Shorts

Speed Reading, American Photo Booth, and Tempest Tales
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SPEED READING

AMERICAN PHOTO BOOTH

By Näkki Goranin

W.W. Norton

224 pages

$29.95

A character on the Bush-era TV show The Hills once suggested churches' confessionals be turned into photo booths. That idea sums up today's brand of American narcissism, if you're feeling pessimistic. On the other hand, Näkki Goranin's nostalgia-drenched collection of photo booth images — and her light US history of the machine — cures such cynicism. Goranin traces the lives of photo booth inventors and pioneers (none as famous as the Lumiere brothers or Thomas Edison), then shares hundreds of anonymous images. One looks like a real-life version of 1973's Paper Moon. A few use the booth's privacy for same-sex affection. Couples pull faces, narcissists pose, and one or two looks could illustrate loneliness. Everyone aims to create keepsakes, a tradition that persists in the digital age. I carry a photo booth image of the guy I love in my wallet. (Johnny Ray Huston)

TEMPEST TALES

By Walter Mosley

Black Classic Press

190 pages

$19.95

Tempest Landry is a slightly modernized, more complex, and smarter version of Langston Hughes's ne'er-do-well sidewalk lothario Jesse B. Semple. A rogue and hustler, Tempest is also the first soul who refuses to repent at the Pearly Gates. Thus he's sent back to Earth, along with a celestial foil, to prove his case. But if his assertion that he was predestined to have a raw deal in life proves true — if he shows that being born black in racist America forces one to place values ahead of morals — it could threaten to undo all existence. Ending eternity or going to hell for eternity — which would you choose? Tempest Tales weighs this question with an impeccable sense of pace. In dimly lit areas of modern-day Harlem, Mosley mixes a love story, an analogy for individuation, and a supernatural game of cat and mouse, throwing in a white devil for emphasis. It makes for a fun, funny, and poignant experience. (D. Scot Miller)