The Film Explainer ($25.95; June 1996; 256 pp.; 0-8101-1293-0). A political fable, set in Saxony in the early 1930s, whose narrator--identified as the author--describes his grandfather's job ``explaining'' silent movies to their audiences at a rundown local theater. But when ``talkies'' arrive on the scene, the proud, somewhat vainglorious Karl Hofmann finds the only available outlet for his pedagogical, domineering sensibility in membership in the emergent Nazi party. It's a superb premise, unfortunately developed with only middling success in an oddly muted tale that never fully engages the reader's emotions.