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infant daughter to SIDS), his confused flight, several years earher, from a teaching career and his current troubled relationship with a sexually manipulative kleptomaniac—the length of the novel seems fully justified . What's noteworthy is how weU Lamb orchestrates it all. This is a story full of characters, all of whom seem to have Uves as compUcated as Dominick's, but' because they're aU seen from the perspective of the protagonist 's search for self-knowledge and acceptance, the whole is remarkably integrated—even the strange and gruesome journal of Dominick's Italian grandfather, which Lamb interpolates in its entirety. In fact, the journal is one of the highlights of the novel and features by far the best villain in the book. By contrast, Lamb's other characters, even the Ul-doers, are a little too soft, a Uttle too nice. Even the worst of them is easily and neatly redeemed in the end. It seems like hair-spUtting to criticize this good, big, absorbing book, but a touch less earnestness wouldn't have hurt. (ES) The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor by David S. Landes Norton, 1998, 650 pp., $30 One of the most vexing questions of aU time is why millions of people living on land masses called North America or Western Europe possess health, food and material goods unimaginable to miUions of other people living on different land masses such asAfrica. David S. Landes, a professor of history and economics at Harvard University, devotes 524 pages of text and 110 pages of citations to exploring the answers. Landes does not settle the matter fuUy. Who could? But perhaps he comes closer than most. While he discounts opposing theories based on colonial-era racism or current poUtical correctness, he does not entirely dismiss them. "We shaU see that both of these manichean visions have elements of truth as weU as of ideological fantasy," Landes comments. "Things are always more complicated than we would have them." Though he rejects the notion that Western Europeans and their American descendents are inherently superior to Africans, Landes refuses to ignore the East-West dichotomy or its racial impUcations. To state that European peoples did no more than ride on the backs of less Western tribes "is patently incorrect," Landes declares. "As the historical record shows, for the last thousand years Europe (the West) has been the prime mover of development and modernity ." Obviously not concerned about winning popularity contests, Landes is an iconoclast throughout his thick book. He refuses to completely discard the concept of Eurocentrism just because it offends certain races and ethnic groups. "I prefer truth to goodthink ," he says. "I feel surer of my ground." He should. Any polymath who has inspected the academic literature, then employed his common sense the way Landes has, is bound to feel confident. Fortunately, though, his confidence does not degenerate into smugness. Most of all, Landes wants to be seen as an out-there-inthe -trenches humanitarian. 208 · The Missouri Review Geography is not destiny, he concludes . So what contributes to economic inequality? Landes' conjectures, many of them backed by hard-toobtain evidence, are sometimes persuasive and almost always eloquently stated. (SW) Freedomland by Richard Price Broadway, 1998, 546 pages, $25 Richard Price has followed up Clockers with another novel about racial tensions in urban America. Again he has the voices down perfectly : the young black toughs, the black policeman, his Irish counterpart , the ambitious reporter. Set, like Clockers, in Dempsy, New Jersey, Freedomland is the story of a single white mother, Brenda Martin, who claims that her car with her small child strapped inside was hijacked near the "projects." Lorenzo Council, a cop who grew up in those same projects, is assigned to investigate the case. He interviews Brenda, walks her through the crime scene, tries to keep her policeman brother from inflaming the situation and begins to suspect that the "crime" did not happen in the way that she claims. Also investigating is Jesse Haus, a reporter, the daughter of a radical, who faUs into a close relationship with Brenda. EventuaUy, though, she too,becomes suspicious of Brenda 's claims...


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