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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rereading: Great Food Writers

Bee Wilson, The Guardian

As for the content, they are eloquent reminders that food writing is not just about food. These books have the power to summon up – and often prescribe – an entire way of life.

The Novel As Puzzle

Joseph Salvatore, New York Times

This novel is a thing of such strange beauty that digging for answers of your own will yield the rewards that only well-made art can provide.

How Writers Build The Brand

Tony Perrottet, New York Times

In this era when most writers are expected to do everything but run the printing presses, self-promotion is so accepted that we hardly give it a second thought. And yet, whenever I have a new book about to come out, I have to shake the unpleasant sensation that there is something unseemly about my own clamor for attention. Peddling my work like a Viagra salesman still feels at odds with the high calling of literature.


James Lovegrove, Financial Times

This is a novel about language – in particular Miéville’s love of language, evident in his use of neologisms and allusive derivations. His prose bristles with verbal invention and at moments verges on a sort of dense polyglot poetry.

But there is also an underlying theme of language as a means of social control. Words can bridge gulfs of understanding but can also, whether inadvertently or not, lead to tragic misunderstanding.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Advantages Of Writing In Bed

Robert McCrum, The Guardian

Writers like Orwell, Proust and Churchill liked doing it. Could it have been because writing in bed can help access the unconscious?

The Forgotten Waltz By Anne Enright: Review

Edmund Gordon, Telegraph

Enright’s achievement in this book is not only a matter of cleverness, or of stylistic brilliance, though. Her language never becomes a character in itself, but is always pressed into the service of her story. She has an eye for the perfect, human detail and is often very moving.

The Female Body

Jessa Crispin, The Smart Set

Dead girls — both real and fake — send a powerful message. It's not a good one.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Joy Of Stats

Marc Tracy, Tablet

The brainy, numbers-crunching Jewish fans who’ve revolutionized pro sports and realized every geek fan’s dream are celebrated as heroes at the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

The Eerie Silence By Paul Davies – Review

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Is there anybody out there or are we really alone in the universe?

What "The Cosby Show" Taught Me About America

Kate O'meara, Salon

I was a Russian immigrant desperately missing home. Then I met the family who made me feel like I belonged.

The New Geopolitics Of Food

Lester R. Brown, Foreign Policy

From the Middle East to Madagascar, high prices are spawning land grabs and ousting dictators. Welcome to the 21st-century food wars.

The Art Of Physical Criticism

Sam Jordison, The Guardian

From glue and scissors to tearing or throwing, how do you vent your frustration with substandard books? And have you ever saved a precious tome for the best possible conditions?

Boredom: A Lively History By Peter Toohey: Review

Matthew Sturgis, Telegraph

"Only boring people get bored.” That at least is what I was told regularly throughout a childhood of long car journeys, wet Sunday afternoons, and tedious family excursions.

But now I discover – after reading Peter Toohey’s “lively” history of boredom – that it’s only people with defective dopamine receptors who get bored. Or rather they get more bored more often. (Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that produces a sense of joy and excitement in the brain; when levels drop, time seems to slow, life loses its savour, and boredom sets in.)

Home Sweet Wheels

Paul Markillie, Intelligent Life

When I lived in a smart flat in Hong Kong I drove a tatty Saab, while a guy I knew who lived in a pokey flat drove a Rolls-Royce. You could not drive your flat around, he reasoned, so the Roller was a better way to impress people. But his premise is not strictly true. Increasingly you find homes being driven on highways and byways, usually holding up the traffic. They are called camper vans.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look At Me, I’m Crying

Melissa Febos, New York Times

I’ve done it on the subway and at the Museum of Modern Art, in Prospect Park, Tompkins Square Park and leaning against the locked gate of Gramercy Park. If you live in New York, you’re bound to end up crying in public eventually; there just aren’t enough private places.

Cannibalism - What Is It Good For?

