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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Drink What You Know

Geoff Nicholson, New York Times

People telling you how to drink is every bit as tedious and annoying as people telling you not to drink at all. It seems to me that writers are much more useful in these matters when their advice is dispensed casually in their fiction — when they are showing rather than telling.

Colonials Abroad

Andrea Wulf, New York Times

In the decades before the Declaration of Independence, thousands of American colonists visited London. Wealthy Southern plantation owners and New England merchants, husbands and wives, children and slaves all arrived in what was thought to be the most exciting city in the world. Some went shopping for exquisite silver, fashionable furniture and the latest books; others traded their goods and engaged in political arguments in noisy coffee houses. A sojourn in London was part of the education of the sons (and sometimes daughters) of wealthy colonial families because, as one contemporary observed, “more is learnt of mankind here in a month than can be in a year in any other part of the world.”

Julie Flavell’s “When London Was Capital of America” illuminates this fascinating chapter of London’s — and North America’s — past, showing how the metropolis functioned as a magnet for colonists from across the Atlantic (including the West Indies) who sought accomplishment, opportunity and commerce. An American-born scholar who is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Flavell has unearthed a host of stories that bring alive a previously neglected aspect of the colonial experience.

Righteous & Wrong

Malise Ruthven, The New York Review of Books

At Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, stands an exhibit that is for some more unsettling than the replicas of the Warsaw Ghetto or the canisters of Zyklon B gas used at Auschwitz and Treblinka. Next to blown-up photographs of emaciated corpses from the death camps there is a picture of the grand mufti of Palestine, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, reviewing an honor guard of the Muslim division of the Waffen SS that fought the Serbs and antifascist partisans. The display includes a cable to Hajj Amin from Heinrich Himmler, dated November 2, 1943: “The National Socialist Party has inscribed on its flag ‘the extermination of world Jewry.’ Our party sympathizes with the fight of the Arabs, especially the Arabs of Palestine, against the foreign Jew.” There is also a quote from a broadcast the mufti gave over Berlin radio on March 1, 1944: “Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This is the command of God, history and religion.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Letting Go

Atul Gawande, New Yorker

This is the moment in Sara’s story that poses a fundamental question for everyone living in the era of modern medicine: What do we want Sara and her doctors to do now? Or, to put it another way, if you were the one who had metastatic cancer—or, for that matter, a similarly advanced case of emphysema or congestive heart failure—what would you want your doctors to do?

How Twitter Is Changing Old Age

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

At the root of our online experiences is the desire to connect -- and in those seemingly trivial dispatches about what we ate for dinner or what team we're cheering for today are intimate glimpses into everything that matters most.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Everyone Agrees That Portion Sizes In Depictions Of The Last Supper Have Grown. Not Everyone Agrees Why

Ann Landi, ARTnews

At the Last Supper, the Bible tells us, Christ announced to his disciples, "One of you will betray me." According to a recent report in the International Journal of Obesity, he might have added, "And you will all grow fatter and fatter."

Phys Ed: Does Lucky Underwear Improve Athletic Performance?

Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times

A new study published online in the journal Psychological Science provides some intriguing answers and makes a compelling case that each of us should find lucky underwear of our own.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Curious Cook: To Enhance Flavor, Just Add Water

Harold McGee, New York Times

Water is indeed a useful flavor enhancer, exactly because it dilutes other ingredients and can change their balance for the better.

Numberplay: I Bet You're Wondering How Telepathy Works?

Pradeep Mutalik, New York Times

You’ve been thinking about someone, perhaps after a long time. Suddenly the phone rings, and guess what? It’s the person you were thinking about. Telepathy? Coincidence?

In A Tenement’s Meager Kitchens, A Historian Looks For Insight

Dwight Garner, New York Times

The story it tells, about Old World habits clashing and ultimately melding with new American ones, is familiar. But Ms. Ziegelman is a patient scholar and a graceful writer, and she rummages in these families’ histories and larders to smart, chewy effect.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Dos and Don'ts of Ordering Chinese

Andrew Coe, The Atlantic

A Chinese meal is a social event meant to break down boundaries, not build them. There's nothing sadder in a Chinese restaurant than seeing a table where eaters guard their individual portions of beef with broccoli or sweet and sour pork like inmates in the prison mess hall.


T.R. Hummer, Slate Magazine

The State Of "State Of The Art"

Jesse Smith, The Smart Set

All these technologies — and the journalists who write about them — can thank an engineer named Henry Harrison Suplee for the four-word phrase that today signals to readers and listeners that something is new and should therefore be considered the best, without really explaining why.

