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"Who's Yer Daddy?" edited by Jim Elledge and David Groff (University of Wisconsin Press, $26.95) is a fascinating look at writers and artists who inspired the work of gay writers and artists by the gay writers and artists themselves. Thirty-nine essays make up the book and I'll zero in on my favorite essay, "The Tallahtchie Meets the Arve, or Unexpected Gay Influences in the '70s." I choose it because I happen to know the poet who wrote it. His name is Greg Hewett.
Three American presidents lead off this week's roster of books: Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. You could fill libraries with what has already been written by these guys, but leave it to the scholars -- they can always find a niche that's unfilled. Such is the case of Jeffrey Frank's "Ike and Dick" (Simon & Schuster, $30). You have to wonder how these two incredibly diverse personalities got along when they held sway. Subtitled "Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage," this new book gives lots of answers.
I'm way behind in my coverage of the Scandinavian thriller surge in world publishing, not having even read a Stieg Larsson thriller, so I'll try to make it up by reviewing a finely wrought thriller by first-time Swedish author Alexander Soderberg. It's "The Andalucian Friend," (Crown, $26), translated by Neil Smith. Soderberg will certainly join the other Scandinavians with the sophisticated creation of his heroine, Sophie Brinkmann, a nurse who has been widowed. She meets a patient at her hospital, one Hector Guzman, a charming fellow whom she falls for. But there's a problem.
As the River Falls Reads program winds down and folks who have read and enjoyed Michael Shaara's Pulitzer-Prize winning novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, "The Killer Angels," are looking for new reading material, I'm happy to report that although Shaara died in 1988, his family lives on in the person of his son, Jeff Shaara, who also writes about the Civil War and has completed his father's trilogy with "Gods and Generals" and "The Last Full Measure." His new book is "A Blaze of Glory," a novel about the Battle of Shiloh.
"Now that science has attained its youth and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: 'Let us be friends.' It reminds me of the bargain the cock wished to make with the horse: 'Let us agree not to step on each other's feet.'" --Robert Ingersoll, 1885 That was Robert Green Ingersoll expanding on his remark that religion had sought to strangle science in its cradle. Several years ago ink-stained wretches such as myself, liked to stay at The Gramercy Park Hotel.
I met a traveler from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert...Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed: And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains.
Heads up! We've got a book about heads this week, "Heads in Beds," by Jacob Tomsky (Doubleday, $25.95). But first a brief dissertation on what I like to call the "insider" novel, which has been around for centuries. One of the first is "Moll Flanders." In which Daniel DeFoe gets inside the life of a prostitute and con artist to tell readers what goes on in the life of Moll. Tons of such novels have followed.
Have a history buff on your holiday guest list? You won't be disappointed to find all manner of biography and serious history new to bookshelves this winter. For starters, try "Geronimo," by Robert Utley (Yale University Press, $30). Utley a National Parks historian traces the Apache's reputation as it changed from killer and plunderer, to Native American icon, to prisoner of war to what Utley calls our most famous Indian. Writing about Geronimo isn't an easy task thanks to the U.S. War Department's handling of Geronimo's story from his point of view.
Someone on your holiday gift list who likes to read books by and about characters in the upper Midwest? There's a plethora in that category this year. If your target is politics, try "Minnesota's Miracle," by Tom Berg (University of Minnesota Press, $22.95, paper). Berg served in the Minnesota State Legislature in the seventies when politicos got things done. Berg covers all the Andersons, Elmer L., Wendell, Irv. There are fascinating photos from the past, showing our political leaders when they were young and sassy.
Now that the election is over I thought I might stir the pot a bit with mention of a new book that's been receiving attention. It's "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court," by Jeffrey Toobin (Doubleday, $28.95). A writer for the New Yorker magazine, Toobin has written a red hot book about the conflicts between two young movers and shakers, Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.