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by Matthew Zapruder, Slate
by Tim Kreider, New York Times
My years of heavy drinking were roughly coterminous with my youth, and looking back now, it’s hard to figure out which one of them I really miss.
by Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
So you thought your parents were weird. Two remarkable memoirs about partner swapping, revolutionary politics and other unorthodox family tales.
by Natalie Angier, New York Times
Grim though the economic spur may be, some scientists see a slim silver lining in the sudden newsiness of laughably large numbers. As long as the public is chatting openly about quantities normally expressed in scientific notation, they say, why not talk about what those numbers really mean?
by Richard Brooks, The Times
It must rate as the literary snub of the 20th century. T S Eliot, one of Britain’s greatest poets, rejected George Orwell’s Animal Farm for publication on the grounds of its unconvincing Trotskyite politics.
by Lawrence Raab, The New Yorker
by A. S. Byatt, The New Yorker
by Ronald Bailey, Reason
Ecological economists know the price of everything—and the value of nothing.
by Michael Schirber, Astrobiology Magazine
After five decades, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has failed to find any alien signals. SETI researchers are still optimistic that we will one day find evidence for intelligent life somewhere in our galaxy. A new book by SETI scientist Seth Shostak reviews the history, the controversies and the reasons for continuing the search.
by Motoko Rich, New York Times
As the metabolism of the culture has sped up in the digital age, pockets of the publishing industry are prodding themselves out of their Paleolithic ways and joining the rush, with more books on current events coming out faster than ever before.
by Dan Kennedy, The Guardian
A new survey about public attitudes toward newspapers gets it precisely backwards. Supposedly most people don't think civic life would suffer all that much if their local newspaper shut down. But it's not that they don't care about their newspaper – they don't care about civic life.
by Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times
The country has fallen on hard times, but those of us who love cities know we have been living in the dark ages for a while now. We know that turning things around will take more than just pouring money into shovel-ready projects, regardless of how they might boost the economy. Windmills won’t do it either. We long for a bold urban vision.
by Lauren Wilcox, Washington Post
Woody Allen has spent a lifetime making movies that play like love letters to Manhattan. But does his New York exist only on the big screen?
by Rich Cohen, New York Times
David Plotz’s chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse riffs on the Hebrew Bible are by turns entertaining, serious, shallow, profound, literal-minded, cute, ingratiating, hilarious.
by Peter Galison, New York Times
A history of quantum mechanics that goes beyond the point in the 1920s where most popular science books leave off.
by Sarah Lyall, New York Times
To those outside dairy (or container) circles, a book called “The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais” tends to provoke more questions than it resolves. Such as: Why fromage frais? And: “60-Milligram” — is that a misprint?
by Jack Shafer, Slate
It's time to kill the idea that newspapers are essential for democracy.
by Laura Miller, Salon
Why do people worship religious relics, and why is the number of trainee exorcists rising? Two new books suggest that our desire to believe in magical forces remains irresistible.
by Simon Johnson, The Atlantic
The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.
by Jessica Winter, Slate
Not to let any unnecessary ideology creep into a review of a fun animated movie, but let's get this out of the way up front: Monsters vs. Aliens (DreamWorks Animation) is a film for children with a female lead. She is not the love interest, or the helpmate, or the mom. Nor is she a princess, or princesslike.
by Alastair Harper, The Guardian
Publishers love to say a novel is unputdownable, or life-changing. I can't imagine anything worse.
by AnnBauer, Salon
For years I thought of his autism as beautiful and mysterious. But when he turned unspeakably violent, I had to question everything I knew.
by Sara Rimer, New York Times
Now, as unemployment is on the rise and freelance work and part-time jobs are replacing many full-time ones, more of us are spending more time in home offices (or in the tiny nooks that often pass for them). We may be spending less on furnishing them, but the demand for ways to make these spaces make sense has probably never been higher.
by Anthony Lewis, New York Review Of Books
Justice Hugo L. Black once told me that he thought all government departments and agencies should be abolished every five or ten years. Black was a senator from Alabama for ten years and a Supreme Court justice for thirty-four, and he knew just about everything there was to know about how government works. His startling idea—and I think he was serious—was his way of dealing with the encrustations of bureaucracy.
by Dwight Garnier, New York Times
Sixteen years ago, with “Travels With Lizbeth,” Lars Eighner set the bar high for American memoirs of homelessness. Probably too high.
