MyAppleMenu Reader by Heng-Cheong Leong

Thu, May 31, 2012

False Fronts In The Language Wars

Steven Pinker, Slate:
If you didn’t already know that euphonious dichotomies are usually phony dichotomies, you need only check out the latest round in the supposed clash between “prescriptivist” and “descriptivist” theories of language.

The Old Ways By Robert Macfarlane – Review

Alexandra Harris, The Guardian:
"A Journey on Foot", reads the subtitle, but this is the story of many journeys. Fifteen of them are made by Macfarlane himself, along paths in the British Isles and, further afield, in Spain, Palestine and Tibet. He invokes, as he goes, hundreds of previous walkers, and hundreds of pathways – across silt, sand, granite, water, snow – each with its different rhythms and secrets. So the book is a tribute to the variety and complexity of the "old ways" that are often now forgotten as we go past in the car, but which were marked out by the footfall of generations. And it is an affirmation of their connectedness as part of a great network linking ways and wayfarers of every sort. Following Macfarlane's many travels, one understands why he thinks of his project as "a journey", singular rather than plural. In this intricate, sensuous, haunted book, each journey is part of other journeys and there are no clear divisions to be made.

Wed, May 30, 2012

Finding Zen And Book Contracts In Beijing

Porter’s new status reflects the growth of China’s own middle class. Many are willing to pay for real books, movies and music, and not just make do with cheaper, pirated editions. That’s allowed a growing number of foreign authors to make real money in China, as long, of course, as they do not discuss political themes overtly—explicitly political works would not pass China’s censors. Porter’s books do have a political undertone, with his characters ignoring or seemingly ignorant of Communist Party efforts to control religion, but he is an observer rather than a commentator. And while he makes humorous references to local officials (he calls them “trolls”) and the indignities that sometimes accompany travel in China, his principal focus is on the country’s culture and religious traditions.

"The Spoiler" By Annalena McAfee

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times:
Take “Scoop,” Evelyn Waugh’s classic sendup of journalism, and replace its hero, a clueless nature columnist, with a perky Bridget Jones gal, move the time frame from the 1930s to 1997, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what Annalena McAfee’s first novel, “The Spoiler,” aspires to be.

Tue, May 29, 2012

The Home
Kathryn Levy, Slate

The Enigma 1,800 Miles Below Us

Natalie Angier, New York Times:
Now it turns out that existing models of the core, for all their drama, may not be dramatic enough.

Mon, May 28, 2012

Poem Of The Week: The Bed That Is A Tree By Kim Lasky
Carol Rumens, The Guardian

The Wanderer’s Tale

To write this book he walked, by his own estimate, 7,000-8,000 miles of paths: the prehistoric chalk tracks of England, the gneiss of the Isle of Lewis, the path that makes a kora, or sacred circle, round the pyramidal ice-mountain of Minya Konka in Tibet, a rocky forest branch of the road to Compostela and, most riskily, a network of wadi trails near Ramallah, in Palestine, under the eye of Israeli guards.

The Cosmic Menagerie

Laura Miller, New Yorker:
It was only after Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s and Charles Darwin’s theories of adaptation and natural selection gained wider acceptance, in the nineteenth century, that writers began to speculate in earnest about the sorts of creatures that might flourish in environments beyond Earth.

Sun, May 27, 2012

A Psalm Of What Happens When I Submit To Love
Bernadette McComish, Sunday Salon

Majoring In Potterology

Laura Miller, Salon:
Can the Harry Potter novels, as novels, be detached from the momentous role they played culturally, socially and in the world of book publishing? Does it even make sense to try?

Reading Like A Writer By Francine Prose – Review

Louise Doughty, The Observer:
Reading Like a Writer is a clarion call for aspiring writers to do that most simple, time-consuming but enjoyable thing: their homework.

Sat, May 26, 2012

God Is My Sous Chef

Jessica Sidman, Washington City Paper:
Smith swirls the contents—rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemongrass, star anise, and half a dozen other herbs and spices simmering in oil—as he makes a lap past the bar and around some low-lying tables in the restaurant’s lounge. An aromatic trail of smoke and steam follows as he races down the hall, past the host stand, and around every corner in the empty 130-seat dining room.
That’s how you please the restaurant gods.

Parents' Evening
Rhian Edwards, The Guardian

Fri, May 25, 2012

The Myth Of English As A Global Language

nglish spelling is notoriously inconsistent, and some have gone further, calling it “the world’s most awesome mess” or “an insult to human intelligence” (both these from linguists, one American, one Austrian). Maybe this is just because our alphabet only has twenty-six letters to represent more than forty phonemes, or distinctive speech-sounds, and some of those – notably q and x – are not pulling their weight, while j is not allowed to (see “John” but also “George”). If we gave s and z a consistent value (“seazon”) and extended this to k and c (“klok” and “sertain”), we could free c up for other duties, such as maybe representing ch, as once it did. But then there are all the vowels . . . .

A Brief History Of Time Travel (In Movies)

Scott Meslow, The Atlantic:
Every time-traveling movie has, in its own way, had to overcome the mind-bending logic problems inherent in its premise. And each, too, has played on a universal, if vain, human desire to experience a world that's entirely unavailable to us—and perhaps to change things in our own.

Thu, May 24, 2012

Rereading Stephen King: Week One – Carrie

James Smythe, The Guardian:
Carrie is Stephen King's first novel. A large part of its fame comes from the fact that it was actually the fourth novel he wrote and submitted to publishers – a story that people love to tell when discussing the roads to publication of big-name authors.

Of Alien Intelligence, The Supernatural And Divinity

Marcelo Gleiser, NPR:
Could we distinguish ultra-advanced aliens from gods? I know; it sounds like a preposterous question, but hear me out.

"Alien Vs. Predator," A Book Of Poetry By Michael Robbins

Dwight Garner, New York Times:
What puts his poems over is their sheer joy and dizzy command. He delivers his verses in tight, mostly rhyming quatrains and quintets that march down the page like the work of Frederick Seidel or Mr. Muldoon himself. He is not lying when he declares: “Contents may have shifted during rapture.”

You Can Take It With You

Stefany Anne Golberg, The Smart Set:
The backpack once allowed travelers to leave their lives behind. Today, it lets them take everything wherever they go.

Pride And Poetry

Michael Scammell, The New Republic:
Joseph Brodsky caught the attention of the outside world for the first time in 1964, when he was tried in Leningrad for the crime of writing poetry. That is not how the indictment read, of course: his “crime” was that he did not have a regular job, and was therefore a “parasite.” But a scurrilous article attacking Brodsky in the Evening Leningrad newspaper not long before his trial gave the game away.

Wed, May 23, 2012

Railsea By China Miéville – Review

Tony Bradman, The Guardian:
What kind of novel might someone produce if he had been influenced by writers such as Joan Aiken, the Awdrys, Daniel Defoe, Ursula Le Guin, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, the Strugatsky Brothers and Spike Milligan? The answer is Railsea, China Miéville's latest book, a wildly inventive crossover/young adult fantasy with elements of SF and trains, lots of trains, all done with the kind of brio of which most writers can only dream.

What Do Spoilers Spoil?

Stanley Fish, New York Times:
In either case, the spoiler doesn’t amount to much and alerting readers to it is not a high obligation. If “The Hunger Games” is so shallow that it can be spoiled by a plot revelation, the alert doesn’t save much. If “The Hunger Games” is a serious accomplishment, no plot revelation can spoil it.

New Word Order

Sam Taylor, Financial Times:
I am now a full-time translator. Not only literary translation but the more banal, short-deadline work given out by agencies: everything from technical manuals to corporate catalogues to art gallery audio guides. The work can be dull and stressful but it is rarely unpleasant: you can do it in bed, for a start, and it often has the same sort of compulsive fascination as a crossword puzzle. And, unlike writing novels, you get paid every month. Literary translation is, however, by far the most fascinating and prestigious form of translation.

Follow A Hungry Chef And See Where It Takes You

Glenn Collins, New York Times:
At their stoves, New York’s starred chefs are very different from you and me. But when they’re ready to inhabit downtime mode, they favor the casual and even the simple. Frequently they return to the same couple of places and order the same thing — again and again.

