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julian barnes   Fans of Julian Barnes—and Gustave Flaubert—won't want to miss this collection of twenty-one essays on the country that has held Barnes in thrall for the better part of forty years. Barnes embraces France as only an English novelist could.

His evocations of the almost-vanished charms of La Belle France—peasants, nouvelle vague cinema, George Brassens LPs—are by turns wry, iconoclastic and tender, but to watch Barnes drill with the canon of modern French literature is to witness a passionate non-corporeal engagement worthy of the keeper of a medieval reliquary. Simenon, Sand, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Hugo, Colet, and Flaubert, Flaubert, Flaubert and more Flaubert are all here and Barnes serves up each of their delectable letters, lovers, and feuds to his readers to his readers like an amuse bouche.

Those yearning to see Barnes' formidable talents loosed upon the present and the physical need not despair, though. The loamy soil fertilized with the flesh of dead writers also yields a brilliantly observed essay on the continuing appeal of the Tour de France, awash though it may be in dope and misery.

Those who worry for the survival of national character as the new European super-state congeals can rest assured that as long as there are English observers as astute as Julian Barnes, there will always be a France.
 
richard moran   The death penalty has always been a controversial topic, but Richard Moran's Executioner's Current explores this subject's rise to controversy in a frighteningly pragmatic fashion.

Exploiting the oxymoron of business ethics, Moran contends that, beginning in 1886, famed inventors and household names Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse were engaged in a PR battle to promote their own electrical patents by lobbying the State to use the other's current when executing criminals. Wanting to detach their patents from such bleak associations, both men fought for professional credibility and financial success with the issue of corporal punishment being caught in the crossfire.

Aside from causing readers to question corporate corruption, governmental ethics, and judicial motivations, Executioner's Current will have many people checking the names on their appliances, light bulbs, and electric bills with considerably more thought than ever before.
 
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