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The Bullet Meant for Me, With Love and Squalor


Four years ago, Reid and three friends from Texas were in Mexico City, headed back to their borrowed apartment after a day of sightseeing and cantina-hopping. They hailed a cab, but instead of taking them home, the cabby handed them over to a couple of armed thugs. Following a harrowing struggle, two shots were fired. Reid was hit. He was rushed to a Mexico City hospital, where he was told he was permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

"The Bullet Meant for Me," Reid says, "is the search for the meaning of what happened to me that night." Don't let that put you off, however. Reid's search is not so much for the metaphysical. It's grounded in the practical, in what Reid calls "the ironies and realities of perceived heroism." Why did he react to the threat that night by fighting back? Why did he put himself in the line of fire to save his friends? How much did his male-centered Texas upbringing contribute to the way he handled himself in the fleeting midst of a life-or-death struggle?

Reid can stand and move about on his own again now, although he is not without aftereffects. He fights pain daily, and walking is no longer an activity he can take for granted. But he has found answers that satisfy him, and he writes engagingly and frankly about how he came to them in this book. His background as an award-winning writer for Texas Monthly magazine means he knows how to write a story well.

Reid's book has all the elements: terror, inspiration, exhilaration and truth. Add Reid's narrative ability, and the result is a book that's hard to put down. — Don Dale

Selfish Expression

Kip Kotzen and Thomas Beller are co-editors of an essay collection whose goal is to focus on the work of the most widely read contemporary writer in America: J.D. Salinger. In the book "With Love and Squalor" (Broadway Books, $12.95) 14 writers offer essays, ranging from the touching to the irrelevant to the downright boring, about how Salinger's work has affected them. In his introduction Kotzen explains that the idea for the book was not to just sing Salinger's praises but "to elicit honest feelings." Unfortunately, this is a rather loose method of creating a serious collection of essays. What happens again and again in the course of the book is that the writers make the mistake of using Salinger as an idea rather than an actual writer. The unfortunate result is that in almost every essay Salinger is either quickly forgotten or totally absent. Even though the authors claim to be influenced by Salinger, this influence becomes just a springboard for them to discuss themselves. Ironically, the authors, in attempting to honor Salinger, present themselves in same way as the "phony types" who plague characters like Holden Caufield. While there are some very good essays in the collection — Thomas Beller and Walter Kirn provide the best — for the most part "With Love" falls short of being impressive. Most of the essays are overly affected, making the authors appear more concerned with self-aggrandizement than "honest responses" to Salinger's work. In the end, Beller and Kirn's subject is far above the tribute they offer. — Francis W. Decker

Heads Up:

Local novelist and Richmond Times-Dispatch editor Howard Owen will sign his new book "The Rail" at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Short Pump on Thursday May 23 at 7 p.m. For more information call 360-0103.

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