Matt Walker, BBC

Food is the obvious answer, but there appear to be significant issues associated with eating your own kind. Eating your offspring is a bit pointless, if you’ve put in the energy to raise them in the first place. Devouring members of the opposite sex limits your ability to find a mate. And gobbling up your neighbours can be self defeating – for these good neighbours can lead you to food and water, warn about predators and provide more sociable creatures with company. And if you start a cannibalism trend, the odds are you may end up a victim.

Those reasons help explain why most animals aren’t cannibals. But it doesn’t elucidate why some do eat their own.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Mouth Of The Mind

Leslie McGrath, Slate

You're All Nuts!

David Weigel, Slate

How America became the land of Truthers, Triggers, Birthers, and Dan Brown fans.

On Language Nerds And Nags

Robert Lane Greene, Intelligent Life

Grammar rules are far more fluid than most people think.

Better Than Renting Out A Windowless Room: The Blessed Distraction Of Technology

Colson Whitehead, Publishers Weekly

The Internet is not to blame for your unfinished novel: you are.

Whatever Happened To The Handsome Book?

Ursula Wills-Jones, The Guardian

Books used to be objects of beauty but these days many are sugary, bland monstrosities, particularly those aimed at women.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Mom Couldn't Cook

Tom Junod, Esquire

This, however, is not a story of my cooking, or the odd combination of freedom and thralldom it confers. It's the story of what — or who — inspired my decision to be my family's cook, gave me the will to do it, and made it both a practical and, apparently, a psychological necessity. It is the story of my mother — of my mother's cooking.

"Moral Combat": How Immoral Was The Second World War?

Meredith Hindley, Salon

It's not uncommon for those studying or reading about World War II to ponder the question, "What would I do?" Would I have helped the Jews? Would I have dropped the atomic bomb? Would I have made a deal with Stalin? These moral questions are precisely the ones that concern Michael Burleigh, noted historian of the Third Reich, in his new book, "Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II". In writing what he calls "a moral history of the Second World War," Burleigh sets out to excavate the "prevailing moral sentiment of entire societies and their leaderships, and how this changed under the impact of both ideology and total war."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Neurosis Racket

Laura Bennett, The New Republic

Neurosis and comedy make a natural pair. The former is often a type of pathological self-awareness, and nothing breeds a sense of comic irony like obsessive doubt and social maladjustment. Woody Allen, Richard Lewis, Larry David: all Jewish men from whose brains you can almost hear the constant whir of anxious introspection. Tina Fey may seem like an odd addition to the mix, fresh off a meteoric rise from frumpy nerd to glamorized cultural icon posing semi-clothed on the cover of Vanity Fair. But this—the overwhelmingly male tradition of the funny neurotic—is the legacy she proudly joins in her new book, a collection of biographical riffs on puberty, parenting, and being female in a male-dominated field.

The Spoiler By Annalena McAfee – Review

Alex Clark, The Guardian

A witty and entertaining debut about two very different worlds of journalism.

Book Review: 'Trillin On Texas'

Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times

Calvin Trillin is alternately poet, historian, satirist and journalist in this collection of reports on the Lone Star State.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

At The Perilous Intersection Of Books And Booze

Tom Rachman, New York Times

Tom Shone’s debut novel, “In the Rooms,” is set at this perilous intersection between books and booze, telling the story of a feckless literary agent, Patrick Miller, who finds himself masquerading as a recovering drunk to sign an author at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.


Simon Schama, Financial Times

The stories have a dark, knowing, shrewdness about erotic mischief, young and old, but then we always knew, didn’t we, that behind Bennett’s tousled owlishness there was a Bit of Lad. The trick of these tales is to sprinkle middle-class, middle-aged life with a dash of dirty – a spot of nookie amid the nasturtiums.

Friday, April 22, 2011

In The Sorting Office

James Meek, London Review Of Books

Across the world, postal services are being altered like this: optimised to deliver the maximum amount of unwanted mail at the minimum cost to businesses. In the internet age private citizens are sending less mail than they used to, but that’s only part of the story of postal decline. The price of driving down the cost of bulk mailing for a handful of big organisations is being paid for by the replacement of decently paid postmen with casual labour and the erosion of daily deliveries.