“Land of the Lost Souls,” a new memoir about being homeless on New York City’s streets, from a writer known as Cadillac Man, is a different kind of book. It finds its center of gravity in the grim particulars of loss and brute survival. Its language is a platter of cabbages instead of roses.
by Michael Shermer, Scientific American
The evolutionary arms race between deception and deception detection has left us with a legacy of looking for signals to trust or distrust others. The system works reasonably well in simple social situations with many opportunities for interaction, such as those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. But in the modern world of distance, anonymity and especially complicated investment tools (such as hedge funds) that not one in a thousand really understands, detecting deceptive signals is no easy feat.
by Julia Moskin, New York Times
Take this! French and Italian classics, combined with some twists on American tradition.
by Betty Hallock, Los Angeles Times
When I moved from Los Angeles to Manhattan, one of the first things I learned was that I had a lot to learn about pizza. One doesn't stand in line but on line; it's not "for here or to go" but "to stay or take away"; and don't order "a piece of pizza" — it's "a slice."
But those were mere details: True pizza enlightenment didn't come until I was kicked out of my semi-illegal Lower East Side sublet and ended up living in Brooklyn. A friend wise in the ways of pizza led me on a pilgrimage to Di Fara, where you could get a slice of owner Domenico DeMarco's perfection, which included fresh mozzarella di bufala and a sprinkling of Grana Padano cheese at the end of baking. And I stood on line at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge for Patsy Grimaldi's pies, the tops of the bubbles at the edge of the crust crisp-charred in the coal-fired brick oven.
by Atul Gawande, The New Yorker
The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?
by Gail Mazur, Slate
by Michiko Kaktuani, New York Times
In Wells Tower’s sad-funny-disturbing stories, the world is a precarious place, where the innocent have bad dreams, and even the not-so-innocent worry about “the things the world will do to them” and their loved ones.
by Craig Raine, The New Yorker
When Julia was twenty-nine, her hair was already bar-coded. Now, at sixty-two, it was a solid helmet of bright pewter, level with her lean, brown jawbone. As she looked at her wedding ring, she could observe the bold play of tendons on the back of her tanned thin hands. The student doctor was telling her that she had cancer. Of the bone marrow.
by Mary Jo Bang, The New Yorker
by David P. Barash, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Marx was wrong: The opiate of the masses isn't religion, but spectator sports. What else explains the astounding fact that millions of seemingly intelligent human beings feel that the athletic exertions of total strangers are somehow consequential for themselves? The real question we should be asking during the madness surrounding this month's collegiate basketball championship season is not who will win, but why anyone cares.
by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post
Perhaps you have heard that the state legislature in Maryland is considering changing the state's official song. Or perhaps you haven't. The issue has been handled without huge fanfare because there's a certain embarrassment behind it.
by Karen Houppert, Washington Post
After his son was murdered, Bernard Williams became consumed by anger and depression. There was, he came to realize, only one way to save himself.
by A.O. Scott, New York Times
What kind of movies do we need now? It’s a question that seems to arise almost automatically in times of crisis.
by Gary Hart, New York Times
Alan Wolfe’s rescue of liberalism from the jaws of latter-day know-nothings and Jedediah Purdy’s reconciliation of radical individualism with community obligation have a common theme: freedom is self-realization.
by Ramin Setoodeh, Newsweek
Once upon a time, Eric Carle wrote a children's book that was so comfy, it came with its own cocoon. Turns out that cute little bug went through a very big metamorphosis.
by Francine Prose, Lapham's Quarterly
What's been lost in the process is the broader meaning of the Greek word eros, and erotic, which have always included the sexual but have also suggested the mysterious, even metaphysical, connection between sex and life, sex and pleasure, the origin of life and the celebration of life.
by Roger Ebert, Chicaco Sun-Times
Is the universe deterministic, or random? Not the first question you'd expect to hear in a thriller, even a great one. But to hear this question posed soon after the opening sequence of "Knowing" gave me a particular thrill.
by Micheline Maynard, New York Times
Whoopie pies are migrating across the country, often appearing in the same specialty shops and grocery aisles that recently made room for cupcakes.
by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times
The effect of The Daily Me would be to insulate us further in our own hermetically sealed political chambers.
by Alex Koppelman, Salon
Animal activists have denounced the delicacy as torture. But as a new book explains, the truth is not as simple — or as sensational — as they'd like you to believe.