Tue, May 22, 2012

Little Witches
Lauren Watel, Slate

Philip K. Dick, Sci-Fi Philosopher, Part 1

Simon Critchley, New York Times:
Now, was this just bad acid or good sodium pentothal? Was Dick seriously bonkers? Was he psychotic? Was he schizophrenic? (He writes, “The schizophrenic is a leap ahead that failed.”)

Brothel, Washington DC

Michael Merriam, n+1:
This floor was entirely asleep; others were roaming, and the last of us wouldn’t be back from work until nearly dawn; The Pimp (hereinafter referred to as [Name Withheld]) was snoring to the south, and the dear, 300-pound, peach-complected Commander (Navy, retired,) who owned the whorehouse, was snuggled with his boyfriend to the north. To be fair, we did not call it a whorehouse, despite the fact that escorts lived and worked here. It was simply The House. It was like Disney’s Haunted Mansion: thick drapes, creaking halls, many, many stairs, plus “discretion,” exaggerated in a Dickensian way to mean something more like “occult secrecy.”

Raise A Paw If You Understand Einstein

Katherine Bouton, New York Times:
I considered reading this book aloud to my dog, even though I doubted he would understand relativity, even as explained by the witty and clear-thinking Chad Orzel.

Mon, May 21, 2012

All I Wanted Was For Alice Waters To Feed Me

Daniel Duane, New York Times:
Forty-two years ago, when Alice Waters taught preschool at Berkeley Montessori, I was among her pupils. Waters was fired, she told me later, for wearing see-through blouses. I wish I could remember the snacks. I’m sure they were good, because Waters opened Chez Panisse next, becoming the queen of our town’s most exclusive social court. My parents always reminded me of this the way other Berkeley parents reminded kids about how their entire family was once tear-gassed during an antiwar march.

Sun, May 20, 2012

What A Physics Student Can Teach Us About How Visitors Walk Through A Museum

Henry Adams, Smithsonian:
To devise a good layout requires some understanding of what museum visitors do, and there’s surprisingly little literature on this topic. Most of the studies of museum-goers that I’ve seen rely on questionnaires. They ask people what they did, what they learned, and what they liked and didn’t like. No doubt there are virtues to this technique, but it assumes that people are aware of what they’re doing. It doesn’t take into account how much looking depends on parts of the brain that are largely instinctive and intuitive and often not easily accessible to our rational consciousness. Was there another mode of investigation and description that would illuminate what was actually taking place?

Urban Entertainment Districts: Blocks Where No One Has Fun

Will Doig, Salon:
If you took all the clichés about horrible urban design and shoved them into 75 acres, you’d probably end up with something pretty close to Dallas’ Victory Park.

How Time Stands Still In Women's Magazines

Eva Wiseman, The Observer:
I suppose it's like a failing relationship. That final morning where you wake up and lie staring at the ceiling until the alarm goes, and the first thing out of your mouth is a hoarse "It's over." It feels like a shock, until years later you look back and join the dots – those silent car journeys, the misunderstandings, an odd summer evening where something sort of happened – and you see the path of change. Of things going wrong. Women are at that point, I think, with our magazines.

Sat, May 19, 2012

Can A Better Vibrator Inspire An Age Of Great American Sex?

Andy Isaccson, The Atlantic:
Jimmyjane's conceit is to presuppose a world in which there is no hesitation around sex toys. Placing its products on familiar cultural ground has a normalizing effect, Imboden believes, and comparing a vibrator to a lifestyle accessory someone might pack into their carry-on luggage next to an iPad shifts people's perceptions about where these objects fit into their lives.

The Voice

John Schwartz, New York Times:
But if somebody’s going to spend 10 or 20 hours in my ears, turning me into a local jogging spectacle, I’d better enjoy the experience. That means, of course, picking the right books to listen to. It also means listening to the right reader.

What (And How) To Eat Naked

Geoff Nicholson, Gourmet:
But say, for the sake of argument, that you actually are going to eat in the nude: Chinese food isn’t the worst choice. Probably it’s best to stay away from sizzling shrimp and hot and sour soup, but if you happen to drop the occasional noodle or morsel of fried rice on yourself or your partner, well, no great harm done. It’s certainly a whole lot better than dropping a plate of chicken vindaloo in your lap, or a steaming hot artichoke, or (to think again of Scottish cuisine) a deep-fried Mars bar.

