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May 31, 2008

FIction And Political Fact

by Morris Dickstein,

The political novel has always been an odd hybrid of fact and fiction.

Sex And The City (Circa 1840)

by Nicholson Baker, New York Times

For nearly 150 years, the flash press was all but forgotten by historians — before it was rediscovered by Patricia Cline Cohen.

Romance Languages

by Liesl Schillinger, New York Times

Does the word "spinster" — calling to ind a bony, stoop-shouldered figure in a cardigan — still apply today? Or have the kittenish, tomcatting bacheloretts of Sx and the City" reset the sereotype, transforming the mopey Mildreds of yesteryear into sensual Samathans? It's a subject that can't be broached without giving offense.

Jumbo Lit

by Joe Queenan, New York Times

I'm not suggestig that gigantic books are useful only as an excuse for avoiding responsibility. No, those who read them also reap the psychic benfits of being admitted to an exclusive club, like Icelandic rodeo queens or American presidents whose administrations did not end in disaster. THose who have read the unabridged "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" and "Remembrance of Things Past" and "Man Without Qualities" belong to a very special group because at any given time there are n more than a few hundred such people on the face of the earth, and none of them live in Tarrytown.

Improbable Paradise

by Krista Mahr, Time

In 2007, a record 2 million tourists visited Cambodia, signaling that the country was beginning to shake its killing fields image as an improverished backwater where wandering off the beaten path could mean finding yourself astride an unexploded land mine.

The Reflection Reflex

by Christopher F. Chabris, Wall Street Journal

How brain researchers pinpointed the inextricable link between seeing and doing.

May 30, 2008

Antiquities, The World Is Your Homeland

by Edward Rothstein, New York Times

To what culture does the concept of "cultural property" belong? Who owns this idea?

May 29, 2008

Truth And Consequences

by Lee Siegel, Guardian

For a true critic, judgment is the burden you start out with.

Rage Against The Machines

by Tom Chatfield, Prospect

Modern video games mean big business, and big controversy. Yet most of the charges levelled against games—that they stunt minds and spark addiction—are based on an outdated understanding of what gamers do when they sit down to play.

May 28, 2008

'I Used To Feel Like People Were Trampling Over Me To Get To My Husband. I Had Print Marks On My Body'

by Rachel Cooke, Guardian

Siri Hustvedt, one half of New York's most cultish literary couple, talks about marrying Paul Auster, voting for Barack Obama, and why she still feels like an outsider.

The 25Th Hour Of Florent Morellet

by David Amsden, New York Magazine

As his legendary 24-hour French diner closes for the first time, it is being mourned as the sad passing of an era. But Morellet regrets nothing.

The Unraveling

by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, The New Republic

The jihadist revolt against bin Laden.


by Judith Harris, Slate

Starting Salaries But New York Tastes

by Cara Buckley, New York Times

Every year around this time, tens of thousands of postcollegiate people in their 20s flood the city despite its soaring expenses. They are high on ambition, meager of budget and endlessly creative when it comes to making ends meet.

May 27, 2008

'Standard Operating Procedure' By Philip Gourevitch And Errol Morris

by Michael S. Roth, Los Angeles Times

Errol Morris is interested int he reconsruction and reenactment of past events, and he provocatively blurs the boundaries between history and fiction, truth and fantasy. Philip Gourevitch is interested in the aftermath of events in how people deal with overwhelming occurences that have come to define their present and future. In "Standard Operating Procedure," he weaves Morris' interviews, court transcripts and journalists' accounts into a compelling story of a prison plan gone wrong.

Armageddon In Retrospect, By Kurt Vonnegut

by Roz Kaveney, The Independent

Vonnegut's last works remind us that we can always simply say no to the whole horrible business.

May 26, 2008

Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite

by Christopher Hitchens, Slate

You have nothing to lose but inflated bills and interrupted anecdotes.

In Murderous Pursuit Of Esintein's Secrets

by Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Final Theory" is the work of two Mark Alperts: the one who is readily conversant with science and the one who had to cook up a cinematic action story.

