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Sunday, January 31, 2010

One Noodle At A Time In Tokyo

Matt Gross, New York Times

Well, combine New Yorkers’ love of pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers, throw in some Southern barbecue mania, and you’ve still only begun to approximate Tokyo’s obsession with ramen.

Little Hands Clapping By Dan Rhodes

Alice Fisher, The Guardian

Dan Rhodes's novel about a museum dedicated to suicide is by turns witty and gruesome.

The City, From Wartime Grit To Modern Soullessness

Sam Roberts, New York Times

New works examine the history of New York during World War II, the real-life events behind the movie “On the Waterfront” and the city’s future as an “authentic urban place.”.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is There An Ecological Unconscious?

Daniel B. Smith, New York Times

A branch of psychology says that there is — and that ignoring it puts not just the planet but also our minds at risk.

A Fine Romance: On Cristina Nehring

Miriam Markowitz, The Nation

All that we expect of love, our notions of how it will lift us, reward us, transform us, comes from a long line of books, poems and songs that have detailed what we may hope for from love and what price it will exact in exchange for its pleasures. Yet as Cristina Nehring argues in her recent treatise, A Vindication of Love, given that love has long been an animating force in literature it is surprising that it is so out of favor among novelists, poets and their ilk today.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Salinger's Genius

Stephen Metcalf, Slate Magazine

He was the great poet of post-traumatic stress.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Catch Me If You Can

Christine Muhlke, New York Times

With new restrictions in commercial fishing, Mark Marhefka finds other fish in the sea.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What Makes A Great Teacher?

Amanda Ripley, The Atlantic

For years, the secrets to great teaching have seemed more like alchemy than science, a mix of motivational mumbo jumbo and misty-eyed tales of inspiration and dedication. But for more than a decade, one organization has been tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and looking at why some teachers can move them three grade levels ahead in a year and others can’t. Now, as the Obama administration offers states more than $4 billion to identify and cultivate effective teachers, Teach for America is ready to release its data.

Unchained: Replicating Restaurant Dishes At Home

Alex Witchel, New York Times

Putting David Zinczenko’s new book, “Cook This, Not That!” to the test.

Gaming The Luggage System

Michelle Higgins, New York Times

As airlines continue to raise fees for checked luggage, more travelers are coming up with creative ways to dodge them — through meticulous packing of carry-on bags, by stuffing coat pockets with items they’d normally put in a bag, or by hanging back and boarding last so they can check their bags at the gate for free.

North Korea Keeps Hiding, And Fascinating

Dwight Garner, New York Times

Three provocative new books about North Korea parse the slivers of light that escape this enigmatic and often baffling place.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In China, Relearning Eating Etiquette

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, The Atlantic

After living in the U.S. for 16 years, I saw this as a journey to learn about my ancestors and, in the process, myself. That, of course, turned out to be exactly what happened.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Song Composed In August

Robert Burns, The Guardian

Address To The Toothache

Robert Burns, The Guardian

Visiting Paris

Vijay Seshadri, New Yorker

Fjord Of Killary

Kevin Barry, New Yorker


Cynthia Cruz, New Yorker

This Article Is Not Yet Rated

A. O. Scott, New York Times

In the movie-smoking debate, even clear positions — that children must be protected from images that might influence their behavior, or that filmmakers should be immune from censorship and interference — tend quickly to be fogged with questions of context and nuance. That is because underneath the public discussion about smoking (or gun violence, or sexual promiscuity, or whatever social problem has seized the momentary spotlight) is another, much more confused discourse: about movies and about the ways they mirror and occlude reality.

My So-Called Wife

Sandra Tsing Loh, New York Times

When husbands and wives not only co-work but try to co-homemake, as post-feminist and well-intentioned as it is, out goes the clear delineation of spheres, out goes the calm of unquestioned authority, and of course out goes the gratitude.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Eat Drink Actor Director

Paula Marantz Cohen, The Smart Set

Eating and cooking are big in cinema today. What took so long?

The Book Club With Just One Member

Motoko Rich, New York Times

The collective literary experience certainly has its benefits. Reading with a group can feed your passion for a book, or help you understand it better. Social reading may even persuade you that you liked something you thought you didn’t.

There is a different class of reader, though. They feel that their relationship with a book, its characters and the author is too intimate to share. “The pursuit of reading,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “is carried on by private people.”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Our Boredom, Ourselves

Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times

Scientists are arguing that tedium is good for your brain. But some novelists argue that it’s good for your soul.

Sleeping With John Updike

Julian Barnes, The Guardian

Even The Dogs By Jon McGregor

Christopher Tayler, The Guardian

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Chess Master And The Computer

Garry Kasparov, The New York Review Of Books

It was an impressive achievement, of course, and a human achievement by the members of the IBM team, but Deep Blue was only intelligent the way your programmable alarm clock is intelligent. Not that losing to a $10 million alarm clock made me feel any better.