Military Science Fiction Shouldn't Simplify The Complexity Of War

Damien G Walter, The Guardian

Military SF entertains with the imagery of future wars, but reveals the deluded fiction of modern conflict.

Divine Drudgery

Jonathan Raban, The New York Review Of Books

Wallace’s intellectual sophistication and prowess were entwined with a moral and social simplicity that feels almost childlike and that’s a crucial part of his fiction.

The Nobel Individual And The Paradoxes Of 'International Literature'

Tim Parks, The Times

Translated works are increasingly prominently among Nobel candidates but what kind of literature appeals to a global audience and can "direct, unmediated contact" between a writer and their reader survive translation?

Why She Fell

Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Review Of Books

At the heart of the Spider-Man disaster is the essential incompatibility of those two visions of physical transformation—the ancient and the modern, the redemptive and the punitive, visions that Taymor tried, heroically but futilely, to reconcile. As happens so often in both myth and comic books, the attempt to fuse two species resulted in the creation of a monster.

Philip Larkin, The Impossible Man

Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic

It is inescapable that we should wonder how and why poetry manages to transmute the dross of existence into magic or gold, and the contrast in Larkin’s case is a specially acute one.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bad Politics, Worse Prose

Suzanne Merkelson, Foreign Policy

From suicidal astronauts to bestiality, you can learn a lot about what makes the world's worst tyrants tick from the terrible books they write.

Book Review: 'The Silent Land' By Graham Joyce

Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times

With TV's "Lost" having found its conclusion, and its successor on the pop culture landscape still missing in its own right, fans longing for a mysterious and mystical world to explore might consider visiting "The Silent Land," a tautly rendered new novel by British writer Graham Joyce.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Zero Degrees Of Empathy By Simon Baron-Cohen: Review

Alasdair Palmer, Telegraph

This fascinating and disturbing book is an examination of why some people are viciously, violently cruel to others. “They’re evil” is the standard answer to that question, but as Simon Baron-Cohen points out, invoking evil isn’t really an explanation. It simply raises the question: but why are some people evil?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ever So Many Hundred Years Hence

Mark Strand, Slate


Joanna Kavenna, The Guardian

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Science Of Why We Don't Believe Science

Chris Mooney, Mother Jones

How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.

Cutting Greens

Lucille Clifton, Poetry Foundation

Breaking Bad News

Sally Williams, Intelligent Life

For decades, the way bad news was broken was, as one official British report put it, “deeply insensitive”. Now we do it better, thanks to the efforts of one American widow.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Food City

Paul Freedman, Boston Globe

In researching the history of American restaurants and preparing a new college course on the history of food, I surveyed hundreds of menus from Boston restaurants in the mid-19th century. What they revealed is that not only are many aspects of Boston’s restaurant past more glamorous than we might imagine, the menus are far more diverse than those of most restaurants today. When Bostonians went out to dinner, they expected — and got — a range of dishes that would seem overwhelming to modern diners.

The Cookbook Collector By Allegra Goodman – Review

Francine Prose, The Guardian

Not long ago, in Manhattan's Chinatown, I watched a young woman texting on a terrifyingly sophisticated piece of electronics while waiting to pay for an abacus and a purple glass Buddha. I thought of her several times while reading Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector. For among the novel's astute observations is the curious fact that, at least for the privileged, one perk of contemporary life is a certain fluidity about which century one can live in, from moment to moment.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How Book Publishing Has Changed Since 1984

Peter Osnos, The Atlantic

One of Random House's big books that spring was the diary of New York's governor, Mario Cuomo. Whatever else Cuomo wanted for his book, outselling New York's Mayor Ed Koch's number-one bestseller was a key goal. That never happened. When Cuomo delivered the finest speech of his career at the San Francisco Democratic Convention, he flew back overnight and called Jason Epstein, Random House's legendary editorial director to complain that his wife Matilda could not find copies of his book in stores around the Cow Palace, where the convention was held. Jason listened to Cuomo's lament and quietly observed: "Governor, no author since Homer has ever found his own book in a bookstore."

