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Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
June 30, 2011

Memory Wall: Stories

by Anthony Doerr

If we’re lucky, our mind occupies a lot of places at once: our present-day reality, our painfully or happily remembered past, and our hopeful future. Throughout the day, we’re sent from one point in time to the other, so fast that we may occupy all at once. In Anthony Doerr’s new collection of short stories, Memory Wall, the O. Henry Award-winning writer re-creates that experience, assuming the voice of a teenage American living in Lithuania in one story, and in another, a 50- or 60-year-old Chinese woman living in rural China. Making and using memories plays a significant role in each of their stories, as do Doerr’s vivid descriptions of nature. “In a lot of ways, my fiction is about trying to pay homage to the grandeur of the scales of time in the natural world. And I feel like memory is a part of that. Memory is this one attempt to not be erased by time,” he tells NPR’s Rachel Martin.

288 pages, $14, Scribner

Day For Night

by Frederick Reiken

“We are all magicians,” says one of Frederick Reiken’s characters in his new novel, Day for Night. “What we see will never coincide with absolute reality. As a result, the human brain must make a narrative.” The novel opens in Florida in 1984, where Beverly Rabinowitz, a Polish doctor who escaped the Holocaust, vacations with her boyfriend, David, and his son, Jordan. Her alter ego is Catherine Clay Goldman, a ’60s-era radical and fugitive. The novel’s many narratives and narrators from all over the U.S. and the Middle East connect back to the lives of these two women, reminding us how seemingly unrelated lives can all come together in the net of a master storyteller. “No one reality is privileged,” Reiken tells NPR’s Scott Simon. “It can always shift when a larger or differing perspective is introduced.”

352 pages, $14.99, Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books

Learning To Die In Miami: Confessions Of A Refugee Boy

By Carlos Eire

In 1962, 11-year-old Carlos Eire was one of thousands of children airlifted out of Cuba and sent to Florida to escape Fidel Castro’s regime. Shortly after he arrived in the United States, the Cuban missile crisis shut down Cuba’s borders, and his parents were unable to leave the country. For the next several years, Eire would be shuffled between foster families around the country before joining his aunt and uncle in Chicago. Eire’s memoir, Learning to Die in Miami, chronicles the years he spent acclimating to a completely new country — as well as his eventual reunion with his mother. (His father died in Cuba.) Now a professor of history and religious studies at Yale, Eire tells NPR’s Terry Gross how a religious book his parents gave him just before he left Cuba made a lasting impression on him. The book, Imitation of Christ, was written by a 15th-century monk and is about accepting suffering and letting go of the idea that one has control over his or her life.

336 pages, $15, Free Press

Late, Late At Night

By Rick Springfield

Reading this memoir by ’80s pop-heartthrob-turned-soap-opera-star Rick Springfield is like binge drinking. It’s a terrible idea, but so escapist and addictive, you can’t stop. It attempts naked honesty about his roller-coaster career, marriage, depression and sex addiction and also slips in plenty of beefcake photos of the man, who is 61 and looks 38. But sadly, he writes like he’s 19, with overwrought confessions, cocky asides and adolescent soul-searching, but little real wisdom. It’s a shame, because there’s powerful material here. At 17, Springfield attempted suicide. In 1968, he saw action in Vietnam — as an Australian entertaining the troops. This should be riveting, but his swagger makes it glib. Still, if you ever adored Springfield, you may well be tempted to take him to bed, enjoy him more than you want to admit and hating yourself in the morning. Late, Late at Night is, like its author, unsatisfying but embarrassingly seductive.

352 pages, $15.99, Touchstone

Sweetness And Blood: How Surfing Spread From Hawaii And California To The Rest Of The World, With Some Unexpected Results

By Michael Scott Moore

There’s no denying that surfing is a classic American pastime, yet in tracing its spread around the world, journalist Michael Scott Moore travels to some surprising locations, including the beaches of Tel Aviv, Indonesia, Japan and the North Sea island of Sylt. He even surfs the river waves of the Eisbach in Munich, which has become something of a tourist destination. Moore says surfing has gained a loyal and sometimes unorthodox following who sometimes face harsh conditions and cultural barriers but have, in the process, created their own kind of identity. “No matter how bad the surf is or how cold it is or how bad the conditions are,” Moore says, “there’s that thrill of getting picked up by a wave that never goes away. That’s always part of surfing, and that’s what people get addicted to and it’s astonishing how universal it is,” Moore says.

336 pages, $16.99, Rodale

Colossus: The Turbulent, Thrilling Saga Of The Building Of Hoover Dam

By Michael Hiltzik

When construction was completed in 1936, the Hoover Dam was not only the world’s largest concrete structure and the world’s largest hydroelectric power-generating station; it was also the largest dam on Earth — triple the size of all existing dams. But the process to design and build the dam was not an easy one. New construction and excavation equipment had to be designed and trucked into the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Thousands of workers suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and poor working conditions. And flaws in the initial construction made the Hoover Dam preciously vulnerable to tipping over until repairs were made years later. In his new book, Colossus, journalist Michael Hiltzik follows the construction of the Hoover Dam, from initial political battles waged in Washington to the engineering projects designed for the project on the Colorado River.

512 pages, $17, Free Press

Charlotte Abbott edits “New in Paperback.” A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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