Murder, She Once Wrote

by Gregory Beyer, New York Times

As New York celebrates the sharp decline in crime, the crime writer may be the only New yorker for whom that drop is not an unequivocal blessing. Just as the breakup of the Soviet Union caused problems for writes whose plots hinged on the dark doings of the cold war, so New York's crime writers are wondering where to find grist in a far safer city.


by Arda Collins, New Yorker

A Night At The Opera

by Janet Frame, New Yorker

May 25, 2008

Witness For The Transit

by Stephen Burt, New York Times

Many poets try to sound tough, or masculine, or self-conscious about manhood, and fail miserably: what qualities let Kleinzahler succeed?

Pot Luck

by Lara Vapnyar, New York Times

What I still really wanted was a magic pot that could produce any food I fantasized about.

May 24, 2008

The Alpha Geeks

by David Brooks, New York Times

The future historians of the nerd ascendancy will likely note that the great empowerment phase began in the 1980s with the rise of Microsoft and the digital economy.

Does Time Run Backward In Other Universes?

by Sean M. Carroll, Scientific American

One of the most basic facts of life is that the future looks different from the past. But on a grand cosmological scale, they may look the same.

May 23, 2008

Her Father, His Secrets, Herself

by Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times

Listening to his impassioned sermon at an AIDS memorial service, Ms. Moore, then unaware of his secret life, recalls thinking: "Here is where I can come to find my father's love." This brave book is a testament to her own love for him.

The Question Of Global Warming

by Freeman Dyson, New York Review Of Books

This fact, that the exchange of carbon between atmosphere and vegetation is rapid, is of fundamental importance to the long-range future of global warmin, as will become clear in what follows. Neither of the books under review mentions it.

Coming Down From The Trees

by The Economist

Appearances in the branches notwithstanding, Berkeley has changed.

May 22, 2008


by Emily Gould, New York Times

What I gained — and lost — by writing about my intimate life online.

Beyond A Boundary

by James Wood, New Yorker

In a masterly new novel, two emigres find a home in post-9/11 New York.

May 21, 2008

The Affairs Of Men

by Philip Weiss, New York Magazine

The trouble with sex and marriage.

Top Cat: How 'Hello Kitty' Conquered The World

by Esther Walker, The Independent

The little half-Japanese, half-English cat has become so globally recognisable that it is, perhaps, inevitable that the Japanese board of tourism has appointed her their official tourism ambassador to China and Hong Kong.

June 5, 1968: The Last Hours Of RFK

by Pete Hamill, New York Magazine

A rememberance of that awful night—and a brief, powerful friendship.

May 20, 2008

Just A Tranquil Darker

by John Hodgen, Slate

Author Chuck Palahniuk Pushes The Envelope Again In 'Snuff'

by Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Times

At the very least, "Snuff" is a difficult book to discuss over dinner. With its assemblage of nasty fluids — bodily and otherwise — and its over-the-hill-porn-star heroine who plans to copulate literally to death by taking on 600 men in quick succession, it's also nearly impossible to describe without squirming.

May 19, 2008


by Don Paterson, New Yorker


by Sarah Arvio, New Yorker

The China Syndrome

by Andrew Leonard, Salon

Eccentric scholar Joseph Needham devoted his life to documenting the brilliant innovations of Chinese civilization — and the mystery of why the West eclipsed it.

May 17, 2008

Genius At The Core

by Yvonne Abraham, Boston Globe

We individuals have helped make the company gazillions. But as this week's hoopla shows, the Apple guys have somehow fixed it so that we're the ones who feel grteful.

Now that's genius.

Why I Had To Lie To My Dying Mother

by David Rieff, Guardian

If I am being honest, I cannot say that I ever really thought my mother had much chance of making it. But equally, it never really occurred to me but to do whatever I could to buttress and abet her in her belief that she could survive.

The Story Of William McGonagall, The Worst Poet In The History Of The English Language

by Andy McSmith, The Independent

It is not the quality of his poetry that has immortalised McGonagall, but rather the British love of heroic failures.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

by Arthur C. Brooks, The American

Money doesn't buy happiness, but success does. Capitalism, moored in values of hard work, honesty, and fairness, is key.

