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Monday, May 31, 2010

Pimp My Ride

Jennifer L. Knox, New Yorker

Extreme Solitude

Jeffrey Eugenides, New Yorker

A Maxim

Carl Dennis, New Yorker

Looking For A ‘New’ Narrative Of Founding Fathers

Dwight Garner, New York Times

Mr. Rakove tells the story of the American Revolution from a multitude of shifting angles, dividing his book into sections that include liberators, lawmakers, generals, diplomats. “Revolutionaries” is a serious, probing work of history that boils down a career’s worth of thinking and research. It’s not a particularly memorable or stirring book, though, and certainly not the one-volume lightning strike some have sought.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

One-day Wonder

Erin McKean, Boston Globe

How fast can a word enter the language?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Joy Of (Outdated) Facts

Geoff Nicholson, New York Times

Older books of supposedly impartial information can be a useful reminder of just how slippery facts really are.

Noises Off

Ted Conover, New York Times

Books by George Michelsen Foy, Garret Keizer and George Prochnik pay homage to silence, and discover that the harder you look for it the more it resists.

Fangs And Other Fluff, Completely Guilt Free

Janet Maslin, New York Times

Memorial Day marks the start of a special season: the time to stop lying about what you read for fun. Call anything a beach book, and suddenly you’ve got an excuse for being seen with it.

The Why-Worry Generation

Judith Warner, New York Times

Did boomer parents actually do something right?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ashes To Ashes: The Latter-Day Ruin Of Pompeii

Peter Popham, Prospect

Pompeii, the best-preserved Roman town in the world, still attracts millions of visitors. But its appalling state is a disgrace to Italy, Unesco and European civilisation.

A Dealer And His Galaxy Of Art Stars In 'Leo And His Circle"

Mark Lamster, Los Angeles Times

The ascension of New York gallerist Jeffrey Deitch to the Museum of Contemporary Art's helm has occasioned considerable art-world hand-wringing as to the collapsing space between the market and the museum. Of course, these two zones have really never been separate.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Foodie Indictment Of Feminism

Anna Clark, Salon

Michael Pollan blames the movement for our fast-food culture. What about untold men who've never tied on an apron?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Looking Past The Children’s Menu

Susan Dominus, New York Times

Nicola Marzovilla runs a business, so when a client at his Gramercy Park restaurant, I Trulli, asks for a children’s menu, he does not say what he really thinks. What he says is, “I’m sure we can find something on the menu your child will like.” What he thinks is, “Children’s menus are the death of civilization.”

Making Soft Pretzels The Old-Fashioned Way

Julia Moskin, New York Times

Ms. Kulchinsky’s storefront — where the pretzels are yeasty, blistered and fresh — is one of a few places where New Yorkers can now buy a real soft pretzel, mahogany brown on the outside, with plenty of loft and pull. The pretzel dough is freshly mixed and twisted by hand. Flavor and perfume come from a traditional baking method, not from a bath of melted butter.


Tom Vanderbilt, Slate Magazine

Is it possible to design a better stop sign?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something From Nothing

Robert Pinsky, Slate Magazine

Poets like John Wilmot cut their world down to size with wit—then built it up again in art.

Scoured Light

Ange Mlinko, The Nation

Nothing is simple in the poems of James Schuyler, not even the formal austerity of looking out a window.

No Museum Left Behind

Lance Esplund, Weekly Standard

The relocation of the Barnes Foundation to downtown Philadelphia is fueled by ignorance and avarice, not altruism.

For 77 Years, A Regular At Sardi’s

Manny Fernandez, New York Times

Eating lunch at Sardi’s last Tuesday, William Herz did not have to order coffee. It was brought to him, right when he wanted it (in the middle of his meal, not after) by a waiter who served it in a white mug that no one else but Mr. Herz drinks from.

Mr. Herz is the only patron of one of the best-known restaurants in the world who gets his own cup: He is 93 years old, and he prefers using a mug with an easy-to-hold handle. After lunch on Tuesday, the mug was washed and returned to its usual place, on the shelf of a cabinet in the coat room, because the management and staff at Sardi’s know Mr. Herz will be back.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Roanoke Pastorale

David Huddle, New Yorker

A Night Out

Bob Hicok, New Yorker

The Joys Of Jumpology

Roberta Smith, New York Times

When the photographer Philippe Halsman said, “Jump,” no one asked how high. People simply pushed off or leapt up to the extent that physical ability and personal decorum allowed. In that airborne instant Mr. Halsman clicked the shutter. He called his method jumpology.