by Dan Gillmor, Boing Boing
This is Obama's air-traffic controllers opportunity.
by Betty Hallock, Los Angeles Times
Seasoned pros take a craftsmanlike approach to their jobs at landmark L.A. restaurants.
by Michael Longley, The Guardian
by Damon Syson, The Guardian
Apart from the morbid rationale of equipping yourself with "an heir and a spare", what are the genuine benefits of having more than one child?
by David Brooks, New York Times
In short, the United States will never be Europe. It was born as a commercial republic. It’s addicted to the pace of commercial enterprise. After periodic pauses, the country inevitably returns to its elemental nature.
by Roger Ebert, Chicaco Sun-Times
The point is: Get going. Spring is right around the corner. Dip your toe in the world. There's more to see in Amsterdam than at Six Flags.
by Robert Draper, Photography By Amy Toensing, National Geographic
What will happen when the climate starts to change and the rivers dry up and a whole way of life comes to an end? The people of the Murray-Darling Basin are finding out right now.
by John Tagliabue, New York Times
Is Europe bringing back the automat? Claudio Torghele hopes so.
by C. K. Williams, The New Yorker
by Carl Philips, The New Yorker
by Terese Svoboda, The New Yorker
by Tessa Hadley, The New Yorker
The winter after her brother killed himself, Ally got a job at a writers’ center near her parents’ house, helping out with admin in the office. It wasn’t a satisfactory job, only part time and not well paid. She was twenty-two. She had just finished her degree in English literature and should have been building toward some sort of career; she had planned to move to Manchester, where she had been at university. But everything like that had had to be put on hold, while at home her family melted down into a kind of madness. It was a relief just to leave the madness behind and drive across the moors four mornings a week to the center, several miles away. She had the use of a car, because for the moment her mum wasn’t going to work.
by Rosecrans Baldwin, Salon
In a rotten economy, more adults are showing up on their parents' doorstep. I just never thought my wife and I would be among them.
by Bruce Stutz, Environment 360
Aided by new access to remote regions, researchers have been discovering new species at a record pace — 16,969 in 2006 alone. The challenge now is to preserve threatened ecosystems before these species, and others yet unknown, are lost.
by Henry Alford, New York Times
To many Americans, Cambodia means only two things — the majestic temples of Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh. But there’s another Cambodia — the southern coast — that is beginning to emerge as a popular alternative to the heavily trafficked beaches of Thailand. Here, in towns like Sihanoukville — which, in its heyday in the 1960s, used to draw visitors like Jackie Kennedy and Catherine Deneuve — travelers are exploring the unusual pleasures that occur at the intersection of the luxurious present and the ravaged past.
by Dean Bakopoulos, New York Times
In this short but complex first novel, a couple’s search for a missing cradle becomes a life-rattling trip.
by Clay Shirky
We don’t know who the Aldus Manutius of the current age is. It could be Craig Newmark, or Caterina Fake. It could be Martin Nisenholtz, or Emily Bell. It could be some 19 year old kid few of us have heard of, working on something we won’t recognize as vital until a decade hence. Any experiment, though, designed to provide new models for journalism is going to be an improvement over hiding from the real, especially in a year when, for many papers, the unthinkable future is already in the past.
by Ammon Shea, New York Times
“Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue” is by no means a complete chronicle of our language. McWhorter is more interested in, as the subtitle puts it, “the untold history of English.”
by James Fallows, The Atlantic
Idle factories, moored container ships, widespread bankruptcies, massive migration back to the hinterlands, strangely clean air—the signs of depression are everywhere in China. Because it makes so many of the goods the world isn’t buying now, China stands to be worse hit than the rest of the world —just as America was during the Depression, when it was the world’s sweatshop. But like America then, China will use tough times to design innovative products that will get it the high profits and the high-value jobs Americans kept to themselves for decades. And that is very bad news for the United States, unless it uses tough times to reinvent itself, too.
by Benjamin A. Plotinsky, City Journal
Once overtly political, the genre increasingly employs Christian allegory.
by Jane Black, Washington Post
At a time when consumers are cutting back on just about everything, entrepreneurs are betting that cooking classes are the way food lovers will feed their passion.
by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, ABC News
As climate change pushes animals out of their protected areas, governments must migrate with them.
by Nina Shen Rastogi, Slate
Does every culture use the suggestion of maternal incest as an insult?
