E- and audiobook reviews: Love and Other Ways of Dying by Michael Paterniti; No Place to Go by Richard Koenig; The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
Love and Other Ways of Dying
by Michael Paterniti
Long-form nonfiction, Michael Paterniti-style, puts you in the shoes of the subject. But it’s more than that, as readers of this collection of 17 essays will see. As he reveals about revisiting his old pieces: “You begin to see your obsessions laid bare, certain themes repeating.” Strength in the face of adversity might be one; our humanity might be another. Two excellent pieces, The Suicide Catcher and The Man Who Sailed His House, show Paterniti becoming part of the story and being an acute observer. In the latter, he tells of Hiromitsu, a man who survived Japan’s 2011tsunami by clinging to his house as it was swept to sea. There’s Paterniti’s portrait of Mr Chen, who works after hours on the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge preventing people jumping to their deaths. Paterniti knows how this feels because he himself spots a would-be jumper, and saves him. Fans of the author will be familiar with Driving Mr Albert (with Einstein’s brain in the boot) and The Fifteen-Year Layover, about the refugee whose home for 15 years was Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
No Place to Go
by Richard Koenig
Amazon Digital Services
The sanitation crisis in developing countries is sickening - literally. That is the message of No Place to Go, which looks at the situation in Ghana, where city folk queue up to use filthy public loos; relieve themselves in bushes or alleyways; or use a flying toilet, meaning line a chamber pot with a bag, then fling the waste outside. Not surprisingly, the result is often cholera. Richard Koenig, a journalist, points to the paradox of the poor having more trouble accessing a toilet than they do a mobile phone. But he also writes about initiatives afoot, including those of the Clean Team, whose tagline is: "Everyone deserves a toilet." Their system consists of a plastic receptacle with a removable canister collected regularly, its contents deposited at a sludge treatment site - although these aren't always in working order and the waste may be dumped illegally. Maintenance difficulties and a not-in-my-backyard mentality are problems, although hope lies in waste's conversion to biofuel. Koenig has done well to make something private a public concern.
The Journalist and the Murderer
by Janet Malcolm
(narrated by Marguerite Gavin)
Twenty-five years after its publication in 1990, The Journalist and the Murderer remains important. Now an audiobook, it is done justice by Marguerite Gavin, who narrates with teacherly intent. This is an instructive book because of Janet Malcolm's points about media ethics and the journalist-subject relationship. On what happens when people meet journalists, she says: "One would think that extreme wariness and caution would be the order of the day. But in fact, childish impetuosity and trust are far more common." The story centres on Joe McGinniss' portrayal of Jeffrey MacDonald, who had asked him to write a book about his case. The subject, charged with murdering his wife and their two children, had thought the book would exonerate him. However, McGinniss came to believe, like the jury, that he was guilty; for four years, he hid his intent to portray MacDonald as a psychopathic killer. The lawsuit that resulted should be remembered by all who agree to interviews and also any writers looking for a story to tell.