Really? I'm skimming through these reviews and see that people don't think sexual abuse of a 9-year-old boy is that big a deal? A murder isn't that biReally? I'm skimming through these reviews and see that people don't think sexual abuse of a 9-year-old boy is that big a deal? A murder isn't that big a deal? Really?
The Most Dangerous Thing is the story of five kids, aged about 9 to 16, who live next to a sprawling park, parts of it near wilderness, in Baltimore. The story, which begins with the youngest of the five, Go-Go, now an adult in his 40s, is drunk and then dies in a solo car accident.
The telling then goes back and forth between the present day, when the five are adults nearing 50, and the summers of their youths when they were a tight group.
As kids they stumble upon a hidden cabin where an older, not-quite-right-in-the-head, black man lives. Something bad happens to Go-Go, short for Gordon. There's an explanation for what happened--this is about a third of the way through the book. But does that explanation hold together?
There's plenty of foreshadowing so that it's clear from the start that someone died and that the kids are more guilty than their parents thought. But of what?
It's excellently done. Lippman is a stellar writer, tossing off insights about her characters that make them more real than the real people in your life, because you're in these characters' heads with them. All of them are imperfect people, trying to do the right thing, making mistakes, and yes, selfish, but also caring.
I especially loved her writing about parenting here. We're all such flawed parents, but few writers are honest enough to explore that. ...more
There are so many books and so little time that I rarely read a book twice. Eric Newby's A Short Walk is one of the very few exceptions. An eccentric,There are so many books and so little time that I rarely read a book twice. Eric Newby's A Short Walk is one of the very few exceptions. An eccentric, frighteningly intelligent, and irascible former editor recommended it to me twenty years ago, and it immediately became one of my favorite books. It's howlingly funny, an account of a trip to the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan, a place so different that it might as well have been on a different planet. Newby and his friend Hugh Carless plan to climb a 19,000-foot peak, the Mir Shamir. Neither are mountain climbers and Newby isn't even in very good physical shape. He's been standing around selling high couture women's clothing. So they begin with some practice climbs in Wales, and get a first glimpse into just how ill qualified they are for the undertaking. By the time they reach Tehran, Newby also understands that Carless believes that a traveler just needs to get used to contaminated water, build up a resistance. The two men are sick, therefore, for much of the trip. Newby expertly imparts a sense of impending doom while making you laugh, and if you didn't know he and Carless lived through the journey it wouldn't have been much fun. Indeed, it's an adventure they were lucky to have survived. In Turkey, they're accused of hitting an old man on the road. In Iran, Newby is already sick: "We drove on and on and all the time I felt worse. Finally we reached a town called Fariman. A whole gale of wind was blowing, tearing up the surface of the main street. Except for two policemen holding hands and a dog whose hind legs were paralysed, it was deserted." It gets worse: "The customs house was rocking in the wind, which roared about it so loud that conversation was difficult. "'Is it always like this?' I screamed in Hugh's ear. "'It's the Bad-i-Sad-o-bist, the Wind of a Hundred and Twenty Days.'... "We were in Afghanistan." The joy of Newby's writing is that he and Carless are the butt of most of the jokes—although he doesn't spare anyone. Of the local men who are to travel with them up the Panjshir River Valley to Mir Shamir, Newby writes, "They were crouching with Abdul Ghiyas over a wooden bowl containing curds and talking with great animation while they scraped the bottom of the bowl with great hunks of bread; occasionally they would interrupt their conversation to look at us with sinister emphasis." The two amateurs will climb with the help of a pamphlet they pull out now and then. Newby hopes to impress Carless with his knowledge of a local dialect by studying a 1901 booklet that has helpful phrases for the traveler. "Reading the 1744 sentences with their English equivalents, I began to form a disturbing impression of the waking life of the Bashgali Kafirs.... "Dum allangiti atsiti i sundi basnd bra. 'A gust of wind came and took away all my clothes' "'A lammergeier came down from the sky and took off my cock.'... "'Why do you kick my horse? I will kick you.'" Newby writes like a poet about the strange, harsh landscapes he encounters, but his fortes are humor and honesty. He encountered a culture that was exotic and often brutal. As a reader I often felt horrified in between laughs. Newby's encounter with an especially heinous man in Tehran left me feeling queasy, and of course there was always the issue of how women were treated, something Newby notes but doesn't dwell upon. I recommend it.