vanishing of a decadent icon. But I know from my own blissful experience that the opium den lives on.
Reviewed by Michelle Goldberg
[03/07/02]


Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff


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

Books

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •