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Motoko Rich, New York Times
With a growing number of people turning to Kindles and other electronic readers, and with the Apple iPad arriving on Saturday, it is not always possible to see what others are reading or to project your own literary tastes.
You can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one.
AL Kennedy, The Guardian
Novel-writing is curiously similar to long-term illness. But I will refuse any offers of help.
Philip Schultz, Slate Magazine
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Despite the book’s somber, scientific backdrop (and global warming here is little but that), “Solar” is Mr. McEwan’s funniest novel yet.
Margaret Atwood, The New York Review of Books
A long time ago—less than a year ago in fact, but time goes all stretchy in the Twittersphere, just as it does in those folksongs in which the hero spends a night with the Queen of Faerie and then returns to find that a hundred years have passed and all his friends are dead…. Where was I?
Anthony Gottlieb, Intelligent Life Magazine
People have always wanted philosophers to provide digestible wisdom, yet it is as true now as it was in Plato’s time that disciplined thinking is hard. So next time you sit next to a philosopher on a plane, talk about the movie, not the meaning of life.
Gia Kourlas, New York Times
In the rarefied world of ballet, where dancers are expected to speak with their bodies, sometimes it seems that aloofness is something to aspire to. Lately, though, the ribbons are loosening. Courtesy of Twitter, dancers are starting to make themselves heard. It isn’t always dainty.
Robert McCrum, The Guardian
Perhaps Nerriere was right. Things had changed. Was it not possible that, with the turn of the century, English language and culture were becoming decoupled from their contentious heritage, disassociated from post-colonial trauma? Was there a new cultural revolution at work: the emergence of English as a global communications phenomenon with a supra-national momentum that made it independent of its Anglo-American origins? You could almost express the idea in a formula: English + Microsoft = Globish.
Matthew Dickman, New Yorker
Janet Frame, New Yorker
Cornelius Eady, New Yorker
Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
Is Le Fooding, the French culinary movement, more than a feeling?
Mark Vanhoenacker, New York Times
As new security rules and ever busier airports continue to change air travel, rediscovering the romance of the window seat may be the most practical way to make flying more enjoyable.
Drake Bennett, Boston Globe
Using ancient texts, scholars have begun an audacious effort to unravel the story of the Koran. What will they find?
Wen Stephenson, New York Times
If this drumbeat of “manifestos” strikes a false cultural note, perhaps it’s because Americans aren’t much known for writing them.
Jane and Michael Stern, New York Times
Fried’s book details the values of generations of Harveys, and in doing so provides an expansive chronicle of dining out in America.
Tim Radford, The Guardian
If life spontaneously evolved and intelligence imperfectly flowered on one planet, what about all those other rocky planets?
Troy Patterson, Slate Magazine
Perhaps we can render an archaic term useful by recognizing a distinction between flight attendants and stewardesses. Flight attendants are airborne professionals charged with keeping passengers safe; stewardesses are unearthly beings. The former make sure that, buckled up, you are properly restrained; the latter, being creations of saucy marketing campaigns and creatures of sordid fantasies, are symbols of liberty teetering into libertinism.
Taylor Antrim, Los Angeles Times
A comic global warming novel? Well . . . why not?
Neil Gaiman, The Guardian
You know you're not going to win. You're seated in second-class. You've trodden on someone's dress.
Dominique Browning, New York Times
With the closing of the magazine, my beloved family of colleagues was obliterated. And so was the structure of my life.
Tom Swick, Worldhum
On the evolving role of the travel writer in the age of mass tourism and YouTube.
Laura Miller, Salon
Turn critics' worst word choices into fun for friends and family.
Jeremy Bernstein, The New York Review of Books
With the renewed interest in nuclear weapons I have been struck by how few people there still are who have seen one explode. There are a few survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and there are a small number who witnessed some of the above ground test explosions. But the last American above-ground test was in 1962 and the last above-ground test by any country was conducted by the Chinese in 1980. This means that the Indians, Pakistanis, Israelis—to say nothing of the Iranians and North Koreans—have never seen a nuclear explosion. In the main, this is a very good thing: the fallout from such a test is a real health hazard. But there is a downside. We have lost the experience of watching a nuclear explosion—perhaps the most powerful lesson about nuclear bombs there is.