Fri, May 18, 2012

Tourist Trapped

Big Al Ewald, Washington City Paper:
I would try to explain that of course I understood that your dad once parked the Country Squire right on the Ellipse and that no one stopped you from strolling into the Capitol to eat navy bean soup with Everett Dirksen. But, you see, people have lately been blowing up buildings.

Thu, May 17, 2012

On Censorship

Salman Rushdie, New Yorker:
No writer ever really wants to talk about censorship. Writers want to talk about creation, and censorship is anti-creation, negative energy, uncreation, the bringing into being of non-being, or, to use Tom Stoppard’s description of death, “the absence of presence.”

Book Review: 'Second Person Singular' By Sayed Kashua

Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times:
Early in the novel, "Second Person Singular," a main character known throughout the book as "the lawyer" reads a note in his wife's handwriting. "I waited for you, but you didn't come," the note says. "I hope everything's all right. I wanted to thank you for last night. It was wonderful. Call me tomorrow?"
The sense of intimacy leaps off the page. But the note was not written for the lawyer. It fell out of a copy of Tolstoy's "The Kreutzer Sonata" he had just bought from a used-book store.

The Proxy Marriage
Maile Meloy, New Yorker

Wed, May 16, 2012

Is It Time To Get Rid Of Traffic Lights?

Martin Cassini, BBC:
We rely on traffic lights to tell us when to go. And when to stop. We should replace that with common sense.

Is Death Bad For You?

But if death is my end, how can it be bad for me to die? After all, once I'm dead, I don't exist. If I don't exist, how can being dead be bad for me?

The Image Of A Man You Do Not See

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:
Much modern architecture has grown tiresome to me. It does not gladden the heart. It doesn't seem to spring from humans. It seems drawn from mathematical axioms rather than those learned for centuries from the earth, the organic origins of building materials, the reach of hands and arms, and that which is pleasing to the eye. It is not harmonious. It holds the same note indefinitely.
It was not always so.

Why I Still Write Poetry

When my mother was very old and in a nursing home, she surprised me one day toward the end of her life by asking me if I still wrote poetry. When I blurted out that I still do, she stared at me with incomprehension. I had to repeat what I said, till she sighed and shook her head, probably thinking to herself this son of mine has always been a little nuts. Now that I’m in my seventies, I’m asked that question now and then by people who don’t know me well. Many of them, I suspect, hope to hear me say that I’ve come my senses and given up that foolish passion of my youth and are visibly surprised to hear me confess that I haven’t yet. They seem to think there is something downright unwholesome and even shocking about it, as if I were dating a high school girl, at my age, and going with her roller-skating that night.

In China’s Shadow

Michael Paterniti, National Geographic Magazine:
Fifteen years after the handover to mainland China, Hong Kong residents worry that their identity—and their freedoms—are slipping away.

Almost Autumn
Angie Estes, Slate

Tue, May 15, 2012

Rise Of The Single Dish Restaurant

Alex English, The Guardian:
It's often said that less is more, and the restaurant industry has taken this literally with a flurry of single and dual dish restaurants opening lately. Like the trend for shorter wine lists, menus are becoming pared down with just a handful of options. But are simple menus here to stay? Or are these restaurants just one, or two, hit wonders?

Logic And Neutrality

Timothy WIlliamson, New York Times:
Perhaps the methodological privilege of logic is not that its principles are so weak, but that they are so strong. They are formulated at such a high level of generality that, typically, if they crash, they crash so badly that we easily notice, because the counterexamples to them are simple. If we want to identify what is genuinely distinctive of logic, we should stop overlooking its close similarities to the rest of science.

Happy Birthday, A Clockwork Orange

Ben Myers, The Guardian:
Fifty years ago today, Anthony Burgess published his ninth novel, A Clockwork Orange. Reviewing it in the Observer, Kingsley Amis called the book "the curiosity of the day". Five decades later and there is still nothing quite like it.

