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December 31, 2008

What To Do About The Torturers?

by David Cole, New York Review Of Books

America's experiment with torture presents the Obama administration with one of its most difficult challenges: how should the nation account for the abuses that have occurred in the past, what are the appropriate remedies, and how can we ensure that such abuses not happen again?

The American Blair

by Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine

Tony Blair was both Britain's Obama, transforming its politics, and Britain's Bush, prosecuting a deeply unpopular war. But at Yale last semester, as he moved into his afterlife, he seemed oddly unencumbered by his past.

The Long Decline Of Reading

by Mssv

The situation is undeniably bad. What's going to happen next?

Did Our Cosmos Exist Before The Big Bang?

by Anil Ananthaswamy, New Scientist

If the loop quantum cosmology (LQC) theory turns out to be right, our universe emerged from a pre-existing universe that had been expanding before contracting due to gravity. As all the matter squeezed into a microscopic volume, this universe approahced the so-called Planck density. At this stage, it stopped contracting and rebounded, giving us our univese.

December 30, 2008

The Darkling Thrush

by Robert Pinsky, Slate

Thomas Hardy's timely meditation on the turning of an era.

The Fight Over NASA's Future

by John Schwartz, New York Times

Is the next generation of spacecraft fundamentally flawed? Or are the troubles routine?

Even For Neil Gaiman, 'The Sandman' Is A Singular Dream

by Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times

A comic-book series' special character has helped define a writer who brought new ambition to a pop medium.

December 29, 2008

The Limner

by Julian Barnes, New Yorker

Icons In Reflection

by David Patrick Stearns, Obit

Bernstein and Williams: Similar lives, different legacies.

December 28, 2008

A Return To Java

by Lisa Reed, New York Times

A mother and her son retrace a visit to the Indonesian island, finding worldly comfort on a coffe plantation and spiritual calm at sunrise in an ancient temple.

Contemplating The Boobs We Were

by Peter Applebome, New York Times

Before we toss the latest unopened 401(k) statement into the trash, a year-end toast to us all — the boobs and easy marks who from time immemorial have mastered the art of bying high and selling low, investing in bubbles as transparent as an open window, making crashes and swindles as much a part of the human experience as love, vanity and bad breath.

A Reading Life

by Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe

The looking-glass, closed to traffic.

December 27, 2008

A Very European Hero

by The Economist

A Tintin blockbuster is on the way. Baffled Americans hoping to understand him should look at him through the prism of post-war Europe.

Irrational Numbers

by Jincy Willett, New York Times

A first novel takes a brilliant, troubled and terribly young mathematician off to college and back.

Brought To You By The Letter S

by James Panero, New York Times

"Street Gang: The Complete History of 'Sesame Street,'" by Michael Davis, a former columnist for TV Guide, now offers the behind-the-lens story, the first comprehensive account, of this 39-year-old show.

Plowing Through The Door

by David Carr, New York Times

Michael Wolff attacks Rupert Murdoch with casual delight in this portrait of the media titan and his quest to buy the Wall Street Journal.

The Libertarian Moment

by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, Reason Magazine

Despie all leading indicators to the contrary, America is poised to enter a new age of freedom.

December 26, 2008

Re-Gifting: You Shouldn't Have. But If You Did, Here's How To Get Away With It

by Joyce Wadler, New York Times

The rules of re-gifting are but simple common sense.

December 25, 2008

The Intersection Of Poetry And Politics

by Dwight Garner, New York Times

There is little doubt that Elizabeth Alexander's verse will be broadcast to more people at one time than any poem ever composed.

December 24, 2008

Learning From Venturl

by Christopher Caldwell, Weekly Standard

Time has killed off a lot of modernist art. But the architectural remnants of the age cannot be avoided.

The New Feminists: Lipstick And Pageants

by Gemma Soames, The Times

Yes, you can wear lipstick and be a feminist. The F word is being rebranded.

December 23, 2008

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

by Roy Blount Jr., New York Times

Let's digress from anything ending in -ession. Let's entertain some new, upbead holiday words.

The Doors Shut On An Emporium Offering A Hodgepodge Of Essentials

by Sarah Yall, New York Times

It was not that its products were particularly exciting in themselves, or that its service was particularly attentive. But Woolworths was always there, a comforting part of the landscape, offering everything you wanted and more besides: ice trays and ironing boards; birthday cards and bars of soap; Play-Doh, pet food, paper clips and pajamas.

