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June 2008

Time Out - Books

How the Soldier Repairs the Grammophone
by Saša Stanišic´; Grove Press, 2008
Two years ago, a young German author of Bosnian decent burst onto the literary scene with his debut, How the Soldier Repairs the Grammophone. The novel is a moving story told by a boy from the Bosnian town Visegrad, just before the outbreak of the civil war. Aleksandar is an imaginative narrator with a passion for observing and cataloguing his surroundings. But suddenly, it is no longer important how heavy a spider’s life weighs or what special ingredients the local bartender adds to the lemonade for German tourists. Suddenly, it is important to have the right name and to pretend that the little Muslim girl Asija is his sister. When the war finally arrives in Visegrad, Aleksandar’s family flees to Germany, where his knack for storytelling helps keep Bosnia alive. Eventually a grown-up Aleksandar returns to his childhood home and must confront the bitter results of the war. With his first book, Stanišic´ has written an extraordinary piece of fiction ingeniously balancing humorous anecdotes with heart-breaking incidents that reveal the brutality of human nature.

Sneaker Wars
by Barbara Smit; Ecco 2008
During the European Soccer Championship 2008, some of the fiercest battles will take place not between players, but on their feet. Starting with the players’ footwear, sports brands will vie for attention. For two of the major sneaker brands, however, rivalry has far deeper roots than marketing struggles. In Sneaker Wars Barbara Smit presents the dramatic story of Adidas and Puma. Adi and Rudi Dassler started a shoe business in the Bavarian village Herzogenaurach in the 1920s. The brothers’ enterprise soon was a great success, and the family could have lived in comfort. In time, however, Rudi and Adi grew apart and began to feud. By the end of World War II, the brothers split the company, dividing their family and hometown for generations to come. Smit’s Sneaker Wars is a page-turning blend of drama, business and sports, showing that private rivalries were capable of shaping a whole industry, as well as the relationship between sports and business.

Lush Life
by Richard Price; Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2008
Like many stories, this one begins with a “simple” crime that generates unforeseen complications: Eric Cash—a manager at a fashionable Lower East Side eatery—spends a night out with his co-worker Ike Marcus. On their way home, Eric sees Ike gunned down in an attempted robbery. Eric becomes the key witness, but for obscure reasons he only offers an incomplete statement to the interrogating police officers and then slips into silence. It is clear from the beginning, who shot Ike, and it is Eric’s muteness about the crime that becomes the central question of the novel. In his 8th book, Price—author of the bestselling Clockers—has chosen a cinematic setup rippling with tension. Aside from the perfectly crafted plot, razor-sharp dialogue and Price’s extraordinary description of gentrification in the Lower East Side make Lush Life an especially intoxicating read. <<<