Following A Script To Escape A Nightmare

Sarah Kershaw, New York Times

In recent years, nightmares have increasingly been viewed as a distinct disorder, and researchers have produced a growing body of empirical evidence that this kind of cognitive therapy can help reduce their frequency and intensity, or even eliminate them.

Love Found Amid Ruins Of Empire

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Gary Shteyngart’s wonderful new novel, “Super Sad True Love Story,” is a supersad, superfunny, superaffecting performance — a book that not only showcases the ebullient satiric gifts he demonstrated in his entertaining 2002 debut, “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook,” but that also uncovers his abilities to write deeply and movingly about love and loss and mortality. It’s a novel that gives us a cutting comic portrait of a futuristic America, nearly ungovernable and perched on the abyss of fiscal collapse, and at the same time it is a novel that chronicles a sweetly real love affair as it blossoms from its awkward, improbable beginnings.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blue Water Djinn

Téa Obreht, New Yorker


Alice Fulton, New Yorker

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Erin McKean, Boston Globe

Objections to verbification in English tend to be motivated by personal taste, not clarity. Verbed words are usually easily understood. When a word like friend is declared not a verb, the problem isn’t that it’s confusing; it’s that the protester finds it deeply annoying.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Insatiable Years

Dominique Browning, New York Times

Allegra Goodman’s new novel has so many appealing ingredients. Where, then, to start the list? Perhaps, as with food labels, it would be best to begin with the biggest: an irresistible story. Then add four strong characters: two sisters, and the two men who orbit them. Then there’s the narrative voice: sweet but not cloyingly so, nourishing but not heavy, serving up zesty nuggets of truth. And the spicing is piquant but not too assertive, thanks to memorable appearances by (among others) a Bialystok rabbi, a bookshop called Yorick’s, a collection of letters from a long-dead mother and a tribe of tree-huggers.

Remembering Los Angeles As A Hotbed Of Alt-weekly Comics

Ben Schwartz, Los Angeles Times

None of them knew each other. They saw one another's comics in 'zines, weeklies and punk newspapers. "Yeah, there were a number of us," remembers Matt Groening, 30 years after his strip "Life in Hell" debuted in the Los Angeles Reader. "I don't think we even considered it a 'scene.' It just felt like a bunch of people in isolation."

Technology And The Novel, From Blake To Ballard

Tom McCarthy, The Guardian

Writers have long been fascinated by machinery – what it gives and what it takes away.

Curlew By The Humber

David Wheatley, The Guardian

The Cardturner By Louis Sachar

Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Guardian

The family relationships are a game in which the older members deal the younger members out like cards. And like Stanley Yelnats in Holes, Alton has a kind of patient courage that allows him to piece together the truth about his family and free himself from the cycle. The result is a detective story which is also a love story, or a love story that is also a detective story. Sachar finds that what the recently dumped teen and the rich old man have in common is boredom. Alton can't wait for life to start and Lester can't wait for it to be over.

Day For Night By Frederick Reiken

Patrick Ness, The Guardian

As a whole, the prose is so well-behaved and unobtrusive it's almost as if it expects to be marked at the end of term. Less politeness and a lot more fire might have turned this into something special. It's still a gripping read, though, and Reiken could be a writer to watch.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cantonese, Please

Verna Yu, New York Times

More and more, ambitious parents in Hong Kong are giving their children a head-start in English by putting them into English-speaking play groups, kindergartens and international schools. At these elite institutions, Mandarin Chinese is sometimes taught as a second language.

As for the local Cantonese dialect, who cares?

The Beats: Pictures Of A Legend

Edmund White, The New York Review of Books

Both Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs discovered late in life that making works of art is the way to get money. Literature just doesn’t do it. Speaking engagements pay, but eventually they become tiring—or one exhausts the market. Neither of the two had ever been money-mad, but old age requires a bit of a cushion. Burroughs turned to painting. He would set up paint cans in front of blank canvases and then shoot at them; the splatter was the art. Although these paintings are his best-known artworks, they make up only a small part of his output.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Top Idea In Your Mind

Paul Graham

I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time. That's the idea their thoughts will drift toward when they're allowed to drift freely. And this idea will thus tend to get all the benefit of that type of thinking, while others are starved of it. Which means it's a disaster to let the wrong idea become the top one in your mind.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Web Means The End Of Forgetting

Jeffrey Rosen, New York Times

We’ve known for years that the Web allows for unprecedented voyeurism, exhibitionism and inadvertent indiscretion, but we are only beginning to understand the costs of an age in which so much of what we say, and of what others say about us, goes into our permanent — and public — digital files. The fact that the Internet never seems to forget is threatening, at an almost existential level, our ability to control our identities; to preserve the option of reinventing ourselves and starting anew; to overcome our checkered pasts.

