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Book Picks

[whitespace] Picks by Urmila Rajagopal (UR) and Jessica Ylvisaker (JY)

book cover Bucket of Tongues
By Duncan McLean
W.W. Norton & Co., 245 pages, $13

Rough-hewn working-class Scots argue and drink and fight and work and fuck their way through the pages of Duncan McLean's new book of short stories. This is a collection of well-crafted literary stills that find force in their honesty rather than in staged climaxes: an emptied pint glass teetering on a ledge over a rowdy crowd at a wedding reception is more likely to regain its balance than it is to come crashing down on a bridesmaid's head. McLean takes a frank and unflinching look at the debauched and depraved aspects of modern life. He avoids sentimentality, but his storytelling maintains a sense of compassion rather than seeming scandal-seeking. (JY)

book cover The Revenge of Kali-Ra
By K.K. Beck
Mysterious Press, 229 pages, $22

Styled as a scathing sendup of all things Hollywood, The Revenge of Kali-Ra attempts to be both Agatha Christie-style murder mystery and Shakespearean comedy of errors. Author K.K. Beck is unable to achieve either aim, and the result is a scattered, undeveloped story whose plot holes are barely plugged by its huge cast of ridiculous characters. Among them is movie star Nadia Wentworth, who sets in motion an inexplicable and random set of events when she attempts to bring legendary 1920s pulp-fiction heroine Kali-Ra to the screen. In so doing, Nadia and the other characters encounter vicious Hollywood copyright battles, sleazy legal wrangling and, eventually, cold-blooded murder. Although Beck's treatment of the murder mystery is quite funny, her attempt at satire is simply dull and contrived--and Revenge's dual aims make it almost a chore to read. (UR)

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From the June 7, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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