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Picks by Edward Crouse (EC) and Aoise Stratford (AS)

The Unburied
By Charles Palliser (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 403 pages)

Strangers with secrets, a mysterious reunion, a cathedral that's being dug up in the dead of night, missing manuscripts, murder and enough fog to add gloom by the bucket load. These are the ingredients of Charles Palliser's latest literary offering. It's a complex piece of work. Palliser skillfully draws on a wide range of novel predecessors in a text that is equally referential and original. With a set-up reminiscent of "The Turn of the Screw," as many characters and threads as "The Manuscript Found in Saragossa" and Poe-y atmosphere, readers familiar with the literary nail-biter will not be disappointed. Fittingly, Palliser employs the tone, style and language of early Gothic novels. But it goes beyond melancholy melodrama. The Unburied is also partially a tale about scholars, research, ethics and the piecing together of a story unearthed in fragments. And as such, the voice of the obsessive historian narrator is appropriately scholarly (though sometimes a little flat). Peppered with academic intrigue and church politics, there's plenty to think about as you turn the pages. It's a graceful, intelligent and compelling novel of truly Gothic proportions. (AS)

Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford
By Scott Eyman (Simon & Schuster, 656 pages)

The title comes from a quixotic line from Ford's hoary-end-of-the-oater The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence: "When legend becomes fact, print the legend." I never quite sussed that quote, but the braided myths of Ford have also eluded me, though it's not tough to figure out why his most mythical and bullheaded movies have cast their spells on cineastes. Part American expressionist, part pipe-chewing latter-day Indie pirate, he could with a soft word demolish an actor or even Cecil B. De Mille ("I don't like you"). Print the Legend doesn't have nearly the scope or insight of Tag Gallagher's Ford tome, just a fistful of facts and strange artistic figurations. Worse still, it misses the boat on Ford's mannered, weirder, nearly camp pictorial work, like The Wings of Eagles or The Fugitive, favoring something called "drama" as opposed to Ford's unrelenting mythicism. (EC)

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From the April 3, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

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