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December 31, 2007

With Age Comes Wisdom, And Lessing's Nobel Prize

by Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

Doris Lessing sees the world change and gives it her spin. A Nobel Prize won't change that.

Dave Barry's Year In Review

by Dave Barry, Miami Herald

It was a year that strode boldly into the stall of human events and took a wide stance astride the porcelain bowl of history.

December 30, 2007

The Blush Of The New

by Lee Siegel, New York Times

If anyone is aware of the complexity of modernist attitudes, it is Peter Gay.

December 29, 2007

Don't Fear Starbucks

by Taylor Clark, Slate

Why the franchise actually helps mom and pop coffeeshouses.

December 28, 2007

The Last Empire: China's Pollution Problem Goes Global

by Jacques Leslie, Mother Jones

Can the world survive China's headlong rush to emulate the American way of life?

December 27, 2007

A Norhtern Light

by Bob Thompson, Washington Post

Per Petterson's poignant family tales have placed him on the literary map.

Elementary Math Grows Exponentially Tougher

by Maria Glod, Washington Post

Too many elementary school teachers, education experts say, lack the know-how to teach math effectively.


by Rosanna Warren, Slate

The Ink Fades On A Profession As India Modernizes

by Anand Giridharadas, New York Times

The professional letter writer is confronting the fate of middlemen everywhere: to be cut out. In India, the world's fastest-growing market for cellphones, calling the village or sending a text message ha all but supplanted the practice of dictating intimacies to someone else.

December 26, 2007

Heirs Of China's New Elites Schooled In Ancient Values

by Maureen Fan, Washington Post

In a borrowed classroom of the provincial Communist Party School, a newly busy philosophy professor addressed 15 well-groomed adult students. His message: Try to have a soul.

The Box

by Roddy Doyle, New York Times

A Celebration Of The New Year Ushers In A Bit Of Japan

by Julia Moskin, New York Times

Since Mariko Hashimoto arrived from Kyushu in 1987, she has adapted to daily life in New York. She uses broccoli rabe instead of aka takana (spicy mustard greens), shops in the Caribbean markets of her Washington Heights neighborhood for batatas rather than Japanese satsumaimo (yellow sweet potatoes), and has learned to love the local mofongo, the Dominican version of mashed plantains with lots of garlic.

But at this time of year, Ms Hashimoto said, she feels very Japanese, missing her home in the city of Kumamoto, where her family has a 100-year-old business brewing soy sauce and miso.

A Question Of Blame When Societies Fall

by George Johnson, New York Times

Who or what is to blame when a once-powerful society collapses?

December 25, 2007

The Accidental Caretakers

by Heather King, Los Angeles Times

When Mom began losing her memory, I found my family.

What Do You Mean, Giving Me That?

by Guy Trebay, New York Times

I could be succumbing to an attack of O. Henry here, but it seems truer than ever to me that the strange and the ambiguous and the mixed and the heartbreaking intentions behind present-giving are an overlooked bonus.

The Locked Room Mystery Mystery

by Jasper Fforde, Guardian

"So who's the victim?" asked Detective Inspector Jack Spratt, shaking his overcoat of the cold winter rain as he entered Usher Towers. "It's Locked Room Mystery," explained his amiable sidekick, Detective Sergeant Mary Mary. "He was found dead at 7.30pm. But get this: the library had been locked... from the inside."

December 24, 2007

All We Are Saying

by Grant Barrett, New York Times

What follows is by no means a complete list of words that took our attention this year, but rather a sampling from the thousands that endured long enough to find a place in the national conversation.

December 23, 2007

Son Of A Gun Got The Drop On Me: Recycled Pulp

by Neely Tucker, Washington Post

It would be a crime to let these tales die. That's where 'Black Lizard' anthology comes in.

Programmed For Love

by Joel Achenbach, Washington Post

If advances in artificial intelligence continue, your next lover may have an on/off switch.

You Are What You Read

by Leah Price, New York Times

Today, as we supersize our burgers and abridge our books, reading and eating continue to provoke symmetrical anxieties.

The Two Sides Of America's Boulevard

by Henry Allen and Andrew Cutraro, Washington Post

For richer, for poorer, Pennsylvania Avenue weds the city together.

A Toy Maker's Conscience

by Jonathan Dee, New York Times

How a business-school professor and consultant for Mattel would turn "Made in China" into something other than a curse.

December 22, 2007


by Eduardo Cruz Eusebio, Chicago Reader

When Sam was born he was chubby and round, with slits for eyes. We called him Baby Buddha. But as he's gotten older he's started to look less and less Asian. His hair has grown curly and brown with red highlights like his mother's. He actually has a bridge on his nose, something I didn't enjoy until I reached my teens. His face has grown longer, his eyes wider.

