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Richard Wright
Richard Wright by Stephen Alcorn, 1984.

Recommended Books: I (author sort)

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Ibsen, Henrik (1935). 11 Plays of Henrik Ibsen. New York, B. A. Cerf, D. S. Klopfer.
English translations of 11 plays by the Norwegian dramatist which have contributed most to his international reputation: The Master Builder, Pillars of Society, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, An Enemy of the People, A Doll's House, John Gabriel Borkman, The Wild Duck, The League of Youth, Rosmersholm, Peer Gynt.

Ibsen, Henrik, Jerry Bamman, et al. (1992). Peer Gynt
. New York, NY, Theatre Communications Group.
Ibsen's last work to use poetry as a medium of dramatic expression, Peer Gynt carries the marks of his later, prose plays. Its literary antecedents include Faust and Hans Christian Andersen, but the play draws on Ibsen's own childhood and character. He wrote that he derived many features of Peer Gynt from "self-dissection," creating a self-centered and irresponsible, but ultimately forgiveable, rogue.

Ibsen, Henrik and James Forsyth (1960). Brand
. New York, Theatre Arts Books.
Brand is the story about a young pastor whose fundamentalism is bringing grief to himself and those close to him. He believes that salvation is only possible through total devotion to God. Brand's uncompromising attitude leaves a trail of tragedy behind him; his mother dies without receiving the final sacrament, he loses his wife and child, he is abandoned by his congregation and he ends his days in the mountains together with the crazy woman Gerd.

Ignatieff, Michael (2004). The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror
. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
The book is based on the Gifford Lectures delivered at the University of Edinburgh in 2003."Michael Ignatieff has written a sober yet chilling account of the issues facing liberal democracies in the face of modern international terrorism. In a surgical analysis he describes the challenges facing their leaders and citizens. His warning of the critical dangers of under-and over-reaction in combating terrorism could not be more timely."-Justice Richard Goldstone, Constitutional Court of South Africa."Michael Ignatieff's The Lesser Evil is a strikingly readable rumination on the ethical challenge of our time: How can a liberal democracy survive the long struggle against terror and do so in ways that preserve its institutions and dignity intact? His answer is a profound moral analysis, drawing on insights from philosophy, law, and literature, of how to surmount the strength of the terrorists, who are weak, and avoid the weakness of the democracies, who can be both strong and just." - Michael Doyle, Harold Brown Professor of Law and International Affairs, Columbia University.

Immerwahr, Daniel (2019). How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
. New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
A history of the United States' overseas possessions, from Puerto Rico to the Philippines and beyond, and what they reveal about the true meaning of American empire.

Ingersoll, Robert Green and Roger E. Greeley (1983). The Best of Robert Ingersoll: Immortal Infidel: Selections from His Writings and Speeches
. Buffalo, N.Y., Prometheus Books.
Robert Ingersoll was one of America's finest orators and foremost leaders of freethinkers. Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Eugene V. Debs, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton used to gather to hear the speeches of "the great agnostic."

Roger E. Greeley has selected the best from speeches and essays of this iconoclastic orator who labored to destroy the suuperstition and hypocrisy of fundamentalism in America and who answered the Moral Majority in the last century.

Invisible Committee, The (2009). The Coming Insurrection
. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, distributed by Semiotext(e).
The Coming Insurrection is an eloquent call to arms arising from the recent waves of social contestation in France and Europe. Written by the anonymous Invisible Committee in the vein of Guy Debord - and with comparable elegance - it has been proclaimed a manual for terrorism by the French government (who recently arrested its alleged authors). One of its members more adequately described the group as "the name given to a collective voice bent on denouncing contemporary cynicism and reality." The Coming Insurrection is a strategic prescription for an emergent war-machine to "spread anarchy and live communism."

Written in the wake of the riots that erupted throughout the Paris suburbs in the fall of 2005 and presaging more recent riots and general strikes in France and Greece, The Coming Insurrection articulates a rejection of the official Left and its reformist agenda, aligning itself instead with the younger, wilder forms of resistance that have emerged in Europe around recent struggles against immigration control and the "war on terror."

