Book Article

Paperback Picks

Paperback Picks -- Books from Maya Angelou, Michael Herr, and Bette Bao Lord

Falling Angels (1990)
Barbara Gowdy
A whiskey-chugging mother who must be kept from leaping off the roof. A father who substitutes two weeks in an air-raid shelter for a long-promised trip to Disneyland. These are the parental burdens of the three Field girls, who slouch toward womanhood in this excellent first novel. A

Dispatches (1977)
Michael Herr
Before Dispatches, Vietnam novels were just war stories. But Herr's reissued classic — still the definitive vision of 'Nam — gave us all the particulars of this fresh hell. Trippy and surreal, it captures the apocalypse in a series of images that pulse against a background of '60s rock. The edgy humor goes beyond the gallows to the grave. A

Legacies (1990)
Bette Bao Lord
Lord, author of the best-selling Spring Moon, links her eyewitness account of the Tiananmen Square uprising with the stories of her family members during and after the cultural revolution. The result is a haunting patchwork of China in the past half century. Lord writes so elegantly that you will wait in vain for something untoward to break through the seamless reserve of her prose. B

All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes (1986)
Maya Angelou
The latest installment in Angelou's autobiographical series (which began with the superb I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) is a grace note. Describing her years in Africa seems to have released something triumphant in Angelou and erased the smugness that has marred some of her more recent books. B+

Originally posted Aug 30, 1991 Published in issue #81 Aug 30, 1991 Order article reprints