Reviews

KEEPING TIME BY THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK

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For Ellen Franck, delight, devotion, and despair are all wrapped up in a Pickle.

That's what she calls her little niece Nicole, whom she's adored since the moment she saw her. Ellen lives in Manhattan and Nicole in Maine, so each visit is an event. They spend all their time together, eating the same food, sleeping in the same bed, waking up beside each other. It is behavior, Laura Zigman writes in "Dating Big Bird," "completely befitting two people in love."


'COLOR OF MONEY': THE PACE IS FAMILIAR

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If you've read le Carre or Ludlum, you've met men like Harry Strand before. He's a suave, middle-aged fellow living in quiet peace, particularly content because his previous life brought peril at every turn. Even those closest to him have no idea he was a secret agent, one of the best and most honorable of them. He knows too much about too many powerful people, but his skills have allowed him to stay comfortably hidden.


'BAD BOY' IS ANOTHER EASY RAWLINS MYSTERY THAT'S HARD TO RESIST

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If all you're seeking for your summer reading is a good mystery with a fast pace and suspense that lasts, you could do far worse than "Bad Boy Brawly Brown," the 12th book and seventh Easy Rawlins story from Walter Mosley.

But just as there's a lot more to Mosley than Easy Rawlins, there's a lot more to the Easy Rawlins series than good guys and bad.

One of the wonders of Mosley is that he so consistently and successfully blends plot and character with substantial social commentary.


THE ANNENBERGS AND THEIR WORK

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Billions in philanthropy ensure that many monuments to Walter Annenberg will remain when he dies, befitting someone who has achieved what he has. At 91, Annenberg is not only perhaps the greatest philanthropist of the century, but also one of its most accomplished figures.

Upon a base of insolvency, he built an impressive publishing empire anchored by TV Guide, which sprang from instinct and became a near monopoly in its field. Annenberg was no saint, but in "Legacy," Christopher Ogden's biography of Walter and his father, people attest to the son's strong moral center.


ADVANCING SENSELESS VIOLENCE AS A LITERARY GENRE

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Before Colin Harrison begins rolling out the 400-plus pages of mayhem and gore in his new novel "Afterburn," he offers up an enormously telling quotation from Jean-Paul Sartre that begins, "Torture is senseless violence . . . "

It's not the quotation itself that's revealing, but Harrison's decision to include it.


T.C. BOYLE'S SHORT STORIES ARE LONG ON EMOTION

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Few circumstances are black and white in T. C. Boyle's collection of short stories, "After the Plague." Except Moira and Caitlin, that is.

They are heiress sisters who evoke Howard Hughes in the way that fabulous wealth can buy absolute insanity. Boyle introduces them via Larry, the gardener who's cultivating his own demise by furthering their design for a world devoid of color. They want all the grass, and flowers, and even the grand old trees on their property pulled up and paved over with blacktop.


AS SEPT. 11 RECEDES, NOT ALL COVERAGE SUCCEEDS

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The timing continues to be off at Vanity Fair. In its February issue, it was a little early, swooning over our conquering heroes Bush, Cheney, and Powell and all but declaring victory in the War That Will Never Be Over.

In March, with its eyewitness accounts from Sept. 11 Manhattan and a mournful portrait of a hard-hit New York firehouse, it is very late. The magazine even has a letter from its editor (Graydon Carter) that begins, "Like most New Yorkers, prior to September 11 . . .," easily placing it in the first 50 magazines to do so.


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