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Carl Dennis, Slate
AL Kennedy, The Guardian
And it's a reminder – Dum-dah-dum, da dah-dum dah-dum – of a deep pleasure in being a writer: the permanent music it provides.
Felisa Rogers, Salon
As a Yankee, I wouldn't dare to pontificate on the contentious history of barbecue as a food -- better leave that to the Southerners. But as an enthusiast of grilled meat and backyards, I certainly feel qualified to hold forth on that other use of the word "barbecue": the outdoor cookout.
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Have a murie bank holiday. You might hear a cuccu, if you're luccy. And if the weather's really awful, sing along with Ezra Pound instead.
Dirk Johnson, New York Times
At the Weber hot line center here, this is the busiest week of the year, as thousands of befuddled grillers (overwhelmingly male) are being rescued by a team of about 40 grilling experts (almost all of them women).
Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon
At times, I worry terrifically about scaring them. I have spent their lives telling them that it's OK to cry, letting them feel safe about expressing themselves. But there is a huge gulf between their emotions and Mommy's emotions.
John R. Searle, New York Review Of Books
How do neurobiological processes in the brain cause consciousness? I think this is the most important question in the biological sciences today. Two related questions: Where exactly is consciousness realized in the brain and how does it function causally in our behavior? Antonio Damasio is one of the leading workers in the field of consciousness research, and after having written a number of books on related problems, in Self Comes to Mind he addresses the problem of consciousness directly. He does not claim to have solved it but he believes that he has made advances and pointed in the right direction for a solution.
Robert McCrum, The Guardian
For as long as there has been a recognisable language, the colour, texture and everyday use of English has inspired the kind of devotion that lies north of obsession but south of idolatry.
Colin Thubron, The Guardian
The urge to travel continues, but the destinations seem to wane.
Adam Kirsch, New York Times
The passage of time doesn’t just turn life into history; it also changes the contours of history itself. Over the last several years, historians, philosophers and others have begun to think about the Second World War in challenging and sometimes disturbing new ways, reflecting the growing distance between the country that fought the war and the country that remembers it.
Saul Frampton, The Weekly Standard
Frampton tells us that Montaigne’s earliest essays were “characterized by their obsession with battle plans and tactics, arquebuses, lances and the generalissimos of old.” In them the author praises Alexander, discourses on armor, and describes the Romans’ facility with the javelin. But warfare in Montaigne’s day was changing, and the loudest chord he strikes in these pieces is of wariness and despair. Firearms and shifting, diluted codes of honor had made 16th-century battle a strikingly impersonal and unpredictable thing, and the French civil wars between Protestants and Catholics, which raged as Montaigne wrote, were especially erratic and capricious.
Sam Jordison, The Guardian
Do you also find yourself writing in the style of the book you are reading? Who has the strongest influence on you? Who can you imitate most effectively? How do you snap out of it? If you can set down your answer in the style of the authors in question, so much the better. And if anyone can do Wodehouse, well, that really would be an utter p.
Elizabeth Day, The Guardian
There will, I imagine, be plenty of people who avoid reading Then, her latest novel, because of a preconceived notion of the woman who wrote it. They would be wrong to do so. Then is a bold, uncompromising book written with a deftness of touch that marks out Myerson as a truly interesting and risk-taking author.
Francis Lam, Salon
The classics are delicious, to be sure, but isn't their unyielding presence frustrating for a chef so inspired by newness?
Ruth Franklin, Bookforum
The best seller is caught in a peculiar paradox: Its popularity can be understood as both proof and negation of its value.
Barbara Spindel, Salon
Pete Hamill has written many love letters to New York City, in fiction, journalism, and memoir. With his latest novel, he's written a nostalgic love letter to the New York City daily tabloids. "Tabloid City" shifts perspective among more than a dozen characters, but at its heart is Sam Briscoe, a 71-year-old editor who wears fedoras and trench coats and says "goddamned" a lot. Sam helms the New York World, Gotham's last afternoon tabloid, which, like all newspapers, is "under assault from digitalized artillery."
Paul Theroux, New York Review Of Books
Otherness can be like an illness; being a stranger can be analogous to experiencing a form of madness—those same intimations of the unreal and the irrational, when everything that has been familiar is stripped away.
