Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Benny Villalobos, Blake de Pastino, Tracy L. Cooley and Jessica English

OCTOBER 6, 1997: 

The Chile Chronicles
by Carmella Padilla (Museum of New Mexico Press, paper, $29.95)

I'm usually paralyzed with fear whenever someone comes out with one of these big colorful books about New Mexico culture. Nine times out of 10, they're so full of cutesy details and quaint asides that I'm driven to a near-suicidal distraction. Carmella Padilla got my neck out of the noose, though, with her new slick book The Chile Chronicles. Though indeed colorful and hemorrhaging New Mexicana, Chronicles is nonetheless a solid and unsappy look at chile culture. Like how Mexicans and Indians are still grappling with who really started the art of chile husbandry. Or how mad scientists at NMSU are breeding scores of weird and rather impractical chile genera. Complemented by Padilla's capable writing and tons of photos of unsmiling farmers, Chile Chronicles is enough to make you see that this chile business is some serious shit. (BV)

I Am the Most Interesting Book of All
by Maria Bashkirtseff (Chronicle, cloth, $35)

Marie Bashkirtseff wrote as if she knew she didn't have much time. And she was right. Dying of TB at the age of 26, Bashkirtseff lived just long enough to become a powerhouse of Paris in the 1880s: gifted artist, effortless feminist, an unparalleled rebel for her time. And in her diary, in English and unedited for the first time, she also proves herself to be a writer of high order. From the age of 14, when she began keeping a journal, the Ukrainian-born Bashkirtseff showed a unique ability to swipe through the damask-thin conventions of her day. Her girlhood among the bourgeoisie is recorded with amazing precociousness; her narrations are more engaging than those in most fiction. Like Jane Austen and George Eliot, Bashkirtseff was cloistered in a society that she understood better than anyone. But in her unfortunate case, she couldn't share her insights until after she was gone. (BdeP)

When Work Disappears
by William Julius Wilson (Vintage, paper, $13)

Inner-city poverty is plagued with political speculation and societal misinterpretation. The current rate of unemployment in urban ghettos is higher than ever before. As a result, social institutions break down, crime increases and there is a significant lack of faith in the system. Wilson not only accurately diagnoses this growing problem but offers possible solutions. His criticism of the present system is impartial, and his ideas are innovative and straightforward. His interviews with the urban poor are wrought with frustration and futility, and their opinions, which are seldom heard, gain strength through Wilson's provocative and well-organized arguments. The problems we have in this country should be an embarrassment to each of us; Wilson offers a new approach to this frequently debated issue and gives us another aspect to consider. (TLC)

Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man
by Dan Anderson and Maggie Berman (Regan Books, cloth, $16)

Advice on kissing an overlooked erogenous zone, the armpit ("where gay men go to town"): "We agree that a mouthful of Arrid Extra Dry is a lousy way to stick to your Weight Watchers plan, which is why the presex shower is a must." Provocative, informative, insightful ... extremely comprehensive. Sex Tips is like the Kama Sutra as translated by the guys from "Men on Film" (remember them?). It's hilarious, but there really is a serious edge to this book. Full of hot, kitschy cartoon illustrations and news you can use, Sex Tips is no holds, grips, kisses, strokes, bodily orifices, etc. barred. This is bringin' home the bacon and fryin' it up in a pan. Scoff now, sneak it under your pillow and read it later. I give it two snaps and a double twist. Mmmhhmmm. (JE)

--Benny Villalobos, Blake de Pastino, Tracy L. Cooley and Jessica English

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