November 25, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Clear 6°C
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Bios & Memoirs


There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's brilliant stories eviscerate families seeking Communist-era roofs.

I Refuse

In a novel with autobiographical hues, Norwegian Per Petterson considers friendship and lost time.

The Dream of My Return

A paranoid Salvadoran expat in Mexico City dreams of going him — but conspiracies come first.

As Good As Dead

Elizabeth Evans' new novel is a powerful look at women friends "reunited" in name only.


David Vann's vision of family redemption starts magically, but grows foul with rage.

My Documents

Chilean Alejandro Zambra's stories move from fictional autobiography into handsome melancholy.


In the spirit of "Dr. Strangelove," French novelist Michel Houellebecq puts a brilliantly comic spin on a sensitive topic.

Dear Thief

Samantha Harvey's novel-length letter to a long-lost friend is as brilliant as it is sad.

Fat City

The reissuing of Leonard Gardner's 1969 "Fat City" should be cause for literary cheer.


Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal

American writer Michael Mewshaw generously recalls Gore Vidal and his tumultuous times.

Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden
By Osama bin Laden, edited and introduced by Bruce Lawrence; translated by James Howarth
Verso Books, 2005. 292 pages

Months before the invasion of Iraq, bin Laden offered this advice to enemies of radical Islam: “Pack your luggage and get out of our lands. We desire this only for your goodness, guidance, and righteousness, so do not force us to send you back as cargo in coffins.”

This, at first, was mocked.

There’s more: “Guantanamo is a historical embarrassment to America and its values, and screams into your hypocritical faces…”

This, at first, was discounted.

The unsettling part of reading zealots, in black hats or white, is their rational sensibility. Bin Laden is nothing if not PR-wise: “You are a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them.” He sounds at times like a Baptist preacher. What distinguishes bin Laden’s rhetoric is its ascent into militancy, which is gradual.

Saudi Arabia, his homeland, is the flashpoint. “The place of revelation,” he insists, is occupied by Christians and their lackeys. “A gloomy scenario,” he adds ruefully. Bin Laden began publishing his warnings in 1994. No one bothered assembling them until 2005 — in Britain, not the United States. The roots of 9/11, the book makes clear, are political and strategic, an ambitious move in a lurid chess game. “You fight, so you exist,” he says, redirecting Descartes. This is an important, highly lucid volume.

Reviewed by Book Staff
Day and Boarding International High School in the Heart of Rome

Everything you need to know about visiting or moving to Tuscany, Italy.