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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: 'Stolen Pleasures' By Gina Berriault

David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

The late writer's facility with small epiphanies is evident in these selected stories.

Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy‑Machine!!! By Daljit Nagra – Review

Kate Kellaway, The Guardian

Even the title is a pick-me-up: animated, garrulous, entertaining and breaking an unwritten rule (since when were three exclamation marks welcomed in poetry?).

The Sense Of An Ending By Julian Barnes – Review

Justin Cartwright, The Guardian

Deservedly longlisted for the Man Booker prize, this is a very fine book, skilfully plotted, boldly conceived, full of bleak insight into the questions of ageing and memory, and producing a very real kick – or peripeteia – at its end.

Don't Vote! It Just Encourages The Bastards By PJ O'Rourke – Review

Jessica Holland, The Guardian

It's important, as PJ O'Rourke says in this good-naturedly cantankerous polemic, to shout at the radio now and again. He listens to National Public Radio rather than fellow rightwinger Rush Limbaugh, because "when I'm in the car, I want the only one shouting to be me". There's no point being preached to when you're already a convert.

Reverting To A Wild State

Justin Torres, New Yorker

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Jargon Of The Novel, Computed

Ben Zimmer, New York Times

When we see a character in contemporary fiction “bolt upright” or “draw a breath,” we join in this silent game, picking up the subtle cues that telegraph a literary style. The game works best when the writer’s idiomatic English does not scream “This is a novel!” but instead provides a kind of comfortable linguistic furniture to settle into as we read a novel or short story.

Book Clubs

Nathan Heller, Slate

Why do we love them so much? Is it the zucchini bread?

Sex, Lies And Data Mining

Wesley Yang, New York Times

The concentrated essence of this curious book is contained in its 11th chapter, which attempts to explain what the “Mona Lisa” has in common with Chicken McNuggets, vampire novels and the concluding scene of most pornographic videos.

Black Box

John McAuliffe, The Guardian

David By Mary Hoffman – Review

Linda Buckley-Archer, The Guardian

It is a brilliant premise for a novel. A few pages into the pacy and vivid narrative I found myself wondering why on earth someone had not had, or at any rate used, this idea before. Hoffman explains that she "set out to discover what a young man, looking as David looks, might experience if he entered Florence in 1501".

Friday, July 29, 2011


Wendell Berry, The Atlantic

Food Britannia By Andrew Webb – Review

Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian

The book gives the reader permission to linger lovingly over brand names such as Bird's Custard and Walker's Shortbread while also rejoicing in the way that generic dishes pulled from postwar childhoods - scotch eggs, curd tarts and bubble and squeak – are making a comeback.

The Great Fleet Street Novel

Thomas Jones, New York Times

“If you’d gone to a publisher in 1981 with a proposal for a science-fiction novel that consisted of a really clear and simple description of the world today,” William Gibson told The Paris Review recently, “they’d have read your proposal and said: ‘Well, it’s impossible. This is ridiculous.’ ” You’d have gotten a similar reaction if you’d gone to a publisher earlier this year with a proposal for a novel that went something like this: journalists on a British tabloid hack into and delete the voice mail messages of a missing (murdered, it turns out) teenage girl. Their activities are exposed by a rival outfit, to widespread public outrage. The paper in question is shut down by its owner, despite having a circulation of millions. Senior policemen, who hired former journalists from the paper as press officers, resign. Evidence emerges of illegal payments from the paper to corrupt police in exchange for information about celebrities, politicians and crime victims. Several journalists are arrested, including two former editors of the paper, one of whom had worked for the prime minister. A whistle-blower is found dead (though police say it isn’t suspicious). The paper’s owner, mogul of an international media empire, is summoned to testify before Parliament. And the allegations of wrongdoing just keep coming.

The Crap In My Head

David Carkeet, The Morning News

Little things people say can get stuck in your brain and become triggers, forcing you to relive moments you’d rather forget. Well, for aspiring linguists, it’s much, much worse.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How A Famous Kitchen Seduced Me

Tamar Adler, Salon

Years before Prune's chef wrote a bestselling memoir, I asked her to teach me to cook -- and she changed my life.

Gods Without Men By Hari Kunzru – Review

Theo Tait, The Guardian

At its worst, it's diverting and readable; at its best, it's genuinely interesting and exhilarating.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

American English Is Getting On Well, Thanks

Grant Barrett, BBC

But the larger point, as Engel puts it, is the "sloppy loss of our own distinctive phraseology through sheer idleness, lack of self-awareness and our attitude of cultural cringe". He writes, "We are letting British English wither."

