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Rosie's Book Buzz

Review: "Charlie Two Shoes and the Marines of Love Company," by Michael Peterson and David PerlmuttNew York Times lists most stolen booksNymphets AgainReview: "Working with Available Light," by Jamie KalvenReports from the Book Club WorldAccolades(Click on a book title or cover to order that book from Amazon.com)An American Odyssey

We have family who live in Chapel Hill and every time we go down there to visit, we find ourselves eating at least once in Charlie's Chinese located on the edge of a large mall. The food is very good, but even so, eating there three times in three days is a bit much. Still, we have even done that at the request of our 13-year-old granddaughter.

Charlie the proprietor is a small cheerful Chinese, who has pictures of himself in a U.S. Marine uniform beside the cash register. Charlie has a magical story which has now been told in a book, "Charlie Two Shoes and the Marines of Love Company," by Michael Peterson and David Perlmutt (Naval Institute Press, $28.95). Philip Clarke of the Greensboro News & Record has written a long review of this new book and in this review he tells us much of the story of how Charlie and his wife, despite many obstacles, have come to the United States and raised a family in which any of us would take pride: One son owns part of the restaurant; David is a graduate of the UNC School of Medicine; and daughter Susan graduated from UNC and is a pharmacist.

Charlie is not yet an American citizen -- he is on a waiting list. When the citizenship comes through there will, I guarantee, be a huge celebration in Chapel Hill.

Steal This Book

The New York Times on Saturday, June 19, reported on a survey about what were the most often shoplifted books. The leaders in being objects of theft were Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and the Bible. Also, books that customers were too embarrassed to be seen purchasing.

Nymphets Again

Look for the retelling of Lolita from the nymphet's point of view. According to the NYT the legal copyright problems that prevented its publication in the United States have been resolved in a settlement. The novel is "Lo's Diary" by Pia Pera -- and it will be published by Foxrock Inc. in October. But this seems to be Nabokov copyright year. Publisher's Weekly has reported that Crown Publishers is planning to publish a first novel by Nancy Jones about a young girl's trip across the country with her stepfather after the death of her mother. The publisher says frankly that this book is "inspired" by "Lolita," and it was written by a Nabokov scholar. It will be released in March 2000.


Once in a while, a title attracts a reader to a book. "Working with Available Light," by Jamie Kalven (W.W. Norton, $24.95) may call out to photographers, philosophers, and poets quickly. Its subtitle, "A Family's World After Violence," immediately changes the focus to readers of psychology and biographies.

Jamie Klaven is a very elegant, knowledgeable and well-researched writer. In "Working with Available Light," he tells his family's complex story in the aftermath of his wife's violent molestation as she jogged along the waterfront of Lake Michigan in 1988. The pain, the shock, the hurt escapes no one in the family or their circle of friends. As Patsy, the wife and victim explains, "Like water flowing into channels that are already there, the pain will flow into the most difficult areas of your life."

Every person or family who endures a violent act reacts differently. The Kalven family chose to tell everyone they knew within hours of the attack. This included sitting their two children (ages 4 and 8) down on the curb and explaining that Mommy was hurt by a very bad man. The reader endures the years of the children's nightmares, as well as those of the parents. Could some of the fallout have been prevented by telling them that Mommy had an accident while jogging and holding out the gory details until they were older?

The other point that will ruffle feathers is the way Klaven downplays the act of rape itself. Since Patsy was lucky enough to escape before the rape, Klaven spends a paragraph indicating that rape itself is not much worse than molestation. Rape victims will be mortified by these few sentences.

The story evolves into crisis after crisis for Patsy between 1988 and 1993, but Klaven's research is so good that this biography becomes a definitive story of violence and its lingering effects on the family. The coping skills of the four Klavens are astute occasionally, but they made mistakes and readily admit it. Their slow return to normal was helped by trips from Chicago to the wilderness of Vermont. But no member of the family every fully reaches resolution and acceptance of the senseless act.

Maybe not a "summer reading" book, but this story may become a classic in the study of violence on individuals and the family. The writing is wordy and a bit overextended, but there's a lot of information in these pages. The story, though painful, is easy to follow.

"Working With Available Light" is a great find for the serious nonfiction reader. Don't allow it to slip from reach.

— Beth Morelli

Reports from the Book Club World

I read Roddy Doyle's latest book "The Woman Who Walked into Doors," (PenguinUSA, paper, $11.95) for a book group. (He's the Irish author of "The Commitments" and other novels.) The book was amazing, though difficult to read because it's about an abused woman. I thought it was a brilliant journey into the mind of the woman, and it was not just about her suffering but about how she (and we all, I suspect) attempt to make sense of suffering by simultaneously seeking for and avoiding the truth. It's a dark and unforgettable tale.

— Alice Garrett, Havertown, Pa.

One Richmond book group has been pursuing an interesting and impressive agenda. They have read during the course of a few years every single Ellen Glasgow book, then Edith Wharton's complete works and after her, Willa Cather. A member tells Style that the members followed this schedule because "we knew that if they didn't do it as a group we would never do it."

According to our friend, they especially enjoyed bits and pieces of the early novels. They made you realize what a pioneer Glasgow was. She was very relaxed about women and many of her characters were so strong that they didn't let the Victorian morality crush them.

The Willa Cather books were wonderful, too This reading was a revelation because her talent is so very varied. "The Song of the Lark" (New American Library, paper, $5.95) included a fine portrait of the mind of a woman artist (an opera singer).

Edith Wharton was read during the second year of this strenuous agenda. The grouping of these three authors together was interesting to the members because all three of them were women, contemporaries yet each from a different world.

The rules of this club are both strict and relaxed. You absolutely do not come to the meeting if you have not read the assigned book. On the other hand, it is a small group of people who love to read and there is no leader of the discussion -- the fun was having the members suddenly meeting an author without being filtered by criticism. Next year in the cause of gender equity, the group will read Theodore Dreiser.


The winners of the Ambassador Awards given by the English Speaking Union are:

Fiction -- Philip Roth for "I Married a Communist" (Houghton Mifflin, $26);
Autobiography and biography -- David Michaelis for "N.C. Wyeth" (Knopf, $40);
Poetry -- Robert Penn Warren for "The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren" (Louisiana State University Press, $39.95);
American studies -- Edward Ball for "Slaves in the Family" (Random House, paper, $15.95).

In Australia, the 1999 Miles Franklin Literary Award, for a work that portrays Australian life, has been awarded to Murray Bail for "Eucalyptus," (Harvest Books, paper, $13).

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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