The Universe Owes Me A Daughter

Rachel Coyne, Salon

When I was in the fifth grade I named my first daughter. I picked "Bailey" and lavished upon this completely imagined child an entire fictional life. Thoughts of the how or when or why she was conceived never entered my 12-year-old mind. I never bothered to dream up a father for her. She appeared whole — nearly the same age as I was at the time — and allowed me to mother her. I pictured myself older, thinner, beautiful and independent. She traveled with me to the markets in Prague and Africa and to meet the president. I wrote books in my spare time, and together we made collaborative collage art that hung on the walls of the Met.

Bad Translation Makes Fundamentalists Of Us All

Marie Dhumières, The Guardian

Fundamentalist Muslims, devout Muslims, moderate Muslims, part-time Muslims, Christians, Atheists – no one has an entire conversation without saying at the very least "Inshallah", which literally means "God willing" and comes from the idea that you never know what God's plan is. It can be used as much as you want, even if you're not really thinking about God's plans at that very moment.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Tony Judt, The New York Review of Books

I was raised on words. They tumbled off the kitchen table onto the floor where I sat: grandfather, uncles, and refugees flung Russian, Polish, Yiddish, French, and what passed for English at one another in a competitive cascade of assertion and interrogation. Sententious flotsam from the Edwardian-era Socialist Party of Great Britain hung around our kitchen promoting the True Cause. I spent long, happy hours listening to Central European autodidacts arguing deep into the night: Marxismus, Zionismus, Socialismus. Talking, it seemed to me, was the point of adult existence. I have never lost that sense.

Printing Money

Greg Beato, The Smart Set

The web has created a culture of hyper-connoisseurship, with passionate enthusiasts forever in pursuit of the hardest to source, the most authentic, the original artifact. Designer one-offs like San Francisco Panorama and the Monocle Mediterraneo will set new newspaper acolytes on a path of exploration discovery, and the eventual appropriation of genuine heritage brands, forgotten by time but still quietly plying their in various quaint backwaters of the U.S. infosphere.

Numberplay: Rare Coincidences Are Very Common!

Pradeep Mutalik, New York Times

“Wow!” “Amazing!” “Unbelievable!” “What are the chances of that?” Most, if not all of you, have uttered words like this at some time in your life. The paradoxical title of today’s Numberplay, then, is true: rare coincidences are really common.

Adventures In Very Recent Evolution

Nicholas Wade, New York Times

Many have assumed that humans ceased to evolve in the distant past, perhaps when people first learned to protect themselves against cold, famine and other harsh agents of natural selection. But in the last few years, biologists peering into the human genome sequences now available from around the world have found increasing evidence of natural selection at work in the last few thousand years, leading many to assume that human evolution is still in progress.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Dredgeman’s Revelation

Karen Russell, New Yorker

The Man With Many Pens

Jonathan Wells, New Yorker

The Sabbath

Anthony Carelli, New Yorker

Not So Grand Illusions

Wendy Smith, Slate Magazine

Allegra Goodman has rediscovered her sense of humor. Not that her new novel lacks seriousness: With a plot propelled by the dotcom bubble and a principal character in the wrong place on 9/11, it tackles big, contemporary topics. But The Cookbook Collector takes a welcome step back from the dark brilliance of its predecessor, Intuition. A grim tale of possible fraud at a cancer research lab, that novel displayed all of Goodman's searching moral intelligence and virtually none of the wit or amused savoring of human folly found in such previous works as Paradise Park and The Family Markowitz. In her new novel, she works on a larger social canvas than ever before, armed with an awareness that to comprehend all the scheming and the sorrow, wit is indispensable.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Psychiatric Tales By Darryl Cunningham

Rachel Cooke, The Guardian

As the psychotherapist Philippa Perry has shown, graphic novels can educate as well as entertain: her recent book Couch Fiction is funny and irreverent, but it also answers many of the questions people have about what therapy is, and how it works. Darryl Cunningham's Psychiatric Tales is a darker beast than Perry's book: its author was formerly a healthcare worker in an acute psychiatric ward, and his experiences with patients, albeit heavily disguised, form the spine of this volume. But it is equally instructive.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What Took You So Long?