The "we", in my opinion, is best thought of as the scribbling class that includes Engel.

Evolution Right Under Our Noses

Carl Zimmer, New York Times

To study evolution, Jason Munshi-South has tracked elephants in central Africa and proboscis monkeys in the wilds of Borneo. But for his most recent expedition, he took the A train.

Wooing With Words In The Age Of The Incredible Shrinking Message

Dwight Garner, New York Times

Christopher Johnson’s lively first book, “Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little,” is a work of pop linguistics that doesn’t have much that’s blindingly new to say. That is, it synthesizes a wide range of current thinking from recent books about grammar, branding, cognitive science and Web theory. But it does so with intelligence and friendly wit. Mr. Johnson’s point is that words are for wooing, in ways both personal and professional, and his own prose is sociable enough to underscore that point and spritz it with a bit of sophisticated perfume. His book is here, like a dating guide, to whisper: You too can woo.

Book Publishers Getting To Grips With The Potential Of Apps

Stuart Dredge, The Guardian

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Consider Sushi

Oliver Thring, The Guardian

The rise of sushi around the world is one of most interesting stories in food. It combines the meshing of cultures, the emancipation of women, groundswells in technology and rampant and conflicted globalisation.

It’s Fashionable To Take A Trip To Another Universe

Dennis Overbye, New York Times

The thing about parallel universes — which may be great or terrible — is that in theory they don’t collide.

Return Of The Cheesecake

Stuart Walton, The Guardian

The belatedness of its comeback might seem odd, in that it has a slightly more elevated culinary pedigree than the likes of arctic roll. It never went away from the menus of burger joints and pizza chains but it hasn't been considered high-end posh for a very long time. And now it is.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Casabianca By Felicia Dorothea Hemans

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Baffled At A Bookcase

Alan Bennett, London Review Of Books

I have always been happy in libraries, though without ever being entirely at ease there. A scene that seems to crop up regularly in plays that I have written has a character, often a young man, standing in front of a bookcase feeling baffled.

As Gripping As ABC

Erin McKean, Boston Globe

Told in alphabetical, rather than chronological order, “The Lover’s Dictionary” co-opts the structure of the dictionary to define the arc of a relationship in an obliquely satisfying way.

Book Review: 'Turn Of Mind' By Alice LaPlante

Etelka Lehoczky, Los Angeles Times

Alzheimer's disease doesn't seem like a great subject for a page-turner. Affecting 10% of us over 65 and 50% older than 85, it inspires dread in the culture. And yet a page-turner is exactly what Alice LaPlante has crafted with "Turn of Mind," a novel told from the point of view of a woman with dementia.

In Defence Of Dogs By John Bradshaw – Review

Bella Bathurst, The Guardian

By giving the reader an overview of mankind's relationship with both dogs and wolves, he also shows us ourselves – our need for connection but our insistence that it be on our terms, our hellish good intentions.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Academic Author’s Unintentional Masterpiece

Geoff Dyer, New York Times

In this column I want to look at a not uncommon way of writing and structuring books. This approach, I will argue, involves the writer announcing at the outset what he or she will be doing in the pages that follow.

Why Writers Belong Behind Bars

Tony Perrottet, New York Times

From a strictly literary point of view, prison was the best thing that ever happened to the marquis. It was only behind bars that Sade was able to knuckle down and compose the imaginative works upon which his enduring, if peculiar, reputation lies.

Vusi Makusi

Ursula Wills-Jones, The Guardian

A Summer Of Drowning By John Burnside - Review

Joanna Kavenna, The Guardian

Written with deceptive elegance, riddled with gaps and non sequiturs and a clever travesty of several genres, this is a disturbing, provocative book.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Speaking Clock: Why Are People Still Dialling For The Time?

BBC Magazine

At the third stroke, the Speaking Clock will be 75 years old. But why in an era of laptops and mobiles do many people still get the precise time from a recording of a well-spoken woman?

David Bowie, The Cool Chameleon From Mars

Dwight Garner, New York Times

I’ve since caught up, a bit, with Mr. Bowie’s earlier and best music, and I looked forward to “David Bowie: Starman” to hit the reset button on my sense of the man and his work.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Writer Is Present

Daniel Nester, Painted Bride Quarterly

All writing is performance and persona, a suspension of one’s own disbelief. What has appealed to me about writing is its essential connection to the body (hands on keys, pen in hand) as well as its essential disconnection (the paper, screen, book, far away from the author). I’ve always regarded my own physical presence as something to overcome, usually by ignoring it, while writing. Writing is physical fact, a made thing-slash-transcription of mind; it isn’t a just symbol or stand-in of my body or anyone else’s. It’s been my way out of my husky costume.

Lately, I’ve thought about this thing called mindfulness, embracing this whole mind-body problem and thinking about my arms and legs while I write. It sounds simple, maybe even stupid, but you can only transcend so much until you fall back on your ass in the chair, the screen in front of you.

What I am saying is: I had a writer’s block and it wasn’t just my mind’s fault. It was my body’s.

The War For Catch-22

Tracy Daugherty, Vanity Fair

‘The novel, you know,” people whispered whenever Joseph Heller and his wife, Shirley, left a party early. From the first, Joe had made no secret of his ambitions beyond the world of advertising. In later years, he floated various stories about the origins of his first novel. “There was a terrible sameness about books being published and I almost stopped reading as well as writing,” he said on one occasion. But then something happened. He told one British journalist that “conversations with two friends … influenced me. Each of them had been wounded in the war, one of them very seriously The first one told some very funny stories about his war experiences, but the second one was unable to understand how any humour could be associated with the horror of war. They didn’t know each other and I tried to explain the first one’s point of view to the second. He recognized that traditionally there had been lots of graveyard humour, but he could not reconcile it with what he had seen of war. It was after that discussion that the opening of Catch-22 and many incidents in it came to me.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Realpolitik In A Fantasy World

Alyssa Rosenberg, Foreign Policy

It turns out that, apart from the dragons and giant magical wolves, the Westeros of Martin's novels is a familiar place: The challenges of international relations are pretty much the same whether you're an American president or a feudal king; whether your national debt is due to the Chinese government or to a mystically powerful foreign bank that employs professional assassins; whether your unsavory trading partners are oil cartels or slavers; and whether your enemies are motivated by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam or by a priestess who sees the future in sacrificial fires.

Iced Coffee And Tea: (Not) Taking The Heat

Harold McGee, New York Times

Iced coffees and teas should be some of summer’s simplest pleasures, especially when we just steep them in cold tap water, with no kitchen heat and next to no effort. But if you make even a desultory search for advice on cold brewing, you may find yourself mopping your brow deciding how, and even whether, to proceed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How To Undress A Victorian Lady In Your Next Historical Romance

Alexandra Alter, Wall Street Journal

For most people, giving a presentation in skivvies to 100 professional peers sounds like a bad dream. But Ms. Gist was giving a workshop on Victorian clothing at the Romance Writers of America's annual convention this summer. The romance novelists had gathered in New York to learn how to dress—and undress—heroines in their novels.

Boy On Crutches

Terese Svoboda, Slate


Adonis, Asymptote

"Modern poetry, and most especially your poetry, is opaque." So says a reader who might stand in for many others, including some who write poetry. It is a common sentiment, even a cliché. Accordingly, there must be something that allows for this phenomenon. How do we explain it? What does it signify?

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Price Of Typos

Virginia Heffernan, New York Times

Some readers like to see portraits of authors they admire, study their personal histories or hear them read aloud. I like to know whether an author can spell. Nabokov spelled beautifully. Fitzgerald was crummy at spelling, bedeviled by entry-level traps like “definate.” Bad spellers, of course, can be sublime writers and good spellers punctilious duds. But it’s still intriguing that Fitzgerald, for all his gifts, didn’t perceive the word “finite” in definite, the way good spellers automatically do. Did this oversight color his impression of infinity? Infinaty?

Books And Other Fetish Objects

James Gleick, New York Times

I got a real thrill in December 1999 in the Reading Room of the Morgan Library in New York when the librarian, Sylvie Merian, brought me, after I had completed an application with a letter of reference and a photo ID, the first, oldest notebook of Isaac Newton. First I was required to study a microfilm version. There followed a certain amount of appropriate pomp. The notebook was lifted from a blue cloth drop-spine box and laid on a special padded stand. I was struck by how impossibly tiny it was — 58 leaves bound in vellum, just 2 3/4 inches wide, half the size I would have guessed from the enlarged microfilm images. There was his name, “Isacus Newton,” proudly inscribed by the 17-year-old with his quill, and the date, 1659.