The Dark Side Of Food Porn

Nicole Allan, The Atlantic

I didn't know how to react to the Fat Bitch. A friend had emailed me a link to a picture of what was, anatomically, a hoagie bun stuffed with cheesesteak, bacon, marinara sauce, French fries, tomatoes, ketchup, mayonnaise, and mozzarella sticks. I knew the link—the picture, even the sandwich itself—was a joke. I'd received and sent many such links, reveling at the daring of whoever would consume such creations. But this one, for some reason, just made me squirm.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Of God And Gardens

Anthony Gottlieb, Intelligent Life Magazine

Believers have got into a tangle trying to fend off the likes of Richard Dawkins. And then there’s the problem of the horticultural parable.

James Patterson Inc.

Jonathan Mahler, New York Times

Like most authors, James Patterson started out with one book, released in 1976, that he struggled to get published.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Such Great Heights

Michael Agger, Slate Magazine

The best novel ever written about the outdoor life.

A Big Map That Shrank The World

Edward Rothstein, New York Times

When a map of overwhelming dimensions and detail is presented to the ruler of a land, the homage, surely, is a kind of deference. The map is partly meant to be an illustration of the ruler’s powers, the extent of his realm, the range of learning he commands.

The Balkan Burger Unites All Factions

Julia Moskin, New York Times

A charcoal-grilled meat patty called pljeskavica has become common in Queens neighborhoods where Bosnians and Croatians, Serbs and Montenegrins now live side by side.

After Atom Bombs’ Shock, The Real Horrors Began Unfolding

Dwight Garner, New York Times

A clear-eyed catalog of the horrors endured by survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Rafael Campo, Slate Magazine

Monday, January 18, 2010

Poem Of The Week: La Gioconda By Michael Field

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

Kid Goth

Dana Goodyear, New Yorker

Neil Gaiman’s fantasies.

Sunday Afternoon

Robert Bly, New Yorker


E. O. Wilson, New Yorker

Movie Misquotations

Fred R. Shapiro, New York Times

Over the last century or so, movie quotations, like pop-music lyrics, have come to replace Biblical verses and Shakespearean couplets as our cultural lingua franca, our common store of wit and wisdom. Yet many of the most frequently cited motion-picture lines turn out to be misquotations.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fun Inc: Why Games Are The 21st Century's Most Serious Business By Tom Chatfield

Naomi Alderman, The Guardian

Here is a compelling defence of the much maligned but fantastically successful computer game.

Plagiarism: In The Words Of Someone Else… There's Little New In Literature

Robert McCrum, The Guardian

A bitter, escalating row over plagiarism engulfed two French novelists last week. But artistic theft has been provoking anger, jealousy and insults since Roman times.

Udder Madness

Woody Allen, New Yorker

If my account of the events of the last week seems jumbled, even hysterical, forgive me. I’m usually quite placid. Truth is, the details I’m about to relate are especially unnerving, taking place as they did in such a picturesque setting. Indeed, the Pudnicks’ farm in New Jersey rivals any pastoral tableau by Constable, if not in acreage then certainly in bucolic tranquillity. A mere two hours from Broadway, where Sy Pudnick’s latest musical, “The Flesh-Eating Virus,” runs to packed houses, it is here, amid rolling hills and green meadows, that the celebrated lyricist comes to unwind and re-juice his muse. An avid weekend farmer, Pudnick and his wife, Wanda, grow their own corn, carrots, tomatoes, and a medley of other amateur crops, while their children play host to a dozen chickens, a pair of horses, a baby lamb, and yours truly. To say that for me the days up here are Shangri-La is not to oversell. I can graze, ruminate, and work over my cud, in harmony with nature, and get milked gently on schedule by Wanda Pudnick’s Kiehl’s-moisturized hands.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The D.I.Y. Book Tour

Stephen Elliott, New York Times

Reading in private homes ensures that at least one other person will be embarrassed if nobody shows up.

When War Is Peace And Right Is Center

David Sirota, Salon

It's not 1984, but Newspeak lives on in the media's skewing of the terms of our political debate


Charles Bukowski, The Guardian

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Bunny Revolution

Tom Bissell, The New Republic

The historian Elizabeth Fraterrigo asks us to accept a somewhat unlikely premise, which is this: A titty magazine that has been culturally irrelevant since the late 1970s was at the forefront of many of this nation’s most important social upheavals and reconfigurations. It is to her book’s credit—and, it must be said, to Playboy’s—that one closes her book largely convinced that she is right.

A Rebel In Cyberspace, Fighting Collectivism

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

An impassioned argument about the downside of online collectivism and Web 2.0 culture from the Silicon Valley veteran Jaron Larnier.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Unvanquishable Book Pile

Natasha Tripney, The Guardian

If, like mine, your reading habits are governed by sudden obsessions and thematic crushes, then your back-up store of books will never get any smaller.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In The Soviet Union, When Food Was Scarce, Hope Could Still Be Nourished

Dwight Garner, New York Times

The title of Elena Gorokhova’s new memoir, “A Mountain of Crumbs,” about growing up in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and ’70s, comes from a game her grandmother invented to hide that she had almost no food to put on the table. She’d break up a slice of black bread and a cube of sugar on a plate and say to the crying child: “Look at how much you’ve got. A whole mountain of crumbs.”