Stopping By

by Heidi Bell, Chicago Reader

J calls it boredom, which M knows from adolescent psychology is another word for age-appropriate restlessness but feels like a squirming desire to burst out of the shell of useless skin. M thinks about how it's still a town where people leave their doors unlocked at night and in the winter warm up their empty cars at the curb.

The Whore On Christmas

by Mistress Matisse, The Stranger

The ups and downs of being a sex worker during the holidays.

A Tsar Is Born

by Adi Ignatius, Time

No one is born with a stare like Vladimir Putin's. The Russian president's pale blue eyes are so cool, so devoid of emotion that the stare must have begun as an affect, the gesture of someone who understood that power might be achieved by the suppression of ordinary needs, like blinking. The affect is now seamless, which makes talking to the Russian president not just exhausting but often chilling. It's a gaze that says, I'm in charge.

December 20, 2007

Blade Runner: The Complete Ultimate Visionary Final Cut Collector's Edition Is Here!

by Stephen Metcalf, Slate

How will its fans defend it now?

December 19, 2007

Now No Longer Silent As A Lamb

by Vanessa Thorpe, The Guardian

It was a revelation that once could have destroyed a career. But when the former child star and famously private double Oscar winner finally 'came out' at an awards ceremony, it was her timing that fascinated the media.

December 18, 2007

Below The Falls

by Kevin Barents, Slate

Root-barbels high on the soaked trunks grope
what bits of water drilled into the air.
We mvoe together through the woods: a two.

Laws Of Nature, Source Unknown

by Dennis Overbye, New York Times

There is in fact a kind of chicken-and-egg problem with the universe and its laws. Which "came" first — the laws or the universe?

Childhood's End

by Gary Kamiya, Salon

When your children grow up, you have to say goodbye to part of them — and part of yourself.


by Robert Olen Butler,

Robert Olen Butler's forthcoming book Intercourse imagines the interior monologues of copulating couples throughout history, from Princess Diana and Prince Charles to a chicken and a rooster. Here are three.

Volcano Culture

by Andrew Marshall and John Stanmeyer, National Geographic Magazine

In Indonesia, life plays out in the shadow of fiery peaks.

December 17, 2007

Bonfire Of The Disney Princesses

by Barbara Ehrenreich, The Nation

Disney likes to think of the Princesses as role models, but what a sorry bunch of wusses they are.

The Ghosts Of Clinton Street

by Saki Knafo, New York Times

Ms Geraghty's great-great-great-grandmother bought the house at 312 Clinton Street for $4,000 in 1866. At the time, an outhouse stood in the backyard and hroses were quartered next door.

For the next 140 years, a period spanning Brooklyn's consolidation with New York, the family discarded practically nothing: not the trunks of hand-woven bedspreads and frilly Victorian undergarments, nto the boxes of handwritten grocery receipts dating to the 1880s, not the chunks of petrified laundry starch now piled in a 19th-century beer pail called a growler.

The Onion Poem

by Fady Joudah, New Yorker

Why are there onions the size of swallows in your maple tree?
In the land of cactus wind the one-eyed dwell.

Star Power

by David Segal, Washington Post

The first time Neil deGrasse Tyson got a good look at the universe, he thought it was a hoax. He was a 9-year-old, visiting the Hayden Planetarium on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and when the lights went down and a narrated tour of the night sky began, an ocean of stars twinkled overhead.

Yea, right, he thought.

Desperately Seeking A Kidney

by Sally Satel, New York Times

In the fall of 2005, I started my first online relationship. He was a 62-year-old retireee from Canada; I was a 49-year-old psychiatrist living in Washington. Beginning in early October of that year, we talked or e-mailed several times a week. This arrangement was novel to both of us, so our conversations were tentative at first, but we soon grew more comfortable, and excitement over our shared visioin blossomed. After a few weeks, we decided to meet for a uniquely intimate encounter. After New Year's, the Candian would fly to Washington to meet me — at a hospital, where he would give me one of his kidneys. Thank God.

Top Ten Astronomy Pictures Of 2007

by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy Blog

Science doesn't take away from the beauty of nature. It enhances it, multiplies it.

December 16, 2007

Poetry Stand

by Douglas Goetsch, The American Scholar

How a precocious group of high school poets learned to provide verse on demand.

Reading The Bible Anew

by Jerome M. Segal, Washington Post

Surely the Bible can teach and inspire. But has it lost the ability to startle? TO make us gasp?

December 15, 2007

Darwin's Children

by The Economist

Human evolution has speeded up over the past 80,000 years. That raises awkward questions about the concept of "race."

