Blame it on Watergate, Whitewater or whatever. The fact remains, this is quite possibly the most cynical era in American history, perhaps the most bitter generation ever. At least, that’s what one local thinker says. In his new book Everybody Knows, UM poli-sci prof and former Independent contributor Bill Chaloupka dissects America’s newfound, full-bore cynicism and explains its rightful place in American politics and culture. Has bitterness become a driving force behind our popular culture? Can cynicism actually serve as a failsafe to keep democracy working? All questions will be answered, all fears will be allayed, as Chaloupka goes inside America’s critical mindset.
Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire by John N. Maclean (William Morrow, cloth, $24)
In this taut work of nonfiction, former Chicago Tribune editor John Maclean focuses his journalist’s sensibility on the Storm King Mountain fire of 1994, in an attempt to unspool all of the factors that turned what seemed at first to be a fairly innocuous fire into a deadly conflagration. It doesn’t hurt that John’s father was none other than Norman Maclean, who not only gave us the lyrical A River Runs Through It but whose 1992 Young Men and Fire documented the ghastly Mann Gulch Fire of 1949. From a change in weather to human error to a Gordian Knot of federal agencies assigned to fight the blaze, a seemingly inevitable series of events fell into place that in the end claimed the lives of 14 firefighters. From this very real tragedy, Maclean has distilled what Booklist has called “a finely wrought, factual and emotive record.”
The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing by Thomas McGuane (Knopf, cloth, $25)
There are some of us who maintain that fishing is little more than a prescriptive course for ritualized drinking. But in Montana at least, there’s an entire school of writing that exists only to remind us that—for some folks, anyway—fishing is a true and hard-pursued passion. This November, Thomas McGuane wades into the fray with The Longest Silence, a collection of 33 essays on the virtues of angling. Here, the author of The Bushwhacked Piano and The Sporting Club trundles us through all of his favorite fishing holes, from Michigan to Rhode Island to Ireland to the crystal clear waters near his home in McLeod. It’s perhaps this season’s most hotly anticipated release, at least among the hip-wader crowd.
The Lost Glass Plates of Wilfred Eng by Thomas Orton (Counterpoint, cloth, $24)
Here’s a book that doesn’t suffer from any lack of ambition. The debut novel by UM Writing Program alum Thomas Orton, The Lost Glass Plates of Wilfred Eng takes among its target themes race relations, the cutthroat dealings of the art world, and, basically, how one goes about the delicate business of handling the truth. It all starts when an antique photo dealer stumbles across some old glass-plate negatives by the revered Chinese-American landscape photographer Wilfred Eng. But these are no trees and hillocks; they’re nudes of the beautiful young wife of Eng’s white patron. Our hero’s discovery opens the door to rumor, scandal and doubt; as a result, Orton turns his attention to a more interiorized kind of landscape—that of the heart, the mind and the moral compass—in an effort to document one man’s struggle to apprehend the truth.