Kathryn Maris, Slate Magazine
Susan Kandel, Los Angeles Times
Exploring the real-life fate of Marli Renfro, Janet Leigh's body double in the famous shower scene in 'Psycho.'
Peter Conrad, The Guardian
Americans, who expect to live in paradise, are always asking why they have been expelled from the happy garden. Lately the inquest has become urgent. David Thomson's new book on Psycho surveys the country's current moral squalor and blames its venality and violence on Hitchcock's sadistic film; now Gary Indiana returns to the same problem of disillusionment and despair, bemoans his image-crazed, commercially obsessed society, and fingers Andy Warhol as the joking demon who was responsible for its corruption.
Jill Lepore, New Yorker
The rise of marriage therapy, and other dreams of human betterment.
Jonathan Eig, Wall Street Journal
How Fred Harvey's railroad restaurants in cowboy country helped build a business empire.
Joyce Carol Oates, New Yorker
Dan Chiasson, New Yorker
Sean Wilentz, The American Prospect
Tocqueville didn't get everything right about Americans, but understanding him as a real, flawed observer makes his achievement more impressive.
Steven Strogatz, New York Times
In an era of globalization, Google Earth and transcontinental air travel, all of us should try to learn a little about spherical geometry and its modern generalization, differential geometry.
Ella Taylor, Los Angeles Times
The author has crafted a ferocious black comedy about the horrors of the American healthcare system and what it can do to even the most compliant of men.
Brenda Wineapple, The Nation
The woman who shot Mussolini.
Jill Abramson, New York Times
The great campaign books of the past are about more than the back-room drama that dominates recent releases.
Elizabeth Royte, New York Times
John McPhee writes on golf and lacrosse, food and fact-checkers, and, this time, himself.
Mika Brzezinski, New York Times
A memoir of how cooking helped save the marriage of Paula Butturini and her husband, reporters traumatized by war.
Juliet Gardiner, The Guardian
Non-fiction writers have many advantages over fiction writers: the most profound being, as Richard Holmes said when he was writing his biography of the poet Shelley, "At least I always have the man."
Darragh McManus, The Guardian
Apparently book titles can't be copyrighted – I was going to call my first tome Confessions of an English Opium Eater, before my advisers counselled against it – which might explain why so many of them sound so familiar to me. Certainly, particular books of a particular genre always seem to have similar names.
Adam Kirsch, The New Republic
One of the running jokes in On Beauty, Zadie Smith’s third novel, is that its main character is philosophically opposed to beauty. Howard Belsey is a professor of art history at Wellington College, and like all middle-aged professors in campus novels, he is a ludicrous figure--unfaithful to his wife, disrespected by his children, and, of course, unable to finish the book he has been talking about for years. In Howard’s case, the book is meant to be a demolition of Rembrandt, whose canvases he sees as key sites for the production of the Western ideology of beauty.
Roger Lowenstein, New York Times
The question is whether the social balance would improve if Wall Street were less devoted to games of chance.
Robert Darnton, The New York Review of Books
How new, then, is bloggery? Should we think of it as a by-product of the modern means of communication and a sign of a time when newspapers seem doomed to obsolescence? It makes the most of technical innovations—the possibility of constant contact with virtual communities by means of web sites and the premium placed on brevity by platforms such as Twitter with its limit of 140 characters per message. Yet blog-like messaging can be found in many times and places long before the Internet.
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
How the Internet and mash-up culture change everything we know about reading.
Jessa Crispin, The Smart Set
Many people write about themselves. Few people actually should.
Robert Collins, The Guardian
What have On Chesil Beach, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Don DeLillo's Point Omega got in common? Bewitching narratives concealing hidden depths? Check. Characters dealing with broken lives? Check. Authors performing at the peak of their prowess? Check. All read by me in a single week recently? Oh yes, check. How? Because they're all under 150 pages long.
