Jan 15, 2011

THE MARX SISTERS By Barry Maitland

taken from Felony and Mayhem

Mrs. Thatcher’s London is bristling with the newly rich bankers, and property developers who have declared the city their personal playground. but on tiny Jerusalem lane, time seems not so much to have stood still as to have slipped backwards. Its shabby houses are home to a clutch of elderly emigres, refugees from a once war-torn Europe who are still fighting ancient political battles, the Trotskyites thumping their canes in fury, the Leninists bellowing into the anarchists’ hearing-aids. To many outsiders, the lane’s enmities look like some quaint geezers’ hobby, a louder version of canasta. But then the geezers start dying.

This magical book – and a passionate desire to bring it to U.S. readers – was the reason behind Partners & Crime’s decision, in the early 1990s, to begin importing books from the UK. Felony & Mayhem is delighted to give it the second life it so richly deserves.
“Intricate and crafty…a true pleasure” — Los Angeles Times
“Maitland writes astonishingly well, with a wonderful ear for dialogue and a finely attuned sense of both character and place…extremely impressive” — Sydney Herald (Australia)

Jan 14, 2011

Read Stieg Larsson, the bestselling socialist militant

taken from the Guardian by Nick Cohen 

Graeme Atkinson provides an essential political service as the foreign editor of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. However necessary his work is, he never expected that he or any of his colleagues who dedicate their lives to the painstaking and occasionally dangerous task of exposing neo-Nazism would become celebrities. The global fame of Searchlight's former Stockholm correspondent is thus filling him with an unexpected delight.

In the next fortnight, he will hear the name of his old friend Stieg Larsson everywhere. The bookshops are preparing to receive 320,000 hardback copies of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, the last volume of the extraordinarily popular Millennium trilogy. As the hype builds again, only three thoughts will make Atkinson wince: the memory of Larsson's death in 2004 at the miserably early age of 50; the knowledge that Sweden's sexist inheritance laws denied Larsson's partner, Eva Gabrielsson, a share of his posthumous royalties; and the irritation which always overcomes him whenever he hears the media describe his old comrade as a "liberal journalist".

Larsson was not a liberal or anything like one. He was a revolutionary socialist, but of a remarkably generous and democratic sort, from a radical tradition that is all but dead in Europe. The notion that the work of a writer who had once been the editor of Fjärde Internationalen, the journal of the Swedish section of the Trotskyist Fourth International, could move to every airport bookstall in the world would have once seemed absurd. At the very least, you might have assumed that there would be few connections between the two sides of his life. But I don't believe you can understand the appeal of Larsson without grasping an almost nostalgic yearning for the best of the half-forgotten politics he represented.    READ MORE....


taken from The Book by Ellen Handler Spitz

Year after year, we print and re-print fairy tales. What is it that makes them valuable? Should we keep telling them, and if so, why? What about their detractors, the self-appointed child protectors who complain about their violence and cruelty, not to mention a different set of worriers who protest their “false” happy endings? And surely the tales do not teach morality. Remember the egregious brutality of that spoiled princess in The Frog King who, after hurling the little animal who helped her against the wall, gets rewarded. And we quail at even a mention of The Jew in the Brambles, an outrageous portrayal of barbarism and prejudice, which, in Maria Tatar’s new selection of the Grimm fairy tales, wisely appears only in a separate section marked for adults.

Nor do the tales psychologize or philosophize. What they do, instead, is what all great children’s literature does: they literalize metaphor. They lower their glittering buckets deep into the psyche’s well. Loyalty lifts spells. Jealousy becomes murder. Love trumps death. Fortune reverses. Wishes come true.

Not quite like ancient myths, which use nymphs and satyrs to explain recurring natural phenomena; nor like fables, whose timeless moral lessons are parlayed through the escapades of animal characters; nor like legends, which exude the pungent aromas of one particular locale and its history, fairy tales are stories spun into gold at the wooden wheel of a miller’s daughter: stories made to summon wonder, horror, enchantment—and not necessarily anything more. Uncanny in the purest sense of the word, which is to say, both bizarre and familiar at once, they are meant to be told, not read, and they truly possess an inexhaustible power. Children hold on tight, turn pale, close their eyes, and beg for more.

The Grimm Reader, a compilation of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, newly translated by Tatar, who has published voluminously and illuminatingly on these writings for decades, comes to us with a mischievous title. It reminds us that, in the wake of global terrorism, parents and teachers are questioning ever more nervously what sort of tales we ought to be telling children and why. In Lilith some years ago, Naomi Danis aired these anxieties, with responses from twenty writers and editors associated with children’s literature, a significant number of whom warned against “smarmy” sentimentality and against books that offer superficial “healing.” READ MORE....

Jan 12, 2011

MAIWA Handwoven Solutions to Winter

Available at Jennie's.

Rare fibers, magical blends, and the skill of handweaving
create shawls that are a joy to wear.
Wild silks, cottons, wools, and linens make shawls
that are warm in winter and cool in summer.

They can be wrapped tightly or draped over a coat
providing a stunning breath of colour.

Masterfully hand-woven by artisans.
Each shawl a story in the wearing.

Prices range from $39.95 - $198.00.

