Sunday, 9 March, 2014
Rachel Manteuffel, Washington Post
On his last night as the longest-serving keeper at the National Zoo, David S. Kessler checks and rechecks the locks on the enclosures in the Small Mammal House. He collects his farewell gifts and mementos and softly narrates to himself what needs to be done. “Okay, lights out here, good. Hi, babies!” he says to Reuben and Jolla, the howler monkey couple. “Aagh, g’night, sweetheart. Did I wake you up? I’m sorry.” He checks the seven timers on the lights, saying “timer” aloud at each. He’s not thinking, he says, about how this January night is the last time after 39 years, two-thirds of his life, at the zoo. Now Gus the rock hyrax — who looks like a four-pound guinea pig but is more closely related to the elephant — catches his attention in the dark. It’s as if the little guy knows something is up.
Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times
Elizabeth Kolbert’s revelatory new book, The Sixth Extinction, about the rapid and radical changes man is wreaking on the Earth, is a work of explanatory journalism that achieves the highest and best use of the form. After you read it, your view of the world will be fundamentally changed.
Elizabeth Day, The Guardian
The London Review of Books has become the most successful – and controversial – literary publication in Europe. Just what is Mary-Kay Wilmers, its 75-year-old editor, getting so right?
Joan Silverman, Maine Sunday Telegram
Philosophy and science are typically the stuff of textbooks, not page-turners. But Alan Lightman’s engaging new book of essays proves to be the exception. Indeed this MIT physicist-turned-bestselling author is one of the nation’s top science writers, exploring the intersection of science and culture. That he used to teach physics in the morning, and creative writing in the afternoon is all the recommendation you need.
Richard Brody, New Yorker
It’s the micro-gestures, the inner sense of bearing, that ring most strangely in Gus Van Sant’s version of “Psycho.” But those micro-gestures actually occur on both sides of the camera.
Saturday, 8 March, 2014
Ron Suskind, New York Times
We ask our growing team of developmental specialists, doctors and therapists about it. We were never big fans of plopping our kids in front of Disney videos, but now the question seemed more urgent: Is this good for him? They shrug. Is he relaxed? Yes. Does it seem joyful? Definitely. Keep it limited, they say. But if it does all that for him, there’s no reason to stop it.
David Hochman, New York Times
At 57, Mr. Anderson, the British former magazine publisher and Internet entrepreneur who took over the organization in 2001 and built it into a multimedia colossus, is in many ways the embodiment of his famous ideas organization. Like the TED Talks millions love, and some love to rip apart, Mr. Anderson is high-minded but sometimes inaccessible, forward thinking to the point of “whoa,” and so earnest it can be easy to smirk.
But as the 30th anniversary TED Conference this month in Vancouver, British Columbia, approaches, Mr. Anderson, forever mild-mannered, is quietly celebrating all he’s accomplished with those three red letters, even as some sniff that the organization has become the Starbucks of intellectual conglomerates.
Brian Switek, Wall Street Journal
In "Dinosaurs Without Bones," Emory University's Anthony Martin draws on a wealth of fossil clues, from footprints to feces, to explore Mesozoic lives and the field of ichnology, the study of trace fossils. Records of prehistoric behavior and biology, such fossils are often the closest we'll ever come to seeing long-extinct dinosaurs in the flesh.
Jenny Rosenstrach, New York Times
Three words for you: Food Nerds Unite.
Friday, 7 March, 2014
Janet Maslin, New York Times
Among the tentative book and story titles that Raymond Chandler left behind were “The Diary of a Loud Check Suit,” “The Man With the Shredded Ear,” “Stop Screaming — It’s Me” and “The Black-Eyed Blonde.” So we can be glad that last one became Chandler’s latest gift from beyond the grave: a much slinkier moniker that summons Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and the kinds of women who matched wits with him, slyly wrapping him around their dainty, lacquered fingers.
Thursday, 6 March, 2014
Jason Heller, NPR
"It was a great time for storytellers," says Matthew Biggs, the central character in Kenneth Calhoun's haunting debut novel, Black Moon. The irony of his comment comes with a horrific aftertaste: The world is suffering from a sudden, unexplainable pandemic that's made everyone a perpetual insomniac.
Wednesday, 5 March, 2014
Erica E> Phillips, Wall Street Journal
Kyle Bishop figured it was risky when he applied to a University of Arizona Ph.D. program in English eight years ago by proposing a dissertation on zombie movies.
He was dead wrong.
Pete Wells, New York Times
The first rule of the serious ramen hunter: look everywhere, even in places that don’t look like ramen shops. This is how, in January, I found myself inhaling noodles at a cluster of tables shoved into the center of a bagel shop in Long Island City, Queens.
Ted Sutton, Slate
In 1966, I started one of the world’s first computer dating services. One problem: I had no computer.
Leyla Sanai, The Independent
What do you do with a husband who says that the cakes you’re baking for your new business are “fundamentally poor owing to a lack of imagination in their creator”? Well, if you’re Lizzie Prain, 53-year-old heroine of Natalie Young’s new book, you whack him across the back of the head with a spade, axe him up, butcher his body, and then eat it in various recipes.
Bernd Brunner, The Smart Set
Why we find some languages more beautiful than others.
Alex Berenson, New York Times
But I’m not sure I can say goodbye to a man whom I know so intimately, who has defined my creative life for so long — and who will pay the mortgage for at least one more contract. Putting Wells in the ground would wake me to my own mortality as much as his. After all our years together, at least I know what he would choose. He’s not afraid to die with his boots on.
Tuesday, 4 March, 2014
Simon During, Public Books
It turns out that the humanities’ defensive accounts of themselves have some rather curious features. In particular, they tend to pass quickly over what we tacitly know about them as a matter of fact, turning instead to the sermonic. And in insisting on the humanities’ value for society and culture as a whole, these accounts routinely fail to confront their own interest in making this case.
Eugenia Williamson, The Boston Globe
“The Weirdness” isn’t a high-concept satire of the literary scene or a fable about the queasy intersection of artistic integrity and worldly success. It’s, well, weirder (and more entertaining) than that. What emerges instead is an utterly charming, silly, and heartily entertaining coming-of-age story about a man-boy who learns to believe in himself by reckoning with evil.
Monday, 3 March, 2014
Marian Ryan, Slate
An unconsoling novel of four Chinese teens and the incident that changes their lives.
Richard S. Grossman, Slate
Bitcoin is as good as gold. For a monetary standard, that is not very good.