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Book Reviews in October 2003 Issue

Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis
by Deborah Hayden

Harpercollins Trade Sales Dept $41.5 Hardcover
ISBN: 0465028810
Book Review
A Cruel Disease Unleased on Mankind
by Matt Sturrock
For the more hysterical or morbid members of our readership, agitated at the thought of all those engineered bio-weapons out there waiting to do us in, it might be useful to remember that the threat of incurable superbugs is nothing new. Indeed, as early as the 15th century, the world was embroiled in a primitive, and mostly incidental, form of germ warfare that eradicated millions on either side of the Atlantic.
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Book Review
In the Land of Pain
by Matt Sturrock
European syphilis first began to appear among the strumpets and scamps of Barcelona's waterfront shanties before migrating through Spain to Italy, France, Germany, India, China, Japan, and Russia. It typically flourished during times of war, aided in its proliferation by the travels of transnational mercenaries and the imbedded battalions of prostitutes who serviced them.
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Kill-site
by Tim Lilburn

McClelland and Stewart
75 pages $16.99 paper
ISBN: 0771053215
Book Review
Post-Driven Developments
by Jerry White
One of the best pieces of general-interest film criticism that I recall reading in the last few years appeared in the Times Literary Supplement on 7 February 2003. Murray Smith's "Darwin and the Directors" was a carefully considered, accessibly written examination of the relationship between cinematic aesthetics and Darwinian theory, ...
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The Search for Roots: A Personal Anthology
by Primo Levi

Ivan R. Dee Publisher $31.39 Hardcover
ISBN: 1566634458
Book Review
The Universe According to Primo Levi
by Brian Fawcett
In April 1980, Italian editor Guilio Borlatti asked several prominent Italian writers, Primo Levi among them, whether they would be interested in compiling an anthology of what would be, for them, essential reading. Borlatti seems to have left what "essential reading" meant to the writers he asked: cultural building blocks, seminal texts, personal favourites.
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Beyond Fate
by Margaret Visser

House of Anansi Press $17.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0887846793
Book Review
True Freedom According to Margaret Visser
by Sam Ajzenstat
Part-way through Beyond Fate, her contribution to the prestigious Massey Lectures, Margaret Visser tells the famous story of a French aristocratic who, when a beleaguered underling pleads "I have to live" replies "I don't see why" (p103). The message classic liberals draw from this story is that human nature so generally makes us put our own needs and ideas of justice above those of others, that transcendent visions of morality, though real, can't be counted on to bring about societies of even moderate freedom and equality.
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Book Review
Berlin just before the Deluge
by George Fetherling
The defining moment in Thomas Levenson's Einstein in Berlin (Random House of Canada, 486 pages, $39.95) comes when in December 1932, Albert Einstein, one step ahead of the Nazis, is leaving for his American exile after almost 20 years in Berlin. "Take a good look," he says to his wife. "You will never see it again."
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Einstein in Berlin
by Thomas Levenson

Bantam $39.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 055310344X
Book Review
How Einstein took Berlin
by Stan Persky
Science writer and filmmaker Thomas Levenson launches his thoroughly readable account of physicist Albert Einstein's 18-year sojourn in the capital of Germany, Einstein in Berlin, with a modern parallel telling of the familiar Bible story of the journey of the Magi. In the original, three wise kings from the East follow the stars to the humble manger, where they offer gifts and adoration to a new-born son.
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Book Review
Transporting oneself into Europe's Past
by Irena Murray
Few childhood experiences are as formative as riding the train. My favourite memory is of a stocky stationmaster in my father's birthplace in East Bohemia who heralded the annual arrival of the train that delivered us for our summer vacations with the limerick: From far and near/the train comes here/so be a dear/and have a beer. While my mother thought that inciting a six-year old to alcoholism was a capital offense, ...
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True Tales of the Paranormal: Hauntings, Poltergeists, Near Death Experiences, and Other Mysterious Events
by Kimberly Molto

University Of Toronto Press $22.99 Paperback
ISBN: 1550024108
Book Review
Just in Time for Halloween
by Gordon Phinn
On August 10, 1901, two English schoolteachers, Annie Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, guidebooks in hand, somehow managed to get lost in the gardens of Versailles. Wandering about in the ever more oppressive summer heat, they began to notice more and more people in 18th century garb, a couple of whom spoke to their imminent distress in a manner obviously intended as helpful. Gardeners gardened, well dressed ladies sat and sketched, a wedding party moved off in the distance.
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Book Review
The Orphic Soul: Kenneth Rexroth
by Rachelle K. Lerner
The life and work of American poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth are marked by contradictions. Survey his literary profiles and you collide with Rexroth the "literary street fighter-anarchist" or "daddy-o Rexroth". Read his Japanese work and you're given a short, introspective Japanese-American with the moniker "Kenny".
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Red Blood, Black Ink, White Paper: New and Selected Poems, 1961-2001
by Phyllis Gotlieb

