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apparently innocent man by Taylor's adolescent soldiers. "An Anarchist's Guide to SomaUa" examines simUarly violent SomaU poUtical unrest and describes the rural SomaU people as they trek across the desert in smaU, armed groups doing what they can to avoid each other. The war-torn capital city of Mogadishu is controUed by General Aidid, who promises "security, rehabiUtation, resettlement of displaced people, development and elections," celebrated Western ideals that Johnson suggests wiU not materialize in a land where people "got along for centuries on their own" without Western intervention. Johnson's most impressive achievement in Seek is his demonstration that the sort of otherworldliness characteristic of the civil wars of Third World countries is present to different degrees and in different forms in the United States. "Run, Rudolph, Run" concerns the federal government 's fruitless search for Eric Robert Rudolph, who has been accused of the bombing at the '96 Olympics in Atlanta as well as the bombings of a famUy planning clinic and a gay nightclub. Like the Liberian and Somali warlords, Rudolph, who has disappeared into the forests of western North Carolina, is either a radical hero, a confused and misguided man or a dangerous criminal depending on the source of the opinion. "The Militia in Me" is an observer's account of the American militia movement that relies—perhaps a little too much—on sympathizing with antigovernment ideologies. Johnson admits that he identifies in part with those who "are troubled that somewhere , somehow, the system meant to keep us free has experienced a failure." But figures such as former Green Beret Colonel Bo Gritz, whose violent, antigovernment rhetoric is almost universaUy considered dangerous and maniacal, give him pause. Another striking essay, "Three Deserts," demonstrates the book's overaU accomplishment by successfuUy juxtaposing Johnson's surreal experiences in post-Soviet Kabul, the American Southwest and Saudi Arabia at the time of the Gulf War's commencement. Seek provides arresting evidence of Johnson's versatility as a writer. These are essays that rely on some of the central techniques of good fiction while remaining grounded in the realities of recent social and political history. More powerful than journalism , more authentic than short stories, the pieces in Seek enrich the reader's sense of social sympathy and at times remind us of the community of humankind. (MS) Lying Awake: A Novel by Mark Salzman Knopf, 2000, 181pp., $21 Mark Salzman's third novel, Lying Awake, is a short, slender book that never feels like one. The novel centers around Sister John of the Cross, a Carmelite nun cloistered inside a Los Angeles monastery, whose mystical visions have brought her notoriety among her peers and in the outside world. Notoriety is a sUppery idea in a monastery, where contact with society is limited to trips to the doctor and members read spiritual texts during every meal—"the contemplative ideal of keeping one's mind on spiritual matters at all times was The Missouri Review · 209 never more threatened than whUe putting food into the body"—but Salzman pushes beyond this easy conflict and finds a more compeUing one: Sister John's visions are, in fact, a symptom of temporal-lobe epilepsy, a fact that explains the terrible headaches that accompany them. When Sister John learns that her condition can be cured through surgery, she is faced with a moral and personal dUemma: have the surgery and discover that the visions were nothing more than epUeptic fancy, or neglect the surgery and hope the visions are God-inspired. What follows is Sister John's choice, and the consequences of that choice. Although the opening pages feel off-putting at first, with Unes such as "powerless to save herseU, she drifted up toward infinity until the vacuum sucked the feeble light out of her," Salzman's terms soon become clear. You lose the suspicion that this book might be an inspirational potboiler and quickly fall under its speU. Salzman 's prose is spare and unmannered but doesn't lack in detaü or emotional impact. He is able to characterize even the most minor figures with a quick, sure-handed brushstroke , and the impression ofmonastic life that emerges is both unsentimental and...


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pp. 209-210
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