BY NICO VREELAND

[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]


Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, by William Kennedy, reviewed by John Sayles ( New York Times)

“Musical” novels usually don’t do much for me, but this one has potential, starting with the vivid title and progressing to semi-sideways compliments like “This is not a book a young man would or could write.” Changó is centered in Albany but ranges as far afield as Cuba, grounded in a worn-out reporter and the wealthy Santerian he fell in love with while she was plotting an assassination. I’m afraid the music writing, which looks as bland as always (“He switches keys and ups the tempo, just a little, and ba-boom goes that left hand, the power of it, he’s on a ride, six choruses and counting,”), will keep me from pulling the trigger, but if that’s not one of your pet peeves, give this one a look.  [Get this book]


The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, reviewed by Tim Adams (Guardian)

An English major named Madeleine is writing her thesis about the Victorian “marriage plot,” in which a novel follows the trials and tribulations of a man and woman trying to get hitched. At the same time, Madeleine herself is caught up in a love triangle along with an unstable manic depressive named Leonard. Sounds lackluster, though Adams is bullish on it. And Leonard is based on David Foster Wallace. So there’s that. [Get this book]


Lost Memory of Skin, by Russell Banks, reviewed by Sarah L. Courteau (BN Review)

The Kid, who was featured on the equivalent of To Catch a Predator, lives under a Miami overpass with several other sex offenders, because they can’t find a house in the city that’s more than 2500 feet from children, and that’s just the beginning of the Kid’s problems. Building a novel on a sex offender character who is, at best, “sympathetic but distasteful” is a tall order, but it sounds like Banks does well with this. [Get this book]


Outlaws, Inc., by Matt Potter, reviewed by Tim Warren (Washington Post)

Warren objects to a few of Matt Potter’s more colorful decisions (like his wearing guns for his author photo), but says the story at hand “fascinates” even when it’s up against the vulgar glee Potter takes in his subject. Because that subject is a group of Soviet cargo plane pilots who smuggle guns for warlords and terrorists under the cover of NGO aid missions. Not exactly the moral gray area of Lost Memory of Skin, but it sounds like it’s not without its charms. [Get this book]


In brief: My favorite part of this review of a collection of T.S. Eliot’s letters is that “The Waste Land” was almost titled “He Do the Police in Different Voices.” … Cool story about an epic poem almost lost. The book sounds…OK. … A 600-page YA epic poem? Ballsy. … And here’s a review of that Julian Assange biography that caused such a stir, and then nobody read.

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