Paperback Picks: May 31, 1991 -- The latest books from Shelby Foote, Nicholson Baker, and Henry Kisor

What’s That Pig Outdoors?: A Memoir of Deafness (first published in 1990)
Henry Kisor
In this unusual autobiography, Kisor — the book review editor of the Chicago Sun-Times — describes how he lives with his deafness, the result of a bout with acute meningitis at age 3. Whatever its implications for others, his struggle to connect with the wider world has produced a remarkable memoir. A-

Room Temperature (1990)
Nicholson Baker
Baker’s slim, intensely funny, and moving second novel is about a guy named Mike and his thoughts while sitting in a rocking chair, feeding his 6-month-old son a bottle on a Wednesday afternoon at 3:15. A

Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History (1990)
Robert Draper
A brisk and passionate account of the magazine’s tumultuous 23-year history. Although he describes a magazine that eventually betrayed its promise and broke its writers’ (and staffers’) hearts, Draper never quite plumbs the mystery of how it managed to be so breathtakingly good during its first five years. B

Soviet Women: Walking the Tighrope (1990)
Francine du Plessix Gray
An intimate and vivid portrait of the Soviet Union told through interviews with Soviet women. As a Russian-speaking American feminist who is also capable of using the word ”henpecked” without irony, Gray turns out to be the perfect Gulliver to guide readers through a land of almost dizzying paradox. B+

Disturbing the Peace (1990)
Vaclav Havel
Readers interested in learning more about the playwright who became president of his country will find no better place to begin than Disturbing the Peace. Originally circulated surreptitiously in Czechoslovakia in 1986, the text grew out of a set of written questions, many quite probing, composed by exiled Czech journalist Karel Hvizdala and answered by Havel. A clear and quite winning account of a reluctant hero’s life and ideals. A-

Shiloh (1952)
Shelby Foote
In the wake of Foote’s celebrity as the principal commentator for Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, The Civil War, Vintage Books has released two of his novels. Shiloh re-creates the events of the two-day battle of Shiloh in the words of Confederate and Union soldiers. This was the battle that dashed a nation’s hopes for a short war, and the narrative reflects the pervasive sense of tragedy and futility on both sides of the conflict. A

September September (1979)
Shelby Foote
Foote again uses a historic event as the basis for a narrative. In September 1957, as Arkansas governor Orval Faubus is poised to call out the National Guard to prevent the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, white ex-con Rufus Hutton is heading toward Memphis. With his girlfriend, Reeny Perdew, and partner in crime Podjo Harris, he intends to kidnap the grandson of the richest black businessman in Memphis, making the act seem the work of white racists. A fast-paced, entertaining tale about a triangle of losers. A