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Pass the cranberry

Posted by Jim Concannon November 22, 2006 03:53 PM

Thanksgiving is a time of gathering, eating, and watching the Detroit Lions lose their televised football game. It's also when the nation pauses to praise or berate the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth in 1620 and are the primary reason I'm typing this entry in English.

For a better understanding of how we got here, pick up a copy of the recent book "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War" by Nathaniel Philbrick. The first third of the book, in particular, provides a chilling, claustrophobic narrative of early Pilgrim life, including the fabled feast, most details of which have been lost in time. It's true that the Indians helped the bedraggled Pilgrims to survive. What I hadn't known was that the settlers were lucky in other ways: Disease, likely spread by European fishermen, had killed most of the natives just a couple of years earlier, leaving their cleared and tilled fields vacant and ready for Pilgrim cultivation. It was God's bounty for them, indeed.

Of course, the second half of the book shows how the Pilgrims of the next generation, along with their hardened Puritan cousins from Boston, eventually destroyed, enslaved, or corraled southern New England's Indians while pushing settlement westward, in a pattern that continued through the Sioux wars two centuries later. Still, as Philbrick points out, initial Pilgrim-Indian ties were remarkably warm for several decades, a reminder that other choices and relationships were possible.

Paperback nonfiction bestsellers

Posted by Jim Concannon November 22, 2006 03:47 PM

1. Dreams From My Father
By Barack Obama. Three Rivers.
2. 1491
By Charles C. Mann. Vintage.
3. An Inconvenient Truth
By Al Gore. Rodale.
4. Istanbul
By Orhan Pamuk. Vintage.
5. The Places in Between
By Rory Stewart. Harvest.
6. Environmental Due Diligence
By Kenneth S. Tramm and Ernest C. Crosby. Infinity.
7. The Planets
By Dava Sobel. Penguin.
8. Clueless George Goes to War
By Pat Bagley. White Horse.
9. Cradle to Cradle
By William McDonough and Michael Braungart. North Point.
10. 1776
By David McCullough. Simon & Schuster.


From Borders Books & Music, Brookline Booksmith, Concord Bookshop, Harvard Book Store, New England Mobile Book Fair, Newtonville Books, and Porter Square Books.



Paperback fiction bestsellers

Posted by Jim Concannon November 22, 2006 03:45 PM

1. The Inheritance of Loss
By Kiran Desai. Grove.
2. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
By Kim Edwards. Penguin.
3. Snow
By Orhan Pamuk. Vintage.
4. March
By Geraldine Brooks. Viking.
5. The Sea
By John Banville. Vintage.
6. The Lighthouse
By P..D. James. Vintage.
7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
By Lisa See. Random House.
8. On Beauty
By Zadie Smith. Penguin.
9. The Tenth Circle
By Jodi Picoult. Washington Square.
10. Good Poems for Hard Times
Edited by Garrison Keillor. Penguin.

From Borders Books & Music, Brookline Booksmith, Concord Bookshop, Harvard Book Store, New England Mobile Book Fair, Newtonville Books, and Porter Square Books.


Hardcover nonfiction bestsellers

Posted by Jim Concannon November 22, 2006 03:41 PM

1. The Audacity of Hope
By Barack Obama. Crown.
2. Thunderstruck
By Erik Larson. Crown.
3. I Feel Bad About My Neck
By Nora Ephron. Knopf.
4. The God Delusion
By Richard Dawkins. Houghton Mifflin.
5. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
By Bill Bryson. Broadway.
6. The Innocent Man
By John Grisham. Doubleday.
7. Team of Rivals
By Doris Kearns Goodwin. !,Simon & Schuster.
8. The Holy Vote
By Ray Suarez. Rayo.
9. From Rage to Hope
By Crystal Kuykendall. National Educational Service.
10. One Country
By Ali Abunimah. Metropolitan.


From Borders Books & Music, Brookline Booksmith, Concord Bookshop, Harvard Book Store, New England Mobile Book Fair, Newtonville Books, and Porter Square Books.



