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All reviews by Michelle Goldberg

book cover The Coldest Winter Ever
By Sister Souljah
Pocket Books; 320 pages; $23
Sister Souljah, best known for being denounced by Clinton during his first presidential campaign, has written a strange, self-congratulatory morality tale of a first novel. The Coldest Winter Ever is sometimes gripping, often unintentionally hilarious. Winter Santiaga is a ghetto princess forced to fend for herself after her father's drug empire collapses, her mother gets hooked on crack and her sisters, Mercedes, Lexus and Porsche, are put in foster care. Winter's a cold bitch, a caricature of everything Souljah decries in women--her contempt rivals Irving Welsh's venom in Filth. What makes this book really odd, though, is that Souljah is herself a character, a saint who tries to save Winter. There's endless dialogue praising Souljah, and it even turns out that the gangsta Winter pines for is secretly enamored of our author. At times, The Coldest Winter Ever seems like The Godfather as written by Sapphire, until Souljah's odd braggadocio interrupts the momentum and makes the whole thing amusingly ridiculous.

book cover Genius Jack
By Thomas Wiseman
Marion Boyars; 442 pages; $29.95
A somewhat coldhearted book about the perils of success, Genius Jack offers bitter satisfaction to those who, like me, desperately resent the famous and gifted. The story of Jack Strawley, a wünderkind director turned narcissistic nut, the novel is a witty parable about talent, hype and mania, filled with wonderfully ribald scenes of old New York. Jack's undoing ends up being an out-of-control production of a modern version of Heart of Darkness, and it's strange that Wiseman never mentions Apocalypse Now. Still, Wiseman knows a lot about movies, making his satire of slutty starlets, co-dependent critics and egomaniacal auteurs all the sharper.

book cover The Body Spoken
By Janice Deaner
E.P. Dutton; 339 pages; $25.95
Janice Deaner's writing is like a cross between Joyce Carol Oates and Jeanette Winterson. Her prose is lovely and ethereal, eloquently probing questions of sexuality, identity and the ways history manifests itself in the flesh. As in Oates' work, though, a primal horror underlies everything, especially family life, which here is rife with lust and sadism. There are two concurrent stories: a nameless man and woman meet on a train, each fleeing from their lives. She tells him she's been living as a man for the past five years and gradually unfolds her harrowing, bizarre history for him. In Deaner's hands, this structure leads to a breathless emotional suspense. After a few pages, we're as desperate to hear this woman's story as her traveling companion is.

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From the April 12, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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