‘An American Type’ Is Henry Roth’s Posthumous Novel

Charles McGrath, New York Times

The writer Henry Roth was a tortured, hard-luck case who at the end life enjoyed an unexpected redemption. Blocked for decades, full of doubt and self-loathing, he began writing again in his late 80s, even though crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, and finished four new novels, two of which he lived to see into print before his death in 1995. Now, almost miraculously, there is a fifth, “An American Type,” which W. W. Norton will publish on June 7.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saved By The Crown

Joshua Kurlantzick, Boston Globe

The tumultuous past two months in world politics have brought a surprise with them: Suddenly, monarchy seems relevant again.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In A Strange Room By Damon Galgut

Jan Morris, The Guardian

Travel writing has such a wretched name these days that one is reluctant to associate any serious writer with it, but I have to say that Damon Galgut's new novel contains some truly superlative examples of the genre.

The Diary Of A Dr Who Addict By Paul Magrs

SF Said, The Guardian

The genius of Paul Magrs's book is the way it uses this notion of regeneration as a metaphor for adolescence: a time when your whole life changes, a new body grows around you, and you have no idea who you may be becoming – just that all familiar certainties are gone for ever.

What Made Dylan Roar?

Richard Rayner, Los Angeles Times

A reissue of Thomas' 'Collected Poems' offers an occasion to consider the poet's elemental voice and outrageous behavior.

Temperance To Excess

David Oshinsky, New York Times

A remarkably original account of the Prohibition era, a 14-year orgy of lawbreaking that permanently transformed American social life.

Friday, May 21, 2010

From Venice To Vegas: The Back Stories Of Buildings

Martin Filler, The New York Review of Books

Hollis, who teaches at the Edinburgh College of Art, stands apart from other popular writers on the building art in his acknowledgement that architecture is anything but the immutable medium most people suppose it to be.

Who Was Charles Dickens?

Robert Gottlieb, The New York Review of Books

There are a few writers whose lives and personalities are so large, so fascinating, that there’s no such thing as a boring biography of them—you can read every new one that comes along, good or bad, and be caught up in the story all over again. I’ve never encountered a life of the Brontës, of Dr. Johnson, of Byron that didn’t grip me.

Another such character is Charles Dickens.

The Food Movement, Rising

Michael Pollan, The New York Review of Books

It might sound odd to say this about something people deal with at least three times a day, but food in America has been more or less invisible, politically speaking, until very recently. At least until the early 1970s, when a bout of food price inflation and the appearance of books critical of industrial agriculture (by Wendell Berry, Francis Moore Lappé, and Barry Commoner, among others) threatened to propel the subject to the top of the national agenda, Americans have not had to think very hard about where their food comes from, or what it is doing to the planet, their bodies, and their society.

The Afterlife Of Stieg Larsson

Charles McGrath, New York Times

Who will get to control the disputed legacy and vast estate generated by the Swedish writer’s three posthumous thrillers?

Death To The Spoiler Police

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

Rosebud is a sled. Bruce Willis' Malcolm Crowe in "Sixth Sense" is actually dead, but Michel Delasalle from "Diabolique" is not. Soylent Green is people, and Sandra won the latest "Survivor." Spoiler police, up yours.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Welcome To NYC's Hidden Golden Age Of Theater

Michael Feingold, Village Voice

In New York theater today, what's not imported is what's underrated.

In Village Restaurants, The Spirit Of Old New York

Diane Cardwell, New York Times

In some ways, the area has become like a theme park of the past, as these restored standards offer a vision of a lost bohemian New York — albeit with a well-heeled clientele and prices to match.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A New Clue To Explain Existence

Dennis Overbye, New York Times

In a mathematically perfect universe, we would be less than dead; we would never have existed. According to the basic precepts of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created in the Big Bang and then immediately annihilated each other in a blaze of lethal energy, leaving a big fat goose egg with which to make stars, galaxies and us. And yet we exist, and physicists (among others) would dearly like to know why.

Strangers On A Train

Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books

Everyone who walks the busy streets of a city takes imaginary snapshots. For all I know, my face glimpsed in a crowd years ago may live on in someone’s memory the same way that the face of some stranger lives on in mine. Of course, out of the hundreds of people we may happen to see in a day, we become fully aware of only a select few, and often not even that many if we have too much on our minds. Then it happens.

