Books: 695

The Verifiers

The Verifiers 
Jane Pek 
Vintage 
$17 

Enter Claudia Lin, a newly hired worker for Veracity, a subscription-only agency catering to a nervous clientele wishing to determine the bona fides of their online romance contacts. Well, everybody lies, don’t they? Having told Claudia her suspicions, client Iris Lettriste, is soon found dead. Suicide, or suspicions confirmed? Claudia, a devotee of literary mysteries, particularly those of fictional hero Inspector Yuan, investigates, and is sucked into a labyrinthine conspiracy nearly as complex as that of her own dysfunctional family, whose members form an unending Greek/Asian chorus. Claudia soldiers on, investigating by Inspector Yuan’s precepts, while inserting literary analysis of how-to-solve-a-murder. Wry humor plus Veracity’s creepy all-seeing eye, rivets. Well- crafted, stylishly written, Pek sets a high bar for a solid series featuring Claudia and family. 

How Do You Live? 
Genzaburo Yoshino, intro Neil Gaiman, tr Bruno Navasky Shinchosha,1937
Workman
$17.95 

Published originally in 1937, Yoshino narrates the events of fifteen-year-old Honda “Copper” Jun’ichi’s school year. Neil Gaiman’s introduction deftly addresses and applauds the tale’s seeming stillness. Copper, whose father died two years earlier, lives with his mom in a peaceful, beautifully-limned pre-war Tokyo, near his maternal uncle– who’d knick-named him “Copernicus.” Uncle engages Copper in wide-ranging conversations, writing a notebook for his later edification. Copper plays ball with pals, reacts to the tormenting of a poorer boy, takes exams, his thoughts on ethical behavior unfolding and maturing through the year, culminating in a crisis of his own making and solving. Friendship, bullying, loyalty, honor, form the growing young man. Once a childhood favorite of famed Hayao Miyazaki and soon to be a Studio Ghibli film. 


The Paris Bookseller 

Keri Maher 
Berkeley 
$26 

A lively, if fictional account of Sylvia Beach and her famous bookshop. Born in Maryland in 1887, Beach lived in Paris from 1902 to 1905 with her family, worked with the Red Cross during the Great War, then returned to Paris in 1919. Reading of a French lending library/bookshop Beach consulted the owner, Adrienne Monnier, who became her mentor and lover. Beach’s own shop on 7 (later 12), rue de l’Odéon quickly became a mecca of French writing greats – Gide, Valéry, Romains, and ex-pats Hemmingway, Pound, Fitzgerald, T.S Eliot, and, particularly, James Joyce, with his lengthy, relentless pursuit of funds to complete his legendary Ulysses. A rich view of vivid times and personalities, followed by author Maher’s discussion of her methods of research and composition. 

Golem Girl: A Memoir 
Riva Lehrer
One World/Random House 
$30 

“Golem,” (Yiddish, “goylem) states the author, is Hebrew for “shapeless mass.” After three miscarriages within two years, in 1958 Carole Lehrer gave birth. The child–Boy? Girl? had spina bifida. These babies, notes the author, “are born open to the world.” The child did not go home for two years. Advised to institutionalize Riva (yes, Girl), Carole refused. Now 62, Riva’s memoirs are detailed, harrowing, humorous, sarcastic; never self-pitying. There is detailed information, social, sexual, educational; when a stranger asks, “What’s wrong with her?” Carol, in front of the child, would answer in excruciating detail. Now a painter of “socially challenged bodies,” she interprets, rather than depicts literally, the bodies/lives of her subjects. An appendix discusses the many included portraits. A complex, highly rewarding read. 

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