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By Blake de Pastino, Jessica English, Stephen Ausherman, Julie Birnbaum

NOVEMBER 17, 1997: 

The Architecture of the Southwest
by Trent Elwood Sanford (Univ. of Ariz. Press, paper, $24.95)

In 1950, the architect Trent Sanford set out to chronicle the long and complicated history of the Southwest, using buildings as his guides. The result is The Architecture of the Southwest, not so much a history of architecture as a history of builders, dating from the Anasazi to the Anglo-American settlers. But Sanford's eye is not one for trends or even for design. Buildings, it turns out, play only a minor role in what is a vast and expansive narrative about how the Southwest came to be inhabited, conquered and conquered again. Sanford's prose has a fulsome, mushroomy quality that was common in travelogues of the day, and the structures he does discuss seem less like feats of architecture than quaint tourist destinations. Comprehensive, romantic and undeniably unique, The Architecture of the Southwest is an object lesson in pop history. (BdeP)

by Joseph Albright & Marcia Kunstel (Times Books, cloth, $25)

In 1953, Ted Hall told one of his Soviet contacts he'd take the wrap for Julius and Ethel Rosenthal to save them. But the Soviet advised him not to; and in keeping his secret, Ted Hall became the most crucial atomic spy to Soviet development of the bomb--and one who was never caught. This 18-year-old physics prodigy was chosen to work on the Manhattan Project, where he leaked info directly to the Russkies. Not even the other spies in Los Alamos with him (who were eventually discovered) knew what he was up to. Composed of interviews with Hall and his wife Joan, Bombshell spills Hall's story with the elegance of some sleek and adrenalin-pumped, glossy spy novel. What comes of it is Hall's admission that he does not regret his treason. His motivation was his fear of American monopoly of the atomic bomb, which could have been much worse than the Cold War that followed Soviet development of the bomb. (JE)

The Invention of Curried Sausage
by Uwe Timm (New Directions, paper, $9.95)

With Nazi infestations, severe food shortages and mystery surrounding the origins of a sausage, this story was heading toward a grim conclusion. At least that's what I predicted by chapter three: The strong-willed Lena realizes that the soldier she's been hiding will return to his wife when the war ends, so she chops him up and sells him off as sausage. The end. Well, maybe that's how it will end when Hollywood calls for a rewrite. For now, this story is just a hearty serving of comfort food for the spirit and a brilliant slice of life spiked against history's bleakest period. But what's most satisfying is its stark realism, a narrative that rings so true one wonders why it's classified as fiction. I'm convinced that Lena invented curried sausage, and the author, nothing. (SA)

The Flamingo Rising
by Larry Baker (Knopf, cloth, $24)

At the end of The Flamingo Rising, protagonist Abraham Isaac is told: "Oh, Iz, that is so absolutely wonderfully romantic, and just borderline sappy sentimental." Much of Baker's first novel can be described like that-- romantic in that super-nostalgic "Wonder Years" way, with the adult looking back on growing up with an ironic fondness. Abraham's coming of age is far from average: adopted from Korea by the eccentric owner of the world's largest drive-in theater and his Catholic wife, he grows up in the screen's tower, with a view of the neighboring funeral home. Baker's depiction of Abe's childhood is heavy with themes of faith and family, yet at the novel's core is an endearing cast of characters, playing out a series of goofy anecdotes. The sappy, sentimental tone (complete with old, tearjerker photographs) gets irritating, but the story's originality carries it through. (JB)

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