Fall Book Favorites


Harper's magazine's tart-tongued editor, Lewis Lapham, ought to have plenty to say about Bush, Cheney, and the war in Iraq during his Seattle appearance. Gag Rule: On the Stifling of Dissent and the Suppression of Democracy specifically addresses Dubya's endless, amorphous War on Terror, which, Lapham argues, serves as a thin facade for the corporate elite's control over an increasingly ill-informed electorate. This donor class maintains its power, and adds to its tax breaks and upward income redistribution, with scaremongering and the constant imputation that anyone who questions Bush, Iraq, or the Patriot Act is somehow unpatriotic. (Here we see echoes of the Swift boat controversy laid three decades before.) But there's more blame to go around: Lapham also indicts the media for failing to hold our leaders accountable (as with those elusive WMD) and the people for failing to learn more and think critically about their elected leaders—in both parties. Sept. 21. Town Hall, 206-325-3554.


Sometimes he's T. Coraghessan Boyle, sometimes he's T.C. Boyle, but he's been one of America's most consistently inventive and readable novelists for the last two decades. Last year's Drop City looked at life on a commune gone bad; now, The Inner Circle examines similarly cultish behavior at the Kinsey Institute, fictionalizing the life of the famous sex researcher (coincidentally the subject of a movie starring Liam Neeson that is scheduled to open Nov. 12). Boyle invents a young married male researcher under the sway of Kinsey, whose hold over his impressionable underlings is as much tutorial as sexual. Oct. 5.Seattle Arts & Lectures (Benaroya Hall), 206-621-2230.


If you've marveled over Jon Lee Anderson's dispatches from Iraq in The New Yorker, here's a chance to hear even more reportage from the front line, which he collects in The Fall of Baghdad. Anderson is there before, during, and after the U.S. invasion, consorting with anti-Saddam intellectuals, anti-American jihadniks, and the often clueless American troops and leaders caught up in that hot, dusty quagmire—call it a sand trap, if you like. His focus is always admirably specific and personal, whether noting the hospitality of supposedly ruthless resistance warlords or the lingering inanities of the fallen Saddam regime. Even after that dictator has been apprehended, Anderson discovers, Iraq remains utterly traumatized and dysfunctional in a way that any occupation—no matter how well-intentioned or not—might take decades to resolve. Oct. 15.Elliott Bay Book Co., 206-624-6600.


Roddy Doyle, the 1993 Booker Prize winner for Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha, is also well known for movies made from his other novels (including The Commitments and The Snapper). His newest book, Oh, Play That Thing, is a follow-up to 1999's A Star Called Henry; it follows protagonist Henry Smart to 1924 New York City, where the immigrant must contend with the mobsters of the Lower East Side. From there, he flees to Chicago and strikes up a friendship with Louis Armstrong—note Doyle's lifelong interest in music—and runs afoul of local crooks and crooked club owners. It's a lot of ground to cover, which Doyle will presumably render in his unique vernacular—a hybrid of Irish slang and American hepcat. Nov. 15. Seattle Arts & Lectures (Benaroya Hall), 206-621-2230.


English-born, N.Y.C.-based neurologist Oliver Sacks has probably become America's pre-eminent writer of popular medical literature with books like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings (don't blame him for the Robin Williams movie). His writing also appears regularly in The New Yorker and has lately taken a more retrospective, autobiographical track. Recent works including Uncle Tungsten: Memoirs of a Chemical Boyhood (2001) and Oaxaca Journal (2002) have revealed his personal ruminations to be no less fascinating than the most bizarre medical case studies. Whether writing clinically or confessionally, he applies the same gifts of observation, synthesis, and compassion. Dec. 1. Seattle Arts & Lectures (Benaroya Hall), 206-621-2230.


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