The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida on May 11, 2008 · 70
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The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida · 70

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Sunday, May 11, 2008
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70
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10 GETAWAY SUNDAY, MAY 11,2008 THE TAMPA TRIBUNE TBO.com BOOKS Vengeance, Violence Catch Up With Painter By KEVIN WALKER "The Painter of Battles," by Artu-ro Perez-Reverte (Random House, $25) Arturo Perez-Reverte is, unfortunately, not as well known on this side of the Atlantic as he is in his native Spain and the rest of Europe, where his books routinely make the best-seller lists. But don't run! This isn't going to be one of those reviews where the reviewer lauds something just because it's European and, therefore, somehow intrinsically cool. Perez-Reverte simply writes great books, and who doesn't need exposure to that? He is one of those writers who, once you read him, you want to recommend to your friends. This is especially true of the Captain AJa-triste series (including "The Sun Over Breda," recommended on this page last April) and "The Club Dumas." These books combine the intricacies of a philosophical novel with the sheer bravura of an adventure tale, seamlessly sewn with Perez-Reverte's wry prose (translated from Spanish). But "The Painter of Battles" is a different sort of novel. Small in setting but large in scope, it opens as the titular painter, Andres Faul-ques, works on a mural inside a tower. The tower, where Faulques lives, is on the Spanish coast. As the story unfolds, we learn Faulques is a world-renowned war photographer who has retired to the tower to work on the painting, which depicts the horrors and brutality of war. We are going to learn that Faulques has his own set of problems, but first a more immediate concern presents itself. A man walks up to the tower and asks Faulques to identify him. It takes time, but eventually it comes to him: The man is the subject of an iconic photo Faulques took in a war zone years ago. His name is Ivo Markov-ic. He's a Croatian. Eventually, Faulques asks: ""Why have you come looking for me?" The visitor had put the glass down and was wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "Because I am going to kill you."" From there, the book breaks down into two basic scenarios, alternating as they go. One is a conversation, often philosophical, between Faulques and Markovic. First, though, Markovic gives the facts: The photo Faulques took of him led to enemy soldiers finding his wife and young son, raping his wife, then killing them both. The second is Faulques alone, painting, remembering what he saw that inspires every part of the painting. His memories include the horrors of brutal conflict, the repeated sight that led Faulques to believe violence is man's natural state. But dominating his memo- . ries is that of a fellow photographer, a young woman he loved passionately. As the novel nears its climax, we learn she might be someone he betrayed. Ultimately, this finely-written but deliberately paced novel leaves the reader wondering: Does Faulques want Markovic to kill him? Is Markovic even real? Is Faulques, like so many others, beginning to falter under the cumulative weight of decisions he regrets? Perez-Reverte leaves some of the answers to the reader, but it's a satisfying experience, none the less. Kevin Walker writes for the Tribune and TIIO.com. Tribune photos by JIM REED Marilyn Suzanne Miller puts her "hip, weird and not cute" perspective on middle age in her new book. Miller, one of the original writers for "Saturday Night Live," moved to Tampa from New York City two years ago so she could be close to her mother and sister. Life As A Boomer Babe Former TV Comedy Writer Offers Wild And Crazy Advice By SUSAN HEMMINGWAY The Tampa Tribune TAMPA Say you're a woman significandy older than Paris Hilton but not yet as ancient as Grandma Moses. You may believe the only heat in this stage of life arrives via a hot flash. Not so, according to "How to Be a Middle-Aged Babe" (Scribner, $25). You just need some coaching, and your inner man-magnet will emerge. Marilyn Suzanne Miller, the author of "How to Be a Middle-Aged Babe," wants to help. Her how-to guide is a hilarious take on being no longer young, in the same spirit as Nora Ephron's "I Feel Bad About My Neck." One of the original writers who launched television's "Saturday Night Live" in the 1970s, Miller skewers the absurdity of expecting to be always youthful with laugh-out-loud advice for middle-age dating, sex, financial security and maintenance of body parts. Miller is a middle-aged boomer at 58. Her perspective on what she calls "life's new real estate" comes from a long career as one of TV's best comedy writers and from surviving advanced breast cancer. Like many her age, she has changed her priorities about what drives her. Two years ago, How to Be a Middle-Aged Marilyn Suzanne Miller Funny follows Miller to Tampa's Fun-Lan flea market, where she discovers a bowling ball for sale. she sold a spacious apartment in New York City and relocated to Tampa, where she can be close to her 84-year-old mother, Shirley, and younger sister, Joanne. Professionally, her career as a sitcom writer once the focus of her life is no longer appealing. Miller . began writing TV comedy after graduating from the University of Michigan. She was 22 when she started writing for "The Odd Couple," and 25 when she