In Video Night in Kathmandu, Iyer brilliantly observed the convergence of world culture, the strange ways that Hollywood speaks to nomads and villagers whose lives seem to have little to do with California. Here, Iyer revisits the issue from a different perspective: the Global Soul whose ancestry, race, religion, and work inextricably mix threads from all over the globe. Moving (although at times slow-moving), provocative, and intriguing.

Mark Bernstein: Chairs
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Chairs

Chairs
Christopher G. Moore

A collection of short stories told at a Saturday morning freelancer's conclave in Bangkok. A few of the stories work nicely. Some of the characters are well drawn, but most are archetypes: The Old Executioner, the Bar Girl, the Language Teacher.


Mark Bernstein: Letter of Marque
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Letter of Marque

Letter of Marque
Patrick O'Brian

I've been carefully rationing my Patrick O'Brian, lest I exhaust these wonderful stories too soon. But The Reverse of the Medal was so fine, and the prospect of a long, long flight to Denmark (with a dodgy earache and the remains of a cold) so daunting that I couldn't resist. Rewarding.


Mark Bernstein: The Reverse of the Medal
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

The Reverse of the Medal

Aubrey and Maturin return to London, a London beset by financial storms and personal gales. Like his naval hero Jack Aubrey, O'Brian can deploy formidable technical skill without showing strain or unseemly effort.

(This is the 11th volume in a series that expects to be read in sequence. Its average Amazon rating is five stars. And they say modern readers have short attention spans.)


Mark Bernstein: Innocence
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Innocence

Innocence
Jane Mendelsohn

A weird, gothic coming-of-age set in contemporary Manhattan. Young Beckett is sometimes fascinating, especially in the opening scenes. At times, she's merely young.


Mark Bernstein: On Histories and Stories
February 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

On Histories and Stories

A. S. Byatt's new collection of essays explores the intriguingly intertwined growth of narrative history and historical fiction in contemporary England. Fascinating arguments, rendered tough going by my abysmal ignorance of many works by writers Byatt considers crucial: Graham Swift, Pat Barker, Penelope Fitzgerald.

Some of the most interesting comments touch upon Byatt's unique and wonderful Possession, and so Byatt sent me fleeing from her more difficult arguments to the arms of Christabelle LaMotte, neglected fairy-poet, and the struggles of a crew of modern academics to get to the bottom of her mysterious and tenuous relationships. Grand, brilliant, fun.