Joe Queenan, whose memoir Closing Time pubs today, has been pondering the new world order that is dumping "fierce rhetoric" in favor of a kindler, gentler vocabulary. In a Wall Street Journal column, Queenan muses that the Taliban might decide to avoid mention of "beheadings" and instead refer to "cephalic attrition." Rather than the strident term "ethnic cleansing," let's call it "unconditional demographic redeployment." And those "death squads" in Mexico? They're actually "free-lance resolution facilitators."
One of the best at skewering pomposity and arrogance, Queenan turns his attention to his own miserable childhood in Closing Time, reviewed along with several other new memoirs in the current issue of BookPage.
Henry Holt recently released a new paperback edition of one of my favorite memoirs, Are You Somebody? by Nuala O'Faolain, the Irish writer who died last year of cancer at the age of 68. The new edition includes a foreword by Frank McCourt, who describes O'Faolain as "[a] woman who wore on her sleeve, not only her heart, but her mind and soul and whatever else she could offer." Still most definitely worth reading—or re-reading, if you're already a fan, like me—Are You Somebody? captures the author's feisty, defiant spirit in all its glory.
The new paperback concludes with the text of O'Faolain's final radio interview, which McCourt says "shocked listeners all over Ireland." An iconoclast til the end, O'Faolain said she wasn't having any further medical treatment and proclaimed, "Even if I gained time through the chemotherapy it isn't time I want. Because as soon as I knew I was going to die soon, the goodness went out of life."