Mon, May 14, 2012

Down With Training Wheels

Nicholas Day, Slate:
For generations, training wheels have been the standard way of not teaching children how to ride a bike. It’s a time-honored childhood ritual: fumble with wrench, remove tiny wheels, watch child fall on face, repeat.
It doesn’t have to be like this.

Hold On Tight

Leonard Mlodinow, Salon:
Science shows that closeness with others doesn't just help us cope with pain -- it makes us live longer.

Fresh Hell

Laura Miller, New Yorker:
What’s behind the boom in dystopian fiction for young readers?

Sun, May 13, 2012

A Mother’s Dying Request Sends Her Daughter On An Endless Search

Daniele Seiss, Washington Post:
I had those ashes with me now, but somehow couldn’t find this rock she had said was so easy to reach. She and I had explored the back roads and hiking trails around her home together. Now, every road, every curve, pull-off and copse of trees — every rock — looked familiar. The summer day was leaning into dusk, and we were running out of time.

Getting On The Bus By Getting Off The Bus In Suburbia

Susan Dominus, New York Times:
I kept seeing, on my friends’ faces, the same look I had on my own: a combination of delight and sheepishness. Many of us admitted to feeling a little bit silly — not because we had walked the kids to school, but because it had taken a flier sent home from the school and a week dedicated to the cause to inspire us to do it in the first place.

Anti-Anxiety Poem
Carrie Shipers, New England Review

Germany United By Nudity, Divided By Attitude

Stephen Evans, BBC:
Sex in Germany, I imagine, is much the same as sex everywhere else.
It was, as we know, invented in the 60s, probably in California, and since then the techniques involved are probably pretty universal.
But attitudes to sex and sexuality and nakedness are not. And in Germany, I have to tell you that I have been surprised.

Sat, May 12, 2012

Too Rich To Queue? Why Markets And Morals Don't Fit

Michael Sandel, The Guardian:
Why worry that we are moving towards a society in which everything is up for sale? For two reasons: one is about inequality; the other is about corruption. In a society where everything is for sale, life is harder for those of modest means. The more money can buy, the more affluence (or the lack of it) matters. But also, putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them. Paying children to read books might get them to read more, but it might also teach them to regard reading as a chore rather than a source of intrinsic satisfaction. Sometimes, market values crowd out nonmarket values worth caring about.

The Writer In The Family

Roger Rosenblatt, New York Times:
So there I stood at the front of my granddaughter Jessica’s fourth-grade classroom, still as a glazed dog, while Jessie introduced me to her classmates, to whom I was about to speak. “This is my grandfather, Boppo,” she said, invoking my grandpaternal nickname. “He lives in the basement and does nothing.”

Dennis O'Driscoll, The Guardian

Fri, May 11, 2012

Tailey, Twirley, Loopey

Laura Marsh, The New Republic:
Yet Hitchings’s new book points out all of the ideological pitfalls of debating language use, and he takes pains to avoid falling into them himself. Where Bunce’s aspirational Victorian readers wanted to learn to speak “proper English,” Hitchings’s presumably want to know what their attitude to “proper English” should be.

At CityZen, Chefs Cook Up Sweet Moves

Sarah Kaufman, Washington Post:
Those reality-TV chef shows may have you thinking that professional cooking is all about crazy creativity with vinegars and organ meats. Or that it’s a matter of egos, screaming and jungle treks in search of Amazonian rodents. But that’s the show-biz side, the exotic R&D.
What matters in a pro kitchen: instant reaction, mindless repetition and crisp, efficient maneuvers. Restaurants run on the French “kitchen brigade” system, modeled after a military hierarchy more than a century ago. There’s the chef, a couple of lieutenants (the sous-chefs), and a platoon of line cooks —the kitchen infantry — manning stations assigned by menu category: appetizers, fish, meat and so on.

Thu, May 10, 2012

This Is How It Ends By Kathleen MacMahon – Review

Nicola Barr, The Guardian:
The best love stories happen at a very specific moment in time, everything poised on the brink. Less than five years ago George W Bush was still president, the global economy solvent, and Ireland was still – just – giddily prosperous. In a short space of time the world would look very different. But that's the state of play when New Yorker Bruno – early 50s, twice divorced – loses his job with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and finds himself on a plane to Dublin to reconnect with distant relations.