Exile Editions $22.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1550966014
Book Review
Not Lost in Space: Phyllis Gotlieb
by Susan Briscoe
The literary community is often uncomfortable with the crossing of genres, and writers who are successful in one are rarely so well-received by the critics of another. This has certainly been the case for Phyllis Gotlieb who, favoured with lasting popularity as a science fiction novelist, has received little attention for her poetry.
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Sam Spiegel: The Incredible Life and Times of Hollywood's Most Iconoclastic Producer, the Miracle Worker Who Went from Penniless Re
by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni

Simon & Schuster Trade $47.5 Hardcover
ISBN: 068483619X
Book Review
Sam Spiegel
by Keith Garebian
His third wife summarized him by quoting Churchill's line about Soviet Russia: "A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Certainly much about him was mysterious, for he deliberately let you know only fragments of his life. He perpetuated his mother's deception that the family were Austrian Jews with German culture. He became famous in Hollywood as S.P. Eagle, producer of Tales of Manhattan and The African Queen. He threw fabulous New Year's Eve parties, ...
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When Eagles Call
by Susan Dobbie

Ronsdale Press $19.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1553800052
Book Review
When Eagles Call
by W.P. Kinsella
When Eagles Call is an earnest historical novel set in what is now the Langley- White Rock area of British Columbia. Dobbie tells the story of a young Hawaiian named Kimo who is recruited by the Hudson's Bay Co., and becomes one of many Hawaiians to work at the Company forts along the Fraser River in Canada. We learn, in meticulously researched detail, of the hard lives of the Company employees as they encounter the unfriendly elements and various Native peoples, some friendly, some not so.
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Twenty-six
by Leo McKay Jr.

McClelland & Stewart $32.99 Hardcover
ISBN: 0771054750
Book Review
Twenty-Six
by W.P. Kinsella
Twenty-Six opens with Ziv, a 23-year-old Nova Scotian, drunk and wandering the freezing streets of a small mining town. Ziv's father is an old drunk, while Ziv's older brother, Arvel, is back at the family home after being kicked out by his wife for being a drunk. This is not a happy home, nor is it full of likable characters. It is often difficult to know exactly what this novel is about or whose story it is.
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Damselfish
by Susan Ouriou

XYZ Publishing $22.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1894852052
Book Review
Damselfish
by W.P. Kinsella
Damselfish has Hope, a struggling artist from Montreal, living on grant money in Mexico City, when her crabby older sister Faith, joins her. Their father, who was Mexican, deserted the family years before. Their mother now lives in another part of Mexico. Hope finds herself a boyfriend, Jos, who is every woman's fantasy, handsome, understanding, a great lover, apparently employed, and willing to put up with all sorts of icky family problems, the kind that would send most men screaming into the hills.
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Filling the Belly
by Tara Manuel

Thistledown Press $16.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1894345568
Book Review
Filling the Belly
by W.P. Kinsella
Barely novella-length, Filling the Belly is a story poetically written and often very moving. Rosa, a girl of about 12 or 13, one of a wild pack of Newfoundland Irish, is very troubled.
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The Island Walkers
by John Bemrose

McClelland & Stewart $34.99 Hardcover
ISBN: 0771011113
Book Review
The Island Walkers
by W.P. Kinsella
It has been some time since I've read a novel, especially a long one, that I wished would not end. Here we have an old-fashioned novel with plot, and a story filled with highly developed and sympathetic characters. Alf Walker is a struggling working man who is unwillingly pulled into a series of events concerning the establishment of a union at the knitting mill in Southern Ontario where he works.
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Book Review
Hit and Run
by M.J. Fishbane
It's become imperative for today's Teen (or Tween) novels to have a healthy dose of teenage angst. This is no different in the following three mystery books for young adults, where what's been hidden from these characters is who they are rather than "who done it." Take Hit and Run, by four-time Arthur Ellis Award winner Norah McClinton.
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Tom Finder
by Martine Leavitt

Fitzhenry & Whiteside $12.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0889952620
Book Review
Tom Finder
by M.J. Fishbane
Things are a little strang in Tom Finder, where Martine Leavitt weaves Mozart's The Magic Flute-she quotes the opera at the beginning of each chapter, transforming the passages into clues for solving the mystery-into her story about a fifteen-year-old boy with a bizarre case of amnesia.
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The Ghost in the Machine
by Woodbury Mary