In The Basement Of The Ivory Tower

by Professor X, The Atlantic

Sending everyone under the sun to college is a noble initiative. To oppose such a scheme of inclusion would be positively churlish. But one piece of the puzzle hasn't been figured into the equation, to use the sort of phrase I encounter in the papers submitted by my English 101 students. The zeitgeist of academic possibility is a great inverted pyramid, and its rather sharp point is poking, uncomfortably, a spot just about midway betwen my shoulder blades.

Teddy Stole My Panties

by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post

And other hot news tips from The Post's 'in' basket.

May 16, 2008

The Future Of Reading

by Ezra Klein, Columbia Journalism Review

So I consulted my conscience, which is as much gadget-head as bookworm, and quickly came to a decision: I would simultaneously support reading and the introduction of expensive new electronic devices by buying a Kindle and proudly toting it around town for a month. That would give me time to determine whether this really was the future of reading, or whether the nation remained threatened by grave and unnamed consequences.

May 15, 2008

Forget Armageddon - We Need To Imagine Now

by James Meek, Guardian

To counter the dangerous fantasies of Bush, Blair and Bin Laden, we must learn to imagein the present in all its complexity.

Because No Man Should Feel The Agony Of This FIlm

by John Kass, Chicago Tribune

It is the never-ending question to the never-ending story, why men would rather chop their toes off with a rusty hoe than walk across the street to see "Sex and the City."

A 30,000-Volume Window On The World

by Alberto Manguel, New York Times

For the last seven years, I've lived in an old stone presbytery in France, south of the Loire Valley, in a village of fewer than 10 houses. I chose the place because next to the 15th-century house itself was a barn, partly torn down centuries ago, alrge enough to accommodate my library of some 30,000 books, assembled over six itinerant decades. I knew that once the book found their place, I would find mine.

'A Freewheelin' Life' By Suze Rotolo

by Kristina Lindgren, Los Angeles Times

This memoir is more — and in some way less —- than a full accounting of life with the man she calls "the mover and shaper of the cutlure of that era." It is a vivid insider's portrait of Greenwich Village, ground zero at the cusp of a new era, a place "people like me went — people who knew in their souls that they didn't belong where they came from."

It's All In My Head

by Jessica Winter, Slate

Did Truman Capote and Ralph Ellison have writer's block—or were they just chronic procrastinators?

May 14, 2008

Solitaire-y Confinement

by Josh Levin, Slate

Why we can't stop playing a cmputerized card game.

Cookbook Publishers Try To Think Small

by Kim Severson, New York Times

At a time when 2-year-olds take cooking classes, trick-or-treaters turn up in chef's whites and a personalized child's size spatula costs $20, it is no surprise that the children's cookbook genre is enjoying a new life. Not that it had much of a life before.

For Meat-Eating Authors, A More Tender Approach

by Jane Black, Washington Post

Pained by her failure, Susan Bourette decided to come to terms with her carnivorous ways. If she could understand why she craved meat, she reasoned, perhaps she would get over the guilt of enjoying it. Her new book, "Meat: A Love Story" chronicles Bourette's travels, from a New York butcher shop to an Inuit whale hunt, to discover the roots of humans' love affair with meat — the average American eats 220 pounds of it annually — and to decide how to conduct that affair responsibly.

An Industry Gets Animated

by Paul Boutin, Wall Street Journal

Redemption, after all, is essential to any story well told.

The Mysteries Of The Suicide Tourist

by Phil Zabriskie, New York Magazine

Why the same things that attract millions of happy visitors to New York—the glamour, the skyline, the anonymity—also draw people from around the world to kill themselves here.

May 13, 2008

The Story Of The Father

by Tony Hoagland, Slate

Procrastination Lit

by Jessica Winter, Slate

Great novels about wasting time.

Lollygagging Through Life

by Emily Yoffe, Slate

I'm joining procrastinators anonymous — can I get past step one?

