Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Other Men's Daughters

The fine folks at Newsday asked me to contribute one of those short, Summer Reading/Bookends things, and since I was still on my Richard Stern jag, I did Other Men's Daughters. You'll find my two cents below. But if you follow the link to the Newsday website, you'll get a special extra: Nina's thing on the most depressing beach blanket book of all time, Isaac Babel's 1920 Diary. Pass the Coppertone! (P.S.: My byline appears below Nina's name. True, we live together, but this promiscuous mingling of bylines must stop immediately.)
Books about failed marriages are as old as the Bible (Adam and Eve, after all, had the shortest honeymoon on record). Yet most novelists play favorites with their feuding spouses. In Other Men's Daughters (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern, $15.95 paper), one of the truest and saddest portraits of a disintegrating marriage, Richard Stern does not. Granted, the focus remains on Robert Merriwether, a Harvard academic whose specialty--the physiology of thirst--does nothing to improve his desiccated home life. Our sympathies are mostly with him. From time to time, though, we get a glimpse of the household through the embittered eyes of his wife, Sarah, and discover that her grievances are no less raw or real. This balancing act is exquisitely calibrated. So is Merriwether's romance with a fetching undergraduate. Stern resists the easy, satiric angle--the stuff of a million "Blue Angel" knockoffs--and concentrates instead on the painful realities of this American-style vita nuova.

And what about the style? The protagonist eats, sleeps and breathes physiology. Stern, always on the lookout for linguistic nutrients, swallows its vocabulary whole. The effect is wonderfully enriching. At one point, the infatuated Merriwether wonders at the mechanism of feeling itself. Is it deep or superficial? Well, one centimeter of human skin contains "four yards of nerves, twenty-five pressure apparatuses for tactile stimuli, two hundred nerve cells to record pain. This fantastic factory is our surface. No wonder our feeling is so exposed. Our hearts are on our sleeve." It's like encountering John Donne in a white lab coat.
P.P.S.: The very same issue of Newsday also includes this excellent review of Tim Farrington's Lizzie's War by the inimitable Kerry Fried. Don't overlook the opening broadside: "Rumor has it we're in a 'nonfiction moment.' And sadly, when it comes to quality, books on the nonfiction bestseller lists do trump many novels in the opposite column. Satisfying, inventive fiction is hardly in short supply, but it has become increasingly difficult for even established novelists (this year, Meg Wolitzer, Jonathan Coe, Rupert Thomson, Hilary Mantel and Kazuo Ishiguro have merited far more readers) to slip into something more profitable."

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-Energy and Asset Technology, Inc. (EGTY) owns a global license to market
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These newly enhanced Globa| Cedar trees require only 9-12 years of growth
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Other than growing at an astonishing rate, the Global Cedar has a number
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he wood is very lightweight and strong, lighter than Poplar and over twice
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Based on current resources and agreements, EGTY projects revenues of $140
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Deltic Timber Corp. currently trades at over $38.00 a share with about $153
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Energy and Asset Technology is currently in negotiations with land and business
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All statements made are our express opinion only and should be treated as such.
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statements that express or involve discussions with respect to predictions,
goals, expectations, beliefs, plans, projections, object'ives, assumptions or
future events or perfo'rmance are not
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this report. Be aware of an inherent conflict of interest resulting from such holdings
due to our intent to profit from the liquidation of these shares. Shar,es may be sold
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Since we own shares, there is an inherent conflict of interest in our statements and
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