In the Mail: Paperback edition

-> Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind by Margalit FoxTalking Hands by Margalit Fox

Publishers Weekly
The world of sign languages and cognitive research comes to life in this story of a remote Israeli village that’s become a test bed for understanding how the human brain processes language. New York Times reporter Fox follows researchers, led by University of Haifa professor Wendy Sandler, to the Bedouin village of Al-Sayyid, where isolation, genetics and inbreeding have led to a higher than usual percentage of deafness in the population. In response, the villagers have created a home-brew sign language used by both the hearing and deaf. By studying this unique language, Sandler and her cohort hope to gain deeper insight into how the brain acquires and uses language. Chapters alternate between the painstaking work in Al-Sayyid and a history of sign language itself. Both are gracefully reinforced with vivid examples, from the early insistence of experts that proper sign language must produce words in one-to-one correspondence with spoken language to a lively gathering in Al-Sayyid where conversation flows freely in six languages: English, Hebrew, Arabic, American Sign Language, Israeli Sign Language and the local sign language. Fox takes readers on a fascinating tour of deaf communication, clearly explaining difficult concepts, and effortlessly introducing readers to a silent world where communication is anything but slow and awkward.

-> Duck Duck Wally by Gabe Rotter

Publishers Weekly
Rotter relies heavily on black street slang for comic effect in his zany debut, starting with chizapter 1. Wally Moscowitz, a self-described frumpy, kinda chubby little boring man living in Los Angeles, writes lyrics for rapper Oral B, the current star of Godz-Illa Records. When not penning lyrics full of four-letter words for Oral, Wally also writes dirty bedtime fables for adults, examples of which are sprinkled throughout the novel. Godz-Illa CEO Abraham Dandy Lyons has assured Wally that if anyone ever discovers that Oral B isn’t writing his own lyrics, Wally will end up in a ditch. Soon, Wally’s dog gets ‘napped, goons are trying to kill Wally and everyone rushes to and fro against a backdrop of glitzy L.A. bizness thuggery. Rotter’s a talented writer, though readers who find variations of the same joke funny enough to support the silly plot will be most rewarded.

-> The Tourists by Jeff Hobbs

Publishers Weekly
An unnamed narrator details the post-Yale love triangle of three people much, much wealthier than he in Hobbs’s Gatsby-meets-McInerney debut. Unlike Nick Carraway or the persistent “You” of Bright Lights Big City, the speaker at the heart of this novel is more cipher than seer. A shiftless New York freelancer edging into his 30s, the narrator discovers that his Yalie friend—handsome, gay Ethan Hoevel, famous designer of sleek contemporary furniture—has left his boyfriend, Stanton Vaughn, to pursue a doomed relationship with their fellow alum—the married (and female) Samona Taylor (née Ashley). The narrator still carries a torch for Samona, and renews his friendship with Samona’s husband, the also-Yalie Merrill Lynch trader David Taylor, mostly out of a morbid curiosity about Samona’s philandering. Hobbs spends much of the novel recounting how everyone got where they are in the eight years following college, but the plot picks up in the last third, when Ethan’s ne’er-do-well brother precipitates a crisis, and Ethan and Samona’s affair has its reckoning. Hobbs convincingly portrays young, Ivied New Yorkers with money, but he leaves the narrator’s feelings for Samona (and much else) largely unexplored, making the proceedings feel unresolved.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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