Books

July 20, 1969

Snail-track of jism? No, that was the moon     silvering the tongue-and-groove of floor,     my parents arguing outside on the stair, the primal "We should get a divorce" scene (sound up and over: from The Guiding Light).     I slept. I woke.

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Oblivion City

Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems By Durs Gr ünbein Translated by Michael Hofmann (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 298 pp., $16) Although some poems by Durs Gr ünbein had been published in journals here and in England, it was not until the appearance of this volume, crisply and colloquially translated by Michael Hofmann, that an English-speaking reader could approach Gr ünbein's coruscating writing. Gr ünbein was born in Dresden, in East Germany, in 1962, and moved to East Berlin as a young adult.

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Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic By Ingrid D. Rowland (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 352 pp., $29) I. 'To philosophize is to learn to die": seven words, and an epoch in Western thought.

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Like porcelain thrown before birth-- both shattered and sensing the glue. Complete, but already crazed with breaking. Someone polishes it on the mantle. Someone is trying to put it back together. Someone is watching it fall. Someone was the hand, the air. Someone is the moment when damaged is a fact but the shape remains. Someone is that sudden injection of space, that collapse. Someone is the pieces, the dustpan, the glue. Someone is the worklight, the patience, the room. Someone meant for this to happen. Someone has to decide: repair or dismiss. It happens all at once.

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Follow

They took Katie to the tool shed today, cleaned her of her fingers. The machete and the flint fire, hands cut and burned closed. Orange. Purple. The sky or us healing. Dying. Heartbeat heartbeat heartbeat. The hay they use to stitch-up. Keep our insides inside. She can't play rugby today, makes a doll from a can of condensed milk. Gives it a voice. Something to follow. A leopard yawning, an impala collapsing into calfhood.

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American Unions

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family By Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton, 756 pp., $35) Although Thomas Jefferson spoke out strongly against slavery, he was always pessimistic about actually abolishing the institution.

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Victory and Sorrow

Khirbet Khizeh By S. Yizhar Translated by Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck (Ibis Editions, 134 pp., $16.95) The short history of Hebrew as a modern language has yielded, over the course of little more than a century, an impressively long list of literary masters--the early twentieth-century Brenner and Bialik; the mid-century Nobel laureate Agnon; and the renowned contemporaries Amichai, Oz, Yehoshua, and Grossman. Much less known outside Israel, but certainly one of the most significant figures in the Hebrew literary canon, is Yizhar Smilansky, who wrote under the transposed pen name S.

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Misery and Company

Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century By Marc Sageman (University of Pennsylvania Press, 208 pp., $24.95) A few years ago, Daniel Kahneman, David Schkade, and I were involved in several studies of punitive damage awards by juries. We began by asking one thousand or so demographically diverse people to register their judgments about misconduct by various wrongdoers.

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The Fatal Handjob

Indignation By Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin, 236 pp., $26) College students today, showered with condoms and tastefully preserving their drunken, tonguetapping escapades on Facebook and MySpace for future in--laws and employers, have no appreciation of the sacrifices made by those who came before, the lusty pioneers of the sexual revolution. They take for granted the blowjobs and easy lay-ups made possible through the guerrilla activities of forgotten combatants in the early, undeclared stages of America's war for erotic independence.

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Skin Deep

Lying on a couch in the office of one of the hairdressing salons that she owns in London, Sharyn Hughes perused the advertising brochure she had been sent by Makeover Getaways:"Our Malaysian Makeover Package is a brilliant combination of surgery treatments, sunny beaches and shopping. Offering the latest technological facilities in an exceptionally clean hospital environment, and with guaranteed five star hotel accommodation for postoperative recovery and holiday, you will return home fully revitalized and looking wonderful."

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