Sat, Jun 30, 2012
Matt Taibbi, Slate
Hunter S. Thompson’s outrage-stuffed, anti-cynical campaign masterpiece.
Wajahat Ali, Salon
I wore loneliness as an armor to protect myself from pain, the inevitable companion of love. However, loneliness does not comfort you as you’re lying on a gurney wearing gaudy gym shorts, sweating profusely, and being defibrillated. What delusional grandeur made me think I could tame the unpredictable, mercurial and gloriously messy ride known as life?
Tamar Adler, New York Times
How we ended up with bread that is not bread is the ostensible subject of “White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf,” by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, an associate professor of politics at Whitman College. I say “ostensible” because he writes: “This isn’t really a book about the history of bread. It’s a book about what happens when dreams of good society and fears of social decay get tangled up in campaigns for ‘good food.’ ”
Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times
Let deficits grow, good jobs disappear and China loom — hang it all, America will always have world-beating epistemology and metaphysics up its sleeve. Well, maybe that isn’t quite fair to Romano, because his claim depends on redefining the term “philosophy,” giving it a nebulous meaning that embraces far more than is taught under that name in universities.
Fri, Jun 29, 2012
Michael Dirda, Washington Post
But put aside such unworthy thoughts, and what do we actually have here? A diverting, well-written novel about a middle-aged American dreamer, joined to a critique of how the American dream has been subverted by outsourcing our know-how and manufacturing to third-world nations.
Thu, Jun 28, 2012
Daniel Engber, Slate
Maybe that’s the future of remote control: We started out with too many buttons and we’ll end up with too few.
Mark Bittman, New York Times
There are times it seems as if progress in America’s food landscape is measured in the tiniest increments and among the tiniest part of the population. But after a recent cross-country trip, I can share three encouraging observations.
Mark McClusky, Wired
When it comes to this summer’s Games in London, she’s leaving nothing to chance.
Jones is attended by 22 scientists and technicians, paid for by Red Bull, her sponsor. It is her seventh training session with the team, and today they’ve arrayed 40 motion-capture cameras along the track. She’s also being monitored by a system called Optojump, which measures the exact location and duration of Jones’ contact with the rubberized surface on every step and after every hurdle. And a high-speed Phantom Flex camera rigged next to the track can zoom alongside Jones and film her at 1,500 frames a second. The Red Bull team calibrates the equipment while Jones warms up.
Wed, Jun 27, 2012
Michael J. Mooney, D Magazine
In a bowling alley one night, Bill Fong came so close to perfection that it nearly killed him.
Corinne Purtill, Salon
The short answer is that I did write a book, I couldn’t get it published, and these days I am much more familiar with failure than talk-show green rooms.
Tue, Jun 26, 2012
Charles Webb, Slate
Paul La Farge, New Yorker
Mon, Jun 25, 2012
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune
Does it matter that Steven Soderbergh works fast and Jonathan Franzen works slowly?
Wendy Smith, Los Angeles Times
General readers will probably not be bothered by Brinkley's uneven tone, and there's no question that the biography comprehensively and capably narrates Walter Cronkite's life and career through the "Legacy of War" documentary that aired on PBS six weeks before his death in 2009. What's missing from "Cronkite" is a coherent, sharply articulated point of view of the sort that makes Robert Caro's multi-volume biography of LBJ so stimulating, albeit sometimes maddening. Instead, it settles for a cover-all-bases approach that gets the job done but reveals little about Walter Cronkite that we didn't already know.
Sun, Jun 24, 2012
Claire Needell Hollander, New York Times
So what should students be asked to do? I propose focusing on accessible nonfiction guaranteed to increase world and verbal knowledge.
Sarah Nicole Prickett, The Globe And Mail
“I’m sick of girls who don’t know how to high-five,” he says. He makes me try to do it “properly,” six times. He also makes me laugh; I’m nervous, and it’s so absurd. He loves it. He says, “Let me manhandle you.” Then he ambles off, hoping I’ll write something nice, as though he has never known how the news works, how many stories can be true.
Matthew Green, Telegraph
The birth of the modern newspaper can be traced to a house that once stood on the eastern bank of the fetid River Fleet in London. From 1702, overlooking the sewage, dead dogs, and suicide victims that clogged up the waterway, England’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, thumped, clanged and squelched out the news to the city's eager citizens.
Barbara Ellen, The Guardian
Of course "Auntie" is the second main character in this book, if not joint first, and Vine's account keeps us ever-mindful of an old BBC fading, while a new BBC dawns.