Coteau Books $8.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1550502271
Book Review
The Ghost in the Machine
by M.J. Fishbane
In Mary Woodbury's The Ghost in the Machine, overweight and awkward fifteen-year-old Tyler Graham finds a ghost in his dead uncle's destroyed Volkswagen beetle one summer night. The ghost, who looks like a teenage version of Tyler's Uncle Scott, tells him to fix the car. Suddenly inspired, Tyler, who has no previous mechanical experience, decides to do as the ghost asks. With the help of his new friend, Haley Nixon, Tyler discovers why his mother is so depressed, how his uncle Scott died, and he learns crucial facts about the feud between his family and another.
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Book Review
The Magic Pot
by Olga Stein
Although the context for the story is the very modest home of impoverished elderly Jewish grandparents, the appeal is universal. Seven-year-old Rifkeh visits her tiny Bubbe Malke every Saturday, never noticing how sickly or poor she is. Because Bubbe Malke is loving and kind, considerate of every living thing around her, she is to Rifkeh always larger than life and beautiful.
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An Alien in My House
by Shenaaz Nanji

University Of Toronto Press $14.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 1896764770
Book Review
An Alien in My House
by Olga Stein
Ben's elderly grandfather has just moved in. Ben thinks of him as an alien. His body comes apart-his teeth come out and his hair comes off. He makes lots of noise when he breathes, and he needs a button in his ear to hear what is being said to him. He eats only green food-peas, broccoli, and spinach, and he takes many pills.
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Dove Legend
by Richard Outram

Porcupine∆s Quill
173 pages $14.95 paper
ISBN: 0889842213
Book Review
A Light Blaze in Rare Air: Richard Outram
by Jeffrey Donaldson
Dove Legend is a pungent pot pourri for Outram readers. It binds together the shorter poem cycles, festive holiday broadsheets, occasional verses and love poems, and a number of highly disguised and thus revealing autobiographical pieces, all written over the past ten years (roughly since Outram's retirement from stage production at the CBC).
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Book Review
"Her Kindled Shadow..." An Introduction to the Work of Richard Outram
by Jeffrey Donaldson
No one should be surprised to learn that the first scholar to offer a full book-length treatment of Outram's work is a poet himself, and a very fine poet at that. In his own poems and in his other critical commentary (on John Thompson for instance), Peter Sanger shares with his subject Outram a love of words, an appetite for the linguistic or semantic foxhunt, a jeweller's eye for the intricacies of literary form, a midwife's gentle handling of the freshly delivered literary-historical curio or bibliographic treasure.
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A Further Exile
by Tom Henihan

Ekstasis Editions $14.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1894800044
Book Review
A Further Exile
by Shane Neilson
Tom Henihan is an odd kind of Canadian poet. He has never applied for a grant. He does not submit to magazines or contests. When he deigns to give readings-which is rare-he refuses to identify himself beyond his host's introduction. He also eschews the typical set-up most poets inflict on their audiences. He detests the story-behind-the-poem and the why-I-wrote-this explanations.
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A Mortar of Seeds
by Tom Henihan

Ekstasis Editions $12.95 Paperback
ISBN: 1896860230
Book Review
A Mortar of Metaphor: Tom Henihan
by Shane Neilson
Tom Henihan is an odd kind of Canadian poet. He has never applied for a grant. He does not submit to magazines or contests. When he deigns to give readings-which is rare-he refuses to identify himself beyond his host's introduction. He also eschews the typical set-up most poets inflict on their audiences. He detests the story-behind-the-poem and the why-I-wrote-this explanations.
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The Songs of the Kings: a Novel
by Barry Unsworth

Nan A. Talese $40 Hardcover
ISBN: 0385501145
Book Review
Rethinking the Ancient Greeks
by Andy Lamey
Is there any other civilization quite so dull-quite so tiresome and overrated-as the Greeks? Consider the tragedies for which they are famous: all those paranoid speeches about vengeful gods, who are invariably out to get us. Does any other dramatic conceit ring nearly as false? (And just who are these gods, anyway? Apollo can run fast. Poseidon lives under the sea. Didn't we meet them as Flash and Aquaman, back in the Justice League?)
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The Dialogues of Time and Entropy
by Aryeh Lev Stollman

