Reviews

A CYNICAL LOOK AT CANNIBALISM IN ACADEME

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When pieces of Dean Cranston Fessing are discovered in a dumpster behind the gender-studies center at Wainscott University, having been roasted, sauteed, or baked in one delicate sauce or another, it is the best thing that ever happened to Norman de Ratour, mild-mannered recording secretary at the Museum of Man.

Dean Fessing, you see, was laying the groundwork to have the university swallow the museum, threatening not only to end the museum's sacred mission but also to downsize de Ratour out of the job he has held for more than 30 years.


BOGOSIAN JUST SHOULD HAVE SAID NO

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You can't tell a book by its cover, but author and title can reveal a lot. For example, who thought, when they heard that Eric Bogosian had written a book called "Mall," that it would be a celebration of American happiness, or a gift guide perhaps?

Of course not. Anyone familiar with "Talk Radio," or "Suburbia," or his latest version of "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee" would have expected a rant, and one more temple of mindless consumerism is just the sort of place where Bogosian would shop for literary material.


MEMOIR SPELLS OUT THE BURDON ON BEING ERIC

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Eric Burdon is just the sort of chap you'd want to write a memoir of the rock 'n' roll life. As lead singer of the Animals, he was a key soldier in the British invasion of the '60s, he was present at several key junctures in pop history, and he somehow remembers them despite a 40-year binge on drugs and alcohol.

Here's another reason: He's alive. It's absurdly obvious, but it stands out in increasing relief as Burdon ticks off story after story of famous pals who didn't survive: Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, and Steve McQueen.


MICHAEL PALIN FINDS THE ULTIMATE COMFY CHAIR

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Michael Palin has found success in many places: He made his name almost three decades ago as a founding member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, and he arguably has gone farther in the aftermath than any of his mates.

This is the literal truth, considering his public-TV travelogues that have taken him "From Pole to Pole" and "Around the World in Eighty Days." But he was terribly amusing also as the stuttering fool in "A Fish Called Wanda."


A WHODUNIT WITH LOCAL FLAVOR

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Isaac Asimov once said that writing a mystery is simple: Devise a situation that can be explained in more than one way, build a case for one of those ways, and at the end, reveal the "truth" to be different.

Simple, perhaps, but not easy, because each scenario, especially the feint, has to be believable, or there's no sale. Therein lies the difficulty in Boston writer Dennis Lehane's fourth novel. Lehane is clever with words and can paint a good scene, but too often in "Gone, Baby, Gone," the reader is left with the sense that it wouldn't have gone that way.


RUN OF THE MILL? NOT 'EMPIRE FALLS'

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In the Empire Falls of Richard Russo's clever and knowing fifth novel, the empire has all but fallen. Led by the mighty Whitings, its textile mills had powered the fictitious central Maine town for generations, but now only tatters remain.

The most visible remnants are the two old factories that stand hard by the Knox River, but there are plenty of others, including the clan's flinty, calculating matriarch, and memories woven deeply into the fabric of the community.


TRAVELS WITH EINSTEIN ON THE ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP Michael Paterniti ponders the nature of the universe, with the famed physicist’s

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It's a reassuring illusion to believe that we know where we're going and what will happen along the way. But who has not encountered the Big Event, the unplanned occurrence that forever changed our little plans and schemes?

It became like that for every thinking person when, in 1905, a flash of insight led Albert Einstein to the Theory of Relativity. We thought we understood the universe, and then we saw we didn't.


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