Bavarian Village Divided Over Updates To World-Famous Passion Play

Katja Thimm, Spiegel

For almost 400 years, the residents of the Bavarian village of Oberammergau have performed their world-famous Passion Play, a reenactment of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. But the play's avant-garde director, who is determined to erase traces of anti-Semitism from the piece, has left locals at odds over how to reconcile modern Christianity and tradition.

An Urban Farming Pioneer Sows His Own Legacy

Tracie McMillan, New York Times

John Ameroso didn’t hoe the rows of vegetables that help feed the Bronx at the Padre Plaza Success Garden in the borough’s Mott Haven section. He didn’t pick any tomatoes from the vines at the Brooklyn Rescue Mission’s farm. And he didn’t turn the composting bins that kept East New York Farms! fertile ground for collards, cilantro and chard.

But he’s responsible for all of it, along with the rest of more than 18 tons of produce grown in city lots for market last year.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dance Figure

Jim Powell, Slate Magazine

'The Museum Of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel)'

Jim Ruland, Los Angeles Times

The late Macedonio Fernández's masterwork is a meditation on the reading, writing and inhabiting of novels.

The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand

Steven Brill, New York Times

How Obama’s Race to the Top could revolutionize public education.

Foja Mountains

Mel White, photograph by Tim Laman, National Geographic Magazine

A biological expedition to a remote New Guinea rain forest explores a world of bizarre and beautiful creatures.

Fans Of Gourmet Magazine Accept No Stand-Ins

Stephanie Clifford, New York Times

Half a year after Gourmet’s final issue, in November, the Gourmet readership and ad base seem to have largely vanished. And as the high-end magazines fight over the leftovers of Gourmet, it’s the mass food magazines that seem to be feasting.

A Patient, A Death, But No One To Grieve

Danielle Ofri, New York Times

My patient’s body was unclaimed, and it had already been sent for burial by the time I learned of his death on a Thursday afternoon. It had happened on Saturday, at another hospital. He hadn’t left any next-of-kin contact, and it had taken that hospital’s social worker four days to trace a trail back to me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What Is A Philosopher?

Simon Critchley, New York Times

There are as many definitions of philosophy as there are philosophers – perhaps there are even more. After three millennia of philosophical activity and disagreement, it is unlikely that we’ll reach consensus, and I certainly don’t want to add more hot air to the volcanic cloud of unknowing. What I’d like to do in the opening column in this new venture — The Stone — is to kick things off by asking a slightly different question: what is a philosopher?

A Glossary Of Chickens

Gary Whitehead, New Yorker


C. K. Williams, New Yorker

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Literary Career Or A Brilliant, Successful One-off? Take Your Pick

Robert McCrum, The Guardian

Many writers would happily settle to be remembered for one title. Do we really want long-term consistency in an artist?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Censors Without Borders

Emily Parker, New York Times

As China’s influence spreads throughout the world, so does a willingness to play by its rules.

Malevolent Design

Jeff Vandermeer, New York Times

In this fantasy, machines and a magician threaten humanity.

The Saturday Poem: A Note On Barber's Adagio

for Dónal Gordon, by John Matthias, The Guardian

Tiepolo Pink By Roberto Calasso

Andrew Motion, The Guardian

The merit of these pages lies in the way they allow us to think of Tiepolo's pictures – for all their flaunting and sociable engagement with the viewer – as describing a world which is parallel to the real one. Not just in the sense that they are filled with angels and mythical figures absent from ordinary life, but because these figures reappear with great regularity throughout his work, giving the impression of a whole society which is at once on display, and in various ways encoded.

Groping In The Digital Dark

Wyatt Mason, The New York Review of Books

The small magic of the movie is one of character and its excavation, the presentation of lives that possess all the multi-dimensional reality we seem to be seeking in the digital dark.

On The Perils Of Travel Writing

David Farley, Worldhum

I can pinpoint the exact moment this shift in attitude toward me occurred: Jan. 28, 2007. That’s when the New York Times travel section published an article I’d written about the village.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Putting A Price On Words

Andrew Rice, New York Times

No one seems to know how to value the product anymore.

