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Category Archive for 'Social and Political Issues'

In ten short stories, Irish author Roddy Doyle sums up the new, difficult lives of several men dealing alone with various issues, including the difficulty of dealing with health-required lockdowns in the wake of Covid 19. In Ireland, these lockdowns seem to have been accepted as a matter of course, something affecting everyone and obeyed by everyone, though creating a strong sense of melancholy and loss to everyday life. Roddy Doyle’s book title, “Life Without Children,” also reflects the emptiness many of his characters feel with their children now grown up and missing from their parents’ everyday lives, to the point where at least one character, in the short story “Life Without Children,” wonders if it is even possible to change his now-dull life for the better. The “action” of these stories is quiet and personal for all the main characters, each of whom spends much of his time analyzing his situation, his relationships, and himself. This is a collection which will keep older readers thoroughly involved and intrigued by the author’s solutions to his characters’ darker moments “without children,” while younger readers will be intrigued by Doyle’s insights and his depictions of a different reality.

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However many surprises the artwork of Felix Vallotton (1865 – 1925) may provide for the viewer, this book, a record of two art shows in 2019 and 2020, will provide even more. Five critics, including novelist Patrick McGuinness, give important general information about why Vallotton, a Swiss, may not have received the attention of artists like the impressionists and post-impressionists who were purveyors of new styles. Vallotton,. too, provides new views of the world, but his are unique, not part of a movement. In addition to his insightful, often personal, and sometimes even amusing, paintings, Vallotton revived the whole concept of the wood block print, creating dozens of commentaries on daily life from his perspective as an anarchist, used in newspapers, often in place of cartoons. One picture of one painting by Vallotton, sent to me by a friend this past year, was all it took to unleash weeks of pleasure for me through the study of Vallotton’s work. This book, filled with many pages of color photographs and block prints, will lead, I hope, to similar discoveries among others who read and view it and celebrate the new worlds it opens.

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Setting his third novel in the south of Ireland in the years between 1920 and 1982, author Billy O’Callaghan writes a semi-autobiographical account of a large, extended Irish family always struggling to stay alive, meet their responsibilities, and love their children. O’Callaghan, a master of description, both physical and emotional, creates scenes of great sadness, stressing the goodness of the people and the horrors of outside events – from the Potato Famine through a world war and a society and church in which women have little control over their lives. The strength of these women lies in their love of family, especially their children, and their willingness to do whatever is necessary to save them under horrific conditions. Their hard lives are their “normal,” one which becomes real as a result of O’Callaghan’s insightful descriptions of the conditions under which these women live and the creativity with which they approach their difficult roles as mothers and caregivers.

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A new investigation into the story of Anne Frank and her Jewish family during World War II in Amsterdam concentrates on how they were betrayed after spending twenty-six months in hiding and who may have been responsible. Author Rosemary Sullivan spent much time with the leaders of the recently completed investigation, which ultimately lasted five years and involved two dozen experts in a variety of fields, from artificial intelligence to behavioral science and archiving. Led by Director of Investigation Vince Pankoke, a former FBI investigator, the researchers searched archives in eight countries in an effort to provide the whole truth regarding the fate of Anne Frank and most of her family.

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Main character Eduardo, who has a college education, has been assigned to work for a year with people who cannot read, either for physical or emotional reasons. Seven families are assigned to him, and he must read to each of them for one hour each week. His biggest problem is that he gets tired of reading shortly after he starts each book, and his listeners, disinterested in the selections chosen for them, become bored as he is. The characters include a ventriloquist and his brother, a deaf family with children who can hear, a crippled woman who prefers Daphne du Maurier to Henry James, and a host of others who select different books from those chosen for the program. Poetry becomes a turning point for some, including Eduardo, as all try to deal with the social and political changes in Cuernavaca, where crime is on the upswing. Full of energy, humor, literary references, and themes about why we read and what we read, this book also includes a love story (or two), death, and personal growth – something for everyone. This book is WINNER of Mexico’s highest literary award.

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