Sat, Jun 23, 2012
Jeneen Interlandi, New York Times
In rare moments of lucidity, he would cry and apologize, confessing that he was terrified. He didn’t know what was happening to him. But we did. He was given a diagnosis of bipolar syndrome in 2005, during a similarly disturbing period. He rode out much of that episode in a state psychiatric hospital, and having him admitted again seemed the best way to keep him and my mother safe. His lucid moments would pass quickly. Once his switch flipped back to manic, he would refuse to even discuss the possibility that something was wrong, let alone consent to seeing a psychiatrist.
Christpher Bram, New York Times
But the question confused me. Why would a valuable piece of social progress close a literary door? Nobody thought women would no longer be a good subject for fiction once they got the vote. Nobody argues that African-American literature ended when Obama was elected. I soon developed a handy response: “Oh, no — gay marriage is going to give us a whole new subject to write about.” But since then I’ve been thinking it over more closely, wondering just how same-sex marriage might affect literature, about what could change and what may have been there all along.
Elizabeth Gilbert, The Guardian
All I can say is that I finally picked up Gima's cookbook this spring at the age of 41. I cracked it open and read it in one rapt sitting. No, that's not entirely true: I wasn't really sitting, or at least not for long. After the first few pages, I jumped up and dashed through the house to find my husband, so I could read parts of it to him. Then I followed him around the kitchen while he was making our dinner (lamb shanks), and I continued reading aloud as we ate. Then the two of us sat for hours over the dirty dishes, finishing a bottle of wine and taking turns reading the book to each other by candlelight.
James Polchin, Writing In Public
In thinking about these collections in their nominated categories, I wondered when does an essay become more than memoir?
Fri, Jun 22, 2012
James Smythe, The Guardian
I hold the movie and book in equal measure. I remember moments from both, where neither medium is more valid than the other. They're both stories about hidden evil emerging when the snow sets in; when a family is isolated and broken, and when a man with buried darkness finally collapses and becomes what he was always, inevitably, going to be. Neither is the correct version: one is the original, and one is a cover; a different take on the same powerful, terrifying material. Neither stands in the way of the other's brilliance: and, if allowed to, each can help the other to … well, shine.
Gary Gutting, New York Times
But the sign of a superior text of whatever genre is its ability to continue rewarding—with pleasure—those who work to uncover its riches.
Rebecca Traister, Salon
A new Atlantic cover peddles one of the most dangerous myths about modern women.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic
It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here’s what has to change.
Thu, Jun 21, 2012
Juan Gabriel Vásquez, The Guardian
Traveller of the Century doesn't merely respect the reader's intelligence: it sets out to worship it.
Caedra Scott-Flaherty, The Rumpus.net
This isn’t coming out right. Not like I expected. What I imagined: after finally writing this, I would be cured. Not only cured, but I would cure other people with my words. I would feel it was the best thing I’d ever written. It would come out vignette-style and poignant. Striking in ways I couldn’t understand, but that my writing group would inform me of. It would just come right out. Almost perfect.
Elaine Sciolino, New York Times
The French, as usual, insist on being different. As independent bookstores crash and burn in the United States and Britain, the book market in France is doing just fine. France boasts 2,500 bookstores, and for every neighborhood bookstore that closes, another seems to open. From 2003 to 2011 book sales in France increased by 6.5 percent.
Wed, Jun 20, 2012
Frank Bures, Thirty Two Magazine
But I’ve been down that road, and I know where it goes. I know that it leads both everywhere and nowhere. I know you could go down it forever and never quite arrive. And I know now that it may be wiser to try to create the place you want to live, rather than to keep trying to find it.
Tue, Jun 19, 2012
Jessie Schiewe, Salon
In the last few years, both typewriter sales and repairs have increased at the store. Berkeley Typewriter experienced an increase in overall sales in 2011, moving about two or three a week. It’s not like the olden days, Banuelos said, but it’s enough.
Tim de Lisle, Intelligent Life
In terms of reach and impact, the Guardian is doing better than ever before. But its success may contain the seeds of its demise.
Mary Ruefle, Poetry Foundation
I suppose, as a poet, among my fears can be counted the deep-seated uneasiness that one day it will be revealed that I consecrated my life to an imbecility. Part of what I mean—what I think I mean—by “imbecility” is something intrinsically unnecessary and superfluous and thereby unintentionally cruel. It was a Master who advised that we speak little, better still say nothing, unless we are quite sure that what we wish to say is true, kind, and helpful. But how can a poet, whose role is to speak, adhere to this advice? How can anyone whose role is to facilitate language speak little or say nothing?