FULL ENTRY

Hardcover fiction bestsellers

Posted by Jim Concannon November 22, 2006 03:37 PM

1. Nature Girl
By Carl Hiaasen. Knopf.
2. Cross
By James Patterson. Little, Brown.
3. Wild Fire
By Nelson DeMille. Warner.
4. The Echo Maker
By Richard Powers. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
5. The Lay of the Land
By Richard Ford. Knopf.
6. What Is the What
By Dave Eggers. McSweeney’s.
7. For One More Day
By Mitch Albom. Hyperion.
8. The View From Castle Rock
By Alice Munro. Knopf.
9. The Ghost at the Table
By Suzanne Berne. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.
10. One Good Turn
By Kate Atkinson. Little, Brown.


From Borders Books & Music, Brookline Booksmith, Concord Bookshop, Harvard Book Store, New England Mobile Book Fair, Newtonville Books, and Porter Square Books.



FULL ENTRY

Boston area author visits, week of Nov. 26

Posted by Jim Concannon November 22, 2006 03:29 PM

SUNDAY: Tom Bailey reads from “Cotton Song,” at 3 p.m., at the Concord Bookshop, 65 Main St., Concord … Contributors to Ibbetson Street Press: 20th Issue read at 5 p.m., at McIntyre & Moore, 255 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville.

MONDAY: John Edwards signs “Home,” at 12 p.m., at the Harvard Book Store, 1256 Mass. Ave., Cambridge … Chris Adrian reads from “The Children’s Hospital,” at 6:30 p.m., at the Harvard Book Store … Kitty Dukakis and Larry Tye discuss “Shock,” at 7:30 p.m., at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, 333 Nahanton St., Newton ($7.50); for ticket information, call 617-965-5226.

TUESDAY: Thomas Cahill discusses “Mysteries of the Middle Ages,” at 6 p.m., at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline ($2) … Niall Ferguson discusses “The War of the World,” at 6 p.m., at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge; tickets ($3) available from the Harvard Book Store … Christian Alfonsi discusses “Circle in the Sand,” at 7 p.m., at the Harvard Square Coop, 1400 Mass. Ave., Cambridge … Poets Hillary Holiday and Anna Ross read at 8 p.m., in Adams House, 26 Plympton St., Harvard Square, Cambridge … Lawrence Buell (“The American Transcendentalists”) speaks on Nathaniel Hawthorne at 7 p.m., at the Salem Athenaeum, 337 Essex St., Salem; for ticket information, call 978-744-2540.

WEDNESDAY: Poet Mary Oliver reads from “Thirst,” at 6 p.m., at the Coolidge Corner Theatre ($2) … Robert D. Richardson discusses “William James,” at 6:30 p.m., at the Harvard Book Store … Jennifer Haigh (“Baker Towers”) speaks at 7:30 p.m., in Devlin Hall 101, Boston College, Chestnut Hill … Jay Allison reads from “This I Believe,” at 7:30 p.m., at Newtonville Books, 296 Walnut St., Newtonville … Steve Jarding discusses “Foxes in the Hen House,” at 7 p.m., at the Harvard Square Coop … Swanee Hunt discusses “Half Life of a Zealot,” at 7:30 p.m., at First Parish Church, 3 Church St., Harvard Square, Cambridge … Susan Cheever reads from “American Bloomsbury,” at 7 p.m., at the UMass-Boston Bookstore, 100 Morrissey Blvd. … Charlie Pierce (“Moving the Chains”) hosts a panel on sports, with Ron Blomberg and Howard Bloom, at 7:30 p.m., at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center ($7.50); for ticket information, call 617-965-5226.