In The East Village, Waiting For The Wrecking Ball

Cara Buckley, New York Times

Eleven Second Avenue was squat, ugly and three stories tall. Its neighbor, 9 Second Avenue, was a five-story tenement. They sat next to each other on the west side of Second Avenue, between Houston and East First Streets. Their walls were crumbling, their windows were gone, and squatters and addicts had strewn rotting garbage and filth everywhere. But Ellen Stewart, whose La MaMa Experimental Theater Club was on its way to making her a legend in New York, happened upon one of the buildings and saw home.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Woman Who Fell To Earth: A Love Story

Ruthann Richter, Stanford Medicine

“See you below,” he yelled to Deborah as he flew through the air. Five seconds into his fall, the static line engaged his chute, which opened above. Randy clutched the handles around his shoulders, terror in his throat, resolving never to skydive again.

He landed in the drop zone at the Antioch, Calif., airfield with a thud when he heard screams and turned to see Deborah, her partially opened white chute wrapped around her like a shroud as she streaked toward the ground. Her main chute had never opened, and she was frantically clawing her way to her reserve chute.

Seaside Holidays Then And Now

Rachel Cooke, The Guardian

This is a lovely thing, of course. I'm not going to lie. I'm middle class. I dream of crab sandwiches and red-checked tablecloths as much as the next person, and when such things elude me, as they did in Broadstairs a couple of years ago, where all I could find were laminated menus and the smell of old cooking oil, I get quite grumpy. But still, it would be just as dishonest to tell you that my longing for such things is born of nostalgia.

App Developers Withdraw From US As Patent Fears Reach 'Tipping Point'

Charles Arthur, The Guardian

App developers are withdrawing their products for sale from the US versions of Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market for fear of being sued by companies which own software patents - just as a Mumbai-based company has made a wide-ranging claim against Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and a number of other companies over Twitter-style feeds, for which it claims it has applied for a patent.

Software patent owners in the US have latched onto potential revenue streams to be earned from independent developers by suing over perceived infringements of their intellectual property - which can be expensive for developers to defend even if they are successful.

Now developers in Europe are retreating from the US to avoid the expense and concern such "patent trolls" are causing.

Compelling Tales, Rarely Told Well

Bryan Burrough, New York Times

This is going to be awkward. I’ve spent weeks, in fact, debating whether and how to say this in print. But it’s something that’s irked me for years. And while occupying this chair these last months, it’s a feeling that’s only strengthened: The fact is, I find the quality of too many business books, well, underwhelming. There. I said it.

Waterline By Ross Raisin – Review

Anthony Cummins, The Guardian

Ross Raisin's second novel authentically captures a bereaved man's fall into homelessness.

Why Every Novelist Is Holding Out For A Hero

Robert McCrum, The Guardian

All the writer can do is put one book in front of the last, and go back to the empty page or vacant screen. At best, the life of the writer, properly understood, is a quest for clarity and understanding in which every fresh start feels like an outrageous gamble against impossible odds.

One Big Yawn: Boredom Is Not Just A State Of Mind

Andrew Anthony, The Guardian

It may not be the most heart-pounding news of the moment, but boredom is coming back into fashion. Not boredom in the sense of lying around blank-faced in a brown study, a practice which in my experience has never really gone out of style, but boredom as a subject (rather than a product) of academic study. In recent years several scholarly books have reanimated a topic that had fallen into analytical torpor, the latest being Boredom: A Lively History by Peter Toohey, an Australian professor of classics who now lives and works in Canada – a country, alas, that bears an unfortunate reputation for being boring.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Back To The Coffee House

The Economist

And although this transformation does raise concerns, there is much to celebrate in the noisy, diverse, vociferous, argumentative and stridently alive environment of the news business in the age of the internet. The coffee house is back. Enjoy it.

Chicken Toenails, Anyone?

David Sedaris, The Guardian

"I have to go to China." I told people this in the way I might say, "I need to insulate my crawl space" or, "I've got to get these moles looked at." That's the way it felt, though. Like a chore. What initially put me off was the food. I'll eat it if the alternative means starving, but I've never looked forward to it, not even when it seemed exotic to me.