Hot-wired to the movement of '77 in Italy, its preferred historical reference point, The Coming Insurrection formulates an ethics that takes as its starting point theft, sabotage, the refusal to work, and the elaboration of collective, self-organized forms-of-life. It is a philosophical statement that addresses the growing number of those - in France, in the United States, and elsewhere - who refuse the idea that theory, politics, and life are separate realms.

Ionesco, Eugène (1958). The Bald Soprano and Other Plays: The Bald Soprano, the Lesson, Jack or the Submission, the Chairs
. New York, Grove Press.
The Bald Soprano was first produced in 1950 and published in 1954 as La Cantatrice chauve; the title is also translated The Bald Prima Donna. The play, an important example of the Theater of the Absurd, consists mainly of a series of meaningless conversations between two couples that eventually deteriorate into babbling.

Ionesco, Eugène (1960). Rhinoceros, and Other Plays
. New York, Grove Press.
Berenger - an average citizen in a nameless French city - is not interested in the fact that rhinoceros are on the loose. This causes him to quarrel with his friend Jean and his attractive secretary Daisy outside a grocer's shop. The argument continues with many local joining in - these include the grocer and his wife, a waitress and a housewife, a cafe owner, an old gentleman, a waitress and a logician. The group try to reason the events that are happening around them. The results are understandably chaotic.

In the local government office where Berenger works he witnesses that the staff are gradually turning into rhinoceros.

Eventually Berenger finds out that Daisy and he are the only human beings left. To his surprise Daisy then too turns into a rhinoceros. Berenger concludes he will then fight against all the rhinoceros.

Ionesco, Eugène (1969). Hunger and Thirst, and Other Plays
. New York, Grove Press.
Religion is shown as a matter of habit or force, devoid of freedom, constructed to fill voids in the human heart.

Ionesco, Eugène (1974). Exit the King, the Killer, and Macbett
. New York, Grove Press.
Exit the King is a highly stylized, ritualized death rite unfolding in the final hours of the once-great king Berenger the First. As he dies, his kingdom also dies. His armies suffer defeat, the young emigrate, the seasons change overnight, and his kingdom's borders shrink to the outline of his throne. At last, as the curtain falls, the king himself dissolves into a gray mist.

The Killer is a study of pure evil. Berenger, a conscientious citizen, finds himself in a radiantly beautiful city marred only by the prescence of a killer. Berenger's determination to find the murderer in the face of official indifference and his final defeat at the hands of an impersonal, pitiless cruelty speak with the universality of Kafka's The Trial.

Macbett, inspired by Shakespeare's plat, is "a grotesque joke and a very funny play. Ionesco maliciously undermines sources and traditions, spoofing Shakespeare along with tragedy." - Mel Gussow, The New York Times

Ionesco, Eugène and Eugène Ionesco (1968). A Stroll in the Air. Frenzy for Two, or More
. New York, Grove Press.
In 'A Stroll in the Air', Berenger and his family are visiting England and the author amusingly comments on English manners and types. But when Berenger finds that he is able to suddenly walk in the clouds, the mood rapidly changes and we get a picture of world very different from the tidy bourgeois ideal of comfortable people in a comfortable landscape - a world filled with carnage, bloodshed, cruelty, famine and disease. This play holds a potent message for the space age.

'Frenzy for Two' is a macabre little domestic comedy, set in a revolution or cilvil war, which shows the author in his best conversational vein.