THURSDAY: Leslie Epstein reads from “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” at 7:30 p.m., at Newtonville Books … Robert Richardson discusses “William James,” at 7 p.m., at the Concord Bookshop … Mark Polizzotti discusses “Yann Andrea Steiner,” at 7 p.m., at the Harvard Square Coop … Jason Fagone discusses “Horsemen of the Esophagus,” at 7 p.m., at the Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St., Brookline … J.D. Scrimgeour reads from “Themes for English B,” at 7:30 p.m., at the Ellison Campus Center, Salem State College, Salem … Rebecca Kohn discusses “Seven Days to the Sea,” at 7:30 p.m., at the Striar Jewish Community Center, 445 Central St., Stoughton; to preregister, call 781-341-2016 x 279, by Nov. 29.

FRIDAY: Nadine Darling, Nick Zaino III, and Chad Parenteau read at 8 p.m., at Out of the Blue Gallery, 106 Prospect St., Cambridge … J.G. Hayes reads from “A Map of the Harbor Islands,” at 7 p.m., at Calamus Bookstore, 92B South St.

SATURDAY: Daniel Berrigan and Jason Shinder read from their poetry at 2:30 p.m., along with Gail Mazur and Liam Rector, at the Friends Meeting House, 5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge[DO NOT CUT] … Timothy Dobbins discusses “Stepping Up,” at 7 p.m., at the Rockport Public Library, 17 School St., Rockport.

-- Judith Maas

Announcements must arrive at globebookmaking@hotmail.com two weeks before publication date. Events are subject to change.




"If"

Posted by David Mehegan November 22, 2006 11:35 AM

Though it might not seem like rocket science, the question of why there was such revulsion against the Judith Regan/O.J. Simpson project, hastily scrapped by Rupert Murdoch, is still worth considering. Was it because people don't want to know the details to be found in the book and broadcast? Are we to think the rebellious owners of local Fox stations, booksellers, and the public have their hands firmly pressed over their eyes and ears? If the book were sitting on the coffee table at the doctor's office or hairdresser's, would no one pick it up?

I think we know the answers to those questions. The appetite for all things O.J. is insatiable, and this material is bound to find its way to those who want it, sooner or later. But here's a two-part explanation of the national gag-reflex that forced News Corporation to back off: first, that Simpson or someone on his side was paid $3.5 million for his account, and second, that the project had the cynical use of the conditional "if" -- "If I Did It."

Had Simpson offered to sit down with journalist Seymour Hersh and confess everything for a book, that would have made riveting reading, and no one would have objected -- even if huge profits were made. But if he had said, "I'll tell you if you pay me," Hersh would have told him to take a hike. Real journalists don't buy news from a source, because the source's pecuniary interest contaminates his credibility. And the idea of a criminal making money off his crime is offensive -- that's why there are "Son of Sam" laws.

As for the conditional, Simpson's cute attempt (with Regan's collaboration) to maintain a fig leaf of innocence, while taking money for what Regan herself said was a confession of guilt, seemed like something worse than lying: It seemed like a statement that truth is unimportant, that there's no important difference between the truth and a lie, that it's all part of the Great Entertainment.

Bad science

Posted by Jan Gardner November 22, 2006 08:52 AM

Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma,'' offered a stinging critique of the state of science journalism when he spoke at the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism over the weekend.

Science journalism, he said, suffers from a pre-Watergate mentality. "We still allow our sources to dictate the news,'' he said, noting that many of the science articles in newspapers are simply rewrites of studies published in the peer-reviewed science journals.

Political journalism has evolved since Watergate. Now more investigative journalism is needed in the science world. "All stories about science have to be about money,'' he said.

"We don't cover renegades very well,'' he said. Too often, equal weight is given to two competing views when the two sides are not equal, such as in the global warming debate, he said.

Pollan himself came in for some criticism from an attendee for what she viewed as unethical behavior. In talking about how he made his way through the beef industry for "Omnivore's Dilemma,'' he said that he doesn't always correct misimpressions about what he's up to when he's seeking access to places, such as animal feedlots, normally off-limits to journalists.

"Sometimes you get close to people who are going to be upset by what you write,'' he said. His reading recommendation? "The Journalist and the Murderer'' by Janet Malcolm.