Susanna Daniel, Slate Magazine

There is surely a word—in German, most likely—that means the state of active non-accomplishment. Not just the failure to reach a specific goal, but ongoing, daily failure with no end in sight. Stunted ambition. Disappointed potential. Frustrated and sad and lonely and hopeless and sick to death of one's self.

Whatever it's called, this is what leads people to abandon their goals—people do it every day. And I understand that decision, because I lived in this state of active non-accomplishment for many years.

Facial Profiling

Peter Jamison, SF Weekly

In what legal and scientific experts say is a groundbreaking case, a San Francisco Superior Court judge allowed biometric facial-identification technology, along with accompanying testimony from an expert witness, to be admitted as evidence in a high-profile criminal trial.

And in a curious turn, biometrics — the science popularized for its use in attempts to catch terrorists — was being used in San Francisco to try to exonerate an accused gang member and murderer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Colonoscopy: It’s Time To Check Your Colons

Conor J. Dillon, The Millions

A new colon is on the march. For now let’s call it the “jumper colon”.

The Art Of Slow Reading

Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian

First we had slow food, then slow travel. Now, those campaigns are joined by a slow-reading movement – a disparate bunch of academics and intellectuals who want us to take our time while reading, and re-reading. They ask us to switch off our computers every so often and rediscover both the joy of personal engagement with physical texts, and the ability to process them fully.

The Prose And The Passion

Adam Kirsch, The New Republic

Whenever E.M. Forster is discussed, the phrase “only connect” is sure to come up sooner or later. The epigraph to Howards End, the book he described with typical modesty as “my best novel and approaching a good novel,” seems to capture the leading idea of all his work—the moral importance of connection between individuals, across the barriers of race, class, and nation. What is not as frequently remembered is that, when Forster uses the phrase in Howards End, he is not actually talking about this kind of social connection, but about something more elusive and private—the difficulty of connecting our ordinary, conventional personalities with our transgressive erotic desires.

I Like Candy

Paula Marantz Cohen, The Smart Set

I recently discovered candy.

Or, to be more correct, I rediscovered it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Restaurateur's First Mate

Jarrett Wrisley, The Atlantic

Thanapat Chamuangkul, whom I call Pat, is my new restaurant manager. He is also my last line of defense on the food and beverage battlefield of Bangkok.

Because I am an owner/operator in a foreign land, Pat is an especially vital member of my team. Through him I'll understand the emotional needs of my Thai employees, and more prosaic things like how many times we should feed them each day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wherever My Dead Go When I'm Not Remembering Them

Alan Shapiro, Slate Magazine

Where Sparky May Go After His Final Walk

Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times

At their worst animal lovers are an embarrassment — especially to the animals they adore. The cat is not dignified by the owner who keeps a dozen other cats; no dog wants to submit to a team of hair stylists just to have a shot at Best in Show. In the relationship between humans and the animals over whom, the Bible tells us, we have dominion, Homo sapiens is the besotted fool.

For evidence that around animals, especially pets, we come undone, there is “The Divine Life of Animals,” Ptolemy Tompkins’s well-meaning but credulous investigation of whether there is an afterlife for his dog, your pet rabbit, Black Beauty or maybe Ch Roundtown Mercedes Of Maryscot, the Scottish terrier who won this year’s Westminster Kennel Club show, to pick just a few.

A Scientist Takes On Gravity

Dennis Overbye, New York Times

It’s hard to imagine a more fundamental and ubiquitous aspect of life on the Earth than gravity, from the moment you first took a step and fell on your diapered bottom to the slow terminal sagging of flesh and dreams.

But what if it’s all an illusion, a sort of cosmic frill, or a side effect of something else going on at deeper levels of reality?

Moscow’s Espionage Addiction

Robert Cottrell, The New York Review of Books

The arrest of ten Russian spies in America on June 27, and the exchange of them last week for four Russians accused of spying for the West, has brought inevitable comparisons with the Cold War. But really, it has little to do with war or peace. Russia simply cannot help itself.

