Book Reviews

Border Patrol Nation

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 7:56am

Life under the expanding watch -- and lucrative industry -- of Homeland Security.

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Pillar to the Sky

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 7:45am

An urgent mission to the cosmos bears the fortitude of the Founding Fathers and the Industrial Revolution's pioneers.

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Robert W. Chambers: Sentimental Horrification

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 7:00am

An inspiration behind HBO's True Detective brings the horrors and earthly delights of the nineteenth century's roaring conclusion.

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The Ghosts of Wrath

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 7:00am

On the seventy-fifth anniversary of  John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, a celebration of the author's revolutionary belief in familial loyalty and America's disenfranchised poor.

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At Home with Books

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 10:30pm

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

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The Pulitzer Winners

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 9:40am

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping and slightly paralyzing literary experience, such that if you submit to it in the proper spirit your Twitter feed may go unchecked, your Facebook page unrefreshed, for days or perhaps weeks."

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Living with a Wild God

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 7:00am

A tenacious journalist takes up a bold new investigation into the potential existence of divine forces and the mystical nature of faith.

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Obsessive Genius

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 10:30pm

April 15: "A page...will begin with some principles of astronomy, or the motion of the earth; then come the laws of sound..."

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No Place like Home

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 3:35pm

Hello, and welcome.  Are you the director?  Oh, the PA. Oh fine.  Olivia.  You can call me Terri.  I spell it with an ‘i’ --not that you could tell from hearing it, of course.

Oh, no -- you don’t have to take your shoes off, but please be aware of our ecru wool carpet.  It shows dirt.  We paid extra for that.  Our decorator -- you’ve probably heard of him -- said, “Untreated wool carpets show real wealth. Everybody has them.” So yeah, those are them.

Please give your coat to Barnaby.   He’ll also charge your phone for you, if you’d like. And he’ll alphabetize your apps.  He loves that.

A drink?  In this cozy but unpretentious room -- that is John Currin; you recognized it! -- we serve only colorless drinks.  It’s just awful having to brush the suede pillows if they get even the tiniest stain.  Awful work.  And Barnaby has a million other tasks to do tomorrow, so if you don’t mind?  Vodka? Gin?  Water? Tonic?  Perrier? Simple syrup?  White Rum?  Anjejo Tequila?  If you want bourbon, scotch, red wine or Diet Coke, please head to the breakfast room, where my husband is managing his brackets.  Larry loves his Cosmopolitans and his diet sodas ("You drink girl drinks" our son Telemachus teases him), so he goes to his corner and I usually stay in my beautiful, pristine den. (By the way, the stager was fabulous. I’m going to ask our private banker at First & Last if we can actually buy these blue leather-bound books about the war.  World War. II. Or I.  Either. They both look good.)

Larry and I are totally hands-on parents. We interviewed tons of nannies before we hired Mrs. Blaine.  Her record was spotless, and she actually looks like my Aunt Doris. The kids are with her now, at the Lucian Freud exhibit.  My ten-year-old daughter, Poinsettia, just loves Freud.

And that’s why we needed a hands-on banker. (Did that come out right? Also, can I put down my hand with the book in it?  It’s getting heavy. I take it this thing can be edited. Even Telemachus makes movies on his phone. I can have Barnaby download them for you if you’d like to see them.)

Oh, can you ask the director if he wants me to say that another way? Okay, then, just let me try that again. The director is going to come by and say hello, isn’t he?  Claude? Oh, he’s a she?

OK, starting over:  Welcome. Would you like a seat?  Need to use the loo first?  Take a tour of the place?  I don’t know if I mentioned it, but we aimed for comfort first, elegance second.  I mean, we live here.  This is our home.  I’d say “This is our house,” but it’s in an apartment building; just so whoever is watching this will understand.   Of course you understood. You came up in an elevator.

Just like our private bankers understand us.  Mmm. They do.

I could pretend to water the orchid, if that’s better?

We high-net-worth customers need tending, like our orchids.

