Saturday, May 1, 2010
A sneak peak at what has been recently added to my great monstrosity of a wishlist...
The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South
by Alex Heard
(Found at Booklust)
An iconic criminal case—a black man sentenced to death for raping a white woman in Mississippi in 1945—exposes the roiling tensions of the early civil rights era in this provocative study. McGee's prosecution garnered international protests—he was championed by the Communist Party and defended by a young lawyer named Bella Abzug, while luminaries from William Faulkner to Albert Einstein spoke out for him—but journalist Heard finds the saga rife with enigmas. The case against McGee, hinging on a possibly coerced confession, was weak and the legal proceedings marred by racial bias and intimidation. But Heard contends that McGee's story—that he and the victim, Willette Hawkins, were having an affair—is equally shaky. The author's extensive research delves into the documentation of the case, the public debate surrounding it, and the recollections of McGee and Hawkins's family members.
The people of the island Island are an insatiably strict lot. Everything must have a use, and their names must match that use: cows are called Greater Horned Milk Creatures, seabirds are nameless because they are useless, Prudence Carpenter gets renamed Prudence Learned when she becomes a teacher, and so on. Medford Runyuin has trouble fitting in, being that he was shipwrecked on the island as a baby and has no useful name, though he was taken in by the Carvers. In secret, he whittles beautiful carvings out of wood, an abomination in the eyes of usefulness that could get him exiled. Then, a strange goat-man creature arrives, befriends Medford, and in a flurry of chaos upsets the neat order of things. If the execution doesn’t quite match up to the highly imaginative premise of the story—Booraem’s renamed world is a little rough around the edges—readers will still come away knowing that artistry and beauty are by no means useless.
The Book of Flying
Pico is the librarian in his city by the sea: a humble, gentle man, a collector of books, a guardian and caretaker of the stories that are his breath and his life. One fateful day, he falls in love with Sisi, a beautiful, winged girl who cannot truly love a wingless creature like him. So Pico sets off to find Morning Town, where legend says he will find the Book of Flying and get his wings. On the way he has fabulous adventures and meets astonishing people, each of whom provides a gateway to learning something important about himself. Perhaps his most important discovery is that he is the hero of his own story. A beautiful and haunting modern fable that reads like exquisite poetry, Miller's first novel is a coming-of-age story cloaked in the language of myth in which Pico, as his humanity matures and expands to encompass those who are like and those who are unlike him, initially represents and eventually becomes the reader.