In 'Cannery Row,' A Preserved Simplicity

by Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

Not many books of our youth survive unscathed into what passes for our maturity, and many other books await that maturity before we are ready to appreciate and understand them. For me, Steinbeck eventually gave way to William Faulkner, but I decline, now, to thumb my nose at my old friend as I bid him farewell.

May 12, 2008

Pondering Fermi

by Jamais Cascio, Open The Future

I suspect that the "where are they?" query has a serious flaw: it makes assumptions about the behavior of an interstellar-capable culture based on what we, a pre-interstellar society, might do.

The Blog Of War

by Anne Applebaum, The New Republic

While the book has a chronological order, it has nothing resembling a narrative.


by David Remnick, New Yorker

Every weekday for the past twenty-seven years, a long-in-the-tooth history major named Phil Schaap has hosted a morning program on WKCR, Columbia University's radio station, called "Bird Flight," which places a degree of attention on the music of the bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker that is so obsesive, so ardent and detailed, that Schaap frequently sounds like a mad Talmudic scholar who has decided that the laws of humankind reside not in the ancient Babylonian tractates but in alternate takes of "Moose the Mooche" and "Swedish Schnapps."

East Wind

by Julian Barnes, New Yorker

A Primer

by Bob Hicok, New Yorker

May 11, 2008

Churchill And His Myths

by Geoffrey Wheatcroft, New York Review Of Books

There is another story, of the degree to which Churchill divided opinion, in his lifetime and—as these book show—to this day.

May 10, 2008

Poetry And Our Age: Adam Kirsch's 'Invasions'

by Wes Davis, New York Sun

Rene Wellek once warned that "the union of poet and critic is not necessarily good for either poetry or criticism." But Adam Kirsch's career suggests that it can be very good for both.

At The Bar With The Hate Camel

by Shalom Auslander, TheDrawbridge

Anger literature beats the shit out of love literature.

Little Girl Lost, Little Girl Found

by Ann Hood, Salon

I never thought I'd be able to enjoy Mother's Day again. Then, life brought me Annabelle.

May 9, 2008

In A Changing World, An Ever-Evolving Terrorism

by Edward Rothstein, New York Times

Philip Bobbitt's powerful, dense and brilliant new book argues that the nature of terrorism has changed as nationhood has evolved.

Am I Man Enough?

by Paul Constant, The Stranger

I'm a straight guy with no interest in sports and almost no body hair. What makes a man masculine? The question led me to a doctor's office, a therapist's couch, and a drag bar in Tacoma.


by Joe Donnelly, LA Weekly

Laura Branigan, Old Milwaukee and a tough angle on the eight ball: A short story.

Bimbo-Proof The Nursery

by Steve Almond, Best Life Magazine

How to be sure your daughter doesn't turn out like Lindsay Lohan.

Is Everything We Know About American History Wrong?

by Louis Bayard, Salon

Tony Horwitz's fascinating new book takes us on a journey across the continent to prove that our nation's founding legends are built on lies.

The Wisdom Of Whores, By Elizabeth Pisani

by Jeremy Laurance, The Independent

There are many things to like about this book, beginning with the title.

May 8, 2008

Buried Prejudice: The Bigot In Your Brain

by Siri Carpenter, Scientific American

Deep within our subconscious, all of us harbor biases that we consciously abhor. And the worst part is: we act on them.

Decline And The Falls

by Bill Kauffman, Wall Street Journal

"I went to Niagara Falls because I wanted to laugh at it," confesses Ginger Strand in "Inventing Niagara." She doesn't mean the waterfalls, which awe even the most jaded MP3-zombie, but the tawdry environs and tumbledown American city that border them. Whereas the city of Niagara Falls once evolved the hymeneal and sexual - honeymooners and Marilyn Monroe - today the cataracts are a mere cloud in the eye of the slot players at the nearby casinos.

May 7, 2008

Hillary And Bill: The Movie

by Roger Ebert, Chicaco Sun-Times

I woke up at about 3:30 a.m. and went online to see if Obama had pulled a victory out of Indiana. He had narrowed Clinton's head to two points by midnight and later added a few more votes, but the story was basically the same: Clinton's winning margin was so small that it didn't much count, and Obama would be hte likely presidential nominee. Then I started wondering, in the vaporous midnight hours, about how you could make a ovie of this primary campaign.