The Pyramid Of Shame

Pradeep Mutalik, New York Times

Like many people, I encountered my first pyramid scheme in the form of a chain letter. I was 10 or 11 years old, and I received a postcard that listed the names and addresses of five people.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Zoo Story:" A Tale Of Two Alphas

Laura Miller, Books

Likening the behavior of human alpha males to their animal counterparts is a bit of a gimme at this stage, but comparing and contrasting the nurturing leadership of Herman to the dictatorship of Salisbury -- something French does with admirable lightness -- is inspired. It's also sobering to watch young zookeepers, filled with winning enthusiasm and camaraderie, being ground down by the human world's equivalent of evolutionary pressure.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Maples Stories By John Updike

Natasha Tripney, The Guardian

Updike is, as ever, sensitive to the fuzzy line between love and hate, the things people do to hurt one another, with and without meaning it, and the many tiny intimacies and outrages that make a marriage.

iBoy By Kevin Brooks

Geraldine Brennan, The Guardian

Adolescents tend to think they can rule their known world from anywhere with a phone signal: Kevin Brooks's gripping, streetwise and profound new science-fiction crime thriller for readers of 13 and above is about a boy who can do just that.

How Facts Backfire

Joe Keohane, Boston Globe

It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789.

In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Postcards From The Edge

Josh Emmons, New York Times

Vida is a subtle writer whose voice is spare and authoritative, at times sounding like a less gothic Paul Bowles, and her third novel is further evidence that she can fashion characters as unpredictable as they are endearing.

The Apostate

Lauren F. Winner, New York Times

Lax, best known for his biography of Woody Allen, has written a steady, quiet love letter to a faith he has lost.

The Curious Mystery Of The Sidewalk Tombstone

Sam Roberts, New York Times

How did a tombstone wind up propped against a fire hydrant on East Fourth Street between Avenues C and D? And who was Hinda Amchanitzky?

Until Cryonics Do Us Part

Kerry Howley, New York Times

The one death-related phrase she will not abide, will not let into her house under any circumstance, is “cryonic preservation,” by which is meant the low-temperature preservation of human beings in the hope of future resuscitation. That this will be her husband’s chosen form of bodily disposition creates, as you might imagine, certain complications in the Jackson household.

Friday, July 9, 2010

They Did Their Homework (800 Years Of It)

Catherine Rampell, New York Times

“Everyone wants to think they’re smarter than the poor souls in developing countries, and smarter than their predecessors,” says Carmen M. Reinhart, an economist at the University of Maryland. “They’re wrong. And we can prove it.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"In Rough Country": Joyce Carol Oates Tackles The Great Writers

Karen Holt, Salon

With the unexpected death of her husband, Raymond Smith, in February 2008, Joyce Carol Oates lost not only her companion of 48 years, but also, for a time, an entire register of her authorial voice. She couldn't write novels. The author whose prodigious output of fiction is the stuff of literary legend had barely the energy to compose a short story. She took solace in writing about literature, filling the sleepless hours with reading and taking notes.

Thus the double meaning of her collection of previously published literary essays and reviews, "In Rough Country."

A Question Of Timing

Kristen Hoggatt, The Smart Set

It’s always tricky when poetry, current events, and politics intersect, but it happens all the time. Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote “An Elegy to Dispel Gloom” after the assassinations of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. “New York American Spell” is Thomas Sleigh’s reaction to 9/11. I believe these poems achieve a sense of timelessness, but more on how to do that in a moment.

Last Words

Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books

Why this enormous interest in the final thoughts of men and women who were often guilty of committing horrific crimes? It must be the same morbid curiosity that brought huge crowds of Americans to public executions in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

Mark Twain Eats America

Sarah DiGregorio, Village Voice

This catalog of dishes—the daydream of a homesick man—is significant in more ways than one. In writer Andrew Beahrs's hands, the fantasy menu becomes a biography of Twain, a historical record, an elegy for what we have lost from our table, and a spur to preserve what we still have.

Mirror, Mask, Labyrinth

Susan Stewart, The Nation

They can cure cabin fever in the antipodes, and no doubt have some summer powers in store as well.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Mark Of A Masterpiece

David Gann, New Yorker

The man who keeps finding famous fingerprints on uncelebrated works of art.

Twitter Is Over Capacity

Jim Behrle, The Awl

What's With Steampunk?

Gary Moskowitz, Intelligent Life

Inspired by the early science-fiction writings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, steampunk has a romantic, fantastical sensibility. Or, as Kuksi describes it, there is "a touch of technology with a pinch of antiquity and perhaps a dash of the macabre. There is humanity...and even a bit of social rebellion and transgression."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wissahickon Schist

Karl Kirchwey, Slate Magazine

"Losing Our Cool": The High Price Of Staying Cool

Ryan Brown, Salon

How air conditioning changed the American landscape, transformed our politics, and is endangering our health.

Your Money Or Your Logic

Gary Antonick, New York Times

Would you pay $20 for an envelope containing either $10 or $40?