In Theory: Towards A New Novel

Andrew Gallix, The Guardian

The reality of any work of art is its form, and to separate style from substance is to "remove the novel from the realm of art". Art, Robbe-Grillet reminds us, is not just a pretty way of presenting a message: it is the message.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ralph Ellison's Never-Ending Novel

Jennifer Howard, The Chronicle Of Higher Education

For Bradley, the answer has something to do with Ellison's subject matter: America itself. "He sits down to write this just as the civil-rights movement is taking shape," Bradley says. After Invisible Man, Ellison wrote through the rest of the 1950s and on into the 1960s, through the assassinations and the legislative and social milestones and the Vietnam War. Time moved on; decades passed; America changed, so the novel had to keep changing, too.

How Do You Listen To Short Stories?

Michelle Pauli, The Guardian

Preserving the short story from technology is the claim of a new project. Interesting idea - but you'll need some equipment.

Nukes For Sale

Jeremy Bernstein, The New York Review Of Books

Proliferation was inevitable and had been predicted. What had not been predicted was the extent to which it would be abetted by espionage. The German-born physicist Klaus Fuchs, who had been part of the British delegation at Los Alamos and returned to England where he worked on nuclear weapons, gave the Russians what was essentially the blueprint of the bomb the US used at Nagasaki. He is in the unique position of having helped three countries build nuclear weapons. Nor did anyone foresee that proliferation of nuclear weapons would become a commercial enterprise, which is the situation that we find ourselves in at the present time.

Why I Got Kicked Out Of A Restaurant On Saturday Night

Ron Lieber, New York Times

A dinner at Restaurant Marc Forgione raises the question, when a chef screams at his staff, is it O.K. to ask him to stop?

Sea Level

Kim Van Voorhees, Slate Magazine

Delhi’s Not So Public Libraries

Cordelia Jenkins, Wall Street Journal

“I’d like to take this book out please,” I began, smiling encouragingly. “No,” said the man. “It is not possible to take books. You must read it here,” he nodded as if that were an end to the matter. Faced with this kind of negative certitude, some might have been dissuaded. Not me. My prior experience of worldwide library protocol gave me the courage to insist. I repeated the question a couple of times receiving the same response (Einstein’s definition of insanity) and finally opened the front of the book to point out the borrowing stamps in violet ink. “Yes,” said the librarian, cheerfully contradicting himself, “you must be a member to take books away.” Here we go, I thought. “I’d like to become a member,” I said.

How To Save The News

James Fallows, The Atlantic

Everyone knows that Google is killing the news business. Few people know how hard Google is trying to bring it back to life, or why the company now considers journalism’s survival crucial to its own prospects.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Secret Of "Babies'" Success

Matt Zoller Seitz, Salon

Adults can't get enough of this documentary. And for once, it has nothing to do with Michael Moore gimmicks.

Screw Happiness

Rebecca Traister, Salon

Bombarded by studies about who is content and why, we forget one thing: Dissatisfaction has its own rewards.

The Hilbert Hotel

Steven Strogatz, New York Times

Infinity can be mind-boggling.

The Magic Cure

Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, Boston Globe

Startled by the power of placebos, doctors consider how to use them as real treatment.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Scar

Susan Wheeler, New Yorker

Private Equity

Sophie Cabot Black, New Yorker

Free Fruit For Young Widows

Nathan Englander, New Yorker

The Drunkenness Of Noah

Kathleen Graber, New Yorker

Tocqueville In America

James Wood, New Yorker

The grand journey, retraced and reimagined.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Soul Talk

Stephen T. Asma, The Chronicle Of Higher Education

No self-respecting professor of philosophy wants to discuss the soul in class. It reeks of old-time theology, or, worse, New Age quantum treacle. The soul has been a dead end in philosophy ever since the positivists unmasked its empty referential center. Scientific philosophy has shown us that there's no there there.

But make no mistake, our students are very interested in the soul.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Theory, Literature, Hoax

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, New York Times

What strange force is stalking departments of literature? A philosopher investigates.

The Saturday Poem: Ruby

John Fuller, The Guardian

The Demise Of Datebooks

Virginia Heffernan, New York Times

As a committed user of the BlackBerry, Kindle, MacBook Pro and World Wide Web, I rarely get nostalgic for print — for broadsheets or magazines or even books. So I surprised myself by bridling at Steve Jobs’s boast, when introducing the Apple iPad in January, that the device has “a great calendar.” It never occurred to me that people liked digital calendars.

Double Trouble

Greg Beato, The Smart Set

The hypocrisy of fast-food outrage.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Horror Of NPR's Copycat Story

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

Did a "Morning Edition" segment lift its ideas from a satirical viral video?