Mon, Jun 18, 2012
Russ Rymer, National Geographic Magazine
One language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favor of English, Mandarin, or Spanish. What is lost when a language goes silent?
Hannah Bloch, National Geographic Magazine
“The statues walked,” Easter Islanders say. Archaeologists are still trying to figure out how—and whether their story is a cautionary tale of environmental disaster or a celebration of human ingenuity.
Adrienne Su, The New Republic
Kevin Stevens, Dublin Review Of Books
It makes sense that the author of an epistolary masterpiece should himself be a keen correspondent. Like his creation Moses Herzog, Saul Bellow was never short of words, and never less than exacting in their use, whether writing the novels and stories that changed the landscape of American fiction or wrangling with an ex-wife (he had four) over alimony. This selection, just released in paperback, of seven hundred letters (40 per cent or so of what is extant), written over seventy years, is an apt companion to the biographies and to Bellow’s fiction, and for many reasons: for what he has to say about love and loss, friendship and marriage, art and the writing life; for his wit and his advice to fellow writers; for its extended sense of time and place; and for the privileged glimpse into the private life of one of America’s best writers and most interesting men.
Sun, Jun 17, 2012
Iain Morris, The Observer
Blum leaves readers pondering questions that would not have occurred to them before and better informed about an innovation most of us take for granted.
Sat, Jun 16, 2012
Michael Chabon, New York Review Of Books
I hate dreams. Dreams are the Sea Monkeys of consciousness: in the back pages of sleep they promise us teeming submarine palaces but leave us, on waking, with a hermetic residue of freeze-dried dust. The wisdom of dreams is a fortune on paper that you can’t cash out, an oasis of shimmering water that turns, when you wake up, to a mouthful of sand. I hate them for their absurdities and deferrals, their endlessly broken promise to amount to something, by and by. I hate them for the way they ransack memory, jumbling treasure and trash. I hate them for their tedium, how they drag on, peter out, wander off.
Dan Saltzstein, New York Times
The subtitle of “Dan Gets a Minivan” — “Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad” — nicely encapsulates a genre that has provided rich fodder for former dudes like Bill Cosby (“Fatherhood”), Robert Wilder (“Daddy Needs a Drink”) and Dave Barry (take your pick). It has also spawned a lucrative second career for the actor Paul Reiser (“Couplehood,” “Babyhood,” “Familyhood”).
Add to that list Dan Zevin. A “comic correspondent” for NPR and a humor columnist, Zevin is on his fourth dude-in-transition book, and “Dan Gets a Minivan” finds him in apparently full embrace of his new identity. For Zevin, the minivan is a symbol — not of conformity or the constraints of family, but of freedom.
Tessa Hadley, The Guardian
Here are two readable, gossipy, involving books about Austen that more or less manage to square this critical circle (and any reader of Austen knows that gossip is no inferior indulgence, but the essence of narrative).
Adam Thirlwell, The Guardian
I didn't, however, have any plans to do my own experiment with visual tricks. But then I began to write a very small story of world history, and my resolutions began to dissolve.
Fri, Jun 15, 2012
Rick Gekoski, The Guardian
As long as the writer's wishes are taken into account, most manuscripts benefit from a judicious edit.
Charles Mathewes, The American Interest
We will probably need all the help we can get in understanding the various modes of human religiosity in the world, and this is a need that applies equally, if somewhat differently, for religious believers and non-believers alike.
Thu, Jun 14, 2012
Mary MacVean, Los Angeles Times
His book could have been another look at the problems of the industrial food system, the lack of healthful food in many poor communities and ideas to reverse course. And it is that, but it's also told through the painful but important lens of the African American experience.
Wed, Jun 13, 2012
Jonah Lehrer, New Yorker
And here’s the upsetting punch line: intelligence seems to make things worse.
Tue, Jun 12, 2012
Gail Mazur, Slate
Raymond Tallis, Philosophy Now
So we should not allow objections to the reduction of time to little t to allow us to overlook the mysterious activity of ‘timing’, or the extraordinary truth that despite the gap between lived and measured time, measuring it has enabled us (via science and technology) to extend, protect, enrich and enhance our existence – indeed, to have the time of our lives. “Measurement began our might” as the poet William Yeats said: it extended our powers beyond anything that could be imagined by our pre-numerate ancestors.