They Drove

Mark Ford, The Guardian

The Free World By David Bezmozgis – Review

Colin Greenland, The Guardian

"Any work of art," David Bezmozgis told the New Yorker, "has to have at its core some kind of irretrievable loss." His assertion was made last June, after the magazine had judged him, on the evidence of a handful of published short stories, one of the 20 best writers under 40 years of age. The Free World, his first novel, complies admirably with his prescription.

Mathematics Of Life By Ian Stewart - Review

Alex Bellos, The Guardian

When I was at school, biology was the science you took precisely to avoid calculations and formulae. Maths was firmly in bed with physics, its muse.

Ian Stewart says this is changing. He claims that for the next century the driving force behind mathematics will be biology, and that this marks a fundamental, and exciting, shift in how the sciences inter-relate. "Mathematicians like nothing better than a rich source of new questions," he writes. "Biologists, rightly, will be impressed only by the answers."

David Foster Wallace: The Last Audit

Tom McCarthy, New York Times

And then, perhaps, there’s a MacGuffin, peeping through this networked novel like James Incandenza’s lethally seductive film through “Infinite Jest.” Agent Chris Fogle, it is rumored, has concocted an algorithm that bequeaths to those who intone it a state of pure, impenetrable concentration — and the I.R.S.’s chiefs, for obvious reasons, want to prize this from him. But the formula, rather than accelerating the system’s ends, might instead allow the semi-enslaved worker to slip his shackles even as he dons them, to achieve a kind of mystical, if beleaguered, enlightenment. The novel’s final image sends us back to a 19th-century factory, in which a woman counting loops of twine is shown enjoying Zen-like immersion in her task. A transcendent ergonomics of the assembly line is, perhaps, the best that we can hope for, Wallace seems to conclude.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Rose Tremain, The Guardian

From Beijing To Hong Kong

Anthony Gardner, Intelligent Life

When I first made this trip in the mid-1980s, it was possible to spend an entire day trying to buy a ticket. Officials at the railway station would tell aspiring travellers that tickets could only be purchased from the government travel agency; the travel agency would then send these folks back to queue at the railway station. Even when the railway finally consented to take my money, officials explained that there was no mechanism for buying a return ticket. This meant travellers planning a round trip were doomed to go through the whole rigmarole again on the other end.

A quarter-century later, I was sure that this would have changed. But no: Beijing may have swapped bicycles for cars, and 1950s tenement blocks for state-of-the art skyscrapers, but the return ticket remains a foreign concept. The good news is that agents can be found who will do the queuing for you, thanks to the internet.

Why Bother?

Nicholas Dames, N+1

If the question of the ’80s and ’90s was, “What should we be reading, and how?,” the question that dogged the opening years of our new millennium was of a vastly more dismal kind: “Why bother?”

Kitsch, Gin, And Woods Of Her Own: Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Steepletop

Megan Mayhew Bergman, Writers' Houses

On a deserted stretch of road off Route 22 in Austerlitz, NY, pine trees rub against each other, whining in the winter sun. There are hundreds of acres here, forests with spruce and maple littered with bear, moose, deer, rabbit, and coyote tracks. Bygone apple trees crop up along East Hill Road, gnarled, snow-covered fruit hanging rotten from their limbs. Edna’s house, tall and white, holds court on top of a steep hill. The iron gates are left open. The pool she made from a barn foundation is frozen over. A bittersweet vine curls around the structure that once held her pool house and a Prohibition-era bar, complete with bullet holes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Obituary Writer Has The Upper Hand

Janet Maslin, New York Times

A faint but important frisson of fear runs all through this seeming lightheartedness, giving the book a spooky undercurrent. After all, Essie is one of what she calls the town’s “death merchants.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sex And Salter

Alexander Chee, The Paris Review

Too much writing about sex tries to either make it prettier or more serious, sexier or funnier or shocking, or anything, really, except what it is.

Pointless Is Pointless Is Pointless: David Orr Writes Useless Guide To Poetry’s Uselessness

Michael Robbins, The New York Observer

But a book that undertakes to educate "general readers" about contemporary poetry is handicapped by the uncomfortable truth that there is no such thing as a general reader.