Kale Of Duty

Scott Jacobson, Slate:
Apparently all I ever need to eat for the rest of my life is kale. And I swear to you on the tub of Sun-In hair lightener into which I dunk my increasingly bushy head each morning: I will achieve a kale-only diet.

Chefs And The Charcuterie Gap

Cathy Barrow, Washington Post:
“Move with purpose, not to impress,” the chef begins his tutorial. “A smooth arc, slicing in a clean motion. Move the knife away from yourself, to the right of your hip.” Exposing the pig’s shoulder, teasing a flexible blade against the bone, Jason Story sets his feet just so. To his left stands a tentative, wide-eyed, would-be apprentice.
It’s after-hours on a weeknight in early April at Three Little Pigs Charcuterie & Salumi, the new charcuterie in Petworth. Yet its spotless, cool workroom below hums with activity. The 27-year-old chef, who opened the small shop in March with his fiancee, chef Carolina Gomez, is midway through breaking down a 200-pound Old Spot from Evensong Farm in Sharpsburg, Md.

Wed, May 9, 2012

Pittsburgh Cafe Offers Cuisine From The U.S. Conflict Du Jour

Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times:
The cafe opened in 2010, with Iranian food the first featured cuisine. That was followed by periods of Afghan and Venezuelan food. This month, in a sign of the lingering tension between Washington and Tehran, the Conflict Kitchen is wrapping up another Iranian iteration. One recent Saturday, it featured a Persian dinner party attended by customers in Pittsburgh and diners in Tehran, who were linked via video chat.
"People are going to be thinking, 'Are we going to be eating twigs and rocks?' " Rubin joked as he repaired the cafe's front counter, where employees dish out food and try to get customers to talk about the conflict du jour.

When He Dined, The Stars Came Out

Pete Wells, New York Times:
Some American writers had nibbled at the idea of professional restaurant criticism before this, including Claiborne, who had written one-off reviews of major new restaurants for The Times. But his first “Directory to Dining,” 50 years ago this month, marks the day when the country pulled up a chair and began to chow down. Within a few years, nearly every major newspaper had to have a Craig Claiborne of its own. Reading the critics, eating what they had recommended, and then bragging or complaining about it would become a national pastime.

What Will Become Of The Paper Book?

Michael Agresta, Slate:
Luddites can take comfort in the persistence of vinyl records, postcards, and photographic film. The paper book will likewise survive, but its place in the culture will change significantly. As it loses its traditional value as an efficient vessel for text, the paper book’s other qualities—from its role in literary history to its inimitable design possibilities to its potential for physical beauty—will take on more importance. The future is yet to be written, but a few possibilities for the fate of the paper book are already on display on bookshelves near you.

Foodie Underground: Why Are We Food Porn Obsessed?

Anna Brones, EcoSalon:
It’s called food porn for a reason.

Tue, May 8, 2012

The Gruesome History Of Eating Corpses As Medicine

Maria Dolan, Smithsonian:
The last line of a 17th century poem by John Donne prompted Louise Noble’s quest. “Women,” the line read, are not only “Sweetness and wit,” but “mummy, possessed.”
Sweetness and wit, sure. But mummy? In her search for an explanation, Noble, a lecturer of English at the University of New England in Australia, made a surprising discovery: That word recurs throughout the literature of early modern Europe, from Donne’s “Love’s Alchemy” to Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene,” because mummies and other preserved and fresh human remains were a common ingredient in the medicine of that time. In short: Not long ago, Europeans were cannibals.

The Great Recipe Swindle

Nicholas Clee, The Guardian:
Just as a novel tells a story ("Oh dear yes", EM Forster complained), so a cookbook has recipes. And just as some novelists, such as Forster, have felt that a story is a regrettable element of fiction, so some cookery authors feel that recipes are regrettable elements of food writing.

Could The Internet Save Book Reviews?

Sarah Fay, The Atlantic:
Even as print publications are getting rid of reviewers, websites and podcasts offer new ways of approaching literature.

Night Train To Lisbon

Christopher Merkel, Bookslut:
It was a night bus in my case, and I read Death in Venice. And other than that short book, I hadn't read anything by Thomas Mann.

