Melissa King of Fayetteville is getting big attention, and deserves it, for “She’s Got Next: A Story of Getting In, Staying Open, and Taking a Shot,” which the publisher, Houghton Mifflin, calls a “sports memoir.” It’s really a basketball memoir, the basketball being the pick-up kind, played on streets, driveways, playgrounds and in otherwise empty gyms, usually King herself mixing it up with a bunch of guys and asking no quarter.
But make no mistake, Melissa King is a fantastic writer, and just happens to wrap her prose around a basketball the way Turgenev wrapped his around a blunderbuss. She’ll have you cheering her on, guaranteed. “She’s Got Next” is from Houghton Mifflin/Mariner, paperback, $13.
Two ex-Arkansans, Bill and Hillary Clinton, are much on the book world’s mind this month. The former president is the subject of “The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House,” by John F. Harris, $29.95 from Random House. Harris covered the last two-thirds of the Clinton presidency for the Washington Post, and he’s now national politics editor for that newspaper. His book presents a measured and careful assessment of the Clinton White House once it was up and running. He’s not enthusiastic but he doesn’t rant.
Which is more than can be said for “The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President” by Edward Klein, which is $24.95 from Sentinel, the lunatic fringe imprint of Penguin/Viking, otherwise a respectable mainline publishing house. This smear of Sen. Clinton is so slimy that even diehard Clinton-hating conservatives are publicly retching over it. This from the conservative columnist John Podhoretz, for example: “This is one of the most sordid volumes I’ve ever waded through. Thirty pages into it, I wanted to take a shower. Sixty pages into it, I wanted to be decontaminated. And 200 pages into it, I wanted someone to drive stakes through my eyes so I wouldn’t have to suffer through another word.”
The author is not without credentials. His slime trail goes through the editorship of the Sunday magazine of the New York Times, which must be awfully proud.
Bill Clinton’s autobiography “My Life,” which was last summer’s big best-seller, is out in two paperback editions. One of these includes an afterword in which Clinton relates mystical experiences when he underwent heart surgery late last year. And one of the editions divides the “War and Peace”-length opus into two books —the Early Years, and the Presidential Years. Most of the Arkansas stuff is in Vol. 1, which is about as far as most readers get anyway, and it retails for a mere $7.99.
An Arkansas native is the author of a very likeable new medical history titled “Bleed, Blister, and Purge: A History of Medicine on the American Frontier.” His name is Dr. Volney Steele, and both his father and grandfather were frontier doctors in Decatur, Gentry and other Northwest Arkjansas locales, going back into the 19th century. I was hoping his book might be more of a personal history involving the trials and tribulations of those ancestors of his, along with his own experiences practicing medicine in the remote locations in Colorado and Montana, but it turns out to be a formal, if largely anecdotal, history of frontier medicine in America, from the ministrations of the Native American medicine men at the arrival of the first European explorers.
The title pretty much sums up American medicine, on the frontier and elsewhere, before the 20th century. If dehydration wouldn’t cure you, you were just s.o.l. because that’s all these quacks and butchers knew to do. The agonies they put poor George Washington through before finally killing him is just one example that will curl your hair. Faith healers actually come off looking pretty good because at least they didn’t add substantially to their patients’ suffering. Dr. Steele’s book is $15, a paperback, from Mountain Press Publishing Co. of Missoula, Mont.
Kent State University Press in Ohio has published a collection of military autobiographical works in a book titled “Arms and the Self: War, the Military, and Autobiographical Writing.” The texts range from Xenophon to the recent Persian Gulf War. The book is edited by Alex Vernon, assistant professor of English at Hendrix College in Conway, and sells for $49.95.
“A Serpent Cherished” is a new historical novel by Ann Roscopf Allen, a Helena native who now lives in Maryland. It’s from iUniverse, paperback, $16.95. It’s a kind of Victorian Era “Fatal Attraction,” nicely written, well-paced, and both spooky and funny in the same way that movie was. It also keeps close to the true story as it played out in the Memphis newspapers and the Arkansas Gazette in the 1890s.
The University of Arkansas Press has brought out a second edition of “Our Own Sweet Sounds: A Celebration of Popular Music in Arkansas” by Robert Cochran of Fayetteville, the folklorist. The book profiles Arkansas’s leading musicians and their music, going back to the early 20th century. The new edition adds about 70 performers and composers most of whom came to prominence in the last decade. A nice Patsy Montana picture is on the cover. (UA Press, paperback, $16.95.)
The University of Nebraska Press has published a second edition of another Arkansas classic, “Arkansas Politics and Government,” by the late Diane D. Blair. The new edition is greatly expanded by Jay Barth, the political science chairman at Hendrix College, who brings depth and stylishness to the work. (UN Press, paperback, $29.95.)
Bill Terry, former editor of the Arkansas Times magazine, has published another novel, “The Husband,” a tragicomic or comitragic study of a modern marriage – a marriage that will sound eerily familiar to some of Terry’s old acquaintances. It’s a seductively witty book, and Terry’s new wry and relaxed style will come as a nice surprise to his faithful readers. He’s a former resident of Little Rock and Berryville, now lives in Golden, Mo. (Precipice Books, hardcover, $19.95.)
n “Randee,” a novel about a troubled teen in the 1970s, has been published by Linda Weatherford of Paragould. (AuthorHouse, hardcover, $21.75.)
— By Bob Lancaster