Alice McDermott’s hypnotic, evocative novel, Someone, unfolds through a series of snapshots capturing the life of a woman living in Brooklyn before, during, and after the Second World War. The stories are lean and deliberate, and they appear to be randomly assembled, like snapshots pulled from an old shoebox. But as the exquisite images and poignant truths add up, we’re reminded that nothing happens in a McDermott novel by accident. This is a writer in complete control.
The official story was that the war in the Pacific claimed Jimmie Doyle on Sept. 1, 1944, when Japanese antiaircraft fire brought down his B-24 Liberator during a bombing mission over the tiny Palau archipelago. Neither the plane nor a single member of the 11-man crew was ever found. But there was always a second, darker story, and it haunted Jimmie’s son, Tommy, for most of his life.
Did you hear the one about the emperor? If you lived in Augustus’ Rome, chances are you heard several of them. The Imperial Roman people had a healthy sense of humor, and the big guy seems to have known how to take a joke. “The tolerance of the Emperor Augustus in the face of quips and banter of all sorts,” Mary Beard tells us, “was still being celebrated four centuries after his death.”
You think you know the story of David and Goliath, but think again. Sure, when the Israelite shepherd boy squared off against that Philistine warrior giant 3,000 years ago in the Valley of Elah, one appeared to be a doomed underdog and the other a clear favorite. But as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his provocative new book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” it was the favorite who walked away with a victory. And Goliath’s head.
Remember little Danny Torrance from “The Shining”? You know, REDRUM and all that? Well, he’s all grown up in “Doctor Sleep,” Stephen King’s highly anticipated sequel to his 1977 horror classic, and he’s a complete train wreck, at least early on.