Venti Capitalists

by P. J. O'Rourke, New York Times

There's a great story to be told about the success of Starbucks. But we'll have to wait to hear it from somebody other than Taylor Clark.

From Albedo To Zugunruhe

by James Meek, Guardian

For clarity, we need common, current words; but, used alone, these are commonplace, and as ephemeral as everyday talk. For distinction, we need words not heard every minute, unusual words, large words, foreign words, metaphors; but, used alone, these become bogs, vapours, or at worst, gibberish. What we need is a diction that weds the popular with the dignified, the clear current with the sedgy margins of language and thought.

The Road Trip Of 2 Lifetimes, And Still Going

by Maureen Orth, New York Times

When Roberta and Rowena Wright first started traveling together, their father had to use a crank to get the car going. But once they got moving, they never stopped.

Every Loo Must Have One

by Stuart Jeffries, Guardian

Americans go for self-help, the French for philosophy and the British for trivia: the phenomenon of the Christmas bestseller.

December 13, 2007

Where's The Beef?

by Greg Beato, Reason Magazine

Fast food makes such a savory scapegoat for our perpetual girth control failures that it's easy to forget we eat less than 20 percent of our meals at the GOlden Arches and its ilk. It's also easy to forget that before America fell in love with cheap, convenient, standardized junk food, it loved cheap, convenient, independently deep-fried junk food.

Free From Socialist Realism

by Daniel Kalder, Guardian

Until recently, Daniil Kharms' unsettling stories were best known to the Soviet secret police. Only now are they set to reach a wider public.

Not The Roman, But The Latin Empire

by Brendan Boyle, New York Sun

Under its brutally efficient authority, Latin went from being, in the fourth century before the common era, only one of several languages spoken on the Italian peninsula to being, in the fourth century of the comon era, the one language spoken throughout a region bounded by Britain in the West and Moldova in the East.

December 12, 2007

No Longer The City Of 'Bonfire' In Flames

by Anne Barnard, New York Times

Now, as Mr. Wolfe turns his attention to a new novel about immigration — set, no doubt to the disappointment of some New Yorkers and the relief of others, in Miami — the milestone of "Bonfire" provides a moment to consider how the city's own narrative has (so far) turned out. How and why New York pulled back from the brink is a matter of as much dispute as the reaction to "Bonfire," which became a best seller.

A New Shelf Life Begins

by Bob Thompson, Washington Post

To find Nick Homby's latest novel, 'Slam,' you have to think young.

Why Is It Hard For Adults To Say 'No?'

by Laura Sessions Stepp, Washington Post

How frustrating the "no" word can be: for the parent trying to corral a wayward child, for an employee fighting for a raise, for a diplomat trying to broker agreement between warring countries.

But consider what can hapen when people don't say no.

The Golden Suicides

by Nancy Jo Sales, Vanity Fair

When Theresa Duncan, 40, took her own life on July 10, followed a week later by her boyfriend, Jeremy Blake, 35, their friends were stunned and the press was fascinated: what had destroyed this glamorous couple, stars of New York's multi-media art world, still madly in love after 12 years?

December 11, 2007

The World War Speaks

by Sandra Beasley, Slate

December 10, 2007

An American In Hollywood

by Frank Bidart, New Yorker

The King Of Sentences

by Jonathan Lethem, New Yorker

This was the time when all we could talk about was sentences, sentences—nothing else stirred us. Whatever happened in those days, whatever befell our regard, Clea and I couldn't rest until it had been converted into what we told ourselves were astonishingly unprecedented and charming sentences.

December 9, 2007

The Fatalist

by Stephen Metcalf, New York Times

Single-masterpiece authors tend to divide into two camps: the Eternals (Cervantes, Sterne, Melville), or the world-historical quacks who pack into a single, unyielding wallop; and the Eternal Adolescents (De Quincey, Kerouac, Exley), or burnout cases who pull it together to manufacture a cult clasic. It was Lowry's fate to fall right in between the two.

Naughty And Nice

by Elizabeth Khuri, Los Angeles Times

Melissa Barak, the newest leading dancer of the Los Angeles Ballet, sashays into town with 'The Nutcracker' and—what else—a very Hollywood burlesque act.

Lame Humor

by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post

My supposedly better knee — the left one — has suddenly informed me that he is taking charge from now on, and there will be a few changes around here, by cracky.

The New New Philosophy

by Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times

Now a restive contingent of our tribe is convinced that it can shed light on traditional philosophical problems by going out and gathering information about what people actually think and say about our thought experiments.

December 8, 2007

Reading Between The Lines With Kindle

by David Samo, Los Angeles Times

The e-book reader raises questions about the fundamentals of literature and its future.