by Emily Bazelon, Slate
Could they be doing more around the house?
by John T. Edge, New York Times
Cashew chicken, in the form first cooked by Mr. Leong nearly a half-century ago, is not the stir-fry served by many Chinese-American restaurants. Around Springfield, cashew chicken — deep-fried chicken chunks in a brown slurry of soy sauce, oyster sauce and stock, scattered with green onions and halved cashews — is the culinary common denominator. It’s a weeknight dinner, bought from a drive-through. It’s a weekday plate lunch, accompanied by fried rice and an egg roll.
by Felicia R. Lee, New York Times
Paule Marshall’s coming-of-age novel, “Brown Girl, Brownstones,” put her on the map 50 years ago with a new kind of coming-of-age story, that of a second-generation West Indian girl in Brooklyn. Now, at 79, she is on tour for her latest book, “Triangular Road” (Basic Civitas Books), a slim memoir recounting her beginnings as a writer, listening to the casually poetic language of women like her mother, and how the search for her own voice took her to far-flung places.
by Steven Kurutz, New York Times
For a half-Norwegian guy from Long Island, Bill Barich knows a thing or two about Irish pubs.
by Carlin Romano, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Woolf, Rhys, and O'Connor sounds like a law firm, and indeed it could be — a firm sure to lay down clear laws and illuminating precedents for women writers.
by Laying Martine Jr., New York Times
We knew we had a lot to learn, but we had no idea how much.
by Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr., The Nation
But we do understand—and this is one of the things that make us "socialists"—that the absence of a plan, or at least some sort of deliberative process for figuring out what to do, is no longer an option.
by Ron Charles, Washington Post
Here we have a generation of young adults away from home for the first time, free to enjoy the most experimental period of their lives, yet they're choosing books like 13-year-old girls -- or their parents. The only specter haunting the groves of American academe seems to be suburban contentment.
by T.R. Hummer, Slate
by Dennis Overbye, New York Times
Dr. Derman, who spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs and became managing director, was a forerunner of the many physicists and other scientists who have flooded Wall Street in recent years, moving from a world in which a discrepancy of a few percentage points in a measurement can mean a Nobel Prize or unending mockery to a world in which a few percent one way can land you in jail and a few percent the other way can win you your own private Caribbean island.
by Jennifer Gordon, New York Times
The solution lies in greater mobility for migrants and a new emphasis on workers’ rights.
by Alessandra Stanley, New York Times
Former Vice President Dick Cheney may share some blame. He stretched the job description so far to fit his own agenda that the definition of “vice” lost its secondary meaning.
by Jennifer Fisher Wilson, The Smart Set
Science can't solve the mystery of life, but it can make it a lot more fascinating.
by Andrew Leonard, Salon
Critic and novelist John Leonard built grand cathedrals out of language. His son pays tribute to his lexicon and his passion.
by Perri Klass, New York Times
The bedtime routine may remain every bit as important as the bedtime.
by Anna Fricke, New York Times
So it’s not the alcohol I miss. It’s the immaturity. The selfishness.
by Suzanne Vega, New York Times
A melody is for expressing emotions: delight, passion, sadness. It reminds us of what we have felt and experienced before, in our own personal code of emotion and history. Priceless!
by Jeanette Winterson, The Guardian
For half a century, a crowded bookshop on the Left Bank has offered food and a bed to penniless authors - the only rule is that they read a book a day.
by Ales Steger, The New Yorker
by Andy Isaacson, New York Times
I had ridden long-distance trains in India and China but never across my own country. I suppose that after two years of receiving images saturated in red, white and blue from all corners of the nation, I wanted to make my own.
by Michael Winerip, New York Times
In 1976, when a counseling job opened at the abortion clinic here, a 30-minute drive across the Mississippi River from her home in St. Louis, Ms. Baker grabbed it and never left, becoming the head of counseling at the Hope Clinic for Women.