In Search Of Coconut Milk

Scott Adams,

My assignment was to pick up a few items from the grocery store. You should understand in advance that I'm not the designated shopper in our family. I suffer from a condition called CFS (Can't Find Shit).

Monday, July 5, 2010


Stanley Plumly, New Yorker

Puff Piece

John Ashbery, New Yorker

An Honest Exit

Dinaw Mengestu, New Yorker

"Faithful Place": Tana French Turns The Detective Story Inside Out

Laura Miller, Salon

Part Raymond Chandler, part Roddy Doyle, crime fiction's rising star takes it into mesmerizing new territory.

"An American Type": The End Of Henry Roth

David Kipen, Salon

Over the last 20 years, Henry Roth has evolved from an elderly long-silent prodigy, after the manner of Harper Lee, to a posthumous prolific cottage industry -- a kind of upmarket L. Ron Hubbard, but with genius instead of E-meters.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fine Distinctions

Jan Freeman, Boston Globe

Can we really tell ‘genuine’ from ‘authentic’?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Atheist And The Rabbi: Arguing About God With Christopher Hitchens

David Wolpe, Washington Post

Ambling across the lobby with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, my antagonist nodded to me and said, "Hello, darling."

It was almost time for another public debate with Christopher Hitchens.

Humanity’s Database

David Pogue, New York Times

This isn’t the first book about Facebook. One, the sensationalist “Accidental Billionaires” (subtitle: “A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal”), is already being made into a movie. But “The Facebook Effect” is the first to enjoy the participation of the blunt, elusive Mark Zuckerberg.

Ben Franklin Is A Big Fat Idiot

Joe Queenan, New York Times

But a while back I realized that not all the wit and wisdom contained in Poor Richard’s Almanac was equally witty or equally wise. It happened like this: Feeling that my life had lost direction over the years, that I had strayed too far from the path of the righteous, I decided last winter to go back and take a Poor Richard refresher course, in the hope of reconfiguring my moral and ethical infrastructure. In doing so, I was stunned to discover how many of Franklin’s axioms failed the acid test of validity and usefulness.

Many Poisoned Rivers

Jonathan Mirsky, Literary Review

At first you might imagine that Watts is peddling the latest version of the Yellow Peril. After you've read about fifty pages you will find his occasional attempts at fairness bizarre, as in his clichéd conclusion that, faced with two 'extremes', 'the truth was probably somewhere in between'. But there is no 'in between'. China is destroying itself and threatening the rest of us. And, like useful idiots, we are helping the Chinese do it.

The News Where You Are By Catherine O'Flynn

Fay Weldon, The Guardian

Writing a second novel is a nervy business for a writer, especially when the first one has been unexpectedly and wonderfully successful, as was Catherine O'Flynn's debut What Was Lost, which went on to win the 2008 Costa first novel and a cluster of other awards. But O'Flynn need not be nervous. Her second novel, The News Where You Are, establishes her as, let's say, the JG Ballard of Birmingham.

Heartbreak By Craig Raine

Alex Clark, The Guardian

Written in a series of fragmentary, often incomplete vignettes, some fictional and some drawing heavily on Raine's academic interests and biography, this is a novel that, while proclaiming its intention to anatomise emotional wreckage, relentlessly defaults to the physical, from its inexperienced teenager turned on by the thought of a "gross, wrinkled, restless" fly in search of a dirty landing spot, to its other characters' apparently endless fascination with – and I use the word as deliberately, though not with as much frequency, as Raine does – arseholes.

The Floating Man

Katharine Towers, The Guardian

American Buffet

Susan Silver Cohen, New York Times

It is for a special occasion one recent Sunday that I pull my car into the Jumbo Buffet & Grill parking lot in Harrisburg, Pa., with three of my four foster Vietnamese grandchildren in tow. Jonah, who is 8, just received his first communion in a magnificent midtown church where Masses are held in English and Vietnamese. Lunch at Jumbo Buffet, an Asian-style, all-you-can-eat restaurant, always involves overeating, but we’re excited to celebrate Jonah’s new status in the church.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Architecture In The Age Of Gehry

Matt Tyrnauer, Vanity Fair

It is rare that a single building can be judged a transformational work.

Why Do Babies Smile?

Nicholas Day, Slate Magazine

Smiling may be how we begin to communicate about the world outside of us, rather than how we express our inner state.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"War And Peace" Made Easy

Laura Miller, Salon

Here's a modest proposal: Try listening to it instead.