Susan Dominus, New York Times
Twins joined at the head — the medical term is craniopagus — are one in 2.5 million, of which only a fraction survive. The way the girls’ brains formed beneath the surface of their fused skulls, however, makes them beyond rare: their neural anatomy is unique, at least in the annals of recorded scientific literature. Their brain images reveal what looks like an attenuated line stretching between the two organs, a piece of anatomy their neurosurgeon, Douglas Cochrane of British Columbia Children’s Hospital, has called a thalamic bridge, because he believes it links the thalamus of one girl to the thalamus of her sister.
Rudolph Herzog, The Guardian
Seen at a distance of 70 years, these jokes can appear tasteless and feeble. Herzog argues that they offer a telling insight into "what preoccupied and moved Hitler's 'racial community'." They also reveal a tension.
Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times
But a moment longer of staring into the sun of this mighty topic could've done this clever novel good. What's the point of sex if you don't have the long, thoughtful cigarette afterward?
Noreen Malone, Slate
Modern prose doesn't need any more interruptions—seriously.
Charles Wright, Slate
Lucy Daniel, Telegraph
There is something deeply democratic about its interest in the little words, conjunctions and prepositions, and how they change the way we construe the world: “but the thing I particularly like about the word ‘but’, now that I think about it, is that it always takes you off to the side, and where it takes you is always interesting”.
Chris Erskine, Los Angeles Times
Point of view is everything with Reiser, not to mention an eye for the little things in a father's life. Reiser doesn't so much pick the right word as accentuate the right emotion.
Roseanne Barr, New York Magazine
During the recent and overly publicized breakdown of Charlie Sheen, I was repeatedly contacted by the media and asked to comment, as it was assumed that I know a thing or two about starring on a sitcom, fighting with producers, nasty divorces, public meltdowns, and bombing through a live comedytour. I have, however, never smoked crack or taken too many drugs, unless you count alcohol as a drug (I don’t). But I do know what it’s like to be seized by bipolar thoughts that make one spout wise about Tiger Blood and brag about winning when one is actually losing.
Stefany Anne Golberg, The Smart Set
Yet for most Deaf Americans, Helen Keller's struggle wasn’t about overcoming a disability; she simply needed to learn the language of being Deaf. You see, for most Deaf Americans, being Deaf is not a handicap at all. It is not the inability to hear but rather, the ability to perceive life in a different way from hearing people. For many, it’s a blessing.
Alex Kotlowitz, Mother Jones
It's impossible to take measure of Vivian Maier's photos without taking stock of her story. She was by all accounts remarkably private, someone who didn't always enjoy the company of other adults. And yet her photographs feel like a celebration of people—a celebration of what Studs Terkel, the late grand oral historian, liked to call "the etceteras" of the world.
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Laura Miller, Salon
"The media don't control you," Gladstone writes. "They pander to you." Until we're willing to fess up to our own complicity, and to wrestle with the "neural impulses that animate our lizard brains," we will go on getting nothing better than "the media we deserve."
Fuchsia Dunlop, Financial Times
I opened the plastic boxes that I'd carried, sealed, all the way from London, and the stench of farmhouse cheeses began to waft across the room. The Chinese chefs and waiting staff seated around the table eyed them warily. Only two of the younger chefs had any cheese-related experience. None of the others, including the manager and executive chef of the Xianheng, Mao Tianyao, had tasted it in any form.
Jan Freeman, Boston Globe
For copy editors, though, the food beat is more than recipes; it’s a stew of language leftovers, dense with foreign words, obscure traditions, and quirky stylings.
Mark Bittman, Salon
It took a few more years until I realized that there was something about cooking that appealed to me. I didn't know what it was then, but I do know now: along with child rearing, it gave me a sense of competence that I'd never had before.
Melvyn Bragg, The Guardian
What we have is an unfinished novel that blazes with Beryl's unique talent.
Mark Bostridge, Financial Times
The power of this remarkable short novel remains long after one has finished it. It also renews our sense of literature’s loss at Beryl Bainbridge’s death.