The Amazing Healing Power Of "Buffy"

Michelle Masterson, Salon

It was my best friend's favorite show. After she died, the series became a way to remember her -- and let go.

Infinite Attention

Matt Feeney, Slate

It seems a telling sign of our technology-angst that we're getting nostalgic for, of all things, boredom.

The Rampant Rise Of Ayn Rand-O-Mania

Linton Weeks, NPR

In the way that Rebel Without a Cause in the 1950s or Wall Street in the 1980s spoke to a certain time and displacement in American history, will the Hollywood depiction of Ayn Rand's 1957 novel serve as some sort of easy-to-read cultural thermometer? Will the film flop or will it become the movie manifesto of America's nascent Tea Party?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ode To A Composting Toilet

Sharon Olds, Slate

Consider The Egg

Oliver Thring, The Guardian

In addition to its place in religious symbolism the egg is unrivalled in its culinary potential. What's your favourite egg dish?

Step Up To The Plate: The Trainees At El Bulli

Lisa Abend, The Guardian

Each year, around 3,000 apply for the privilege of passing six months as stagiaires – technically the word means "interns" or "apprentices," but it translates metaphorically as "kitchen slaves"– at its stove tops. The high regard in which the restaurant is held, as well as the chance to receive instruction from Adrià and his chefs, explains why the final 32 apprentices travel, at their own expense, from everywhere from Seoul to Bologna and Los Angeles to Caracas, to the tiny, overbuilt town of Roses on Spain's Costa Brava. It is also why they agree to work unpaid for 14 hours at a stretch in exchange for one meal a day and a bed in an unattractive apartment. It is why they stand virtually unmoving for seven of those hours, feet planted at the centre counter, squeezing the germ from thousands of kernels of corn or trimming the slime off anemones. If they make it through the six months that El Bulli is open, they can say they have worked in the best restaurant in the world.

My Broken Marriage In A Shoebox

Marcelle Soviero, Salon

The man I married and had three children with is minimized to a shoebox inside my memory trunk now. There's a photo of us with the ship captain on our cruise to Portofino. A photo from our December wedding, all those poinsettias. And the card Larry gave me for our first anniversary. "Love you forever," he wrote on the popup heart; I bend it back into the box.

Why do I keep this, I wonder? Perhaps I want my children to have access to items that prove their father and I loved each other. I imagine Sophia, our oldest daughter, 13 now, finding this note I wrote to Larry after I became pregnant with her. Maybe these sealed mementos will supplement the images she must have of her father and me dropping her off at one house or another, or standing like stick figures at her back-to-school nights.

I'm High On Life!

Tom Shone, Slate

Do artists do their best work before they get clean?

The Grand Tour

Evan Osnos, New Yorker

I chose the “Classic European,” a popular bus tour that would traverse five countries in ten days. Payment was due up front. Airfare, hotels, meals, insurance, and assorted charges came to the equivalent in yuan of about twenty-two hundred dollars. In addition, every Chinese member of the tour was required to put up a bond amounting to seventy-six hundred dollars—more than two years’ salary for the average worker—to prevent anyone from disappearing before the flight home. I was the thirty-eighth and final member of the group. We would depart the next morning at dawn.

Richard Feynman And The Connection Machine

W. Daniel Hillis, The Long Now Foundation

One day when I was having lunch with Richard Feynman, I mentioned to him that I was planning to start a company to build a parallel computer with a million processors. His reaction was unequivocal, "That is positively the dopiest idea I ever heard." For Richard a crazy idea was an opportunity to either prove it wrong or prove it right. Either way, he was interested. By the end of lunch he had agreed to spend the summer working at the company.