Soldier Is Defeated By War Abroad, Then Welcomed Back By Racism

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times:
This haunting, slender novel is a kind of tiny Rosetta Stone to Toni Morrison’s entire oeuvre.
“Home” encapsulates all the themes that have fueled her fiction, from the early novels “Sula” and “The Bluest Eye,” through her dazzling masterwork, “Beloved,” and more recent, less persuasive books like “Love” and “Paradise”: the hold that time past exerts over time present, the hazards of love (and its link to leaving and loss), the possibility of redemption and transcendence.

Poem Of The Week: Inviting A Friend To Supper By Ben Jonson
Carol Rumens, The Guardian

Mon, May 7, 2012

The English Wars

Joan Acocella, New Yorker:
English has always been a ragbag, and that encouraged further permissiveness. In the past half century or so, however, this situation has produced a serious quarrel, political as well as linguistic, with two combatant parties: the prescriptivists, who were bent on instructing us in how to write and speak; and the descriptivists, who felt that all we could legitimately do in discussing language was to say what the current practice was. This dispute is the subject of “The Language Wars: A History of Proper English”, by the English journalist Henry Hitchings, a convinced descriptivist.

I’m An Article About The Internet That You Repost On The Internet

Teddy Wayne, New Yorker:
Hey, you—yes, you, scanning past me for celebrity news. Did you fail to notice what I’m about? The exact medium that you use to mass-distribute articles to friends, relatives, and people you’ve never met!

Mount Vulture
Glenn Shaheen, The New Republic

Chinese Box
Kathlene Postma, Cha

Sun, May 6, 2012

Bring Up The Bodies By Hilary Mantel - Review

Margaret Atwood, The Guardian:
Oh, those Tudors! We can't get enough of them. Whole bookshelves have been filled with them, acres of film consecrated to their antics. How badly behaved they were. What Machiavellian plottings and betrayals. Will we never tire of the imprisonments, torturings, entrail-windings, and burnings at the stake?

Alix Ohlin, Guernica

Sat, May 5, 2012

In Search Of The Perfect Pencil Point

Mary Norris, New Yorker:
In the old days, here at The New Yorker, when your pencil point got dull, you just tossed it aside and picked up a new one. There was an office boy who came around in the morning with a tray of freshly sharpened wooden pencils. And they were nice long ones, too—no stubs. The boy held out his tray of pencils, and you scooped up a quiver of them. It sounds like something out of a dream! Even then I think I knew that the office boy and his tray of pencils would go the way of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Dog Gone

Roy Blount, Jr., Garden And Gun:
Yearning for a dog, but not really wanting one.

‘Yours In Truth’ By Jeff Himmelman: Bob Woodward Is The Star Of New Ben Bradlee Book

Jack Shafer, Washington Post:
Jeff Himmelman uses his new book, “Yours in Truth,” to take shots at Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and their 1974 book, “All the President’s Men.” But Himmelman’s fire does not come from the usual redoubt of Watergate revisionism. He is a former researcher for Woodward, one who worked so diligently on “Maestro,” the reporter’s 2001 book about Alan Greenspan, that Woodward gushed about him in his author’s note.

“City Of Scoundrels: The 12 Days Of Disaster That Gave Birth To Modern Chicago” By Gary Krist And “Detroit: A Biography” By Scott Martelle

Mark Caro, Washington Post:
Choosing the right time frame is a key decision for any storyteller. Can you reveal more about a subject by covering exhaustive chronological ground or homing in on a tightly compressed period? Do you pull back for a wide shot and let events rush by as if in a montage, or do you push in for the close-up and have developments unfold in something closer to real time?

'Private Empire': The Secretive World Of ExxonMobil

Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times:
The title of Steve Coll's latest opus uses the kind of sweeping language — Empire — that could inspire eyes to roll, arousing suspicion of overstatement. But in "Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power", Coll makes his case, powerfully and persuasively, leaving little doubt of ExxonMobil's reach within the world and its impact upon it.

