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Books. Over half of the reviews are of works by post-colonial authors of mixed Indian, Pakistani, and English background—Salman Rushdie, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, R. K. Narayan, and others—while the remaining ones are of books by American authors. Iyer is an enthusiastic and generous reader, writing jargonless, vivid, open-minded review essays. He is good at the primary job of a reviewer, inspiring readers to try certain authors. Also, he is perceptive at locating weaknesses , as when he describes Ruth Jhabvala's fiction, despite its many virtues, as being so obsessed by charlatans and manipulators—particularly spiritual charlatans and seekers—that she paints almost all of her characters as either manipulators or deserving victims. An essay on Salman Rushdie begins with the provocative statement: "The great problem with Salman Rushdie, I have often felt, is that he is simply too talented. And no writer has seemed more captive to his gifts: his powers of invention and imagination are so prodigal and so singular that he often gives the impression of not knowing when to stop . . . the puns and polycultural references and paralleling images multiply to the point of overload." While holding to this criticism, Iyer goes on to praise Rushdie as perhaps the best of the new East-West writers. Iyer's own style suffers a little from a similar talent: it is aphoristic sometimes to a fault. His prose occasionally faUs into rhetorical autopilot , with one clever bon mot following another, until one wonders if the author has been reading too much Oscar Wilde and gotten drowsy over his word processor. Whatever its faults, this miscellany is worth picking up for Iyer fans and for those who want an introduction to the contemporary East-West literary renaissance. (SM) The Perfect Storm: A True Story ofMen Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger W. W. Norton, 1997, 227 pp., $23.95 Junger's book is about a storm off the coast of Nova Scotia in October, 1991, in which the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail disappeared with its six crewmen. Since the boat was out of radio contact well before she sank, the scarcity of known details about the central event might seem to be a serious flaw. However, Junger turns a weakness to an advantage by taking lack of information as an occasion to discuss the larger picture of sea storms, the meteorology of storms, the nature of high waves, swordfishing, boat construction, anecdotes of previous sinkings, and the effect of this particular storm on other boats within its vicinity, including the extraordinary trials of ships that did make it through. The book's climax describes the spectacular rescue of the crew of an undermanned wooden sailing boat. Like a lot of fishing boats, the broad-beamed Andrea Gail had been refitted by eyeball and weldingtorch engineering. Her crew, from Gloucester, Massachusetts, were used to the rigors of swordfishing. Called Ionglining because of the miles of hooks set out on single lines, swordfishing is grueling work that occasionally results in baiters getting The Missouri Review · 222 hooked and jerked overboard. Swordfishing requires staying at sea for four or five weeks at a time, sometimes making no money, and at other times hitting the jackpot. Swordfishermen are an especially hard-bitten, fatalistic lot, who often carouse in port for a week or so before going back out to sea. They may earn five thousand dollars from a haul, much of which they manage to blow while ashore, bouncing between the three fishermen bars of Gloucester. At times, so many ebullient fishermen are buying rounds for the house that the bartenders put out plastic token bottles so the beer doesn't get hot. The "perfect storm" itself resulted from the uncommon coincidence of an arctic eddy, or anticyclone, that created a low-pressure trough along its front, being met by a mature Hurricane Grace coming up from the south. This created something like two giant meteorological gears, called nor'easters by New Englanders , spinning everything between them toward the shoreline of North America, generating one-hundred foot waves capable of blowing out inch-thick porthole glass, drowning engines, or picking up a loaded boat like the Andrea Gail and flipping her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 211-212
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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