White Fever By Jacek Hugo-Bader - Review

Luke Harding, The Guardian

Two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has failed to come up with a new national idea. Instead, the US's erstwhile superpower rival has metastasised into a brutal kleptocracy. (This, at least, is the damning verdict of US diplomats, revealed late last year by WikiLeaks.) In a four-month drive from Moscow to Vladivostok, punctuated by frequent breakdowns and one nasty incident in which he slithers off the road into the snow, Hugo-Bader explores this despairing post-communist landscape.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Man Behind The Window

John Warner, The Morning News

Allan Seager was a student at Oxford when he contracted tuberculosis. What happened next made him one of America’s greatest writers—declared the heir to Anderson and Hemingway—ever to be forgotten. Yet one of Seager’s short stories endures in ways that none of Hemingway’s can match.

Food Writing, Glorious Food Writing

Sarah Crown, The Guardian

All books, in my opinion, benefit from a bit of food – and I've been a connoisseur since childhood.

Outlaws Make Better Lunches

Zach Brooks, New York Times

So instead of fighting to change the laws, vendors who are passionately committed to their food trucks should do what street hawkers in New York have always done after big crackdowns like this one: wait for it to end and then return to Midtown bit by bit, in a way that is respectful to the rent-paying businesses. Or ditch the truck and open a brick-and-mortar business. It’s the way New York street food has endured for the past 150 years, and the only way it will be here for 150 more.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Weekend At Kermie's: The Muppets' Strange Life After Death

Elizabeth Stevens, The Awl

Who but the Muppets could get away with calling Mickey a rodent? Who else could turn Prince Charming into a corny joke?

Say 'Non' To Phrasebook Foreign Language In Fiction

Daniel Kalder, The Guardian

Is there anything in this sorrowful world worse than books written in English where foreign words with everyday meanings appear untranslated in italics? Well yes, obviously. But that does not mean that the untranslated word is not an evil worthy of severe condemnation.

A Bookshop Going Places

Lee Rourke, The Guardian

First we had slow food, then slow writing and now, quite naturally it seems, we have slow bookselling. Slow bookselling? I hear you ask. We're all aware of what's happening to the average independent book shop in today's accelerated, one-click internet-led environment: they are closing down by the score, and it's becoming a major struggle for the average independent bookshop to survive. I've written before about what my ideal bookshop would be like, but I have to admit my ideal wouldn't stand a chance today.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Green Eggs And Hamburgers

John T. Edge, New York Times

“We were selling something called a kamado from a place named after a pachinko,” recalled Mr. Fisher, who first saw the charcoal-fueled cookers in the 1950s as a Navy lieutenant in Japan. “That didn’t sound American, and that wasn’t easy. But once I got people to try one, once they tasted the chicken we cooked on them, they were hooked.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bycatch 22

Tom Gogola, New York Magazine

As a twisted consequence of overfishing regulations, commercial fishermen have no choice but to catch sea bass, flounder, monkfish, and tuna—and throw them dead back into the sea.

This Is A Serious Book Review

Michael Agger, Slate

Siegel's new book, Are You Serious?, eventually climbs to a grander philosophical height: We're uncertain how to live seriously. Does a serious person move to the suburbs? Make a lot of money? Have children? Believe in God? As you can imagine, this book has some serious shit in it.


Sophie Cabot Black, Slate

Monday, July 11, 2011

The ‘Dramatic Picture’ Of Richard Feynman

Freeman Dyson, The New York Review Of Books

In the end, Feynman’s greatest contribution to science was not any particular discovery. His contribution was the creation of a new way of thinking that enabled a great multitude of students and collea gues, including me, to make their own discoveries.

Murdoch: The Network Defeats The Hierarchy

Paul Mason, BBC

The primary function of these journalistic centres of power is to dispense approval or disapproval to politicians. A News International journalist is reported to have said to Labour leader Ed Miliband: "You've made it personal with Rebekah so we're going to make it personal with you."

That is the kind of power that, until about 1500 on Thursday, journalists in that circle could wield.

"Shock Value": The Golden Age Of Horror Movies

Laura Miller, Salon

The distinguishing trait of good book on the movies is that the parts you do agree with make you care enough to want to debate the author until late into the night about the parts you don't agree with. Preferably over endless cups of diner coffee, or better yet, bottles of beer, a stack of DVDs at your elbow and the remote in your hand.