Letting Go Of A Life's Work

Steve Oney, Los Angeles Times

Writer Steve Oney spent decades researching the 1913 murder of Mary Phagan and the subsequent lynching of Leo Frank, but his voluminous files now belong to history.

Period Pains: When Writers Can't Tell The Time

Suzanne Munshower, The Guardian

Authorial disregard for historical mores can make reading a book set in the recent past an unsettling experience.

Mummies To Burn

Charles Harper Webb, Slate Magazine

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Flowerings Of Love Are Not For The Weak

Janet Maslin, New York Times

Amy Bloom’s new book, a collection of stories, is beautifully astute.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Poem Of The Week: Waiting By WE Henley

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

Joshua Ferris' The Unnamed.

Juliet Lapidos, Slate Magazine

Escaping the office is no picnic in Joshua Ferris' new novel.

Illiterate Progenitor

Mary Karr, New Yorker


Galway Kinnell, New Yorker

A Year In Provence, 20 Years On

John Crace, The Guardian

When Peter Mayle moved to rural France, he intended to write a novel – not a bestselling memoir. Two decades and several imitations later, he is still living the dream.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wunderkind Comes Of Age

Andrew Anthony, The Guardian

Long described as the enfant terrible of the literary novel, the author of London Fields and Money has now turned 60. Yet his new book – the 12th – reveals that, far from losing his youthful outlook, he has rediscovered it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Perils Of ‘Contact Me’

Ben Yagoda, New York Times

In the age of e-mail, it has become easy — perhaps too easy — for readers to get in touch with authors.

Poems For A Baby

Nick Laird, The Guardian

I just became a dad a month or so ago, and I've been trying to write a poem or two for the baby. Amid the muslins and mountains of nappies, the writing hasn't been going so well, but the reading around's been interesting.

Read It And Weep

Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

'If 100 books a year is already my limit, that means that I will be lucky to get through another 3,000 before I die'.

Cut This Story!

Michael Kinsley, The Atlantic

One reason seekers of news are abandoning print newspapers for the Internet has nothing directly to do with technology. It’s that newspaper articles are too long.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Smile Or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America And The World By Barbara Ehrenreich

Christopher Hart, The Times

Barbara Ehrenreich’s study of American optimism at its most delusional is fascinating, often very funny, and wholly convincing. She is a distinguished journalist with a sharp eye for corporate America, but also has a deep affection for her great but increasingly troubled nation. Once America was John Wayne: stoical, taciturn and tough as hell. Now it’s a babbling neurotic on the couch, popping pills and whining about its self-esteem. What went wrong?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ars Poetica: The Foxes

Brendan Galvin, New Yorker


Jennifer Egan, New Yorker

Can You Be Overweight And Still Be Healthy?

Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times

The idea that people can be overweight and yet still quite healthy began gaining scientific and popular credence some years ago.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Myth Of The Writer's 'Former Life'

Jean Hannah Edelstein, The Guardian

At heart, making great fuss about the minutiae of what's come before a great book in a writer's life seems to serve as an unnecessary distraction from the truth, which is that at the heart of the vast majority of writing careers is a dedication to careful thinking, and observing, and writing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Matt W. Miller, Slate Magazine

Monday, January 4, 2010

Poem Of The Week: Medea In Athens By Augusta Webster

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

This Is English, Rules Are Optional

Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

It’s getting harder to make a living as an editor of the printed word, what with newspapers and other publications cutting staff. And it will be harder still now that Jack Lynch has published “The Lexicographer’s Dilemma,” an entertaining tour of the English language in which he shows that many of the rules that editors and other grammatical zealots wave about like cudgels are arbitrary and destined to be swept aside as words and usage evolve.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I've Discovered The Virtues Of Idleness

Henry Porter, The Guardian

Doing nothing, a good view, no stress – the best way to start a new year. But I know it won't last.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Naked And The Conflicted

Katie Roiphe, New York Times

We denounce the Great Male Novelists of the last century for their sexism. But something has been lost now that innocence is more fashionable than virility, the cuddle preferable to sex.

Mind Reading

Alison Gopnik, New York Times

A French cognitive scientist explains the phenomenon of literacy and its effects on the mind.

The Master And His Emissary: The Divided Brain And The Making Of The Western World By Iain McGilchrist

Mary Midgley, The Guardian

This is a very remarkable book. It is not (as some reviewers seem to think) just one more glorification of feeling at the expense of thought. Rather, it points out the complexity, the divided nature of thought itself and asks about its connection with the structure of the brain.

Our Coffee, Ourselves

Richard Greenwald, In These Times

The rise of Starbucks reveals how we really live, and it ain’t pretty.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Why Marlowe Is Still The Chief Of Detectives

Mick Hume, Spiked

Fifty years after Raymond Chandler died, we need his ‘shop-soiled’ Galahad Philip Marlowe as much as ever to put our mixed-up world to rights.

By Heng-Cheong Leong