John Crace, The Guardian
The letter O has always provided designers with a bit of fun, especially in posters, but there's more to the vowel than that.
Imogen Russell Williams, The Guardian
Portentous apostrophes and incongrously-named characters (hands up Terry Goodkind and Anne McCaffrey) drive me wild when I'm reading — authors should learn from the naming skills of Ursula Le Guin and Alan Garner.
Margaret Atwood, The New York Review of Books
People have long been fascinated by the similarities between ants and human societies. Though there are no ant symphony orchestras, secret police, or schools of philosophy, both ants and men conduct wars, divide into specialized castes of workers, build cities, maintain infant nurseries and cemeteries, take slaves, practice agriculture, and indulge in occasional cannibalism, though ant societies are more energetic, altruistic, and efficient than human ones.
The mirroring makes us nervous: Are we not enough like ants or are we too much like them? Our ambivalence shows: being compared to an ant can be either a compliment or an insult.
Ed Parks, Los Angeles Times
Stories soar to imaginative heights and into unexpected dimensions in 'Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy, Volume 3.'
Robert Pinsky, New Yorker
Richard Wilbur, New Yorker
Junot Díaz, New Yorker
Christopher Benfey, The New Republic
Was Raymond Carver worth a damn without his editor?
Meg Favreau, The Smart Set
Because seriously, if pancakes and sausage on a stick can last as long as they have (long enough to, if they were human, be a legal daycare provider of your children) how bad were the foods that failed?
Penn Jillette, Los Angeles Times
I just turned 55 years old. This year my age and the last two digits of my birth year are the same. That happens only once in a lifetime.
Max Watman, New York Times
A journalist’s adventures in the world of taxidermy, where she observes the art of incising, skinning, sculpturing and reassembling.
Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times
Work has become central to most people’s self-conception. Why does fiction have so little to say about it?
Leanne Shapton, New York Times
The kitchen is a changed place in the wee hours, its clicks and hummings are louder, the pots and pans make a deafening clatter when I pull them out of the cupboard. But, as before, I am relaxed, my sense of smell is sharper. As I measure and weigh, I am more patient than during waking hours. I’ve always turned to flour and butter when I can’t sleep.
Nancy Groves, The Guardian
Of course, the growth of literary festivals is a well-documented phenomenon, with more than 60 listed on the British Council website and 100-plus over at LiteraryFestivals.co.uk. But the London Word festival doesn't call itself a literature, books or even readers' event. Instead, it aims to be a celebration of words and a test of their limits "in performance".
Matt Shoard, The Guardian
A writer's charity is offering a peaceful country haven to encourage novelists to write their masterpiece – but a dank basement in Lewisham is what they need.
Rob Nixon, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Are we witnessing the beginnings of a palace revolution, as reality genres—literature's foot soldiers—start clamoring to have their creativity treated with the seriousness it deserves?
Richard Eder, New York Times
Out of a mathematical conceit the Italian writer Paolo Giordano has drawn a mesmerizing portrait of a young man and woman whose injured natures draw them together over the years and inevitably pull them apart.
Graeme Thomson, The Guardian
What is it about Yeats that is so attractive to rock stars, and why does Auden have the crowd moshing at the Forum?
Katie Robbins, The Atlantic
Given California's storied history of pairing unusual ingredients with winning results—from its namesake California roll to Wolfgang Puck's smoked salmon pizza to the Korean short rib taco—perhaps it should have come as no surprise several years ago when, on a trip to LA, I spotted a sign above a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant advertising Chinese food and donuts.
Frank Bruni, New York Times
If you’re Katie Lee, start with a dollop of fame (marriage to Billy Joel), parboil a couple of cookbooks, marinate on the morning shows and serve a spec TV pilot.
Michelle Rabil, Salon
What kind of a woman uses a funnel to go to the bathroom? I do, and it changed my life.
