The Fall of Baghdad

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Two Bests from the Left Coast

Brian from Los Angeles, one of the most prolific readers I have ever known, sent along his to favorites for 2004 (as we continue The Millions End of Year Extravaganza)Non-Fiction: The Fall Of Baghdad (excerpt) -- It is to our great benefit that Jon Lee Anderson was one of the very few journalists to remain in Baghdad throughout (and after) the attack. Anderson remains (mostly) apolitical, to record, with ferocious accuracy and color, what he saw, heard, smelt and felt throughout those turbulent weeks. All those self-important and partisan-hack talking heads and politicians who profess to know what's best for iraq and america are infants next to Anderson. Fiction: Elizabeth Costello (excerpt) - J.M. Coetzee is primarily known for one of his weaker books (Disgrace") as opposed to one of his masterpieces (Waiting for the Barbarians, Life and Times of Michael K) -- Elizabeth Costello falls somewhere in between. And, Coetzee knows this, even seems to integrate this into the book itself. Elizabeth Costello perfectly captures, through a series of an old woman's digressions and lectures, the confusion inherent in existence. Proceeding through life with the knowledge that all information has a flip side, that every belief has a counter-belief, that everything one does is both super-charged with meaning and also meaningless, one must... proceed. As does Elizabeth Costello (and Coetzee). A book that intentionally wallows in human fallibility, confusion, flawed logic, and shortcomings, but elevated way beyond most 'perfect works' -- Coetzee is one of our best contemporary prose stylists, novelists, and essayists.--and a shout-out to the new centennial edition Graham Greenes with cooler covers than the Penguin editions and introductions by the likes of Coetzee, Christopher Hitchens, etc... The Heart Of The Matter and The End Of The Affair must be read by all! Look for more great end of year reviews as the Extravaganza continues.

Monkey Shakespeare

Who was it that came up with the idea that a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters would eventually, with their random keyboard smashing, type William Shakespeare's complete works? Well, you can give the experiment a try here (link from the CC). And while you're waiting for your monkeys to finish typing Love's Labor's Lost, check out some book excerpts I found:Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick -- excerpt, NYT review, SF Chronicle reviewChain of Command by Seymour Hersh -- excerpt, CS Monitor reviewThe Double by Jose Saramago -- excerpt, NZ Herald reviewThe Fall Of Baghdad by Jon Lee Anderson -- excerpt, WaPo review

A Book of Baghdad

Anyone who read Jon Lee Anderson's accounts in the New Yorker of the weeks leading up to and during the American invasion of Baghdad probably shares my interest in Anderson's new book, The Fall Of Baghdad, which chronicles those events. I was recently told by someone from Penguin that this book is all new material, so if you liked the articles, this should be a real treat.In another news, a comment of mine over at Bookdwarf is inspiring some discussion about bloggers trying to make money off of blogs. I encourage you to weigh in if you have thoughts on this.

Some Good Stuff

Two great scoops were passed my way by the intrepid Brian, fresh from his European sojourn. The first is this so-wierd-it-has-to-be-true story about Newt Gingrich being an extremely prolific and friendly Amazon.com customer reviewer. Click here for the must-read gory details.While in Spain, Brian read Robert Hughes' new book Barcelona: The Great Enchantress from the National Geographic Directions series and noticed on the back cover that Jon Lee Anderson, the New Yorker's Baghdad correspondent extraordinaire, has a book for the series coming out. It will be about Andalucia. This will be a busy year for Anderson. In the fall, his fantastic Baghdad pieces will be collected in The Fall Of Baghdad and he will also release Guerrillas: Journeys in the Insurgent World, which ought to be quite good.
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