John Fuller, The Guardian
Who is Ozymandias? Why is Coleridge's Lime-Tree Bower his prison? And what is the proper spelling of The Waste Land? The solving of a poem's puzzles is one poetry's greatest pleasures.
John Darnton, New York Times
Granted, as silver linings go this may be scant consolation, but the decline and demise of newspapers seems to be ushering in a raft of good novels by journalists who miss the old ink and newsprint. Reporters harking back to footloose times are not new (think of Evelyn Waugh’s “When the Going Was Good”), but now that end days may actually be upon us, we may be facing a complete subgenre: Où sont les news d’antan? We’ve already had Tom Rachman’s book “The Imperfectionists.” Now comes Pete Hamill’s “Tabloid City,” which sets a high bar for those that follow.
J.H. Elliott, New York Review Of Books
Over the past few decades all three pillars supporting the structure of colonial history have come to look increasingly insecure, partly as a consequence of changes in the discipline of history, but also because of the enormous political, social, and cultural changes that have transformed the world itself.
Mark Oconnell, The Millions
But what I found with Gaddis’s gigantic exploration of fraudulence and creativity was that, though they were greatly outnumbered by the frustrations, the pleasures seemed to register much more firmly.
Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian
His theories on society were fashionable 200 years ago, so why are British politicians such fans of this New York Times columnist's new book?
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
The narrator of Teju Cole’s odd, sometimes striking, sometimes frustrating first novel is a med student named Julius who likes to wander through the streets of New York City, and the book is filled with arresting, strobe-lit glimpses of Manhattan, “this strangest of islands.”
Julia Moskin, New York Times
With 10 million recipe searches a day on Google alone, the results surely influence what Americans eat. But when you idly type in “cookies” — the most common recipe search, according to Google — do these systems evaluate recipes the way a good cook would, by the clarity of their directions, the helpfulness of their warnings, the tastiness of the results?
Michael Ruhlman, Slate
Step 1: Preheat your oven. Step 2: Wash chicken. Step 3: Have sex with your partner.
Tracy Clark-flory, Salon
Masturbation has by no means conquered all social taboos -- will it ever, really? -- but when it comes to fantasy, we could all use some loosening up.
Ianthe Brautigan, San Francisco Chronicle
Ying-Ying Chang, Iris Chang's mother, makes a brave strike by breaking this silence. Her intent, stated clearly in the book's title, "The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond The Rape of Nanking," is to ensure that her daughter's legacy won't be defined by its final act.
August Heffner, Salon
When I started sketching instead of using my camera, it revolutionized my travel experience.
Tim Folger, Photograph By Nick Mann, National Geographic Magazine
From smart phones to hybrid vehicles to cordless power drills, devices we all desire are made with a pinch of rare earths—exotic elements that right now come mostly from China.
Virginia Heffernan, New York Times
Let the foodies complain about Twitter while they make emu-egg cassoulet with crème fraiche. Techies have better things to do.
Sam Anderson, New York Times
It has a strange integrity: the purity of an actual, unremarkable guy telling his actual, (mostly) unremarkable story.
Kate Kellaway, The Guardian
Wendy Cope's first new collection of poems in a decade finds her focusing on death, in deadpan style.
Gwyneth Jones, The Guardian
Recommended as "very, very good" by William Gibson, this is the other face of cyberpunk, a face we've seen too little of in the past decade. Not the ultra-violent übermensch "future noir" (though there's plenty of violence) but an information-drenched world that has become haunted. Thus the "animalled" may simply be a marker, like the Voudun in Gibson's work, of the strangeness of postmodern modes of being. But true to the king of cyberpunk's original code, this isn't about exposition. Zoo City is about surface, décor and incident, grungey eyekicks and jive-talk for the in-crowd.
Brian Aldiss, The Guardian
Stefan Fatsis, Slate
Here we go again, Scrabble fans.
Tony Perrottet, Slate
If Paris was an island of fantasy within Europe, "Le Chabanais," as Parisians affectionately referred to it, was its dreamlike jewel.
Steve Rose, The Guardian
This week, to mark its 40th anniversary, a newly restored version will be unveiled at Cannes, and released shortly after on Blu-ray. So the film's journey into mainstream respectability, and availability, is finally complete.