Sons Of Rosemary’s Baby: Birth Of The New Horror

Ty Burr, New York Times

Where “Shock Value” excels is in its primary research, the stories of how the seminal shockers of this era came to be, told in large part by the men (and here and there a woman) who made them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fiction Takes You To Places That Life Can't

Philip Hensher, The Independent

Fiction won't tell you the whole story, but it will take you to places that life won't – Sicilian ducal houses, 13th-century convents, cities in Calvino that never existed. And sometimes with a shock of recognition, you meet in real life a friend from a book.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: 'Big Roads' By Earl Swift

Wendy Smith, Los Angeles Times

Veteran journalist Earl Swift's well-focused and lively history of American highways takes us from the Good Roads Movement of the 1890s to the interstate system as it exists today, facing maintenance issues and budgetary problems but nonetheless a remarkable achievement, "nearly forty-seven thousand miles long and at least four lanes wide."

A Life Of "E"s

Morgan Meis, The Smart Set

Letters, in general, are meant to make up words and words are meant to make up sentences and sentences are meant to convey meaning. Breaking sentences back down into individual words and words back down into individual letters has the opposite effect.

Is A Dignified Death At Home Too Much To Ask?

Sabine Durrant, The Guardian

It is ordinary things that Nell Dunn misses. "There is a table and chairs in the garden where we would often eat our breakfast and lunch, but there doesn't seem any point in taking my food out there now." She no longer watches certain programmes on television: "Funny little things that we both had a laugh over." She misses being quiet, just thinking – "what a luxury, that" – in the same room as someone she loves.

The Writer As Detective

Roger Rosenblatt, New York Times

Writers get better at the craft once we learn to assume that the reader will do much of the work for us, filling in the blanks with their own experiences and lives.


Rabindranath Tagore, The Guardian

Friday, July 8, 2011

Off-putting Behaviour

AL Kennedy, The Guardian

As soon it's inevitable that a writer must begin their first word, it becomes (almost) equally and conflictingly inevitable that the writer must do something else really quickly before scribbling breaks out. Hence the kettle. Tell you what, I'll just go and make a fresh beverage, then I'll get down to things properly. Absolutely. Of course I will.

Dreams Of A Final Theory By Steven Weinberg – Review

Tim Radford, The Guardian

The surprising thing is that the book doesn't feel in the least out of date. Since first publication, physicists have demonstrated quantum entanglement and experiments in teleportation; they have built the once-theoretical fifth state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate; they have used such technology to slow a beam of light first to bicycle speed, and then to a standstill; they have stopped talking about cosmic string and introduced branes instead; they have extended the idea of a multiverse; and they have identified an entirely new feature called dark energy, that accounts for three quarters of the whole detectable cosmos. So why is his book still a great read?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Year Of Wonders

Alex Shakar, The Millions

The previous Friday, bidding on my first novel had reached six figures, then paused for people to track down more cash. I’d later learn one editor spent the weekend trying to reach her boss on his Tanzanian vacation, finally getting through via the satellite phone of a safari boat on the Rufiji river, but that he wouldn’t OK a higher bid because he couldn’t get the manuscript in time.

I was 32. I’d never made over $12,000 in a year.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Larry David, New Yorker

According to Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s book “On Death and Dying,” Acceptance was the final stage of grief that terminal patients experience before dying, the others being Anger, Denial, Bargaining, and Depression. I was in the final stage! When I started thinking about it, I realized that I’d gone through every one of those stages, but not as a terminal patient . . . as a golfer.

How 10,000 People Keep A Secret

Liesl Schillinger, New York Times

There are picnics, and then there are picnics.

As Shuttle Era Ends, Dreams Of Space Linger

Dennis Overbye, New York Times

The shuttle was a big deal then. But now, after 30 years of shuttle flights, the last mission ever is being prepped for its launching on Friday. Humans are no closer to the stars than before, and the space program is in tatters.

Paths Through The World: Notes On Robert Byron, Patrick Leigh Fermor, And Bruce Chatwin

Greer Mansfield, Bookslut

If this region of twentieth century travel writing could be mapped, you could draw a line linking three of its greatest masters: Robert Byron, Patrick Leigh Fermor, and Bruce Chatwin. It would be anything but a straight line, of course. It would loop back on itself a few times, branch out into quirky arabesques, and gradually reveal odd parallels and symmetries.

