IF YOU’RE WONDERING what the heck to read on the beach this weekend, David Kipen, the book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle has a few selections for you.
“FOUL BALL” BY JIM BOUTON
Jim Bouton had a revolutionary plan to save one of the oldest ballparks in America. The only people who didn’t like it were the Mayor, the Mayor’s hand-picked Parks Commissioners, a majority of the City Council, the only daily newspaper in town, the city’s largest bank, its most powerful law firm, and a guy from General Electric. Everyone else — or approximately 94% of the citizens of Pittsfield, Massachusetts — loved it.
“GOOD FAITH” BY JANE SMILEY
Jane Smiley brings her extraordinary gifts-comic timing, empathy, emotional wisdom, an ability to deliver slyly on big themes and capture the American spirit-to the seductive, wishful, wistful world of real estate, in which the sport of choice is the mind game. Her funny and moving new novel is about what happens when the American Dream morphs into a seven-figure American Fantasy.
Joe Stratford is someone you like at once. He makes an honest living helping nice people buy and sell nice houses. His not-very-amicable divorce is finally settled, and he’s ready to begin again. It’s 1982. He is pretty happy, pretty satisfied. But a different era has dawned; Joe’s new friend, Marcus Burns from New York, seems to be suggesting that the old rules are ready to be repealed, that now is the time you can get rich quick. Really rich. And Marcus not only knows that everyone is going to get rich, he knows how. Because Marcus just quit a job with the IRS.
But is Joe ready for the kind of success Marcus promises he can deliver? And what’s the real scoop on Salt Key Farm? Is this really the development opportunity of a lifetime?
And then there’s Felicity Ornquist, the lovely, feisty, winning (and married) daughter of Joe’s mentor and business partner. She has finally owned up to her feelings for Joe: she’s just been waiting for him to be available.
The question Joe asks himself, over and over, is, Does he have the gumption? Does he have the smarts and the imagination and the staying power to pay attention-to Marcus and to Felicity-and reap the rewards?
“TAKEN” BY KATHLEEN GEORGE
The child was taken in broad daylight, on a warm June morning, in a crowded shopping area in downtown Pittsburgh.
Marina Benedict first saw the baby with his mother. Then, just minutes later, she saw him again, in the arms of a man she was certain was not the child’s father. In a single life-altering act, Marina followed them. What happens next will plunge her into a mystery that is both heartbreaking and chilling. Within hours of the abduction, the city is galvanized by the story: a child, the son of a pitcher for the Pirates, is missing. And soon a community begins to unravel...Detective Richard Christie struggles with his own demons as he tries to solve a baffling mystery. And Marina Benedict, pulled from the safety of her ordinary life by a brutal crime, is at the center of the story. Because once, Marina tried to save a life and it changed her forever. Now she will risk her life again—for a child who is still out there somewhere, still in need of saving.
“BOX OF MATCHES” BY NICHOLSON BAKER
Emmett has a wife and two children, a cat, and a duck, and he wants to know what life is about. Every day he gets up before dawn, makes a cup of coffee in the dark, lights a fire with one wooden match, and thinks.
What Emmett thinks about is the subject of this wise and closely observed novel, which covers vast distances while moving no farther than Emmett’s hearth and home. Nicholson Baker’s extraordinary ability to describe and celebrate life in all its rich ordinariness has never been so beautifully achieved.
Baker won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. He now returns to fiction with this lovely book, reminiscent of the early novels-Room Temperature and The Mezzanine-that established his reputation.
“YOGA” BY GEOFF DYER
This isn’t a self-help book, but it is a book about how Geoff Dyer could do with a little help. In mordantly funny and thought-provoking prose, the author of Out of Sheer Rage describes a life most of us would love to live-and how much that life frustrates and aggravates him. From Amsterdam to Cambodia, from Rome to Indonesia, from New Orleans to Libya, from Detroit to Ko Pha-Ngan, Dyer finds himself both floundering about in a sea of grievances and losing himself in moments of transcendental calm. This aberrant quest for peak experience leads, ultimately, to the Zone: to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada where-to quote Tarkovsky’s Stalker-”your most cherished desire will come true.”
Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It is a chronicle of how Geoff Dyer learned to feel completely at home in a state of perpetual arrival and departure.
“THE BUG” BY ELLEN ULLMAN
In 1984, at the dawn of the personal-computer era, Roberta Walton, a novice software tester at a SiliconValley start-up, stumbles across a bug. She brings it to its inadvertent creator, Ethan Levin, a longtime programmer who is working at the limits of his knowledge and abilities. Both believe this is a bug like any other to be found and fixed and crossed off the list. But no matter how obsessively Ethan combs through the depths of the code, he can’t find its cause. Roberta runs test after test but can’t make the bug appear at will. Meanwhile, the bug, living up to its name, “The Jester,” shows itself only at the least opportune times and jeopardizes the fate of the company.
Under the pressures of his obsession with the bug and his rapidly deteriorating personal life, Ethan begins to unravel. Roberta, on the other hand, is drawn to the challenge. Forced to learn how to program, she comes to appreciate the intense intimacy of speaking the computer’s language.