Riverhead Books $37.5 Hardcover
ISBN: 1573222356
Book Review
A Sharp Tooth in the Fur
by Ibolya Kaslik
Darryl Whetter's "A Sharp Tooth in the Fur" presents a puzzling and intriguing glimpse into the male psyche. Whetter's stories explore responsibility, violence, ownership, marital separation, drugs, academia, adolescence, and sex. Self-deprecatory and ironic to a fault, Whetter's characters are either middle-aged males, who happen to be teachers or academics, or adolescent boys pushing themselves to physical extremes.
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The Bat Tattoo
by Russell Hoban

Bloomsbury UK $6.99 Hardcover
ISBN: 0747560226
Book Review
Russell Hoban
by Eric Miller
Much of Russell Hoban's latest novel, The Bat Tattoo, consists of what scholars call ekphrasis-the description in words of works of art. The reader is treated to thoughtful interpretations of Caspar David Friedrich's Chalk Cliffs on Rugen, of Daumier's Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, of Paul Bril's Campo Vaccino with a Gypsy Woman Reading a Palm, and of an eighteenth-century Chinese bowl decorated with red bats, symbols of happiness. Elsewhere ...
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The Dance of Geometry
by Brian Howell

Toby Press $25.1 Hardcover
ISBN: 1902881478
Book Review
The Dance of Geometry
by Jeff Bursey
Recently there have been several fictional works dealing with Dutch painting-Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Katharine Weber's The Music Lesson-and so it is legitimate to ask whether or not Brian Howell, in a novel dealing with Vermeer, contributes something new. The title indicates The Dance of Geometry regards the abstract problems of perspective as more important than fleshing out the figure of Vermeer; this is a novel about ideas, not about characters.
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Nowhere Man
by Aleksandar Hemon

Nan A. Talese $35.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0385499248
Book Review
Nowhere Man
by Nathan Whitlock
Aleksander Hemon's next work of fiction should be called "The Nabokov Comparison". Just as questions of identity-sexual, linguistic, historical, literary-haunt Hemon's fictional hero Josef Pronek, so have comparisons with Nabokov haunted the critical reception given his first novel, Nowhere Man. It's a tricky and often irresistible operation, placing an artist this way.
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Hemingway in Africa
by Christopher Ondaatje

Harper Collins Canada $39.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0002006707
Book Review
Hemingway in Africa
by Andrew Robinson
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is one of the world's classic short stories, and one of the most famous fictions written by Ernest Hemingway. It appeared in 1936, two years after Hemingway returned from his first African safari, when he was at the height of his literary and worldly success.
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Deafening
by Frances Itani

Harper Collins Canada $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0002005395
Book Review
Deafening
by W.P. Kinsella
Deafening, by Frances Itani, is set in the years before and during World War I. This very well researched, sometimes touching, though occasionally boring effort has a beautiful cover photo by Susan Daboll. The story centers around Grania, a small town southern Ontario girl who is deafened by scarlet fever at age five.
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Book Review
Gardeners in Paradise
by W.P. Kinsella
Gardeners in Paradise sports a beautiful cover photograph by C. L. Hunter of a terraced garden overlooking the sea. There are also very fine black and white photos at the beginning of each story. But don't mistake this for a gardening book. It's a collection of 12 stories exuding powerful emotions, with an occasional foray into the surreal.
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The Laying on of Hands: Stories
by Alan Bennett

Vhps Hardcover $22 Hardcover
ISBN: 0312290519
Book Review
Collecting Extraordinary Ordinary Lives
by Irene D'Souza
Readers who expect Alan Bennett to turn in another opus as accomplished as his previous works, such as The Talking Head' series on PBS, will not be disappointed in the three stories that make up the collection of The Laying on of Hands. Bennett, who has already captured our loyalty and made us more attentive to the foibles of being human in screen plays such as Prick up your ears, is never preachy or sappy.
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The Dialogues of Time and Entropy
by Aryeh Lev Stollman

Riverhead Books $37.5 Hardcover
ISBN: 1573222356
Book Review
The Mystical Ecosystem of A.L. Stollman
by Michael Greenstein
Aryeh Lev Stollman is one of those rare creatures who straddles C.P. Snow's "two cultures" of science and art. A neuroradiologist by day, Stollman has published two novels and a short story collection, whose title hints at the two cultures-the dialogue between artistic time and scientific entropy. As one of the characters exclaims: "Science and the humanities are one!
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The Demon Lover
by David Arnason

Turnstone Press $16.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0888012780
Book Review
Lapping up Amason's Bowl Full of Tall Tales
by Steven M. Berzensky
David Arnason knows how to tell a gripping tale whose twists and turns defy all predictability. His latest short story collection was a finalist (April 26, 2003) for the 2002 Manitoba Writing and Publishing Awards, including nominations for Book of the Year and Fiction. Many gems of different colours fill Arnason's enchanting bowl of seventeen stories.
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The Demon Lover
by David Arnason