Janelle Nanos, Boston Magazine
V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai — the MIT lecturer who invented e-mail — had spent years blasting the struggling United States Postal Service for its failure to embrace the revenue potential of his creation. So when he was recruited to help save the U.S. Mail earlier this year, Ayyadurai made headlines and was suddenly a star. That’s when the trouble started.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012
Alberto Manguel, Salon
It is true that, confronted with the blind imbecility with which we try to destroy our planet, the relentlessness with which we inflict pain on ourselves and others, the extent of our greed and cowardice and envy, the arrogance with which we strut among our fellow living creatures, it is hard to believe that writing — literature or any other art, for that matter — teaches us anything. If after reading lines such as Philip Larkin’s “The trees are coming into leaf,/ Like something almost being said,” we are still capable of all such atrocities, then perhaps literature does make nothing happen.
Dwight Garner, New York Times
“Here we go,” Tony Soprano said in the first episode of “The Sopranos” when Dr. Melfi, his psychiatrist, reached for her prescription pad. “Here comes the Prozac.”
It’s hard not to think about Tony’s woes while reading William J. Dobson’s intelligent and absorbing “Dictator’s Learning Curve.” It’s a book that intricately explores the headache-making complexities of being an authoritarian tough guy in 2012. These despots may well be on anti-depressants too.
Sun, Jun 10, 2012
Geoff Dyer, The Observer
These essays are exemplary instances of reader-friendly criticism in that they can be studied profitably even by people unfamiliar with the works in question. They also display two related side-effects of becoming a great novelist. First, the ease with which Harold Bloom's idea of the anxiety of influence can be swept aside as an amusing irrelevance. Second, that the great novelist is, by default, a great reader.
Sat, Jun 9, 2012
Graham Swift, New York Times
All novelists must form their personal pacts in some way with the slowness of their craft. There are some who demand of themselves a “rate of production,” for whom it’s a matter of pride to complete, say, a book every year. But I think most novelists, after writing their first two or three, take philosophical stock of the fact that in an average lifetime they will produce a finite and not so large number of novels and that the point of being a novelist is not to see how many you can write or how quickly you can do it. Quite a few novelists, I suspect, even carry in their heads the notion of the one, all-sufficient and perfect novel they might write, which would render all further effort redundant. It’s only because this ideal and singular novel is unattainable that they have to keep writing another, then another.
Giles Foden, The Guardian
This epic and often poetic novel delivers powerfully, giving a more rounded and authentic sense of one person's inner life and complexities than many biographies.
Jonathan Glancey, The Guardian
The sorcery of cities should not be lost; Smith's ebullient guidebook helps to remind us why.
Fri, Jun 8, 2012
Anna Baddeley, The Guardian
You say E-book, I say eBook. The technology might be approaching maturity, but the language we use to describe it refuses to settle down. Surely the only acceptable spelling is ebook. As in email. But still people stubbornly cling on to hyphens and random capital letters, with an infuriating lack of consistency.
Tim Radford, The Guardian
Forget those 1,000 things you need to do before you die, the 10 commandments and seven deadly sins. Concentrate instead on six impossible things that, as the White Queen advised Alice, you must try to believe before breakfast.
Lev Grossman, Time
I’m in the privacy of my own home. I know the terrain. Why should I put down George R.R. Martin during the short trek from couch to bathroom? What would happen if I just kept on reading?
Charles Simic, The New York Review Of Books
What worked yesterday in poetry won’t work today, so a poet has no choice but to find means to confront the times he lives in. What doesn’t change, however, is that we are still what we were centuries ago, minds reading themselves for clues to the meaning of their existence, astonished now and then to be alive, while being acutely aware of their own mortality.
Thu, Jun 7, 2012
Hanna Rosin and David Plotz, Slate
Did you hear about that Buddhist couple who're never more than 15 feet apart? Well, we tried it.
Neil Gaiman, The Guardian
Ray Bradbury was the kind of person who would give half a day to a kid who wanted to be a writer when he grew up.
Dan Gillmor, The Guardian
In my early teens, I read Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, a novel that combines fantasy and horror as two 13-year-old boys and one of their fathers confront evil, and prevail over it. I remember devouring the book in one sitting. It terrified and inspired me in equal measures. It changed me.
Wed, Jun 6, 2012
Karl Kirchwey, Slate
Clarissa Wei, LA Weekly
David R. Chan can't use chopsticks. "I can't hold them properly," Chan says. "It hasn't really been a problem, though. Chinese restaurants usually have forks available." He's checked in 6,090 Chinese restaurants, to be exact -- a number that just keeps on growing.
