DAVE BARRY TALKS BACK.
285 pages. $18.
If you don't buy the Sunday Sun religiously to read Dave Barry's humor column, this book is for you. Even if you do read his columns every single week, you'll want to get "Dave Barry Talks Back" so you can enjoy again your favorite columns.
I've been a fan for years, and regularly call up my friends after I get off work to read them key selections. (I don't get off work
until 2 a.m. and it has amazed me how many friends have changed their numbers without telling me.)
My favorite columns (and, according to the section introductions, everyone else's) involve the true-life adventures of Earnest and Zippy, Mr. Barry's dogs. I don't even have a dog, but Earnest and Zippy make me long for the affection, companionship and slobbering only a pooch can provide.
Other hysterical columns include his reports from the National Exploding Organism Alarm Bureau (B.O.O.M); the joy of boat-owning (". . . a fascinating nautical fact -- seawater is very bad for boats"); and buying a new car ("The easiest solution is to pull out a loaded revolver and say 'Tell me how much this car costs or I will kill you.' ").
This book should help any reader keep a sense of humor during a Baltimore summer.
Mary Lee Settle.
256 pages. $19.95.
Visitors to Istanbul cannot help but be struck by the sense of elan and excitement in the air. It is a kind of fusion power, novelist Mary Lee Settle suggests in this searching travelogue, an energy generated by the concourse of space (this is where Asia, Arabia and Europe meet) and of time: Skyscrapers tower next to mosques, businessmen set their briefcases down on busy sidewalks when speakers wail songs of praise to Allah.
Modern Turkey is able to tolerate this cultural confusion because it is still callow, formed only seven decades ago. With callowness, though, comes volatility, which explains why Turkey capriciously expelled American planes from its bases during the gulf war after having permitted them only weeks earlier. Ms. Settle does not explicitly study Turkish politics: This poetic "biography" is more concerned with the emotions underlying politics. But readers who know something about the fundamentalist uprisings in neighboring regions such as Uzbekistan will nevertheless find telling hints of Turkey's future in Ms. Settle's account of the Turks' "deep, genetic seeking for a figure who is lover, father, conqueror."
243 pages. $18.95.
Aaron Elkins' usual detective is Gideon Oliver, a forensic anthropologist who gives fascinating insights into bones as he solves his cases. This time Mr. Elkins uses Chris Norgren, a museum curator specializing in Renaissance and baroque art who gives fascinating insights into art and artists and the art of art forgery.
After Chris has been beaten, run under by a car, almost blown up and involved with several stolen paintings, someone asks him, "Tell me, Chris, is this what life is like for other art curators, too, or is it just you?"
But the beating, etc., is very incidental to the story. Art and Italy are the keys as Mr. Elkins name-drops obscure artists like a gossip columnist on a binge as Dr. Norgren travels through Italy shadowed by some puzzling art thefts and forgeries.
If you like sex, gore and a body a minute, this book wasn't written for you. If you like playing Beat the Detective, be warned that the solution resembles one of the intricate baroque paintings Dr. Norgren likes rather than the modern big color blobs he doesn't. If you like skillful use of background spliced into a mystery, you've come to the right place.