Geoff Dyer, Three Penny Review
My mother often quoted with approval the maxim “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Unfortunately she thought this was intended as exhortation rather than warning.
Kim Brooks, Salon
My college students don't understand commas, far less how to write an essay. Is it time to rethink how we teach?
John Markoff, New York Times
Jeff Gordinier, New York Times
If there is one thing the dragon fruit has mastered, it’s the art of the Hollywood entrance.
Garrett Hongo, Slate
Carolyn Forché, Poetry Foundation
To hell and back, with poetry.
Julian Baggini, Prospect
A new book argues that human beings are born to lie: that we cannot live without deceit. Is this true—and does it matter?
Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker
Like Administration officials recounting the milestones in the bin Laden search, Daniels enumerated some of the now surmounted obstacles. The big break in the case, it turns out, was the invention of an algorithm for sorting the dead.
Simon Leys, New York Review Of Books
The intimate Orwell? For an article dealing with a volume of his diaries and a selection of his letters, at first such a title seemed appropriate; yet it could also be misleading inasmuch as it might suggest an artificial distinction—or even an opposition—between Eric Blair, the private man, and George Orwell, the published writer. The former, it is true, was a naturally reserved, reticent, even awkward person, whereas Orwell, with pen (or gun) in hand, was a bold fighter. In fact—and this becomes even more evident after reading these two volumes—Blair’s personal life and Orwell’s public activity both reflected one powerfully single-minded personality. Blair-Orwell was made of one piece: a recurrent theme in the testimonies of all those who knew him at close range was his “terrible simplicity.” He had the “innocence of a savage.”
Ursula K Le Guin, The Guardian
China Miéville knows what kind of novel he's writing, calls it by its name, science fiction, and exhibits all the virtues that make it an intensely interesting form of literature. It's a joy to find this young author coming into his own, and bringing the craft of science fiction out of the backwaters where it's been caught lately between the regressive drag of publishers marketing to a "safe" readership and the bewildering promises of change and growth offered by postmodernism in all its forms and formlessness. Embassytown is a fully achieved work of art.
Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
There's murder and mayhem in Pete Hamill's latest novel, "Tabloid City," but the real victim in his book is the print journalism that Hamill knows and loves so well. This ticking time bomb of a novel is about the end of a form of daily storytelling in which America's big cities are like small towns — their recognizable casts of characters, dramas and moral struggles playing out on a slightly bigger, more complex stage.
John Naughton, The Guardian
The fact that a nation that lives by its considerable wits should be in denial about its reliance on the life of the mind is truly weird. It's what led the historian of ideas Stefan Collini to postulate what he calls the "absence thesis".
Peter Forbes, The Guardian
Tim Radford's book shows that the familiar is stranger than we think.
J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times
Like all good independent bookstores, BookCourt in Brooklyn has a robust section of staff recommendations. There, nestled in with titles by Jennifer Egan, Haruki Murakami and David Foster Wallace, is “Other People We Married,” a collection of short stories by Emma Straub. A handwritten note taped to the wall below reads: “I wrote this book. Please buy it. I love you.”
David Free, The Australian
"'This year I almost died." That arresting sentence comes from Clive James's poem, Fashion Statement, published in January, but written towards the end of last year.
James isn't writing in someone else's voice here. He is speaking for himself. He really did almost die last year.
Victoria Beale, The Guardian
As the happy glow of that wedding fades, literature provides some brilliant examples of what's in store when the honeymoon ends.
Katherine Harmon, Scientific America
Why all the celebration after the killing of Osama bin Laden? A psychologist who studies evolution and human behavior explains the complex desire for vengeance.
Daniel T. Willingham, Scientific American
Why so many people choose not to believe what scientists say.
Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times
Josh Hiller is fed up. As a partner in RoadStoves, the food truck outfitter that helped launch Kogi into the stratosphere, he thinks L.A.'s rapidly expanding new-wave food truck scene is getting out of hand.
Daniel Kalder, The Guardian
Authors with genuinely red-toothed experience have fascinating insights into the way the world really works to draw on. But where are they?
