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BOOKS ISSUE: 25 books from 2011 to check out

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320 pp., paperback, $11.95

Some of this is sick shit. You need a warped sense of humor and a love for random violence to enjoy the tale of a young man who lives with his mom in a mortuary and fights a demon made of black goo who takes over the minds and bodies of humans. But it's a different type of thriller — complete with its own kinda sweet moments of teenage love and angst — and it's packed with great detail. (Did you know that undertakers use Vaseline to fill up bullet holes? Cool.) John Wayne Cleaver, perfect name for a demon hunter, is a sociopath who is beastly to his mother and can't get along with the other kids . Except for a super-hot chick who he thinks must be a demon, otherwise why would she like such a loser geek? The demon is nasty and gouges out eyes, cuts off tongues, sticks bodies on poles ... you gotta check it out. (Tim Redmond)

 

RICE AND CURRY: SRI LANKAN HOME COOKING

S.H. Fernando, Jr.

Hippocrene Books

224 pp., paperback, $19.95

After a tongue-inflaming visit to the East Village's fantastic Sigiri restaurant in NYC a couple weeks back, my interest in — and lust for — spicy Sri Lankan treats like kiri hodhi (coconut milk gravy), rossam (coriander-tamarind broth), kool (seafood soup), Jaffna goat curry, and ulundu vai (savory donuts) was, er, inflamed. Fortunately for me, author "Skiz" Fernando recently spent a year on the island rediscovering his roots and delving into the varied cuisine (later serving as a guide for that cheeky culinary colonist Anthony Bourdain). The punchy, informative Rice and Curry is the result, and includes nice introductions to Sri Lankan geography and history, as well as tips on what to stock in your cupboard to achieve the certain Sri Lankan "oomph" that sets the cuisine apart from Indian. A particular passage that profiles Leela, Fernando's aunt's ancient maid, offers some real insight into the island's food tradition and customs — and yields a marvelous, corruscating crab curry from her hometown of Chilaw, just in time for Dungeness season. (Marke B.)

 

HEDY'S FOLLY: THE LIFE AND BREAKTHROUGH INVENTIONS OF HEDY LAMARR

By Richard Rhodes

Doubleday

261 pp., hardcover, $26.95

An author best-known for his 1986 Pulitzer-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes might seem like an unlikely biographer for movie stunner Hedy Lamarr, who lit up Golden Age films like Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 epic Samson and Delilah. But her above-average qualities (she was called "the most beautiful woman in the world") extended beyond the superficial. After escaping her gilded-cage marriage to an Austrian munitions magnate, Lamarr found success — and five more husbands — in Hollywood; between roles, she started inventing "to challenge and amuse herself." During World War II, she got serious about her hobby. Showbiz circles led her to avant-garde musician George Antheil, renowned for his groundbreaking composition for 1924 short Ballet Mécanique. As Rhodes writes, "[Lamarr] began thinking about how to invent a remote-control torpedo to attack submarines just at the time she met Antheil, who knew quite a lot about how to synchronize player pianos." Together, the "charming Austrian girl" and "the bad boy of music" worked on that torpedo, as well as "spread-spectrum radio," an innovation that paved the way for contemporary wireless technology. Unlikely? Yes. Fascinating? Indeed. Never underestimate a beautiful woman — or a skilled writer's ability to humanize complicated characters and bring drama to a tale loaded with tech-speak. (Cheryl Eddy)

 

COME, THIEF

By Jane Hirschfield

Knopf

98 pp., hardcover, $25

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