But here is the question: As Ms. Baker’s generation approaches retirement — women whose commitment to abortion was forged in the pre-Roe v. Wade days — will younger women take their places at the clinics?
by Pete Wells, New York Times
I confess that I looked askance at the food allergies that seem to plague every classroom these days — where did they all come from? — until doctors told us that my son Dexter had a whole raft of them. He was a year old when we learned he would have to avoid tuna, clams and shrimp. And onions. And garlic. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts and cashews. Sesame and poppy seeds. Egg whites, chickpeas and lentils. Soybeans and anything containing soy, which by itself put about half the supermarket off limits.
by Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair
Iceland’s de facto bankruptcy—its currency (the krona) is kaput, its debt is 850 percent of G.D.P., its people are hoarding food and cash and blowing up their new Range Rovers for the insurance—resulted from a stunning collective madness. What led a tiny fishing nation, population 300,000, to decide, around 2003, to re-invent itself as a global financial power? In Reykjavík, where men are men, and the women seem to have completely given up on them, the author follows the peculiarly Icelandic logic behind the meltdown.
by Jason Guriel, Poetry Magazine
A “necessary skeptic” says what he really thinks about new books by Jane Mead, D.A. Powell and John Poch.
by Michael Lind, Salon
Once, even Republican presidents like Eisenhower and Nixon believed in the public sector. Now, during a national crisis, a Democrat opts for inadequate, neoliberal, private-sector remedies. What happened?
by Joanne Kaufman, New York Times
For every Marian Robinson, who retired from her job to take full-time care of her grandchildren, Malia and Sasha Obama, while their parents were busy with other things last year, there is a Judy Connors, who loves her two grandchildren but has no interest in Candy Land, peekaboo or bedtime stories.
by Michael Kimmelman, New York Times
Even 46 years later, for the French the Algerian legacy is roughly akin to what the Civil War is for Spaniards. Everything to do with France’s colonial reign remains a flashpoint and open wound, above all the long and brutal war that ended it, but not least the legacy of the pieds noirs as occupiers or victims, depending on one’s perspective. Though often reluctantly, France is now confronting a history that it has frequently seemed as anxious to forget as, for many years, it was to forget the Vichy era.
by Regina Schrambling, Slate
Why the child foodie movement has got to go.
by Kim Severson, New York Times
I am in love with the cube steak.
There. It’s out. My madeleine is a piece of round steak mechanically mashed into submission.
by Farhad Manjoo, Slate
Why computer voices still don't sound human.
by D. T. Max, The New Yorker
David Foster Wallace’s struggle to surpass “Infinite Jest.”
by Carol Muske-Dukes, Slate
by Jay Winik, Wall Street Journal
How the press — brash, irreverent, partisan — served early America.
by Gregory Dicum, New York Times
A growing contingent of restaurants are serving vegetarian food, a welcome addition to one of the greatest eating countries on Earth.
by Tim Flannery, The New York Review Of Books
Parallels between the ants and ourselves are striking for the light they shed on the nature of everyday human experiences.
by Nancy Mitchell, Salon
Three simple rules, not produced by a focus group: Get the news. Tell the truth. Don't be dull. I'd like to believe we did all three.
by Barbara J. King, Bookslut
It’s a welcome freedom, this new sense of when to say “no thanks” to an editor whose style swamps me. I have the sense, too, to want to thank the editors who teach me so much. So to them, and to the unmet but imprinted-upon Eric Chinski too, I send gratitude and a wish: May you fall in love this month, many times over.
by Ron Rosenbaum, Slate
Three dective novels that restore pleausre to reading.
by Dennis Overbye, New York Times
Presently perched on a Delta 2 rocket at Cape Canaveral is a one-ton spacecraft called Kepler. If all goes well, the rocket will lift off about 10:50 Friday evening on a journey that will eventually propel Kepler into orbit around the Sun. There the spacecraft’s mission will be to discover Earth-like planets in Earth-like places — that is to say, in the not-too-cold, not-too-hot, Goldilocks zones around stars where liquid water can exist.
The job, in short, is to find places where life as we know it is possible.
by Masaru Tamamoto, New York Times
What most people don’t recognize is that our crisis is not political, but psychological. After our aggression — and subsequent defeat — in World War II, safety and predictability became society’s goals. Bureaucrats rose to control the details of everyday life. We became a nation with lifetime employment, a corporate system based on stable cross-holdings of shares, and a large middle-class population in which people are equal and alike.
by Daniel Zalewski, The New Yorker
Ian McEwan's art of unease.
by Meredith Root-Bernstein, The New Yorker
by Jean Valentine, The New Yorker
by C.S. Leigh, The Believer
Mourning the death of the fetid, human way we used to interact with movies.
by Alessandra Stanley, New York Times
Everything changes on television, except late night.
by James C. McLane III, Search
Our best hope to reach the red planet might be to send just one person there ... forever.