Turnstone Press $16.95 Paperback
ISBN: 0888012780
Book Review
Whimsical Stories Not Without Poignancy
by Padma Viswanathan
The title story of Rabindranath Maharaj's new collection of short fiction centres on a thick manuscript of homilies-as-hypotheticals. Each takes the form of an if' statement followed by a corollary but' question. In this artful tale, a struggling writer of speculative fiction finds his apartment invaded by Pegu, a bombastic, mustachioed older gentleman.
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Brick Lane
by Monica Ali

Simon & Schuster Canada $37.5 Hardcover
ISBN: 0743243307
Book Review
A Simple Country Girl Bound in London
by Nancy Wigston
Monica Ali has made all the "A" lists of Best Young British Writers this year, kudos following the publication of her first novel, Brick Lane, a hearty broth of a tale that follows the gradual assimilation of a young village bride from Bangladesh into the harsh realities of life in modern London. Readers might be reminded of the rapturous reception that followed Zadie Smith's White Teeth a few years back, ...
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The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing, Book 1)
by R. Scott Bakker

Penguin Canada Paperback $26 Paperback
ISBN: 0143013742
Book Review
Fantasy Setting for Nietschean Superman
by Patrick R. Burger
R.Scott Bakker's The Darkness that Comes Before: Book One of The Prince of Nothing is a deep meditation on philosophy, religion and the state of our world. At the same time it is a top notch exemplar of the fantasy romance sub-genre.
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Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood

McClelland & Stewart $37.99 Hardcover
ISBN: 0771008686
Book Review
Back to the Future-Atwood's New Dystopia
by Cindy MacKenzie
Following hard on the heels of her Booker prize winner, The Blind Assassin (2000), Margaret Atwood's latest and most disturbing novel, Oryx and Crake, has shaken readers and critics with its highly dystopic view of the future. According to the author's essay found on the website oryxandcrake.com, the novel is not science fiction, but speculative fiction.
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The Slynx
by Tolstaya

Houghton Mifflin Co. $37.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0618124977
Book Review
After the "Blast", Future Life is Backward
by Olga Stein
Tatyana Tolstaya's The Slynx is in some ways similar to Margaret Atwood's Onyx and Crake. Tolstaya's takes us two hundred years into a post-apocalyptic future, constructs a dystopia of communal life in a village standing on the ashes of what used to be part of Moscow, and reveals how the meanings of words atrophy given certain cultural conditions-when what prevails is widespread ignorance and complete intellectual impoverishment.
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Alien Heart
by Lyall Powers

University Of Toronto Press $44.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0887551750
Book Review
Margaret Laurence Danced on this Earth
by Clara Thomas
Lyall Powers is uniquely qualified to write this biography of Margaret Laurence. From the time in the 40s when they were fellow undergraduates at United College in Winnipeg, both primarily interested in English courses and sometimes finding themselves in the same classes, they were friends.
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Green Labyrinth: Exploring the Mysteries of the Amazon
by Sylvia Fraser

Thomas Allen $34.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0887621236
Book Review
The Labyrinths of Mind and Jungle
by Erling Friis-Baastad
When quantum physics began disassembling the Newtonian universe, all manner of metaphysical speculations gained, or regained, credence. What most of us took for reality became suspect and all those tedious New Agers chanted, "I told you so." The good news is, Keats's handy cop-out, negative capability, still serves even when the mind threatens to buckle under the weight of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle or Bell's theorem: Take what you need and leave the rest.
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The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History
by Jean-Pierre Chr+¨tien; Translated By Scott Straus

Zone Books $48.5 Hardcover
ISBN: 189095134X
Book Review
Man-Made Disasters: Origins of Ethno-Racial Conflict in Africa
by Christopher Ondaatje
As recently as the 1970s, the Great Lakes region of east Africa-encompassing Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, eastern Congo and western Tanzania-conjured dreams "of an earthly paradise similar to an extended Solomonic Ethiopia," in the words of Jean-Pierre Chrtien. But then Uganda in the mid 1980s, and Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in the 1990s, became veritable hells on earth.
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Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
by Simon Winchester

Harper Collins Canada $39.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0066212855
Book Review
A Natural Disaster Remembered World-Over
by Clara Thomas
Simon Winchester has a genius for titles. His The Map that Changed the World and The Madman and the Prophet became best-sellers and Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded is well on its way to a similar success. Our all-too-human enjoyment of disasters, especially those far away in time and geography, guarantees the morbid curiosity that will move this book off the shelves and Winchester's skilled managing of his narrative guarantees our continuing attention.
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