God Is A Problm, Sources Say

by Vincent Carroll, Wall Street Journal

How secular newsrooms handle stories with a religious component.

Read It And Weep

by Jason Boog, Salon

The economic news couldn't be worse for the book industry. Now insiders are asking how literature will survive.

Dickens's Enduring Gift To Christmases Future

by Michael Kenney, Boston Globe

On recently revisiting "A Christmas Carol" - virtually a first reading after so many years — it was striking to find how early it is in the tale tht Charles Dickens telegraphs his message.

Wind Chill Blows

by Daniel Engber, Slate

It's time to get rid of a meaningless number.

December 22, 2008

What Your Loneliness Is Telling You

by Katharine Miezkowski, Salon

According to the new science of loneliness, those holiday blues have an important message for you.

The Art Of Prize-Fighting

by Tom Chatfield, Prospect

Prizes are a vital part of the modern market for serious literature, but they're also increasingly flawed and compromised. At their best, however, they can still be an important mechanism for ensuring literature's future as a public art.

December 20, 2008

You Never Know What You'll Find In A Book

by Henry Alford, New York Times

We may never fully understand what prompts people to leave unusual objects inside books.

Mind-Body Problems

by Maria Russo, New York Times

To the list of fiction-writing British explorers of the modern feminine condition add Patricia Ferguson, a former nurse and midwife whose sixth book, "Peripheral Vision," is both cheerful and emotionally wrenching.

Have You Seen My Daughter?

by Erica Wagner, New York Times

This is a novel about loss and healing; a novel that acknowledges the depth of loss and the limits of healing.

My Tiny, Briny Luxury Item

by Mary Roach, New York Times

Every time we go, I peel off to indulge a luxury I will never give up: a single Kumamoto oyster, $1.75, shucked on the spot, at Rudy Figueroa's little altar of ice chips.

Grabbing A Bite Between Flights

by Matt Gross, New York Times

No one likes to eat in airports, but eat in airports we must.

B-Ball With Barack

by Craig Robinson, Time

Your ball, Mr President. I know you're going to drain the big shots.

Why Music?

by The Economist

What appetite drives the proliferation of music to the point where the average American teenager spends 1½-2½ hours a day—an eight of his waking life—listening to it?

December 19, 2008

A Walk In The Park

by Cindy Price, New York Times

For the holiday season, many amusment parks dress up, slow down and attract a different crowd than thrill-seeking teenagers.

December 18, 2008

John Milton's Vision

by Theo Hobson, Open Democracy

If we are to honour Milton on his 400th birthday we must clealry recognise the persistence of his otherness - the fact that he cannot be claimed as a noble exemplar of the national soul. The nation chose against him, and still does.

December 17, 2008

Sewage Has Its Say

by Steven Cramer, Slate

Twenty Years On: Internalising The Fatwa

by Kenan Malik, Spiked

Twenty years later, the Rushdie Affair seems equally like a conflict from a different age - but for the opposite reason. Not only have the issues that it raised - the nature of Islam, and its relationship to the West; the meaning of multiculturalism; the boundaries of tolerance in a liberal society; the limits of free speech in a plural world - become some of the defining problems of the age. But the politics of the pre-Rushdie age are now what seems anomalous.

December 16, 2008

Get Along Without A Pinkie? It's Tougher Than You Might Think

by Dana Scarton, New York Times

The pinkie, the humble fifth finger, has long been viwed as a decorative accessory, something to extend daintily from a wine glass. So what would you lose if you didn't have one?

Specializing In Problems That Only Seem Impossible To Solve

by Bina Venkataraman, New York Times

For Dr. Fridrich, tackling an impossible puzzle is not a hobby, and the Rubik's Cube is not simply a game. They are obsessions.

"The Wind In The Willows" At 100

by Gary Kamiya, Salon

Mole, Rat, Toad and Badget kept me up late reading as a kid. Now I love Kenneth Grahame's classic even more.

So Your Kitchen Is Tiny. So What?

by Mark Bittman, New York Times

I'm here to help you feel better.

Leaving Literature Behind

by Bruce Fleming, Chronicle Of Higher Education

The good news is that we've created a discipline: literary studies. The bad news is that we've made ourselves rulers of a realm that has separated itself almost completely from the rest of the world.