Book Review: 'The Color Of Night' By Madison Smartt Bell

Tod Goldberg, Los Angeles Times

The ability to comprehend unspeakable violence is based largely on scale. Today it's frighteningly easy to imagine a situation where you might be killed by someone. But for most of human history, it was more difficult to conjure the deaths of thousands of people. Technology makes it possible to the point that we can watch, into perpetuity, as portions of humanity are wiped away by natural disasters or by terrorists in hijacked airplanes. Why do we bother to watch at all? Is it a skewed attempt at empathy?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poem Of The Week: Interstate By Anne-Marie Fyfe

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

City Limits

Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times

Although puppyishly enthusiastic, Glaeser can also be provocative, noting for instance that 1,000 years ago three of the world’s four biggest cities – Seville, Cordoba and Palermo – were Islamic. (Constantinople was the fourth.) It is a point worth remembering, as western architects, forgetful of history, rebuild the Gulf.

The Illuminated Text

Claude Peck, Rain Taxi

Two remarkable artists join hands across time—and across the chasm of some of the most idiosyncratic French ever written—in a new translation by John Ashbery of Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations. The project makes so much sense that one wonders why someone didn’t think of it sooner.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Out There In The Dark, All Alone

Manohla Dargis, New York Times

While many of us still go to movie theaters, the 24-hour movie now also comes to us, though sometimes us may be just one person sitting alone at a desk or on a train and staring at a glowing box. This new portable movie is convenient, and certainly wired-up companies like the new ways they can pump images to your devices. But it isn’t moviegoing as we have understood it for most of history.

I [Heart] The OED

Jan Freeman, Boston Globe

A dictionary can, of course, “have dignity,” but its standing depends on scholarship, not censorship.

The $100 Million Pond

Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, Boston Globe

A growing number of environmentalists, scientists, and economists have embraced the concept of putting a price tag on nature, which is reframed as “natural capital” and “ecosystem services.” Rather than casting nature as some abstract, awe-inspiring entity, or as a luxury trumped by economic imperatives, they see it as a provider of an array of specific, identifiable services that are vital to our well-being. And increasingly, they are deploying sophisticated methods to arrive at precise and credible dollar values. They hope that their painstaking analyses will lead to smarter decisions about land and water management. And, more broadly, the thinking is that hard numbers will resonate more than odes to Mother Earth — that dollar figures will allow people to better understand their own reliance on natural goods and services, as well as the costs of neglecting or destroying them.

Moonwalking With Einstein By Joshua Foer – Review

Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

Being able to recite the kings and queens of England means little, surely, compared with knowing where to find that information online in a matter of seconds, along with all the presidents of America, 30 recipes for spaghetti carbonara, the full text of Paradise Lost, and pretty much anything else. To invest precious time and energy enhancing my capacity for rote learning would seem eccentric. But such eccentrics do exist. The most talented (and, apparently, the most eccentric) spend their lives on the competitive memorisation circuit; the endearingly geeky world that Joshua Foer sets out to explore in this witty and revelatory book.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How To Read Poetry Today

David Kirby, New York Times

The teachers thought that my poem said one thing but meant another, and that it’s the reader’s job to figure out what the poet is really saying. No wonder poetry doesn’t have a bigger audience. All that code cracking. Who has the time?

David Orr, that’s who — though in “Beautiful and Pointless,” his new guide to modern poetry, the most important thing he reveals about codes is that there aren’t any.

Old Flames, Eternal City

Liesl Schillinger, New York Times

This novel, Mary Gordon’s 16th book and 10th work of fiction, resounds with echoes of relationships and themes from her previous work — both fiction and memoir — and carries an energizing aura of remembered experience.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Moral Values By Sam Harris – Review

Giles Fraser, The Guardian

It isn't Sam Harris's atheism that bothers Giles Fraser, but his breathtaking hubris.

A Hundred Doors By Michael Longley – Review

Sean O'Brien, The Guardian

Michael Longley's reverence for the living and the dead is as evident as ever.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Libambulators Unite! Walking + Reading To Save A City

Lee Klein, Swink

Hold a book in front of you, a little to one side. Focus on the sentences but also use your peripheral vision. Mark your place with a thumb as you sample what’s ahead: the sidewalk continues for 200 feet; that biker will glide around you; long before that dogwalker approaches, veer from her oversized Akita. Such sights don’t interfere with steady, immersive reading. There’s no annoying entanglement of thought and text. Look up, store an image, and walk through it as you read. Instead of walking solely in the real world, inhabit a fictional world you imaginatively co-create with the book that’s in your hand.