Jan 9, 2011


taken from the Royal Oak Public Library  by Sarah Nagelbush 

In February 1986, Sweden’s Prime Minister, Olof Palme, was assassinated. Even now, 24 years later, the crime remains unsolved. Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End gives us a fictional account of the months leading up to the assassination. Written by a leading Swedish criminologist, Leif GW Persson, the novel is an engrossing story, involving both Sweden’s regular police as well as the secret police.

n354931Though billed as a novel similar to those of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, it shares little in common with these authors. Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End is less of a character study than a political thriller. There are few characters whose lives we explore and want to spend time with, as the readers do in Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. There’s no tough, multi-layered detective like Mankell’s Kurt Wallander. Instead, Persson invites us into the world of Swedish politics, crime and the police through a multitude characters – many of whom are extremely unlikeable.

We spend time with the chief of police, the head of the secret police, a special adviser to the Prime Minster, several policemen and women, as well as a retired professor. Through these characters, and others, we’re slowly drawn into a world of racism, hatred, and the occasional desire to seek out the truth – and, later, what might happen.

The novel starts with the apparent suicide of a visiting American journalist and slowly unfolds into a nightmare for both the regular Swedish police and the secret police. While at first confusing, the switching narratives gives us a broad understanding of what’s going on – and we know what’s happening long before some of the characters do.

Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End is an intense, thrilling and ultimately satisfying (though slightly creepy) novel. You need not have read any other Scandinavian novels in order to enjoy Persson’s book. It is an untraditional novel about a very untraditional piece of Sweden’s history – one that still remains unsolved to this day.

Jan 7, 2011

THE INVISIBLE MOUNTAIN by Carolina de Robertis

from KNOPF publishers

“An incantatory debut…This visionary book beautifully, bravely breaks open all the old secrets.”—Lisa Shea, Elle

From the verdant hills of Rio de Janeiro to Evita Perón’s glittering Buenos Aires, from the haven of a corner butcher shop to the halls of the United States Embassy in Montevideo, this gripping novel—at once expansive and lush with detail—examines the intertwined fates of a continent and a family in upheaval. The Invisible Mountain is a deeply intimate exploration of the search for love and authenticity in the lives of three women, and a penetrating portrait of the small, tenacious nation of Uruguay, shaken by the gales of the twentieth century.

On the first day of the year 1900, a small town deep in the Uruguayan countryside gathers to witness a miracle—the mysterious reappearance of a lost infant, Pajarita—and unravel its portents for the century. Later, as a young woman in the capital city—Montevideo, brimming with growth and promise—Pajarita begins a lineage of fiercely independent women with her enamored husband, Ignazio, a young immigrant from Italy and the inheritor of both a talent for boat making and a latent, more sinister family trait. Their daughter, Eva, a fragile yet ferociously stubborn beauty intent on becoming a poet, overcomes an early, shattering betrayal to embark on a most unconventional path toward personal and artistic fulfillment. And Eva’s daughter, Salomé, awakening to both her sensuality and political convictions amid the violent turmoil of the late 1960s, finds herself dangerously attracted to a cadre of urban guerrilla rebels, despite the terrible consequences of such principled fearlessness.

Provocative, heartbreaking and ultimately life-affirming, The Invisible Mountain is a poignant celebration of the potency of familial love, the will to survive in the most hopeless of circumstances, and, above all, the fierce, fortifying connection between mother and daughter.

Jan 2, 2011


from the Guardian by Ruth Padel

"New life is formed from extinction and death," wrote Darwin in 1838, in a private notebook. Some 20 years later, he based The Origin of Species on the fact that fossils document a continuum of life forms, demonstrating that millions of species died out as others took their place. A generation earlier, however, when Tracy Chevalier's rough-petticoated heroine was pulling out of cliffs in Lyme Regis the evidence that would go into this insight, nobody wanted to believe that God did not, as one of Chevalier's characters puts it, "plan out what He would do with all of the animals He created".

It is a stunning story, compassionately reimagined. In real life Chevalier's heroine, Mary Anning, was the greatest fossil-hunter ever. Her father was a not-very-successful cabinet-maker whom Jane Austen once asked to mend a chest, but his estimate was too high. Austen looked elsewhere, never knowing that the artisan she briefly met was teaching his gifted daughter to find the "curies", the fossil curiosities sold to Lyme tourists like herself.

As a young child, Mary survived a lightning strike, which people said made her strange and extra bright. She had an uncanny gift for finding fossils, was the origin of the tongue-twister "She Sells Sea Shells on the Sea Shore", and in 1811 when she was 12 (Darwin was two) her first big find, a "crocodile" later named ichthyosaurus, rocked the scientific world. She unearthed a plesiosaurus in 1823, a pterodactyl in 1828 and a squaloraja (a transition fish, between sharks and rays) in 1829.

Scientists were knocking at Mary's impoverished family's door from 1811. Even before Richard Owen coined the word dinosaur, "terrible lizard", in 1824, giant fossils were a hot scientific topic. Several male scientists owed their achievements to Mary's finds. She taught herself geology and anatomy and worked out, with the Oxford geologist William Buckland, that lumps known as bezoar stones were actually dinosaur faeces. To raise money for Mary, one patron, Colonel Birch, auctioned the fossils she helped him find. Later the French scientist Cuvier accused Mary of fraud, a charge she successfully rebutted. She died unmarried at 47, with the respect of the international scientific community.   READ MORE....