Crying All Over My Dress

Elizabeth Bachner, Bookslut

Along the same lines, how do I know that the dead do not feel sorry for their former craving for life? You dream of enjoying a fun party and wake up crying the next morning. You dream of crying sorry tears and wake up to go off hunting… In the same way, there may be a great awakening, after which we shall know that life is actually a great dream. Yet so many people remain ignorant, thinking that they are awake, brightly insisting that they know what is what, assuming one is a leader, the other a servant -- how thick is that!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Scant Dishing From A Print Pooh-bah

Mark Oppenheimer, Forward

There is something poignant in reading a collection like this, one that comprises mainly long, discursive reviews of long, intelligent books about long-dead people. Our author is a notable man of letters, the former editor in chief of both Simon & Schuster and The New Yorker. The pieces, whose subjects include Bruno Bettelheim and Isadora Duncan, Harry Houdini and Katharine Hepburn, originally appeared in esteemed journals like The New York Review of Books. Ten years hence, will there be such men? Will there be such journals?

Old Home Day

Barry Goldensohn, Slate

Monday, July 4, 2011

Airline Food: Flights Of Fancy

James Ramsden, The Guardian

Perhaps we should just give up waiting for someone to come up with a formula for high-grade airline food and accept it in all its compromised glory.

Mind Your Bad English, Kingsley Amis 'Don’t Like It’

Charles Moore, The Telegraph

But what does shine throughout is Kingsley’s love of his language. He is exact, but not pedantic. Even when making minute points about the letter of the law, he is really talking about its spirit. Amis’s approach reminds me of the best sort of guide to a great city. He has plenty of learning derived from formal study, but he also knows the place like the back of his hand.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review: 'For The Love Of Physics'

Sara Lippincott, Los Angeles Times

MIT's Walter Lewin takes the average person on a fascinating trip through physics and his adventures in the classroom.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Good Joke Spoiled

Michael Lewis, The New Republic

Apart from a frontier notion of freedom, Twain never met an idea he could not reduce to a joke. He doesn’t even appear to have been wedded to his own skepticism.

Terror Of Teenage Life

Stephen Burt, New York Times

If and when you go away to college you can become somebody else; you can kill off your old self and be reborn. So generations of young people have believed. But once they have done it — ditching provincial tastes and hometown boyfriends for a sorority, a fraternity or an undergraduate bohemia — they may trade one conformity for another; they may feel haunted by their former lives. No wonder teenage life, on and off campus, seems to fit stories of vampires, ghosts, the undead. Laura Kasischke is hardly the first to use such figures (as fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” know) but with her new novel, “The Raising,” she pursues them almost perfectly. Almost a supernatural thriller, almost a campus satire and almost but not quite a coming-of-age tale, “The Raising” is also the best of Kasischke’s eight novels, the one with the broadest canvas, the most observation, its large cast arranged with a scary economy of detail.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Today's Special Is: A Secret

Julie Bindel, The Guardian

On a recent trip to Joe Allen I was horrified to see mention of this secret dish blatantly advertised on the door, right next to the menu. "Try our secret burger" it urged. Secret? I felt let down.

Married, With Infidelities

Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times

Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.

The Business Lunch? I Really Must Have A Little Whine

Celia Walden, The Telegraph

'Business lunches?” repeats an LA TV executive, aghast. “I haven’t had a business lunch in a decade. There’s no deal that can’t be brokered over a power smoothie.” I’m with her on this – at least until the involvement of anything resembling wheatgrass – and yet I’m told by friends in Britain that the time-gobbling, prandial schmooze-fest is making a comeback.

The Molecatcher’s Daughter

Paul Collins, Believer

James Curtis was part of the first generation of reporters to work what we now think of as the crime beat. Of course, criminal proceedings had always held a fascination for readers: ever since the 1600s there’d been a roaring market in broadsheets that relished the details of a crime and a malefactor’s bloody end, usually with a crude accompanying woodcut showing them dangling from a gallows.

Renée Richards Wants To Be Left Alone

Michael Weinreb, Grantland

If you to speak to Renée Richards for any length of time, you will stumble across one of the central conundrums of her personality: There are two Renées, an old friend told Drath on camera, and despite the fact that Richards has long been publicly defined by gender, the Renées this friend is referring to are not defined by gender at all. There is the Renée who regards herself as an introvert, who will inform you that she voraciously guards her self-image and will speak about how fearful she is of being reduced to a cultural circus act; and there is Renée the exhibitionist, who has written a pair of starkly personal memoirs, who, at the height of her fame, did thousands of interviews, who allowed Drath to intimately chronicle her fraught relationship with her own son — the Renée who relishes the attention that comes with being a public figure, a herald of a movement that she personally has little do with these days.

By Heng-Cheong Leong