Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Brendan Doherty, Jennifer L.X. Scharn, Stephen Ausherman, Aaron Emmel

JULY 13, 1998: 

The Light of Falling Stars
by J. Robert Lennon (Riverhead, paper, $13)

A plane falls from the sky as a couple argues in their yard, the whine of its engines drowning out their voices, parts of the craft shearing off the roof of their house. A few miles away, a young man waits for his girlfriend at the airport, while in a long-empty house, an old woman anticipates the return of the husband who left her long ago. The crash of the plane on the outskirts of Marshall, Mont., takes more than just the lives of those on board. It casts the characters into a swirling chaos that convincingly reminds the reader that lives are often more about the aftermath--missed moments, unsaid feelings, tenuous connections that break apart all too easily. Richly detailed, and unexpectedly comic, this book compels readers with an intuitive sense of both the concrete and the metaphorical. His is a voice with genuine promise, and this, his first book, shines like a light. (BD)

Ghost Dancing
by Edwin Daniels (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, cloth, $75)

JD Challenger's paintings are intoxicatingly majestic, and even those words don't seem an adequate description of his work. Using vivid colors and amazing detail, Challenger, although not a Native himself, perfectly captures the heart of the Native American spirit; and the narration by Edwin Daniels' is a superb accompaniment to these breathtaking portraits. He takes the reader on a journey to various Native tribes, their ceremonies and beliefs. The main focus is on the Ghost Dance ceremony, the purpose of which is to bring dead ancestors to life, restore hunted animals and end European-American interference with Native people. The text chronicles not only the rich history of the Ghost Dance, but also the struggle Natives have faced since whites invaded their land. The reader is drawn even further into the story with quotes from celebrated Natives such as Black Elk and Wovoka. The exquisite illustrations alone are worth spending your grocery money on this book, and you just might learn something that American history has avoided for far too long. (JLXS)

My Year of Meats
by Ruth L. Ozeki (Viking, cloth, $23.95)

A novel imitating documentary film imitating life, My Year of Meats culls material from Ruth Ozeki's bizarre experiences from rural America to urban Japan. At first (because I read the last chapters first), I dismissed this book as a charter of vegetarian propaganda. In fact, if the American meat industry targets Ozeki after Oprah, it's only because they keep their hit list in alphabetical order. But nasty facts of meat aside, it's a fascinating story of a Japanese-American filmmaker producing a Japanese television show, "My American Wife!" The project evolves into a transcontinental journey that profiles American women, their family lives and their meaty recipes. Their strengths and weaknesses are then gauged through the reactions of both the filmmaker and a Japanese viewer. Told through careful prose, interviews, letters, faxes and quotes from The Pillow Book, Ozeki reinforces, then disbands, stereotypes of women's expectations and their contributions to family values. Best of all, she includes the recipe for beef fudge. (SA)

Now It's Time to Say Goodbye
by Dale Peck (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, cloth, $25)

A girl is kidnapped in a tiny, racially divided Kansas town. The search for answers casts doubt on the entire community's innocence and uncovers decades of fiercely guarded secrets. "(Most) people have only one secret," a character says early in this book, "and that secret is whom they truly love." Now It's Time to Say Goodbye is a reminder that until we know this, we know very little about the people around us--including ourselves. This book is about identity: the gulf between who we are and who we want to be, the degree to which we impress our fears and needs on those close to us. Many reviewers have made the mistake of calling Dale Peck a great gay novelist. Dale Peck is indeed a great novelist, and he is gay; but it is a novelist of high caliber who can write equally compellingly about gay white men in New York and heterosexual black women in rural Kansas, and in this book, Peck does both. (AE)

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