Irving, John (2001). The Hotel New Hampshire
. New York, Ballantine Books.
"The first of my father's illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels." So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of the lives lived, the loves experienced, the deaths met, and the myriad strange and wonderful times encountered by the family Berry. Hoteliers, pet-bear owners, friends of Freud (the animal trainer and vaudevillian, that is), and playthings of mad fate, they "dream on" in a funny, sad, outrageous, and moving novel by the remarkable author of A Son of the Circus and A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Irving, John (2002). A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel
. New York, Modern Library.
Owen Meany is a dwarfish boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend's mom with a baseball and believes--accurately--that he is an instrument of God, to be redeemed by martyrdom. John Irving's novel, which inspired the 1998 Jim Carrey movie Simon Birch, is his most popular book in Britain, and perhaps the oddest Christian mystic novel since Flannery O'Connor's work. Irving fans will find much that is familiar: the New England prep-school-town setting, symbolic amputations of man and beast, the Garp-like unknown father of the narrator (Owen's orphaned best friend), the rough comedy. The scene of doltish the doltish headmaster driving a trashed VW down the school's marble staircase is a marvelous set piece. So are the Christmas pageants Owen stars in. But it's all, as Highlights magazine used to put it, "fun with a purpose." When Owen plays baby Jesus in the pageants, and glimpses a tombstone with his death date while enacting A Christmas Carol, the slapstick doesn't cancel the fact that he was born to be martyred. The book's countless subplots add up to a moral argument, specifically an indictment of American foreign policy--from Vietnam to the Contras.

The book's mystic religiosity is steeped in Robertson Davies's Deptford Trilogy, and the fatal baseball relates to the fatefully misdirected snowball in the first Deptford novel, Fifth Business. Tiny, symbolic Owen echoes the hero of Irving's teacher Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum--the two characters share the same initials. A rollicking entertainment, Owen Meany is also a meditation on literature, history, and God. --Tim Appelo

Irving, John and Copyright Paperback Collection (Library of Congress) (1993). The Cider House Rules
. New York, N.Y., Ballantine Books.
"The Cider House Rules is filled with people to love and to feel for. The characters in John Irving's novel break all the rules, and yet they remain noble and free-spirited. Victims of tragedy, violence, and injustice, their lives seem more interesting and full of thought-provoking dilemmas than the lives of many real people." - The Houston Post

Irving, Washington (1983). History, Tales, and Sketches
. New York, N.Y., Literary Classics of the United States: Distributed to the trade in the United States and Canada by the Viking Press.
James W. Tuttleton, editor. Contains Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent., and Salmagundi; Irving's satires and burlesques of early 19th-century New York; The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.; and the original 1809 edition of his irreverent and hilarious A History of New York. "His journalism contains delightful observations and the texture of the times." - Boston Globe

Irving, Washington (1991). Washington Irving: Bracebridge Hall, Tales of a Traveller, the Alhambra
. New York, N.Y., Library of America: Distributed to the trade in the U.S. and Canada by Viking Press.
Three story collections of great urbanity and poise from the first American author to burst onto the international literary scene."The Alhambra," Irving's "Spanish Sketchbook," was inspired by his 1829 residence at the ancient Moorish palace at Granada; weaving history, legend, and description, it remains the best guidebook to this haunting place. Over 120 tales in all.

Irwin, Robert (2004). Washington Irving: Bracebridge Hall, Tales of a Traveller, the Alhambra
. New York, N.Y., Library of America: Distributed to the trade in the U.S. and Canada by Viking Press.
Matching The Arabian Nights' scope and enchantment with erudition and wit, Irwin (The Arabian Nightmare, 1987) explores its elusive kingdom of stories, delving into the vast work's textual genesis, cultural history, and literary legacy. The most influential book in the Western canon that does not actually belong to it, The Arabian Nights never enjoyed the same literary status in the East, and its origins have been made only murkier by its reception in Europe. Irwin begins with the translators who popularized the Nights and, along the way, bowdlerized and warped it, or even inserted their own episodes. Most famously, Aladdin, who has no Arabic version predating his appearance in 18th-century France, may well have been the creation of translator Antoine Galland, not of Scheherazade. Irwin wryly glosses these early translations, which distortedly mirror the original Eastern exoticism with the reflections of their age's prejudices and their translators' personal eccentricities (notably the lexical, racial, and sexual obsessions of the Victorian adventurer Sir Richard Burton). The earlier Arabic compilations are no more reliable, however--Irwin devotes a separate chapter to forerunners (conjectural or lost) over several centuries, from India to Persia and Egypt. In a quixotic effort to amass 1,001 actual tales, these medieval compilers would incorporate local legends and real settings, sometimes approaching souk storytellers as sources. Throughout, Irwin's scholarly acumen illuminates these myriad worlds of the Nights, whether the cityscapes of the Mamelukes, the urban rogues' gallery of thieves and bazaar magicians, or the marvels of jinn and clockwork birds. The longest chapter is a selected roster of its literary heirs, from nursery fables and gothic novels through Proust, Joyce, and Borges, to contemporaries like Salman Rushdie and John Barth. An enchanting dragoman and chaperon for sleepless nights with Scheherazade.

