Noteworthy paperbacks

December 14, 2013 

I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Future of Liberalism by Charles R. Kesler. (Broadside/HarperCollins) Kesler, a conservative scholar and the editor of The Claremont Review of Books, sees President Barack Obama as the “latest embodiment of the visionary prophet-statesman” – the fourth phase of the Progressive experiment begun at the turn of the 20th century, following Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Island of Second Sight: From the Applied Recollections of Vigoleis by Albert Vigoleis Thelen. Translated by Donald O. White. (Overlook) This fictionalized memoir, first published in German in 1953, recounts Thelen’s picaresque adventures in Majorca in the 1930s, where the author (writing as his alter ego, Vigoleis) and his Swiss wife make enemies of both Nazis and Francoists.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. (Vintage) Armed with years of archival research and hundreds of interviews, Wright, the Pulitzer-winning author of “The Looming Tower,” takes a calm and clear-eyed stance toward Scientology, even as he shows why it’s like no other church on earth. (”Going clear” means, roughly, reaching a level that makes one a real Scientologist.)

The Antagonist by Lynn Coady. (Vintage) “A lot of boys don’t bother growing into men because they don’t have to,” says Gordon Rankin Jr., nicknamed Rank, the hulking but wounded antihero of Coady’s epistolary novel. Groomed by his father to be the strong-arm of the family business, Rank discovers, decades later, that his juvenile malfeasance has been misappropriated for a novel by an old friend, and goes after him with “enthusiastic umbrage.”

The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century by Margaret Talbot. (Riverhead) Talbot shrewdly examines the life of her father, actor Lyle Talbot (1902-96), whose Zelig-like career – from carnivals and traveling theater troupes to Broadway and Hollywood – spans, and illuminates, the first 60 years of the last century.

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies by David Thomson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) In this erudite and engaging primer, Thomson, best known for his “New Biographical Dictionary of Film,” traces a path through more than a century of movie history, starting with Eadweard Muybridge (the eccentric Gilded Age photographer) and ending, more or less, with Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.”

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates. (Ecco/HarperCollins) Oates’ extravagantly horrifying, satirical novel purports to be the definitive account of a curse that infected Princeton, N.J., in the years 1905 and 1906. In addition to the blue-blood family at the novel’s center, the plague engulfs Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Upton Sinclair and Jack London. “Joyce Carol Oates has written what may be the world’s first postmodern Gothic novel,” Stephen King wrote in the Book Review. “E.L. Doctorow’s ‘Ragtime’ set in Dracula’s castle.”

New York Times

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