Monday, July 29, 2013

Black Coconuts, Brown Magic

Black Coconuts, Brown Magic
by Joseph Theroux

The first novel by Joseph Theroux, set in the fallen paradise of Samoa. Silas Wicklowe, once a medic in Vietnam, is now a doctor on a three-month assignment at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago. Wicklowe carries a double burden. Born in American Samoa, the son of a naval officer, he has returned to paradise to uncover the mysteries surrounding his dead mother and father. He's also running from his former wife. His war experience has made him impotent, thrown him into a kind of psychic fatigue. He suffers from what the Samoans call ''spirit sickness.'' He screams in the night and walks around with dead eyes. He has the Vietnam blues. Joseph Theroux is the younger brother of the writers Paul and Alexander Theroux.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Conquest

The Conquest
by Yxta Maya Murray

Sara Rosario Gonzales is a restorer of rare books and manuscripts at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. When Sara restores a sixteenth-century manuscript about an Aztec princess enslaved by Cortes and sent to Europe to entertain the pope and Emperor Charles V, she doesn't realize the power of the tale she's about to immerse herself into.

The princess, we find, is determined to avenge the slaughter of her people, and Sara is determined to prove that the book, which caused scandal when first published, was written by the Aztec princess herself, and not the European monk reputed to have penned it.

The Conquest is a beautifully written novel that offers both hope that true love does exist and that history, in all its complexity, is what drives us all toward tomorrow

Entwined within Sara's fascination of the manuscript is Sara's own life: the frustration over her inability to commit to Karl, the man who has loved her since high school; the haunting wisdom of her departed mother; and the stability of a father who sees the world in a way Sara does not, both pragmatically and unyieldingly.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Coming Fury

The Centennial History of the Civil War, Part 1: The Coming Fury
by Bruce Catton

 This one is about the complex legal issues that led to the Civil War and to the most momentous decision in U. S. history: how should President Lincoln respond to the secessions and the seizures of federal property in the South? It raises many interesting questions, not the least of which is, did he make the right decision? Was the bloodbath worth it? If Lincoln had known the consequences, would he have made the same decision? If he had let the South go, would it have brought peace? How long would slavery have continued?

Was secession a Constitutional right, as the Confererates claimed? If not, why did Lincoln recognize West Virginia’s right to secede from Virginia? Was this a hypocritical double standard? Private property was protected by the Constitution; did that include private property in slaves? Lincoln thought it did. Was he justified in suspending habeas corpus in Maryland? What is a nation? Is it a compact among sovereign states? Or is it a sovereignty over constituent states? When federals violated the Fugitive Slave Law, did that constitute recognition that the South was an independent country?