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Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy Bundle, The Thieves of Manhattan, How We Move the Air, and Home for Christmas

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   The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer (Spiegel & Grau Trade Paperbacks, $15.00). Rogers Park native Adam Langer, author of the popular Chicago novels Crossing California and The Washington Story, is now a Manhattan resident writing about New York. In this new work, Langer’s fourth novel, he sends up the contemporary publishing industry in madcap fashion. Too much like shooting fish in a barrel? Perhaps so, but the novel is extremely funny and engrossing, a spot-on satire with clever literary overtones.
   The first-person narrator Ian Minot (shades of the various writing Minots) is a 31-year-old New York writer/waiter who has been unable to sell his fiction or find an agent.   Against his better judgment, he is inveigled into a con game by a mysterious Mephistophelean figure who urges him to pass off a novel as a memoir (shades of James Frey). In the frenetic adventures that ensue, Minot narrates quite hilariously in a literary language full of nouns and verbs derived from the names and traits of famous writers. For example, a hemingway is “a particularly well-constructed and honest sentence”; to lish is “to savagely and mercilessly edit,” derived from the name of Gordon Lish, noted Knopf and Esquire editor. (The novel features an end glossary to define all the coinages—and some may well catch on among literati.)
    The book is a fast read—and we can only hope that The Thieves of Manhattan will have a refreshing muckraking effect on the publishing world it so wickedly lampoons. 
—Julie West Johnson

How We Move the Air by Garnett Kilberg Cohen (Mayapple Press, $16.95) Garnett Kilberg Cohen has written a masterful 
collection of linked stories, a compelling account of a family in the aftermath of a suicide.
   Believing he is a failure, musician Jake Doyle kills himself and leaves behind a constellation of bewildered family and friends. The ensuing stories, spanning twenty-three years and bookended by death and birth, reveal each character’s relationship to Jake and how his horrific end has impacted each of them. Particularly intriguing is the enduring cohesiveness of the family, for although its members have drifted apart after the suicide, it is this harrowing incident, engraved in their lives, that ultimately pulls them back together.
   Chicago author Garnett Cohen has painted an enthralling family portrait, giving each finely-drawn, flawed character a distinct personality and voice. The book stayed with me long after I finished reading it.—Lyn Straus
 
Home for Christmas by Andrew M. Greeley (A Forge Book Published by Tom Doherty Associates Book, $14.99) During his lifetime, Andrew M. Greeley—teacher, sociologist, priest—has written over forty books. His many fans will be delighted with this one, his latest. Eminently readable and hard to put down, Home for Christmas tells a very unusual story. In spite of the title, the book is not a Christmas tale in the traditional sense.
   Peter, the hero of the book, is an American soldier serving in Iraq. One day he is seriously wounded and dies. Or does he? With this mysterious premise, the reader is taken on a most unusual journey, traveling page after page with Peter, sharing with him all of his lifetime experiences.
   It is easy to suspend disbelief while following Peter’s activities and thoughts. It is also easy to identify with him. He is an everyday ordinary kind of guy, pretty much like most of the folks we know.
   Peter’s personal encounters with God surprise us. Their one-on-one conversations seem not only everyday-like, casual, humorous….but also believable. Many readers will no doubt smile, thinking: is this any way to talk to God? But author Greeley somehow brings it off and even makes those conversations sound convincing.
   On the surface, the humor in Home for Christmas apparently predominates, but there is more to this tale than humor. Several times during the story serious ideas surface—ideas about relationships, family, love, war—and life. When such ideas linger in the reader’s mind after the last page, we know the author has written a fine book. Don’t miss it.—Emily McCormack

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy Bundle: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Vintage Crime, $40.94) If you have lived in a cave for the past few months, you may not have heard of these books. It’s time to dig yourself out. This trilogy is immensely exciting—part thriller and part social justice, following the work of a magazine publisher devoted to exposing injustice in Sweden. Complex and intellectually brilliant, you will be mesmerized by the profiles of the key players: the heroine, a computer hacker with a dark past. You will not be able to put this trilogy down. Highly recommended!—PB
 

Published: October 10, 2010
Issue: November 2010 Arts and Politics Issue