Tom Payne, Telegraph
This delay tells us two things. One is that it has been hard to convince anglophone readers that Perec is anything more than quirky and to persuade new audiences of the seriousness that lies behind his work. The other is that he wrote so much that, like a distant planet, news of all his creative energy has yet to reach us.
Bella Bathurst, The Guardian
You can tell a lot about people from the kind of books they steal. Every year, the public library service brings out a new batch of statistics on their most-pilfered novelists – Martina Cole, James Patterson, Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling. But in practice, different parts of Britain favour different books. Worksop likes antiques guides and hip-hop biographies. Brent prefers books on accountancy and nursing, or the driving theory test. Swansea gets through a lot of copies of the UK Citizenship Test. In Barnsley, it's Mig welding and tattoos ("I've still no idea what Mig welding is," says Ian Stringer, retired mobile librarian for the area. "The books always got taken before I could find out.") And Marylebone Library in London has achieved a rare equality. Their most stolen items are The Jewish Chronicle, Arabic newspapers and the Bible.
Melinda Beck, Wall Street Journal
A flurry of small studies suggest that sex is as good for your health as vitamin D and broccoli. It not only relieves stress, improves sleep and burns calories, it can also reduce pain, ease depression, strengthen blood vessels, boost the immune system and lower the risk of prostate and breast cancer.
But many of those studies rely on people to remember and report their sexual activity honestly and many can't distinguish between cause and effect. That is, does sex make people healthier or do healthier people have more sex?
Michael Deacon, Telegraph
'Puns offer disrespect to language," complains Martin Amis. "All they do is make words look stupid." Newspapers run quite enough criticism of this entertaining novelist, so let's forget that the works of three of his favourite writers – Nabokov, Joyce and Shakespeare – swarm with puns, and that the subtitle of his own finest novel, Money: a Suicide Note, is a pun. But I must defend punning, which is a minor art, in the right hands.
Virginia Lloyd, Bookslut
I grew up in a household largely devoid of poetry in a suburb so starved for public transport that our most reliable way into town was a ferry crossing. Over the years I commuted to and from high school, down a tributary of the Parramatta River west of the city into the sloshing embrace of downtown Circular Quay, the highlight of my journey was passing beneath the criss-cross girders of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I imagined the journeys of countless strangers above me in cars, buses and trains, and dreamed of future adventures of my own to places which, I realised much later, were defined by their bridges: New York, Paris, Venice. It was years before I discovered Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” which looked forward to a literal East River crossing as it spoke to future generations of the feelings common to any ferry passenger who ever paid attention to her voyage.
Elizabeth Bachner, Bookslut
Dwelling made of not knowing which way to turn, dwelling made of saber glitter, dwelling made of cut necks. I’m reading Aimé Césaire, unexpurgated, in his own language and my language at the same time. I’m stuck on the poem “Unmaking and Remaking the Sun.” Today I’ve been trying to come to a decision. To change the course of my life. To unmake, remake, make something happen, and it’s gotten me thinking about language. “Come to” a decision, as if I’m going to walk into some rainy urban park, or weave through the crowds on Broadway, and the answer will appear geographically, in a fixed spot, final as a slashed throat. Faite, fate.
Simon Blackburn, The New Republic
We humans can appreciate many things. It is one of our most attractive qualities. How could Rodolfo not fall in love with Mimi as she sings her own rapture at the first sunshine after winter, the first kiss of April? In this small feast of a book Stanley Fish displays his love of the English sentence, and even without Puccini to help, his enthusiasm is seductive. His connoisseurship is broad and deep, his examples are often breathtaking, and his analyses of how the masterpieces achieve their effects are acute and compelling.
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Jonah Lehrer, Wall Street Journal
Today, it turns out, the real cutting edge of architecture has to do with the psychology of buildings, not just their appearance. Recently, scientists have begun to focus on how architecture and design can influence our moods, thoughts and health. They've discovered that everything—from the quality of a view to the height of a ceiling, from the wall color to the furniture—shapes how we think.
Erin McKean, Boston Globe
Why is this — the lexical equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “la la la, I can’t hear you” — such a strangely persistent little witticism?
Robert McCrum, The Guardian
From a fairytale wedding to news of an unlikely cab ride – are audiences regaining their appetite for cheerful stories?