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In an age when many novelists have retreated into the private realms of sense and memory, it's refreshing to find a writer who grapples with the intricate operations of our unfathomably immense and complex global economy. The young, multi-talented British writer Robert Newman is one such writer and his latest novel is The Fountain at the Center of the World.

In this exhaustively researched page-turner, two Mexican brothers are separated at an early age. One is adopted by an English couple and grows up to be a PR flak for rapacious industry. The other remains in Mexico and becomes a radical trade unionist whose unfinished chemistry degree has nonetheless given him the skills to make bombs. When the English brother discovers that he's dying and needs his brother's bone marrow, he travels to Mexico--en route to an important WTO meeting in Seattle. Thus, the ensuing Battle of Seattle that riveted the world in 1999 has now been memorialized in a novel.

Powerful and informative, Newman's tale has the range of a 19th century novel--just as it relies heavily on coincidences and emphatic characterizations--and it draws connections between the interests of multinational corporations and how they affect powerless people half a world away. Robert Newman will read from The Fountain at the Center of the World on Wednesday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m., at Madstone Theater (co-sponsored by Internationalist Books). 468-7232. $5.

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