joined "Saturday Night Live." At "SNL," she created some of the show's best-known sketches. Miller collaborated with Dan Ackroyd to create the "wild and crazy" Czech brothers and produced pieces for Gilda Radner such as "The Judi Miller Show." Over the years, she earned three Emmys and last January was honored by The Paley Center for Media in New York for achievements as a pioneering female writer. Her work pushed "real-life-based, enigmatic, sexual, assertive women as engines of sketches," noted The Paley Center. The pieces "were hip, weird and not cute." Miller hasn't given up writing, but now prefers to work on longer projects, not sitcoms. "How to Be a Middle-Aged Babe" is her first book. "I'm too old to work in a studio. If I had to go through another sitcom, I'd jump off the building," Miller says. "When I was 22 and at "The Odd Couple," we'd be there from 10 in the morning until 2 or 3 in the morning. At "Saturday Night Live," we would all sleep in the building day after day ... I don't want to do that." Her writing style hasn't changed, though. "How to Be a Middle-Aged Babe" is as "hip, weird and not cute." "I waited many years to begin writing prose. ... It takes a long time, and you have to give up everything in your hfe to do it. I'm very glad I waited because I could look back on things that were really hilarious," she says. She gives some wild and crazy advice for achieving middle-aged babe status, including plastic surgery to do at home ("How to 'Lipo' You!"), a panic investment guide for babes with skimpy retirement savings and a wallet card on how to give CPR during sex when your middle-aged male babe has a heart attack or stops breathing. Follow the panic investment guide which recommends the T. Lowe Price Lap Dance See BOOMER BABE, Page 11 Chart helps you keep track. Sequel Follows Mom's Struggles With Daughter By JANINE M. DORSEY "Certain Girls," by Jennifer Weiner (Atria Books, $26.95) Reading this book came at a great time for me. Already a fan of Jennifer Weiner ("In Her Shoes," "The Guy Not Taken"), I knew I would enjoy the story. I didn't know it would so closely mirror my life. My oldest daughter, on the brink of adolescence, recendy attended her first bat mitzvah. With the invitation came the struggles over dress code. Heroine Cannie Shapiro (fans of Weiner will remember her from "Good In Bed") faces this same predicament with her own teen daughter, Joy. Jennifer Weiner certain girls Each chapter offers an alternating perspective between mother and daughter as each struggles with her own attempts to cling or not be clung to. The push and pull of this tenuous relationship painfully propels the story forward All Joy wants is to be normal. But with a semi-famous author for a mother, a disability and a weird family situation, she is not quite able to achieve this in her teenage reasoning. All Cannie wants is to shield her daughter from the world and to throw her the perfect bat mitzvah. 1 it! When she complains to her mother that Joy won't let her in, won't compromise on the party plans and won't communicate, her mother responds, "This is motherhood for you, going through life with your heart outside your body." When "certain girls" seem to start accepting Joy, it gets messier. The other girls discover what Joy has tried to keep hidden: that her mother wrote a famous, racy book detailing Joy's planned conception. Cannie, on the outs simply because she is a mom, only makes matters worse just by being. This is an honest, amusing look at what defines us as women at various life stages. The characters and situations in "Certain Girls" will resonate with readers, whether they have a daughter or have ever been a daughter. Janine M. Dorsey is newsspecial projects producer and entertainment editor for TBO.com. Regions Rivers Speak Through Many Voices By KAREN HAYMON LONG "Rivers of the Green Swamp," edited by Judith Redfern Koch and Albert W. Vogt III (Florida Studies Program and the Tampa Bay Writers Network at the University of South Florida, $15) So many of us see the Hillsborough River every day but know very little about it. A new anthology, "Rivers of the Green Swamp," offers diverse looks at the Hillsborough River, -as well as the Withla-coochee, Peace and Ocklawaha rivers, which all have headwaters in the Green Swamp. Hach chapter was written by a different person, so die styles, subjects and perspectives offer some thing new. Many are first-person reports written by students who took a USF course on the rivers of Florida and got to know the rivers well. One, by co-editor Albert W. Vogt III, is a historical short story set in Fort Ogden along the Peace River. Another, by co-editor Judith Redfern Koch, offers a portrait of Gladys Shafran Kashdin, who painted and photographed the Hillsborough River over many years. One of the best chapters i.'-'vV was written by Donna Smith Self, a high school journalism teacher. A born storyteller, she offers all sorts of glimpses into the history and high jinks of gators and the tales of people who lived to tell them. it. raersDiirg limes outdoors editor Terry Tomalin's "The Ballad of Big Joe" is written almost like a crime novel, with a mammoth gator, Joe, as the villain. Joe Guitlry, deputy, editorial page editor of The Tampa Tribune, draws on his childhood memories in his poetic essay about the I lillsborough River. It isn't often that an anthology of such local interest is published. Thankfully, this one was. about alligators Karen Haymon Long is the Tribune's book editor.

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