(I thought that was good.  Could you please ask Claude?  Too much? Okay I’ll put down the orchid and hold the book, no problem.)

The kids do homework here, but not right here -- more over there.  Just -- no, just past that doorway.  Yes, right.  You could call it a kitchen.  It’s part of what we call our “family suite.”  Very lived in.  I’m here practically all day.  It’s my mission control center.

 OK -- I’ll try to get to the point.

When Larry and I started our shampoo company, we worked day and night, first in our parents’ kitchens, then in a warehouse, never quite believing we’d have such success. And you could say our first five years of Wow Your Hair Smells Like Hair paid for this exquisite home where you are visiting today. If we hadn’t had such wonderful bankers, this might not have happened.  And if we hadn’t been turned down first by the board at 882 Park, because, you know, they thought our plans for adding a suntan salon were “overly ambitious“ we’d never have found such a perfect place. I mean it is us!  That’s why we are so happy to talk about First & Last Trust Company.  They met us, they tried our products, and they believed in us.  And now, look at this spread!  Look at my art!  Yes, that’s a Cindy Sherman.  You are good!  

Look, I’m not even wearing my statement jewelry, because they said to look “quietly rich,” which makes no sense to me.  I mean what’s the point of that?  (But I went ahead and put my statement jewelry is in a safe-deposit box –three, to be honest--at First & Last Trust Company.)  I wanted potential customers to see me in my private study to be inspired.  I was going to pose in my luggage/storage-crafts room, but this one is more aspirational. That’s what the First & Last’s publicity department said.  

Anyway, the point is, if you are an ultra-high-net-worth individual like me and are ready to become kind of different from how you were in your old neighborhood, just like me, contact the private banking group at First & Last Trust Company, and maybe you can have a personal relationship with a banker -- and his wife; they throw that in -- who have box seats at the U.S. Open!

Now can I put down the book?


Lisa Birnbach started out in vaudeville.  Her most recent book is True Prep, published by Knopf.  She tweets at @LisaBirnbach. (Those rumors about the Palm Springs condo are mostly untrue.)

Categories: Book Reviews

The Good Inn

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 1:50pm

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.

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Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 1:46pm

Amara Lakhous delivers a mystery novel with its finger on the hot-button issues of today's Europe.  Immigration and multicultural conflicts erupt in the Italian city of Turin, as journalist Enzo Laganà looks to restore peace to his native burg.

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Papers in the Wind

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 1:42pm

In this insightful novel by Eduardo Sacheri, a young girl left destitute by the death of her soccer-playing father is uplifted by the bold schemes of her uncle, his pals, and one newbie player to the professional leagues.

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Pia Padukone

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 7:00am

The author of Where Earth Meets Water on great novels of intertwined characters.

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Bad Times, Good Hearts

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 10:30pm

April 14: "And we come back to this book because Steinbeck asks us to open our hearts..."

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Death's Dominion

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 10:30pm

April 12: "The Civil War’s rate of death, its incidence in comparison with the size of the American population, was six times that of World War II."

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In Paradise

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 11:20am

A guided tour through Nazi concentration camps makes for a haunting end to the life and career of a twentieth-century master.

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I Always Prefer Books That Are Inevitable: David Grossman on "Falling Out of Time"

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 11:19am

The author of To the End of the Land returns to the grief of losing a child, in a poignant and richly lyrical dirge.

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Stifling a Yawn

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 10:30pm

April 11: "[B]ecause of the good deeds by which [Tanonius Marcellinus] rescued the population from endless boredom, the entire people judges that this inscription should be recorded."

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Fiction's Grand Illusionist: An Interview with Christopher Priest

Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 12:24pm

Nicole Hill talks to Christopher Priest about film adaptation, dream states, and putting words into the mouth of H.G. Wells in his new book The Adjacent.

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Barnes and Noble Book Reviews - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 6:35am

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Shaman, one of the greatest science fiction writers of our time takes his furthest trip yet: back to the dawn of man.

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