Is That All There Is?

by Stuart Jeffries, Guardian

In 1500, our ancestors thought the natural world testified to divine purpose. Floods, plagues, periods of fertility and flourishing were seen as acts of God. Now "acts of God" is a dead metaphor used by lawyers. How did that happen?

A Hunger For Books

by Doris Lessing, Guardian

Writing, writers do not come out of houses without books.


by Alex Lemon, InDigest

December 6, 2007

Leaping At The Chance For More Readers?

by Bob Thompson, Washington Post

This is what it's come to, folks: A distinguished editor and a widely respected writer are talking about getting naked and jumping off cliffs.

The Secret Of The Economist's Success Is Wowing America

by Roy Greenslade, Evening Standard

In an era of increasing print retrenchment, how cna a decidedly serious magazie that eschews any hint of vulgarity, either in content or promotion, enjoy such continuing success?

Critical Condition

by James Wolcott, The New Republic

Of all the nightmares on Elm Street haunting America's sleep, the bleak state of book reviewing would rank rather low on the worry meter, somewhere between the decline of the sitcom and the disappearance of the pay phone. The shrinkage, the consolidation, and the slow massacre of book review sections and arts coverage in the nation's newspapers and magazines doesn't seem like an urgent cause, not with so many other, bigger calamities piling up on the docks.

China's Turtles, Emblems Of A Crisis

by Jim Yardley, New York Times

For many Chinese, turtles symbolize health and longevity, but the saga of the last two Yangtze giant soft-shells is more symbolic of the threatened state of wildlife and biodiversity in China.

December 5, 2007

Is The Entree Heading For Extinction?

by Kim Severson, New York Times

THe entree, long the undisputed centerpiece of an Amercian restaurant meal, is dead.

O.K., so maybe it's not quite time to write the entree's obituary. But in many major dining cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago, the main course is under attack.

The Dictatorship Of Talent

by David Brooks, New York Times

Imagine the Ivy League taking over the shell of the Communist Party and deciding not to change the name. Imagine the Harvard Alumni Association with an army.

December 4, 2007

Luanne Again, Southeastern Ohio

by John Hazard, Slate

Is Photography Dead?

by Peter Plagens, Newsweek

The last art form to be tethered to realism, its factual validity has lately been manipulated and pixelated to the pont of extinction.

Farm Team

by Kevin Young, New Yorker

Picnic By The Inland Sea

by D. Nurkse, New Yorker

To Boredom

by Charles Simic, New Yorker

Found Objects

by Jennifer Egan, New Yorker

Five Books To Help You Become A Chef By New Year's!

by Alex Koppelman, Salon

The foundation of great cooking is technique, not recipes.

A Shy And Brainy Guy

by Ben Yagoda, Slate

Steve Martin explains how he got so funny.

December 3, 2007

Requiem For A Red Lobster: A Novel Of Downsizing

by Motoko Rich, New York Times

"Last Night at the Lobster" is packed with details as it meticulously chronicles the efforts of Manny DeLeon, the restaurant's manager, to get through the final day with some dignity.

Security Blanket

by Diana Abu-Jaber, Washington Post

Let others have their security blankets! I had a security shag rug bedspread.

I Am America. (And So?)

by Wyatt Mason, New York Times

Despite the frequency of its use, "America" is actually somewhat difficult to define.

Emoticons During Wartime

by Tom McNichol, New Yorker

December 2, 2007

The Reading Life

by Garrison Keillor, Washington Post

When I was 12, two things happened that made me a writer. I shoplifted a book of poems from a department store a few days before Christmas, and my cousin ROger drowned in Lake Minnetonka the week he graduated from high school in Minneapolis.

December 1, 2007

Editor's Cut

by Liesl Schillinger, New York Times

Ahh, the lure of hte madman — the harrowed, sinewy figure with glowing eyes who approaches out of the shadows, burning to communicate his incommunicable truth.

What A Carve-Up

by James Campbell, Guardian

More and more modern classics are appearing 'restored', with the handiwork of editors removed. Is it mere meddling or vital to understand authors' intentions?

Is It Healthy? Food Rating Systems Battle It Out

by Andrew Martin, New York Times

Suddenly, after years of chaotic, conflicting health claims on food, various groups are rushing to create systems that are supposed to make sense of it all.

In A Parallel Universe, This Theory Would Make Sense

by Jim Al-Khalili, The Guardian

If only we could prove that the multiverse was real, we could explaint he contradictions of quantum mechanics.

The Panic About The Dollar

by The Economist

A full-blown dollar collapse would be disastrous. Thankfully, it need not happen.

By Heng-Cheong Leong