Jacob A. Bennett, Critical Flame
The choice of the poet to employ the objective personal pronoun — “us” — instead of the subjective — “we” — is the first of many (mis)appropriations that may sound funny to ears accustomed to standard English, but which signal a significant, deliberate shift away from contemporary idiom.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
In James Hynes’s new novel, a middle-aged man on a one-day trip to Austin for a job interview comes full to life at long last and puts an end to his long, long phase of arrested development.
Christopher Beam, Slate Magazine
Do newspapers ever correct a speaker's broken English?
Edward O. Wilson, photograph by David Liittschwager, National Geographic Magazine
Guess how many creatures you'll find in a cube of soil or sea.
Robert Kunzig, National Geographic Magazine
What would it take to green the red planet? For starters, a massive amount of global warming.
Greg Beato, Reason
The coffee giant can’t quite accept its own customers’ tastes.
John T. Edge, New York Times
When it comes to breakfast tacos, which are stuffed with fillings like eggs and bacon, Austin, Tex., trumps all other American cities.
Charlotte Raven, The Guardian
How has it come to this? Feminists blame the sexists, Martin Amis et al, which is easy but unfair. In reality, we can't blame anyone but ourselves.
Robert Wrigley, Slate Magazine
Dennis Overbye, New York Times
Some of the most extravagant of these visions of the future came not from cheap paperbacks, but from corporations buffing their high-tech credentials and recruiting engineering talent in the heady days when zooming budgets for defense and NASA had created a gold rush in outer space.
Laurie Abraham, Slate Magazine
"My goal is to be like the guy who invented Velcro," marriage researcher John Gottman once told an interviewer. "Nobody remembers his name, but everybody uses Velcro." Gottman's own road to Velcro-level fame started with a 1998 article in the Journal of Marriage and the Family. He and his colleagues at the University of Washington had videotaped newlywed couples discussing a contentious topic for 15 minutes to measure precisely how they fought over it: Did they criticize? Were they defensive? Did either spouse curl his or her lip in contempt? Then, three to six years later, Gottman's team checked on the same couples' marital status and announced that based on the coding of the tapes, they could predict with 83 percent accuracy which ones were divorced.
Denis Dutton, Los Angeles Times
Awarding two statuettes, one to actors and one to actresses, simply reflects the reality of acting.
Edward Hirsch, New Yorker
David Means, New Yorker
Barbara Ras, New Yorker
Melanie Bayley, New York Times
The other-worldly events in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” can be interpreted as satire on 19th-century advances in mathematics.
Pat Ryan, New York Times
Pity Lewis Carroll’s poor Hatter. Why not “mad as a shoemaker”?
Peter Conrad, The Guardian
The finest criticism renovates familiar texts, setting off little jolts of recognition. Ever since I first saw Psycho as a terrified adolescent, I've been replaying it – inside my head for several decades, nowadays on a screen at the foot of my bed – but David Thomson has spotted things in it that my countless viewings overlooked.
Pagan Kennedy, New York Times
An exploration of the world of libraries and librarians, via a tour of eccentric characters and unlikely locations.
Christohper Hitchens, Vanity Fair
What do we say when we want to revisit a long-standing policy or scheme that no longer seems to be serving us or has ceased to produce useful results? We begin by saying tentatively, “Well, it’s not exactly written in stone.” (Sometimes this comes out as “not set in stone.”)
By that, people mean that it’s not one of the immutable Tablets of the Law. Thus, more recent fetishes such as the gold standard, or the supposedly holy laws of the free market, can be discarded as not being incised on granite or marble. But what if it is the original stone version that badly needs a re-write? Who will take up the revisionist chisel?
Robert Barnett, The New York Review of Books
Since President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama on February 18, the details of the closely-watched encounter have been carefully parsed, from the history of the room in which the two men met (the White House Map Room, an apparent indicator that a meeting is private, yet not personal) to the absence of the First Lady (making the meeting more official), and the serving of tea (making it less formal). Even the garbage bags that the Dalai Lama passed on his exit (seen as either incompetence by White House staff or a veiled message to Beijing) and the Dalai Lama’s flip-flops (seen as a metaphor for his policies or a rebuttal to Rupert Murdoch’s claim that the Tibetan leader wears Gucci shoes) were debated.
