The Third Bullet
(Simon & Schuster)
For the latest installment of his Bob Lee Swagger franchise, Hunter entangles his hero, a retired military sniper, in the ultimate sniper plot—the Kennedy assassination. It’s a genius idea (this year marks the 50th anniversary of the shooting) that seems to have lit a fire under the former Sun writer/Pulitzer winner, whose previous book, Soft Target, felt uninspired. This time around, Hunter crafts an intellectually engaging plot that weaves elements of meta-fiction and history through all the conspiracy theories and firearms talk. The opening chapter, in which a writer and self-professed “gun guy” navigates his way along a Federal Hill street after a few too many cocktails, signals the author is engaged with his material in a way he hasn’t been for a while. The rest of the book confirms exactly that and proves that Hunter has definitely gotten his swagger back.
(Publishing Genius Press)
This tiny gem of a book collects YouTube user comments about Bob Seger’s song “Night Moves.” Barber, a local writer/filmmaker/conceptual artist, presents them as a loosely constructed, epistolary poem that’s equal parts music review, journal dump, nostalgia exercise, and web chat, with random asides and a few flame wars in the mix. The posters generally found their way to this particular clip/song because a) they adore Bob Seger, b) the tune triggers memories of teenage love/lust, c) they heard the song on That ’70s Show or The O.C., or d) they followed a thread relating to Tina Fey’s “Night Cheese.” Their cajoling, reminiscing, and one-upmanship make for a spirited read that’s uneven but also surprisingly moving and funny. And amidst all the jostling, someone chimes in with a stand-alone line like, “I can so play pool to this [song],” and sounds like a Zen master.
Dead Women Talking: Figures of Injustice in American Literature
(The Johns Hopkins University Press)
Norman asserts that writers have been using dead women talking to articulate thorny subjects throughout American literature. Norman, the director of African and African-American studies at Loyola University Maryland, cites examples, from Henry James to Tony Kushner. He points out authors have used these posthumous voices as something of a ghost conscience for the culture at large. To Norman’s credit, the book doesn’t read like an academic treatise. I especially like the “Dead Woman Heckling” chapter, in which he analyzes Ethel Rosenberg’s appearance at Roy Cohn’s deathbed in Kushner’s Angels in America. More taunting than haunting, her presence collapses assumptions, both literary and historical,into greater truths.