John Irving’s Usual ‘Sexual Suspects’

Teresa Budasi, Chicago Sun-Times:
A John Irving novel is something to be savored. He’s a craftsman who chooses words like an artist chooses paint or a master chef chooses ingredients. You expect carefully crafted prose along with a picturesque setting populated with colorful folks whose peccadilloes are sometimes apparent and sometimes yet to be discovered.

Comedy Of Errors: Michael Frayn's New Novel Brings High Farce And Big Ideas To A Greek Island

Boyd Tonkin, The Independent:
You arrive on a hot day at a foreign airport. After you wheel your bag past a bored customs official, glass doors slide open to reveal that line of sweaty cab drivers who hold up notices carrying strange names. What if, instead of making a frantic search for the saviour who brandishes yours, you chose somebody's else's sign, somebody else's driver – somebody else's life?

Your Breasts Are Trying To Kill You

Lindy West, Slate:
Though that genre of sweeping, single-topic histories can wind up feeling hasty and reductive (it's hard to write the history of one thing without touching on the history of all other things), Williams’ writing is scientifically detailed yet warm and accessible. She also stays firmly away from the juvenile (BOOOOOOOOO!!!) and isn't afraid to delve into her personal life, making Breasts a smart and relatable, if occasionally dry, read.

You Are Very Cold, And This Feels Like An Adventure

Dan Kois, Slate:
A unique short novel published recently by an anonymous author in Portland, Ore., captures that mixture of exhilaration and dread with an expertise drawn from hard experience. Titled Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Life, it tells the story of your stormy four-year relationship with Anne, a hard-drinking cellist. Why “your” relationship? Because Love Is Not Constantly cleverly adopts the structure and second-person voice of Choose Your Own Adventure novels, those interactive kids’ books of the 1980s.

House On Moss Mill Road
Samantha Brown, Lines And Stars

Thoughts Of The Poet
John Hartley Williams, The Guardian

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky By Simon Mawer – Review

Rachel Cooke, The Guardian:
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is a less capacious, less thoughtful book than The Glass Room, and some readers will find it – a thriller, I suppose – unsatisfying in the end. But who cares, really? It is so beautifully done.

Fri, May 4, 2012

Daisy Fried, Threepenny

Poetry On The Brink

Marjorie Perloff, Boston Review:
What happens to poetry when everybody is a poet?

Thu, May 3, 2012

The Call Of The Future

Tom Vanderbilt, The Wilson Quarterly:
Before probing into the future of voice telephony, and the idea that we find it ever easier to do without it, we need to ask a simpler question, one that turns out to be curiously relevant to current discussions of the impact and role of a communication technology such as the Internet in our lives: What was the telephone call?

Wed, May 2, 2012

Against Chairs

Colin McSwiggen, Jacobin:
I hate to piss on the party, but chairs suck. All of them. No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible.

If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?

Michael Marder, New York Times:
Imagine a being capable of processing, remembering and sharing information — a being with potentialities proper to it and inhabiting a world of its own. Given this brief description, most of us will think of a human person, some will associate it with an animal, and virtually no one’s imagination will conjure up a plant.

Mysteries Of Oslo

John Bolton, The Weekly Standard:
The Nobel Peace Prize is the world’s most prestigious award, as Jay Nordlinger argues in this erudite and insightful history. He has written not only the go-to reference book for the prize and its laureates but also an important philosophical reflection on the nature of “peace” in modern times.

Variations (For Three Old Saws)
Stephen Yenser, Slate

Tue, May 1, 2012

Roughing It With Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Farther Away’

Chris Wallace, The Daily Beast:
I thought about reading this book in my own ascetic redoubt, on the craggy shelf of some perilous mountain, maybe haunted by cannibals, with only a flat soccer ball to keep me company. But I don’t camp. My idea of “roughing it” is a Radisson with a meager mini bar and I get cranky when Whole Foods doesn’t have its entire grazing menu available when I visit. So I went the other way with it. I brought Franzen’s book with me to my idea of paradise, a sanctuary from the cruel elements of Manhattan Island.
On Easter weekend, I checked into the Bowery Hotel.

Mexican Food North Of The Border

Julia Moskin, New York Times:
For the purposes of Mr. Arellano’s tale, the story of the fast-food taco begins here, on the corner of North Sixth and Mount Vernon streets, where Route 66 used to run through town.