Russell Smith, Globe And Mail
In the future, our books will be invisible, like our music, but we’ll be the poorer for it. Here’s why.
Julia Turner, Slate Magazine
Can better signs help people understand an extremely disorienting city?
Colm Tóibín, The New York Review of Books
There is a photograph of Thomas Mann taken in Lübeck, Germany, in 1955, shortly before his death. He is standing with his wife, Katia, outside the family house, the house of Buddenbrooks, or what remained of it. He is staring straight at the camera; the expression on his face bears all the complexity of what has been lost and cannot be regained. It is the look of someone in full possession of dark knowledge, the eyes displaying a sense of resignation that is both hard and melancholy. Mann was in California during World War II; he was one of the most famous German exiles, having fled in 1933. Now he was merely visiting and he had no desire to return and stay, despite the fact that his heritage was in Germany and Germany was the home of his language. He had been away too long for these things to matter much. "Wherever I am, Germany is," he had said in America in 1938.
Nathan Heller, Slate Magazine
How to understand the actor, novelist, essayist, playwright, banjo player, crotch-centric variety show performer, and Oscar co-host.
Frank Furedi, Spiked
The treatment of peer-reviewed science as an unquestionable form of authority is corrupting the peer-review system and damaging public debate.
Jonathan Lerner, Miller-McCune
New library complexes rejuvenate urban centers around the world by including theaters, shops, cafes, offices and even gyms.
Evan Maloney, The Guardian
Reading is essential for writers – it instructs, inspires and offers a blissful escape from the blank page.
Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times
Restaurant menus are featuring pork parts that once were unmentionable: ears, tails, trotters. And — surprise — diners are ordering them.
Bibi van der Zee, The Guardian
Going to the loo without a book! It is a profound shock. Instead of reading, I stare at the walls and notice that there are still two empty nails on which I meant – a year ago – to hang pictures. Also, I notice the dust on the floor and the cobwebs on the ceiling. I sense that I will be doing a lot more housework than usual this week.
Elizabeth Green, New York Times
There are more than three million teachers in the United States, and Doug Lemov is trying to prove that he can teach them to be better.
Rosecrans Baldwin, Slate Magazine
An admittedly irrational screed against the snack.
Julia Moskin, New York Times
Sweetened condensed milk is everywhere. There’s probably a can or two lurking in your cabinets. It is the key to Key lime pie; it brings the sweet to Vietnamese coffee; it went to Rio for Carnaval last month in the shape of brigadeiros, bite-size balls of milk fudge that are a Brazilian national treat.
But Victoria Belanger, a photographer also known as the Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn, may have a unique relationship with the stuff.
Marc E. Agronin, New York Times
All of us lapse into such mistaken impressions of old age from time to time. It stems in part from an age-centered perspective, in which we view our own age as the most normal of times, the way all life should be. At 18 the 50-year-olds may seem ancient, but at 50 we are apt to say the same about the 80-year-olds.
Brian T. Edwards, The Believer
The seen and the unseen in Iranian cinema.
Rosanna Warren, Slate Magazine
Darragh McManus, The Guardian
Don DeLillo's fierce, complex love of language should inspire all of us who are struggling to write fiction.
Nicholas Wade, New York Times
As with any other species, human populations are shaped by the usual forces of natural selection, like famine, disease or climate. A new force is now coming into focus. It is one with a surprising implication — that for the last 20,000 years or so, people have inadvertently been shaping their own evolution.
The force is human culture, broadly defined as any learned behavior, including technology.
Sara Breselor, Salon
Chefs and psychologists agree-- this iconic toy has a recipe for success.
W. S. Merwin, New Yorker
Jennifer Egan, New Yorker
Derek Mahon, New Yorker
Samuel Arbesman, Boston Globe
When people think of knowledge, they generally think of two sorts of facts: facts that don’t change, like the height of Mount Everest or the capital of the United States, and facts that fluctuate constantly, like the temperature or the stock market close.
But in between there is a third kind: facts that change slowly.