Years ago, I collected as many of the nice Penguin paperback editions of Greene’s work that I could find. I loved “The Quiet American,” "The End of the Affair" and “The Third Man” and many others. When I first traveled in Europe, I would stumble into English-language bookstores and my barometer on the quality of their selection was always based on their section of Greene's work. But I’m no expert on Greene and Iyer is -- as witnessed by his latest book “The Man Within My Head.” Our reviewer, Richard Rayner, is fascinated by both Greene and Iyer. In his lively review he notes that “The Man Within My Head” is “literary criticism disguised as autobiography, a book filled with insights, sadness, rumination and splashes of the dazzling travelogue that Iyer’s readers have come to expect.” Rayner’s piece is as much a meditation on Greene as it is on Iyer’s book and it leads our coverage this Sunday.
Book critic David Ulin found a gem in “The Fat Years,’ the first novel by Chinese writer Chan Koonchung to be translated into English. (Michael S. Duke does the honors.) The novel takes place in 2013 after the next great global economic meltdown and China is left standing as the pillar of economic and social stability. The catch here, however, is that between the economic meltdown and China’s emergence as the bastion of prosperity, it has lost a month. Ulin writes that the book “is a cunning caricature of modern China with its friction between communism and consumerism.”
Scott Martelle reviews “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State and the Birth of Liberty” by John M. Barry. Martelle writes that Williams “for those who don’t remember their colonial history, founded the European settlement that gave rise to Providence, R.I., in pursuit of the still-gestating idea that people should be able to worship God in individual freedom not as a dictum of government." It was, author Barry writes, “the first government in the world which broke church and state apart.” But Williams faced some long odds in selling his message of liberty and paid dearly for his concept.
Long odds are also in evidence in Stewart O’Nan’s latest novel “The Odds,” which Carolyn Kellogg reviews. A marriage has hit the rocks, so the happy (not) couple head to Niagara Falls, where they spent their honeymoon, carrying with them a history of “insolvency, indecision and stupidity,” as well as a “desperate gambling plan” that, if successful, “will make everything right.” Kellogg notes that “all of this could make for rather grim melodrama, but not in O’Nan’s hands.”
More after the jump ...