"An elder sister rode out from the city to visit her younger sister in the country." So begins Leo Tolstoy's story, presented in Boris Dralyuk's striking new translation (with the Russian text on facing pages). Clearly we're in the realm of the folktale, refashioned in the late style that also gave us "The Death of Ivan Ilyich," "Master and Man," and Hadji Murad. But the Devil, who appears early on ("The devil sat behind the stove and heard everything"), is real, as is the insatiable, self-destructive acquisitiveness of the protagonist, Pakhom—uncomfortably familiar, perhaps.

The Alpine Tales
Paul J. Willis (WordFarm)


Paul Willis, whose poetry I love, induced me to plunge into an eco-fantasy with a heavy dose of mountain climbing, set in the Three Queens wilderness of the Cascade Mountains (and profoundly Christian in its inspiration). I read the first two of these four linked novels in the mid-1990s and looked forward to the next installment. It has been a long wait, but now, thanks to WordFarm, the entire set is available in a big, handsome volume. Take it on your next trip to the campground—or settle down with it, as I did, in the comfort of your own bed.

Life, The Universe, And Everything An Aristotelian Philosophy for a Scientific Age
Ric Machuga (Cascade Books)


Someone should send a copy of Ric Machuga's book to Stephen Hawking, who claims that science has rendered philosophy irrelevant. Life, the Universe, and Everything is the equivalent of a class offered by a master teacher. (I hope it will be available before long via The Great Courses or a competitor.) For a sample, take a look at Chapter 9, "Are Humans Really Free?" It's one of the best treatments I've ever seen of this endlessly debated and endlessly ...

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May 2011

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