Searching For Neal Cassady In San Miguel de Allende

Peter Ferry, Worldhum

When I first get here, the only thing I know with certainty about Neal Cassady’s time in San Miguel de Allende is that he died ignominiously just outside of town in 1968. And although that tie is admittedly tenuous, it’s curious to me that people in this artists’ colony who are surely used to outcasts and iconoclasts seem reluctant to claim him. At least at first.

Bad Call

Miriam N. Kotzin, The Smart Set

Don't lament everything lost to technology.

Raiders Of The Night Kitchen

Leanne Shapton, New York Times

This morning, I wake at 4 and can’t get back to sleep. By 5, I am up, with my dog. As I stand outside in the chill and he pads around in the dark, I decide to make brownies.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Unmothered, On Mother's Day

Meghan O'Rourke, Slate Magazine

Remembering my mother on the holiday she hated.

What's Happened To Political Fiction?

Stuart Evers, The Guardian

Ideological fiction of the kind that Orwell wrote doesn't seem to fit our times. But two powerful new novels are closely tuned to politics of the apolitical.

Newsweek Has Fallen Down And Can't Get Up.

Jack Shafer, Slate Magazine

The institutional forces behind the demise of a magazine.

Dogma & Diaghilev

Laura Jacobs, New Criterion

How did we get here? How did we get to the point where just about every new classical dance is meaningless?

The Moral Life Of Babies

Paul Bloom, New York Times

Why would anyone even entertain the thought of babies as moral beings?

A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.

A Hymn For Modern Times

Roz Kaveney, The Guardian

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

For Sushi At Home, Skip The Fish

Mark Bittman, New York Times

Like rice dishes everywhere — risotto, paella, arroz con pollo, biryani — sushi is a way of taking a common, relatively inexpensive product and giving it more character by adding a bit of something interesting to it. You already know this doesn’t have to be fish, because you’ve eaten sushi with avocado and egg, at least.

Both are traditional in Japan, but there’s no reason to stop there. What about roasted peppers? Or a slice of prosciutto?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Justin Davidson, New York

Jean Nouvel’s Tower Verre was going to be the biggest thing to hit the midtown skyline since the Empire State Building. Then the city told him to chop off 200 feet. Scoffs the French architect: Why is Manhattan, of all places, afraid of heights?

After The Fact

Mary Jo Bang, Slate Magazine

Monday, May 3, 2010

This Red T-Shirt

Lucia Perillo, New Yorker

Uncle Rock

Dagoberto Gilb, New Yorker


Charles Wright, New Yorker

In Pursuit Of Prey, Carrying Philosophy

Dwight Garner, New York Times

Paul Berman’s new book, “The Flight of the Intellectuals,” plural, might as easily have been titled “The Flight of the Intellectual,” singular. It is essentially a booklong polemic against one magazine article: a profile of the Islamic philosopher Tariq Ramadan, written by Ian Buruma, the Dutch academic and journalist, and published in The New York Times Magazine in 2007.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Pink Floyd Night School

Mark Edmundson, New York Times

“So, what are you doing after graduation?”

In the spring of my last year in college I posed that question to at least a dozen fellow graduates-to-be at my little out-of-the-way school in Vermont. The answers they gave me were satisfying in the extreme: not very much, just kick back, hang out, look things over, take it slow. It was 1974. That’s what you were supposed to say.

Altered States

Michael J. Trinklein, Boston Globe

The strange history of efforts to redraw the New England map.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"She Does A Better Job Than Map Quest!"

Julia Turner, Slate Magazine

Wonderful hand-drawn maps from firefighters, club-hoppers, Boy Scout dads, grandmothers, and Alexander Calder.

The Paper

Christopher Buckley, New York Times

This first novel by Tom Rachman, a London-born journalist who has lived and worked all over the world, is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off. I still haven’t answered that question, nor do I know how someone so young — Rachman turns out to be 35, though he looks even younger in his author photo — could have acquired such a precocious grasp of human foibles. The novel is alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching, and it’s assembled like a Rubik’s Cube. I almost feel sorry for Rachman, because a debut of this order sets the bar so high.

A Guy Walks Into An Oval Office

Christopher Beam, Slate Magazine

When politicians tell jokes, some kill. Others kill their chances of ever becoming president.

By Heng-Cheong Leong