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May 21, 2021

George Ernsberger - Columnist
Posted 5/21/21

THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE by L. R. Dorn (Morrow). A thriller of sorts, and satisfying on that level, but also an ingenious and brilliantly executed, very contemporary re-telling in quite different form …

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May 21, 2021

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THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE by L. R. Dorn (Morrow). A thriller of sorts, and satisfying on that level, but also an ingenious and brilliantly executed, very contemporary re-telling in quite different form of Theodore Dreiser's classic, hard-eyed but compassionate crime novel AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY. Contemporary in setting and cast, but also in narrative style: the desperate social climber is a young woman “influencer,” and the form is as a series of true-crime podcasts—it reads like the transcripts of interviews—and it works stunningly well, clear, fast-moving and deeply engrossing.

NOISE: A FLAW IN HUMAN JUDGMENT by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R. Sunstein (Little, Brown Spark). A brilliantly thought-through discussion and explanation of why smart people are often (why are we ever?) wrong, especially in making choices, as life seems endlessly to require. It is, I'm discovering before your very eyes, all but impossible to summarize briefly, so it probably doesn't belong in this column at all; but it's so enjoyable to read, both unsettling and inspiring—mind-strengthening, might be a slogan for it—that I'm not a bit sorry I brought it up. (For further guidance: the lead author's Nobel award is in economics, of the kind that hasn't all that much to do with arithmetic.) This is for people who already have sense enough to set aside any remnants they retain of such intellectual contamination as built-in bias (social, cultural, ethnic, all that) and still make errors as all human do, in making choices, especially of actions to be undertaken where other humans are involved.

THAT SUMMER by Jennifer Weiner (Atria). She may mean to make (SOMETHING) SUMMER a regular event—remember her very nice BIG SUMMER, last year?—but it isn't going to be easy coming up, every year, with something as substantial as this. It isn't heavy—this isn't high art—but it's complex (more than one timeline, in case the title misleads you), wives and mothers, friends and otherwise, plenty to root for and feel for, moving and satisfying.

THE SABOTEURS: AN ISAAC BELL ADVENTURE by Clive Cussler, Jack DuBrul (Putnam). Number 12 of one of the great Cussler's several series. A historical; not much under water, though skulduggery around the building of the Panama Canal is central in this one (we meet Teddy Roosevelt, post-presidency). Cussler has (well, and his various collaborators have) lost nothing; action is plentiful and big, though we're not (exactly) at war; atmosphere is palpable without being belabored. And then…and then: the great Clive Cussler has died, just a few months ago (he was older, even, than your doddering columnist); so the output will surely at least slow down, now. Maybe we can catch up.

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