So You Want To Start A Food Truck?

Aviva Shen, Salon

For most of the 20th century, corporate drones wanting to jump ship have had a pretty reliable road map to culinary glory: You started at the bottom, maybe as a dishwasher somewhere, and worked your way up to line cook, to sous chef, to positions at steadily fancier and more expensive restaurants. Or, you enrolled in cooking school. Either route helped you build up the broad, deep culinary repertoire you need.

But the rules are changing.

The High Art Of The Tamale

Alma Guillermoprieto, New York Review Of Books

Diana Kennedy was born in England some several decades ago (she does not like to be precise about such things) and grew up high-spirited, feisty, and no-nonsense. In 1957 she came to Mexico with her soon-to-be husband, Paul Kennedy, who was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and then she really fell in love—with her new life and with a universe of flavors, colors, textures, shapes, and aromas several light-years removed from her own. How could she have resisted? She was coming from the drab kitchens of postwar England, and in Mexico City just a short walk through any neighborhood market was enough to make her swoon: armfuls of blossoms the color of gold, the smoky perfume of dried chiles gusting through the corridors, the racket of a dozen vendors vying for her attention, waist-high pyramids of unheard-of vegetables, pumpkins of every description, gourds, melons, purple amaranth plants, shocking-pink cactus fruit, blood-red hibiscus flowers, and, above the general din, the metallic cries of the vendors...¡cómpreme, marchantita! Buy here! Buy here!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jonathan Gold Reviews The Olive Garden

Jonathan Gold, LA Weekly

I had no intention of eating lunch at the Olive Garden. I was planning to intercept the grumpy photographer at the door and spirit her to the Derby, a track-fueled steak house less than a minute's drive down the street. We'd have a Sidecar or two. We'd laugh at how she'd been fooled. There would be leftover meat for her bull terrier.

The Joys Of Mexican Vegetarian Dishes

Lorenza Muñoz, Los Angeles Times

No New Age-y tofu or walnut 'meat' here. Just simple and light meals featuring cheese and vegetable staples of the Mexican kitchen.

Modern Times

Morgan Meis, The Smart Set

To be modern is one thing; to know what to do with that is quite another.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's Hard To Make Predictions, Especially About The Future

Ronald Bailey, Reason

The new book Future Babble explains why dart-throwing monkeys are better at predicting the future than most pundits.

Death And Taxes

Garth Risk Hallberg, New York Magazine

Why David Foster Wallace still demands our attention.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Save NPR!

Mark Oppenheimer, Slate

But please, put PBS out of its misery.

Odysseus Seeing Laertes

George Kalogeris, Slate

Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play In Traffic

P.j. O'rourke, Wall Street Journal

Given that riding a bike in a city is insane and that very few cities need more insane people on their streets, why the profusion of urban bike lanes?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Trying Too Hard In The Kitchen

Chris Neill, The Guardian

Everyone likes feeling that a dinner host has gone to some effort on their behalf, but there is such a thing as trying too hard. Where's the line?

Sardine Life

Justin Davidson, New York Magazine

What a century and a half of piled-up housing reveals about us.

Love In Bookstores

Emma Straub, Slate

Browsing customers often circle each other like timid sharks.

Pushing Paper

Ben Kafka, Laphams Quarterly

Why is there no Norton Anthology of Paperwork? Though the trove of Franz Kafka manuscripts hidden away in safe-deposit boxes has attracted more attention from the mainstream media, the collection of newly translated memos that the author crafted during his years as a staff lawyer for the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute in Prague is the real treasure. Kafka: “The Institute is convinced that if the case were such that the risk category for sheep’s-wool-weaving mills had been higher than the category for cotton-weaving mills, pressure would have been exerted to get the mixed-weaving mills classified as cotton-weaving mills, a change that would, if only coincidentally, have corresponded to actual conditions.”

