Imagine waking up in the local drunk-tank to find out that in your latest blackout, you killed two people with your car. Imagine what it would be like going to prison for that crime. Imagine trying to put together the pieces of your life when you are released. After years and years of living with the guilt of what you’ve done and trying to redeem yourself, imagine finding out that you may not have killed those two people after all. How would this information change everything that you have done and believed about yourself? How would it change the decisions you made? Blame, (Picador, $15) by Michelle Huneven, is a thought-provoking story of guilt and redemption, of love and belonging.
Jeff In Venice, Death In Varanasi (Vintage, $15), by Geoff Dyer, is a book that stayed with me long after I finished it. In the first of the novel’s two parts, Jeff, a mediocre freelance journalist, is hired to cover the Venice Biennale. Everything about this event is over the top: the parties, the art, the drinking, the sex--even the weather is overheated. For part two Dyer moves the action to Varanasi. An unnamed journalist on assignment gradually feels the slow, spiritual workings of the holy city transform him. He ends up staying longer than he’d planned. Is this the same pseudo-slacker Jeff from part one, or is this someone else entirely? Give yourself over to Dyer’s (and Jeff’s) sensuous journey to find the answer.
“Oh yes, he did,” is my response when people ask if Henry Ford really tried to re-create small-town America deep in the Brazilian rain forest. It’s almost too odd to be true. But Fordlandia (Picador, $16), by Greg Grandin, chronicles this strange chapter in the often strange life of Henry Ford. By the end of the 1920s, just as the U.S. was entering the Great Depression, Ford, one of the richest men in America, decided to bring his version of America to the Amazon. Ford thought he could single-handedly resurrect the failed Brazilian rubber industry while also helpfully bringing “civilization” to the natives. Without Ford’s usual brand of organization and planning, Fordlandia seemed to be fueled by hubris alone; Grandin makes it all a fun and fascinating story.