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Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Stephen Ausherman, Steven Robert Allen, Dan Scott, Todd Gibson

FEBRUARY 23, 1998: 

Prisoners in My Backyard
by Maria L. Leyba (La Güerita Press, paper, $5)

This chapbook of poetry from the barrio tells you it's worse than you expected, though hope and small revelations come from a mother's insights and multigenerational contexts. Submerged in the world of local poet Maria Leyba--a world of chain link and damp bosque earth--the reader begins to see why some kids here grow up the way they do. But don't expect romanticized poverty or blame games. The author has been around long enough to grow past that. If you've lived here a while, you'll recognize various Albuquerque landmarks that are often left out of the tourist guide books. If you're new to these parts, raised on pastrami or Moon Pies, then you might have trouble with some of the dialect--and most Spanish-English dictionaries are of no help. Read it anyway. Read it out loud. Or, if you're like me, find someone who can read it with the correct pronunciation and inflections. Either way, you'll probably learn something from these short, sharp narrative poems. And if you intend to stay here, it's stuff you should know. (SA)


Oscar & Lucinda
by Peter Carey (Vintage, paper, $13)

There's no way to prepare for a book like this. The slick, wormy photographs might raise a few false expectations--and not necessarily pleasant ones. Never, though, could we expect the lilt and sway, the throbbing erotic purity of Carey's sentences, like a flock of tiny white birds, each a miracle in itself, yet moving across the sky like a single organism, beauty framed within beauty. Who is this Peter Carey anyway, and how did he come to write like this?

All his characters, big or small, are breathing, empathetic beings. You can sniff sweat off their skin, touch them with your fingers, observe the tangible shapes of their bodies slumped in chairs. In this love story of two roving gamblers from separate continents, Carey carves out a world that feels more true than the world around us, which serves to alter, irrevocably, our ideas about our universe. This 1988 novel has been reprinted to accompany its transformation into celluloid. I have not seen the movie, but believe me, I am very grateful for the book. (SRA)


Pragmatism: A Reader
edited by Louis Menand (Vintage, paper, $16)

Practically speaking, this book is not for the general reader or those looking for a good bed time read. But for those searching for a little contemporary philosophical edification, there's plenty to bite off. Editor Louis Menand has certainly selected some of the clearest examples of pragmatism at work and does an adequate job of explaining the relation between these influential thinkers. From William James to Oliver Wendell Holmes to the irascible Richard Rorty, this book brings together (mainly) an American philosophy--a way of "doing philosophy." Simply put, these writers explain the way we think, or the way we should think, in order to bring us into a better relation to the world; a way of thinking that is based on the principles of scientific reasoning. The reader will immediately recognize, and perhaps find some relief in, the fact that what is being espoused by these big brains is something that most of us do everyday, i.e. making decisions based upon what we predict will happen and what the consequences will be. (DS)


Loving Chloe
by Jo-Ann Mapson (Harper Collins, cloth, $24)

Jo-Ann Mapson, perhaps spurred on by the success of her debut novel Hank and Chloe, revisits her unorthodox lovers in a reprise of their 1993 romance. We find Hank hard at work rebuilding both a house deep in the heart of the Navajo nation and his broken heart, when Chloe, the free-spirited, sexy woman responsible for it all, walks back into his life bearing his child. They eagerly reunite, but Chloe refuses to marry him, an issue that boils over when Junior Whitebear, famous jewelry artist and local legend, seduces Chloe, shattering Hank and Chloe's fragile peace. Mapson weaves this refreshingly ambiguous story of a blameless love triangle with her trademark witty dialogue and intensely erotic sex scenes, while exploring questions of fidelity and the risks of following your heart. A resident of the Southwest, she has a love of the land and its traditions--the Navajo culture and horse training come to mind--which lends the story authenticity, but it is her belief in the restlessness and nobility of the human spirit that gives Loving Chloe its lasting appeal. (TG)


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