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Archive for Monday, October 26, 2009

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The Edge

October 26, 2009

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‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ (Books)

If Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel, “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” was based on love, her follow-up calls on much darker fare: jealousy, possessiveness, immaturity and dishonesty.

“Her Fearful Symmetry” follows twin sisters in their early 20s as they travel to London to live in an apartment their late aunt Elspeth bequeathed them with the condition that their parents — Elspeth’s twin sister and her husband — never set foot in the place.

The more dominant Julia decides they should go, so they do, despite Valentina’s reservations. Upon arriving at the apartment, the twins soon find out that their aunt is a ghost, and they seek to uncover the mystery surrounding her estrangement from their mother.

As she did with time travel, Niffenegger manages to make the existence of ghosts a believable reality. Her talent in storytelling shines through in several sections of the book, but sadly, not enough to make up for the slow pace and stunted characters.

Lucero (Music)

Lucero waited three years to give us something new, and boy did it ever. Four years removed from producing one of the decade’s best country albums, “Nobody’s Darlings,” Lucero has remade itself into something very different.

“1372 Overton Park,” the band’s major label debut, is a surrender without terms to the Memphis sound, complete with horns and backup singers. The album, named for the space where members lived during the band’s formative years, is painted with bright colors and big, complex sounds, completing Lucero’s slow crawl away from alt-country that began with its 2006 release, “Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers.”

These 12 songs, propelled by Memphis session player Jim Spake’s energetic horn arrangements, will blend in smoothly with Lucero’s incendiary live show. The album fits in neatly with today’s wave of bands looking for inspiration in Bruce Springsteen and is reminiscent of recent radio-ready work by The Hold Steady and other Boss devotees.

The music doesn’t have the emotional depth of the band’s earlier work, which often reached for and achieved the status of high art. But Nichols is always on his game with tales of heartbreak, loneliness and joy.

‘Drinking with George’ (Books)

“Drinking With George” isn’t an autobiography, memoir or tell-all. It has elements of all three, but in the end, it’s about one thing: beer.

George Wendt’s alter ego, the wisecracking “Cheers” barfly Norm Peterson, might be TV’s all-time top beer devotee, and based on this book, Wendt doesn’t appear to be far behind.

Wendt comes across as the ultimate bar buddy. He’s self-deprecating, an engaging storyteller and, well, thirsty.

The book is a lot more than a series of one-liners and beer puns. Wendt sprinkles in tongue-in-cheek helpful hints (how to survive a bar fight and beat a hangover) and facts about his favorite beverage (its history and health benefits).

He also doesn’t shy away from discussing the dangers of alcohol consumption, including a look back at how he drove drunk through a row of lampposts in the 1970s and was arrested.

But Wendt never gets too serious in “Drinking With George,” a funny, surprisingly informative read that goes down smoothly with no bad aftertaste.

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