The Twains didn't meet

Posted by David Mehegan November 21, 2006 05:32 PM

In my interview with novelist Suzanne Berne, whom I profiled in today's Globe, she told me that what became the new novel, "The Ghost at the Table," started out as a historical novel about the daughters of Mark Twain. Indeed, the novel's narrator has herself written a book about the Clemens girls, from which she has eliminated all the sad parts. From unused portions of the interview:

"[Mark Twain] seemed like such an overwhelming presence that I got interested in what the daughters' lives were like, because usually they have been presented more or less as ornaments to his life. They were very intelligent, talented, and troubled, all three of them.

"So I started to look into their lives and had this idea that I would rescue them from obscurity, I would tell their story and fix it. I had a terrible time writing it. The more I tried to rescue them, to rearrange their story to put them front and center, the more I felt I understood and sympathized with them, the more they retreated and the more wooden they became, and the more impossible it became to write this novel.

"That led me to thinking that the only way we can really understand people, especially figures in the past, is by using our own lives as a guide. We start to identify with some aspect of them, and that usually makes us quite possessive of them, and our own agenda starts to guide our portrayal of them. I started to realize how dangerous it can be if you start to think you understand people and judge them based on what you think you understand, how out of line that can be if you try to fix their lives for them."

If the book won't fit, you must admit

Posted by Jim Concannon November 20, 2006 05:18 PM

In fact, as David Mehegan suggests below, publisher Judith Regan's role in approving the O.J. book is almost as odd as Simpson's belief that someone would want to read his meanderings in the first place. Regan is renowned as an astute businesswoman, but her thinking in this case seems disjointed, despite saying that her decision grew out of her own abuse years ago. Here is a snippet of her self-justification for publishing the book:

" 'To publish' does not mean 'to endorse'; it means 'to make public.' If you doubt that, ask the mainstream publishers who keep Adolf Hitler’s 'Mein Kampf' in print to this day. They are likely to say that there is a historical value in publishing such material, so that the public can read, and judge for themselves, the thoughts and attempted defenses of an indefensible man. There is historical value in such work; there is value for law enforcement, for students of psychology, for anyone who wants to gain insight into the mind of a sociopath.
"But that is not why I did it. That is not why I wanted to face the killer. That is not why I wanted to publish his story.
"I didn’t know what to expect when I got the call that the killer wanted to confess. I didn’t know what would happen. But I knew one thing. I wanted the confession for my own selfish reasons and for the symbolism of that act.
"For me, it was personal.
"My son is now twenty-five years old, my daughter fifteen. I wanted them, and everyone else, to have a chance to see that there are consequences to grievous acts. That the consequences of pain and suffering will ultimately be brought upon its perpetrators. And I wanted, as so many victims do, to hear him say 'I did it and I am sorry.' "

So, writing large checks to O.J. is a quest for social justice? Let me try to think this through again.

Doing the right thing

Posted by David Mehegan November 20, 2006 04:16 PM

Since News Corp, owner of Fox TV and HarperCollins publishers, announced today that it will cancel both the TV special and the O.J. Simpson all-but-confession book, "If I Did It," one is left wondering where this leaves Judith Regan and her HarperCollins imprint, ReganBooks.

It can't be good news for her career that Rupert Murdoch said, in scrapping the project, "I and senior management agree with the American people that this was an ill-considered project." It doesn't sound like there was much considering. How could a idea like this have gone so far without someone saying, "Hmm. Maybe we shouldn't do this"?

Books in focus

Posted by Jan Gardner November 20, 2006 11:29 AM

To celebrate its first 30 years, the Photographic Resource Center in Boston asked 30 past and present members of its board and staff to nominate new and novel ideas and entities in photography that may help define the next 30 years. Among the nominees were Adobe Photoshop, eBay, and Dashwood Books, the only independent bookstore in New York City devoted entirely to photography.

About off the shelf News about books, authors, and publishers from The Boston Globe.
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Nicole Lamy is editor of the Globe's Books section.
Jan Gardner writes the "Shelf Life" column for the Globe's Books section.
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