Jay M. Pasachoff, New York Times
Venus slides between us and the Sun today, an exceedingly rare spectacle that scientists hope will expand their understanding of our solar system and refine their inquiries about distant planets.
Tue, Jun 5, 2012
Adam Davidson, New York Times
During the ’70s and ’80s, the Village was the Jane Jacobs ideal, a neighborhood crammed with small mom-and-pop stores. That’s changed too. That old house-plant store is now a Marc Jacobs boutique. The dowdy bird store with the parrots in the window became Magnolia Bakery. The onslaught of luxury brands — Ralph Lauren, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, among them — has been so relentless that I’m happy when I see one of the old shops still in business. As an economics geek, I also wonder how in the world they survived. How have they innovated? How were they shrewd enough to overcome the rising rents and profit off a new, wealthy clientele?
Stefanie Wortman, Kenyon Review
Rachel Zucker, Ploughshares
Molly Patterson, The Atlantic
Victorino Matus, The Weekly Standard
In March I flew 4,464 miles to eat boiled beef. I admit this sounds absurd. After all, couldn’t I boil the meat at home? And why even bother boiling when I can braise, roast, or grill? Who would do such a thing to beef?
The Austrians, that’s who—and they’ve been doing it for a long time.
William J. Dobson, Slate
Every June Fourth we are reminded that China is anything but a confident global power.
Elizabeth Weingarten, Slate
How nanotechnology, vertical farms, and lab-grown meat may change the way you eat.
Mon, Jun 4, 2012
Julia Moskin, New York Times
“I got every kind of push-back,” said Ms. Frederick, 31. “People said: ‘The French will never eat on the street. The French will never eat with their hands. They will never pay good money for food from a truck.’ ” (Her burger with fries costs 10 euros, about $13.)
“And, ‘You will never get permission from the authorities.’ ”
But Ms. Frederick did, and so the scarf-wearing hipsters were lining up at her truck on a recent Sunday evening. As vintage clothing shops propped open their doors nearby and two young men strummed guitars outside a gallery, the smell of onions caramelizing wafted out over the cobblestones.
David Samuels, The Atlantic
Intense, emotional, and frequently out of control, the hip-hop superstar Kanye West allowed his antics to turn him into a national joke and to earn him the criticism of two American presidents. Would a massive concert tour with his friend and rival Jay-Z offer the troubled rapper a taste of redemption—or disaster?
Sun, Jun 3, 2012
Torie Bosch, Slate
The unlikely story of the sci-fi author’s “robotic resurrection.”
Melissa Bell, Washington Post
The plot, though, is never the point. It’s following the strange paths down which Lawson’s mind wanders. Unlike with the memoirists who have come before her, there’s never a question about her journalistic integrity. Did a cougar casually stroll through her back yard last week? Does she really have a zombie kit stashed under her bed? Who cares? The world Lawson inhabits, however much invented, is a glorious place to be.
Eva Wiseman, The Observer
Reality has no place in fashion. Reality is the guy that creeps up on you when you're wearing vertical stripes and whispers: "Oof, sweetheart, no. You believed, didn't you? You thought they'd make you look taller and thinner." Oh. "No. Sorry. All the best," he says, leaving you standing there with the sad knowledge that you look like a squat 80s TV set, strobing.
Sat, Jun 2, 2012
Alexandra Jacobs, New York Times
This project envisions the pool not just as a source of recreation and sybaritic pleasure but as a fraught symbol that quivers with meaning and foreboding: “a particularly potent discursive field,” as Cornell, a curator at the wonderful Palm Springs Art Museum, puts it; a doppelgänger of the womb that, when drained, signifies economic and psychosocial barrenness; a “revolving door through which trouble gets to travel,” writes Dick Hebdige, a cultural critic, in an essay called “Hole: Swimming . . . Floating . . . Sinking . . . Drowning.” And that’s not even counting what a pain it can be to clean.
Richard Fortey, The Guardian
Stott has done a wonderful job in showing just how many extraordinary people had speculated on where we came from before the great theorist dispelled all doubts.
Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, The Guardian
Fri, Jun 1, 2012
Julia Jackson, New Ohio Review
Seth Stevenson, Slate
There are three givens of human nature that queuing psychologists must address: 1) We get bored when we wait in line. 2) We really hate it when we expect a short wait and then get a long one. 3) We really, really hate it when someone shows up after us but gets served before us.