News and reviews for book lovers 

Rosie's Weekly Book Round Up

Books and Reading QuicknotesComing Up: New mysteriesReview: "The Invention of George Washington" by Paul LongmoreReview: "A Dark Place In the Jungle," by Linda SpaldingReview: "At All Costs," by John Gilstrap(Click on a book title or cover to order that book from Amazon.com)Books and Reading Quicknotes

In the June 15 New York Times (New York Region Section) was a short but fascinating article about Jack Hemingway, Ernest's eldest son. Jack has just introduced a new line of furniture: the Ernest Hemingway line manufactured by Thomasville.

According to the Times, Jack Hemingway (Bumby in "A Moveable Feast") is the heir to a line of suicides and alcoholics, and he has not had an easy life. One of his daughters died of an overdose, another has had mental problems. But he is pleased with the thought of the models of the furniture that his father used and is sure they will sell to his father's fans. Jack Hemingway, himself -- although not interested in writing -- is the image of his famous father.

As everyone must have heard by now, Ralph Ellison's long-awaited novel has been published. Ellison died in 1994, but scholar John F. Callahan has reconstructed the unfinished second novel from 2,000 pages Ellison left. If you would like to read an interesting review of this novel "Juneteenth" (Random House, $25) click here.

The New Republic also had a long review but the writer, James Wood, was definitely on the negative side of the value of this Ellison posthumous publication. Click here to read his review.

John Kenneth Galbraith, an economist who can make his subject intelligible and accessible, has a new book -- a memoir this time, "Name-Dropping: From FDR On" (Houghton Mifflin, $26). The Atlantic ran an entertaining review of this new book by Jack Beatty, a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly. He tells us that "'Name-Dropping' is a delightful portrait gallery of personages Galbraith knew or worked with in politics from FDR to Harry Truman, from Stevenson to JFK and LBJ. It is a short book, so it would not do to give away more of its treasures ..." You can read the whole review at www.theatlantic.com. It is worth the click.

The New Yorker fiction issue (June 21&28) features short stories by 20 authors ages 40 and under. If you like short fiction and want to sample the work by many younger writers, read this issue. There is sufficient meat in this issue to keep you as busy as a book could do.

Brill's Content for August has given us its list of excellent nonfiction summer reading. Among the books listed are two that we have discussed on this page "Black Hawk Down," by Mark Bowden (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24) and "The Lexis and the Olive Tree," by Thomas Friedman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux $27.50), plus 12 others which look as if they would take up more than one summer, but reading them might be worth the time. They include "Siberian Dawn: a Journey Across the New Russia," by Jeffrey Tayler (Hungry Mind Press, $27) and "Show Me A Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide and Race," by Lisa Belkin (Little Brown, $25). Brill's has an interesting Web site at www.brillscontent.com. Unfortunately, the article on summer reading is not available online.

In an article "Rewind," in which publisher Steven Brill discusses the responsibility of book reviews to at least give a nod toward the question as to whether or not the books are factually accurate. He claims that both reviewers and publishers are often fooled as in the case of "In the Belly of the Beast," by Jack Henry Abbott in which the author reported hellish conditions he was meeting in prison. The book elicited active support from such celebrities as Norman Mailer. Abbott was released from prison, then killed a waiter in a New York restaurant. This piece, too, is not available at the Web site.

Coming Up

If you like mysteries and are a fan of either Sue Grafton or Walter Mosely look for their latest stories in the fall. Henry Holt will publish Grafton's "O is for Outlaw" in October. Little Brown has scheduled Mosley's "Walkin' the Dog" for October also.

A Man for Americans

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the death of George Washington. Celebrations, exhibitions and academic conferences have brought a renewed interest in the man Henry Lee famously eulogized as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." It is timely, then, that the University Press of Virginia has reissued in paperback Paul Longmore's book, "The Invention of George Washington" (paper $15.95).

For many years historians and ordinary Americans have struggled with the historical image of Washington, trying to separate myth from fact. While Parson Weem's tale of the cherry tree may be dismissed out of hand, the question remains, "How could any individual be that good?" Many historians have led us to believe that "the revolutionary generation of Americans made [Washington] into a heroic personage who incarnated their republican and nationalist beliefs." In short, Washington's contemporaries made the man into the myth.

In this eminently readable — if severely underedited — book, Longmore shows convincingly that Washington himself was responsible for the image. From a young age George Washington consciously and conscientiously schooled himself to become a leader whose public image and persona were to symbolize the new nation. So successful was he in creating the image of the citizen-soldier, disinterested statesman and leader of freedom's cause that before the end of 1776, when the Revolution had barely begun, two towns, two counties and one geographical landmark, Washington Heights, had been named for him.

Longmore's differs from previous Washington biographies by showing "what he meant to the generation who fought the Revolution, not only what they thought, but how they felt about him" and Washington's own role in the formation of that perception.

— James D. Watkinson

A Book That Should've Stayed In The Jungle

"A Dark Place In the Jungle," by Linda Spalding (Algonquin $22.95) is two very intriguing books.

The trouble is, it's supposed to be just one book, and author Linda Spalding never really gets around to telling the story that needs to be told.

Spalding sets out to learn about Birute Galdikas, who with Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey was one of Louis Leakey's primate researching pioneer "angels." Galdikas has become more an elusive, shadowy, possibly paranoid fund-raiser than scientist, Spalding discovers, and there is conflict brewing between Galdikas and the Indonesian government.

This story has all the makings of a riveting investigative book: scheming governments, intriguing personalities, endangered animals and lots of money. But Spalding never really follows through on the promise of intrigue.

Instead, as she travels back and forth from Borneo, the book becomes more travelogue than investigative piece. Spalding ruminates on her life, motherhood, and what effects Westerners have on Third World cultures. All that's fine, but she loses the handle on the much more fascinating story of Galdikas.

An epilogue that describes some Indonesian governmental dealings with Galdikas fills a bit of the void, but not enough. Spalding's rambling, tantalizing book is a good start on two interesting tales, but neither tales gets fully told, and that's a shame.

— Mark Stroh

"At All Costs"

Virginia writer John Gilstrap's thriller "At All Costs" (Warner Books, $24) is a standard example of the genre with a few twists to make it interesting: a whole family on the run from law officers who seem unnaturally desperate to catch them. If you like thrillers, this is a competent one which may entertain but will not take much concentration. You can read it on the beach, by the pool, or on a plane while there is more than white noise around you.

— Rozanne Epps

If you have read a book you liked or particularly disliked or if you have a book club you would like to tell us about e-mail us at rmail@richmond.infi.net and type BOOKS in the subject line.

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