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Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Noah Masterson, Todd Meigs, Brendan Doherty, Blake de Pastino

JULY 6, 1998: 

Another Day in Paradise
by Eddie Little (Viking, cloth, $22.95)

In both movies and books, tough-guy tales about crime and drugs are all too common these days. But occasionally, someone comes along and produces something that rings with enough authenticity to merit attention. Such is the case with Eddie Little's Another Day in Paradise. Little, himself an ex-con and former heroin addict, writes with confidence about living a life of crime. From the very first chapter, in which the protagonist, Bobbie, is beaten to within inches of his life, the reader is hooked. The tale is sordid and goes far beyond any of the sleazy elements touched upon in movies like Pulp Fiction. Fourteen-year-old Bobbie carries out a string of robberies, gets addicted to drugs and has a mutually abusive relationship with his prostitute girlfriend. The cast of characters is large, and each one is equally terrifying. The details of Bobbie's crime spree are so rich that they surely must be part of someone's real life story. And that, perhaps, is the most frightening part of all. (NM)

The Edge of the Bed
by Lisa Palac (Little Brown, cloth, $22.95)

In February of 1994, I, along with many other horny college students around the nation, was fascinated by an Esquire article documenting "feminists who don't hate sex!" Lisa Palac had one of the more memorable lines as she attempted to describe the appeal of S/M; she called for her men to "degrade me when I ask you to." Obviously, this was not your average pundit, a fact emphasized by her résumé: co-founder of Future Sex magazine, producer of the Cyborgasm CD series and now author of an excellent memoir, The Edge of the Bed. Palac relates her upbringing, revisiting her Catholic childhood, her parents' loveless marriage and her subsequent attempts at establishing romantic relationships in the stormy sexual climate of San Francisco, all with an energetically bouncing prose and a self-deprecating gift for the dramatic. Along the way, she finds time to state her views on pornography, cybersex and sexual honesty, drawing you into her life with a magnetic charisma. She writes with a uniquely modern voice, one capable of tackling thorny issues with intelligence, irreverence and a flair for humor while reading like a lively bar conversation. It is a life worth reading, and, with only 35 years behind her, one hopes there will be plenty more to come. (TM)

Visual Piety
by David Morgan (University of California Press, cloth, $35)

Popular religious images encompass the very tenets of belief. In David Morgan's Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images, the author dissects venerated images from the visual history of Judeo-Christian iconography. This impressive book functions as both a passionately argued manifesto on the importance of popular imagery in everyday life and a well articulated case study of the ways in which certain images assume central roles in contemporary American homes. Weaving music, sociology, theology, aesthetics, philosophy and psychology in the very fiber of his discussion, Morgan can use a picture of Jesus or a 150-year-old representation of Holy Week as a springboard for a lively interdisciplinary study. The refinement of these images and the narrowing of their specific features is nothing short of fascinating. His reverent treatment provides deep illumination into the very strength of the images that the faithful hold dear. (BD)

There Are No Accidents
by Robert H. Hopcke (Riverhead, paper, $13)

Witness the best of all possible panaceas: a self-help program that requires you to do, basically, nothing. In his wildly successful book, now out in paper, Robert Hopcke proposes that one of the most influential yet misunderstood forces in human life is the accident, that undeniably "real" event that, to paraphrase John Lennon, is what happens while you're busy making plans. Whether in romance or in business, Hopcke suggests, accidents are what enable us to create change in our lives by giving us new opportunities--but only if our minds are open to them. It's best, he says, to look at your life as a story, with accidents (missed appointments, chance encounters) serving as plot developments that speed you toward a happy ending. What it all amounts to in the end is a kind of 10-speed Calvinism, where you take your faith in a predetermined Fate and then shift it up to more heady, psychological levels to help you better understand things like symbolism and synchronicity. Hopcke's arguments often seem diaphanous, but he supplies plenty of case studies to illustrate how everyday people's lives have improved because of "happy accidents." None of them really break the bank at Monte Carlo when it comes to wealth or fame, but they all become content. And when you think about it, contentment is the Holy Grail of modern times. (BdeP)

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