Isaacson, Walter (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
. New York, Simon & Schuster.
Following closely on the heels of Edmund Morgan's justly acclaimed Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson's longer biography easily holds its own. How do the two books differ? Isaacson's is more detailed; it lingers over such matters as the nature of Franklin's complex family circumstances and his relations with others, and it pays closer attention to each of his extraordinary achievements. Morgan's is more subtle and reflective. Each in its different way is superb. Isaacson (now president of the Aspen Institute, he is the former chairman of CNN and a Henry Kissinger biographer) has a keen eye for the genius of a man whose fingerprints lie everywhere in our history. The oldest, most distinctive and multifaceted of the founders, Franklin remains as mysterious as Jefferson. After examining the large body of existing Franklin scholarship as skillfully and critically as any scholar, Isaacson admits that his subject always "winks at us" to keep us at bay-which of course is one reason why he's so fascinating. Unlike, say, David McCullough's John Adams, which seeks to restore Adams to public affection, this book has no overriding agenda except to present the story of Franklin's life. Unfortunately, for all its length, it's a book of connected short segments without artful, easy transitions. So whether this fresh and lively work will replace Carl Van Doren's beloved 1938 Benjamin Franklin in readers' esteem remains to be seen. - Publishers Weekly

Isaacson, Walter (2007). Einstein: The Life of a Genius
. New York, NY, Simon & Schuster.
Albert Einstein is synonymous with genius. From his remarkable theory of relativity and the famous equation E=mc², to his concept of a unified field theory, no one else has contributed as much to science in the last century. As well as showing how the brilliant physicist developed his theories, Einstein reveals the man behind the science, from his early years and experiments in Germany and his work at the Swiss Patent Office, to his marriages and children, as well as his role in the development of the atomic bomb and his work for civil rights groups in the United States. Drawing on new research and personal documents belonging to Einstein only recently made available, this book also includes items of rare facsimile memorabilia.

Issel, William and Robert W. Cherny (1986). San Francisco 1865-1932: Politics, Power, and Urban Development
. Berkeley, University of California Press.
Study of San Francisco's development from the Civil War to the Great Depression with emphasis on the power structure of both political & business leaders. Numerous period photo illustrations.

Isserman, Maurice and Michael Kazin (2000). America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s
. New York, Oxford University Press.
Historians (and former 1960s radicals) Isserman (If I Had a Hammer) and Kazin (The Populist Persuasion) mount an intermittently convincing reinterpretation of the 1960s. -- Publishers Weekly

Iyer, Pico (1994). Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World
. New York, Vintage Books.
Only some of the "lonely places" covered in this book (North Korea, Argentina, Cuba, Iceland, Bhutan, Vietnam, Paraguay, Australia) are isolated by geography, but all are culturally or politically isolated. That few tourist itineraries include these misfit countries increases their sense of being alone in the world. Iyer, a journalist for Time and Conde Nast Traveler, writes in a cool, ironic style similar to that of the late Bruce Chatwin. His essays are more impressionistic than informative and seem intended for armchair travelers rather than adventurers. At times, Iyer is a bit too detached, too unruffled by what he experiences. He does not fully convey to us the strangeness of the strange places he has visited. Despite the lack of emotion, Iyer's impressions make interesting reading.

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