A Land So Strange

In the 16th century, Catholic Spain -- the sponsor of Christopher Columbus and colonizer of Cuba, Mexico, and much of the future United States -- explored and exploited the New World more than any other nation, under the banner of "Christianization." Historian Res‚ndez's splendid account shows that pious Spain's true desire was gold, exemplified in Hern n Cort‚s's devastating conquest of the Aztecs, after which breathtaking riches were shipped back. In the same vein, ambitious explorer/conqueror P nfilo de Narv ez mounted a massive expedition to Florida in 1528, which included Royal Treasurer Cabeza de Vaca. A Caribbean hurricane drove the flotilla 900 miles off course, and after landing, the Spaniards began an ill-fated overland search for gold. Only 4 out of 300 would survive the journey, including Cabeza de Vaca. His epic, nightmarish journey in the New World included a crossing the Gulf of Mexico by raft, fighting with hostile Indians, resorting to cannibalism, being taken as a slave, becoming a "medicine man," and walking from Texas to Mexico. Res‚ndez's tirelessly researched and picaresque narrative describes every step of this dramatic survivalist adventure, while providing insightful background on topics like 16th-century navigation and Indian cultures. A Land So Strange will make you appreciate the comforts of home.
-

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.