Where Are They?

by Nick Bostrom, MIT Technology Review

Why I hope the search for extraterrestrial life finds nothing.

Blood On The Tracks

by Jennifer Gonnerman, New York Magazine

Every time a trackworker goes into the tunnels, there's a chance he won't come back out. What the world looks like when a 400-ton train is barreling toward you at 30 miles per hour.

It's The Adultery, Stupid

by Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair

Politics is now about sex. Not just scandalous sex, not jsut who is having what kind of sex, but what we think about the sex each politician is having, or not having. Sex (sex, not gender) in politics is as significant a subtext as race.

May 6, 2008

A Place In Maine

by Sherod Santos, Slate

The New Paternalism

by Evan R. Goldstein, Chronicle Of Higher Education

An economist and a legal scholar argue that policy makers should nudge people into making good decisions.

May 5, 2008

One Can Miss Mountains

by Todd Boss, New Yorker

A Man Like Him

by Yiyun Li, New Yorker

The girl, unlike most people photographed for fashion magazines, was not beautiful. Moreover, she had no desire to appear beautiful, as anyone looking at her could tell, and for that reason Teacher Fei stopped turning the pages and studied her. She had short, unruly hair and wide-set eyes that glared at the camera in a closeup shot. In another photo, she stood in front of a bedroom door, her back to the camera, her hand pushing the door ajar. A bed and its pink sheet were artfully blurred. Her black T-shirt, in sharp focus, displayed a line of white printed characters: "My father is less of a creature than a pig or a dog because he is an adulterer."

A Man Of Taste

by D. T. Max, New Yorker

A chef with cancer fights to save his tongue.

May 4, 2008

What I Can Tell You About Seattle Based On The People I've Met Who Are From There

by Tao Lin, The Stranger

(I live in Brooklyn.)

The Secret Life Of Words: How English Became English, By Henry Hitchings

by John Morrish, The Independent

The history of the English language is the history of our place in the world.

May 3, 2008

The Bohr Paradox

by Robert P Crease, Physics World

Niels Bohr's towering role in the history of physics can be difficult to appreciate.

Born Again

by Jonathan Spence, New York Times

At one level, "Life and Death" is a kind of documentary, carrying the reader across the time from the land reform at the end of the Chiense Civil War, through the establishment of mutual-aid teams and lower-level cooperatives in the early and mid-1950s, into the extreme years of the Great Leap Forward and hte famine of the late '50s and early '60s, and on to the steady erosion of the collective economy in the new era of largely unregulated "capitalism with socialist characteristics."

Yet although one can say that the political dramas narrated by Mo Yan are historically faithful to the currently known record, "Life and Death" remains a wildly visionary and creative novel, constantly mocking and rearranging itself and jolting the reader with its own internal commentary.

Post Codes

by John Mullan, Guardian

The strangest thing about Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin is that this thoroughly contemporary tale employs n old-fashioned fictional form.

May 2, 2008

The World Of The Senses

by Franz Wright, New Yorker


by Roddy Doyle, New Yorker

You Are Not Your Bookcase

by Megan Hustad, Salon

Online profiles are painfully constructed "faves lists" have turned us into a bunch of unwitting snobs. Enough already.

Who Needs Trendy?

by Charles Perry, Los Angeles Times

One day, people will look through our cookbooks and wonder what sun-dried tomatoes, carpaccio and tiramisu were. Just like us, they'll have to try the antique recipes out—no doubt reluctantly; the names will be as puzzling and frumpy-sounding to them as viaunde despyne is to us—before they'll finally be able to decide whether these 20th-century foods were as boring or bizarre as they'll sound.

May 1, 2008

It's Funny How Funny Just The Facts Can Be

by Paul Farhi, Washington Post

Adam Chodikoff, 37, doesn't perform on the Daily Show or write the gags that pepper Stewart's take on the day's news. But as the show's chief researcher and video wiz, he's the vitl link in the program's comedic ecosystem.

By Heng-Cheong Leong