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AUGUST 4, 1997: 

Who the Devil Made It
by Peter Bogdonavich (Knopf, cloth, $39.95)

This fat tome gathers together Peter Bogdonavich's lifetime of celebrity interviews. Some 16 directors are interviewed in the pages within--from Alfred Hitchcock to Howard Hawks, from George Cukor to Chuck Jones--covering a wide range of Hollywood history. He quizzes directors on their motivations, casting choices and technical expertise. And throughout the book, the personalities of these monumental talents poke through. Director Fritz Lang is curt and businesslike. Josef von Sternberg is as standoffish as can be. Howard Hawks is a regular old guy. Animator Chuck Jones displays a disarming understanding of his often overlooked art form. Bogdonavich had personal relationships with all these directors, and he includes a number of enlightening anecdotes in each introduction. A complete chronological list of each auteur's work is also included. Anyone truly interested in the art of directing film should devour this text like a 10-course meal. (DO'L)

Blood Pact & Other Stories
by Mario Benedetti (Curbstone, paper, $13.95)

Benedetti, in his 40 years of writing, has mastered the art of storytelling. He skillfully leads the reader down a twisting, turning road toward a surprise destination. The subject matter of this short story collection includes death, love, fear and work--presented in an ironical, sometimes witty scenario. In "Isosceles Triangle," a man is misled by his wife who poses as another woman, his mistress, because he criticized her for being unable to act. In "The Other Side," he names his character Let's-call-her-Isabel be-cause he doesn't want to "give away any secrets." Benedetti's characters are ordinary people in odd situations who become astonishingly real in the topsy-turvy world he creates for them. He also involves the reader, who is unknown yet ever-present, in his repertoire. This collection is full of genuine flavor and will raise your eyebrows and curl your toes if you let it. (TLC)

Listening for Cactus
by Mary McGinnis (Sherman Asher, paper, $14)

"Listening for cactus was a lot like looking for God/when I was fifteen," New Mexico poet Mary McGinnis writes, "like looking for a good lover when I was twenty-one." All of her poems in this collection flow with the same spirituality summoned through femininity and heavily sensual imagery. From the poem of a middle-aged woman to her first lover, an open letter to poets Pablo Neruda and Joy Harjo, conversations with her dead father and spells for her sister in Bosnia, McGinnis' writing evokes a torrent of emotions. Indescribably erotic, especially the poem "Sex Between Friends," ("our tongues swollen with thirst/(from too much salt in the spaghetti)/the three of us kissed."), Listening for Cactus is a work of incomparable power and stylistic range. (JE)

Flaming Iguanas
by Erika Lopez (Simon & Schuster, cloth, $18.50)

When I picked up Flaming Iguanas, subtitled "an illustrated all-girl road novel thing," I couldn't help wanting to read about women crossing America on motorcycles. But I wondered if the spoken-word style of the book would get annoying. Lopez pulls it off with grace, taking themes like death, sexuality and family and probing them with a vulnerable honesty that creates moments of unexpected poetry. In the last chapter, entitled "Let's Pretend this was a Movie and these are the Credits at The End," author Erika Lopez thanks the people that made it "a cool-looking book." She's right about the book: It's amazingly cool-looking, with great line drawings and rubber stamp art. The goofy, straightforward voice here is identical to that of Tomato Rodriguez, the novel's heroine. Somehow, the meeting of fiction, autobiography, tradition and feminism in Flaming Iguanas makes sparks fly. (JB)

--Devin O'Leary, Tracy L. Cooley, Jessica English and Julie Birnbaum

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