Taxonomy And Grace

Joseph P. Wood, Open Letters Monthly

Over the fifteen years since first hearing “Berryman,” I still believe — however naively — that poems can speak to other human beings and can make collective society consider our own convictions, experiences, and beliefs. Yet, I also am now deeply entrenched in the creative writing field, located squarely within university walls and my profession’s various conferences.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Erasing The Digital Past

Nick Bilton, New York Times

After failing to rid the negative sites on their own, most turned to a new breed of Web specialists known as online reputation managers, who offer to expunge negative posts, bury unfavorable search results and monitor a client’s virtual image.

A Different Gandhi

Anita Desai, New York Review Of Books

Even in his lifetime the legend of Mahatma Gandhi had grown to such proportions that the man himself can be said to have disappeared as if into a dust storm. Joseph Lelyveld’s new biography sets out to find him. His subtitle alerts us that this is not a conventional biography in that he does not repeat the well-documented story of Gandhi’s struggle for India but rather his struggle with India, the country that exasperated, infuriated, and dismayed him, notwithstanding his love for it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Richard Feynman, The Thinker

George Johnson, New York Times

It is not something easily summarized. Einstein discovered relativity. Murray Gell-Mann discovered the quark. And Feynman? Well, there was that thing he did on TV with the O-ring and the ice water, showing why the Challenger had disintegrated. But to physicists he is famous for something more obscure: cleaning up the mathematical mess known as quantum electrodynamics — an ambitious attempt to explain light and matter using two great theories, quantum mechanics and special relativity.

Our False Beliefs About Language

Geoffrey Nunberg, New York Times

“You Are What You Speak” is concerned more with the things people say about language than with the way it works. Readers will gain a deeper understanding of language structure and language change from the books of Pinker and McWhorter. But Greene comes into his own in his knowledgeable discussion of the politics of language in nations from Turkey to Israel to India, and of the folly in trying to regulate language from the top down.

The Definitive Slang Dictionary

Ben Zimmer, New York Times

Back in 1937, when Eric Partridge’s groundbreaking “Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English” was first published, The New York Times Book Review ran a glowing notice. “The lost words of the language have finally come to roost,” it began. “The unmentionables are mentioned and carefully placed in proper alphabetical form.”

Now, nearly 75 years later, can a slang dictionary possibly hope to uncover any “lost words”? Are there any unmentionables left to mention?

The Coincidence Engine By Sam Leith - Review

Colin Greenland, The Guardian

The Coincidence Engine is an absurdist novel of ideas, comparable to the books of Robert Anton Wilson: anarchic, psychedelic, with a serious delight in paradox

The Good Of The Novel, Edited By Liam McIlvanney And Ray Ryan - Review

Stefan Collini, The Guardian

This book contains some outstanding writing about fiction, about individual novels and also, along the way, about the power and reach of the novel as a form. In an age of drive-by reviewing, when every reader can tell the (electronic) world whether or not they "like" a particular book, these 13 essays together constitute something of a manifesto, speaking up for the continuing vitality of that traditional form, the critical essay, a discursive piece of writing which is longer than a journalistic review but more accessible than an academic article.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Good Book, Great Film

Jonathan Coe, The Guardian

In the course of their famous book-length interview, François Truffaut once asked Alfred Hitchcock about his approach to literary adaptation, and Hitch's response was as magisterial, worldly and mischievous as one would expect: "What I do is to read a story only once, and if I like the basic idea, I just forget all about the book and start to create cinema. Today I would be unable to tell you the story of Daphne du Maurier's The Birds. I read it only once, and very quickly at that."

Of The 1%, By The 1%, For The 1%

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair

Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.

Unfinished Business

Lev Grossman, Time

When Pietsch finished his survey, he had found a total of 328 chapters and drafts and fragments from The Pale King, but Wallace had left no clues as to how they fit together. At that point Pietsch's role skewed from editor toward collaborator.

Why Must Action Heroines Wear S&M Stripper Outfits To Kick Butt?

Anne Bilson, The Guardian

At least when Michelle Pfeiffer runs up her black PVC bodysuit in Batman Returns, it's made clear she's suffering from brain damage.

By Heng-Cheong Leong