December 15, 2008

Rhyming Name Dropper Returns

by Dwight Garner, New York Times

Fair readers, hail! Now here's a teaser:
Who's this pale, familiar geezer
Appearing through the mists of time
Atop a tow'r of creaky rhyme?

With those lines in this week's issue of The New Yorker magazine, Roger Ngell introduces himself — or, rather, reintroduces himself — at the start of a page-long holiday poem titled "Greetings, Friends!"

The Fifth Season

by Arthur Vogelsang, New Yorker


by Dan Chiasson, New Yorker

Greetings, Friends!

by Roger Angell, New Yorker

Shop And Awe

by Joy Press, Salon

Yesterday I did something that made me feel sickened and confused: I went Christmas shopping.

December 13, 2008

Choosing Not To Choose

by T.M. Shine, Washington Post

Ever feel lost in a maze of too many options? Here's how one man let indecision be his friend.

Don't Say The D Word

by Justin Fox, Time

"Shall we call it a depression now?"

Salad Days

by Nick Laird, New York Times

It was on the volcanic island of Santorini, in a whitewashed restaurant perched on the clifftop with views across the lagoon and out to the vast horizon, that I encountered a Roquefort salad.

December 8, 2008

Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?

by Joanne Kaufman, New York Times

What happens when there is more drama in the book club than there is in the books?

My Autopsy

by Michael Dickman, New Yorker

Acting Like A Tree

by Jonathan Aaron, New Yorker

December 7, 2008


by Steven Lenzner, Weekly Standard

The uses and abuss of science in political life.

December 6, 2008

Onion Nation

by Wells Tower, Washington Post

If its absurdist twists and wicked parodies of conventional journalism are just a joke, the country's leading satirical newspaper is having the last laugh.

The Rich Satisfaction Of A Decadent Ingredient

by T. Susan Chang, Boston Globe

Jennifer McLagan's cookbooks are joyously contrarian affairs. In 2005, she published the finger-licking and terrific "Bones." Now she has "Fat." This is no quick-and-easy book featuring chicken cutlets with breakfast cereal "crust." It's a rollicking journey through the kingdom of unrepentant, glorious, and filthy rich fat.

December 5, 2008

'Wishful Drinking' By Carrie Fisher

by Matthew DeBord, Los Angeles Times

You could say this book is a blistering stream of witty comments, or a dazzling romp through the experiences of a woman who once sought drug-addiction counsel from Cary Grant. But it isn't really about any of that. It's about the dizzying, dissonant music of Carrie Fisher's existence.

December 4, 2008

The Fine Art Of Literary Rejection Letters

by Hannah Edelstein, The Guardian

Writing rejection letters is a delicate skill, one that must be fine-tuned over time (weeks, even) as one digs out from under the slush pile. For it is not easy to achieve and balance the two central goals of a truly accomlished rejection letter: trying not to make the writer feel distraught whilst also discouraging him or her from ever contacting you ever again.

Laugh Factory

by Carolyn Omine, Los Angeles Times

Being a Simpsons writer is hard work—unless you're a genius.

December 3, 2008

Mother Justice

by Christopher Ketcham, Vanity Fair

When her son was sentenced to 25 years for Brooklyn's 2003 "grid kid" slaying, Doreen Quinn Giuliano was sure he'd been wrongfully convicted. To prove it, she went undercover, testing her sanity, her marriage, and the justice system. It was a desperate move—and it may have worked.

What Tina Wants

by Maureen Dowd, Vanity Fair

Tina Fey has rules. They've guided the 38-year-old writer-comedian through marriage, motherhood, and a career that went into hyperdrive this fall, when her Sarah Palin impression convulsed the nation, boosting the ratings of both Saturday Night Live and her own NBC show, 30 Rock.

Haydn Leaves London

by Rita Dove, Slate

December 1, 2008


by Amos Oz, New Yorker

As I Was Saying

by Bob Hicok, New Yorker

Terza Rima

by Richard Wilbur, New Yorker

Still On The Shelf

by Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal

My self-imposed challenge this week was to save money by reading a book that I own but have never read.

There were a shocking number of candidates for this challenge - books I had bought impulsively, gifts from well-meaning (or not) friends and relatives and books whose provenance has long been lost to history.

By Heng-Cheong Leong