A Preparation for the Next Life and Mauvais Garçons : Portraits de tatoués (1890-1930)

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Reviewed by Dr. John Papalas, Friends of the Library board member

A Preparation for the Next Life , the first novel by Atticus Lish, won the 2015 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction. The story-line and structure are so technically good that books like this confound critics who wonder both how some of the current younger generation of writers like Lish can pull this off at such an early stage of their careers, and, more importantly, whether he will be able to continue to produce such high quality pieces of fiction. Regardless of what come next from Lish, this book is a wrenching love tragedy, a For Whom the Bell Tolls set in modern day New York City.  I would like to add this book to the list of books considered in the discussion/debate for The Great American Novel because it captures so well the modern expressions (and failings) of the historically significant American themes of immigration, race, soldiery, violence, and yes, love, all heedlessly mixed up together and exploding out onto the streets of the quintessential city.
Reviewed by Dr. John Papalas, Friends of the Library board member

Mauvais garçons : Portraits de tatoués (1890-1930) by Jérôme Pierrat and Eric Guillon and translated by Philippe Aronson is a fascinating collection and analysis of photographs of tattoos taken from various persons (prisoners, soldiers, convicts, etc) associated with French North African battalions during the time period stated in the title. The authors analyze the significance of the tattoos, pointing out both recurring subject themes and more specific if not obscure meanings of individual types. All tattoos aside, the blank faces of the subjects in the photographs staring back at you from off the pages emotionally reflect the strain and suffering that these particular inmates must have experienced.