Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Blake de Pastino, Brendan Doherty, Jessica English, Jennifer L.X. Scharn

JULY 27, 1998: 

Houses in Time
by Linda Harris (Arroyo Press/UNM, cloth, $34.95)

In a world lathered with scattershot suburbs and bargain- basement architecture, it's hard to find meaning in something as simple as a house. Fortunately, Las Cruces writer Linda Harris has discovered a way to tease out the hidden lives of houses in her new book, Houses In Time. What she has constructed here is brilliant in its simplicity: a survey of 88 homes throughout New Mexico, each one described in a page-long vignette and accompanied by a black-and-white portrait. From the cliff dwellings of the Mogollon to the giddy tract housing of Albuquerque, Harris uses buildings to create a pitch-perfect history of New Mexico--social and cultural as well as architectural. There are even a few houses that she throws in just because they come with interesting stories, like the home of the lone caretaker in the ghost town of Lake Valley or the old Victorian in Clovis, where a ranch couple lived their colorful but unwritten lives. And you can tell that Harris has a great time telling you these stories. The Esquibel House in Silver City, she says, "wears its Queen Anne style porch as easily as lace on a bonnet." Of the Miller House in Hillsboro, she writes: "This is the house that sits in the town that gold built." Playfully described by a writer who clearly knows her business, every house in Houses in Time seems like a baronial manor in bungalow's clothing, rich with history and all kinds of meaning. (BdeP)

The Unexpected Salami
by Laurie Gwen Shapiro (Algonquin, cloth, $18.95)

It was your typical band video shoot, with the lead singer of the Tall Poppies, lime green makeup in place, pretending to wail into the camera. An aging band on the verge, the Tall Poppies were still looking for their first big break in the crapshoot known as the music business. So when their drummer was gunned down in the middle of the video, a murder caught on tape, they weren't too unhappy with seeing themselves on the TV screens of the world. Rachael Ganelli, a band moll, tries to leave the Australian band, the murder and the clubs to return to New York to get away from it all. Through a tale that's equal parts love story and black comedy, Laurie Gwen Shapiro reveals her ability to turn a morbid situation into a funny and thought-provoking read. In real life, Shapiro was a sex call screener for Dr. Ruth Westheimer and a collaborator with Conor McCourt for The McCourts of Limerick, a film now in production. (BD)

Out of Sheer Rage
by Geoff Dyer (North Point Press, cloth, $23)

Ten pages into Out of Sheer Rage, you'll want to bludgeon Geoff Dyer to death after all his rambling explanations for not writing his book: "So I went from making notes on (D.H.) Lawrence to making notes for my novel, by which I mean I went from not working on my book about Lawrence to not working on the novel because all of this to-ing and fro-ing and note-taking actually meant that I never did any work on either book." Shut up already and get to writing about D.H. Lawrence like the book promises! Nevertheless, it's hard to put the book down; in fact, all of Dyer's waffling about writing becomes the amusing center of the story. All this "to-ing and fro-ing" leads Dyer to the desert to trace the footsteps of Lawrence, the man who inspired him to be a writer. Here, the writer's story becomes intertwined with Lawrence's, and Out of Sheer Rage becomes the product of Dyer's journey and maddening procrastination: both a self-study and a biography of D.H. Lawrence that provides insight into the motivations and processes of every writer. And in the end, you'll be glad he just finally wrote the damn thing. (JE)

The Exes
by Pagan Kennedy (Simon & Schuster, cloth, $23)

I shudder every time I see another Gen X book finagle its way into the market. The stories of darkness, drugs, depression and love triangles are rather tiresome. Or is that just my life? When you've known countless people like the characters in this book, the line starts to blur. The cast consists of four misfits (surprise) who start a rock band made up of ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, hence The Exes. Their songs are pitiful, but the wretchedly amusing band members actually have an iota of substance. Pagan Kennedy's fresh and witty descriptions give life to an otherwise shoddy group whose ride to repulsive glory is firmly set in reality: dingy clubs, unappreciative audiences and an occasional sleaze promising stardom. Although Kennedy is a talented writer, the scenarios in this novel have been worn by nearly every rock star's autobiography. If she is, as the back cover proclaims, the voice of this generation, it is no wonder older generations view us with contempt. (JLXS)

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