MyAppleMenu Reader by Heng-Cheong Leong

Tue, Jul 31, 2012

Titian By Sheila Hale: Review

Alastair Smart, Telegraph
Sheila Hale's 'Titian' offers a rich depiction of a High Renaissance master and his city.


Don Bogen, Slate

Hitchcock’s Girl

Rosie Millard, Financial Times
Alfred Hitchcock sabotaged Tippi Hedren’s movie career after she rejected his advances. But the heroine of ‘The Birds’ and ‘Marnie’ says she has no regrets.

Mon, Jul 30, 2012

Review: 'The Twenty-Year Death' By Ariel S. Winter Is 3-In-1 Noir

David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
His solution — to build one long narrative out of three smaller ones — is ingenious, not least because he never loses sight of the requirements of the genre. Rather, he embraces them, framing the book through three representative voices (the Belgian writer Georges Simenon, as well as Chandler and Thompson) to develop a story that is also a reflection on the history of noir.

How To Write

Colson Whitehead, New York Times
Show and Tell. Most people say, “Show, don’t tell,” but I stand by Show and Tell, because when writers put their work out into the world, they’re like kids bringing their broken unicorns and chewed-up teddy bears into class in the sad hope that someone else will love them as much as they do. “And what do you have for us today, Marcy?” “A penetrating psychological study of a young med student who receives disturbing news from a former lover.” “How marvelous! Timmy, what are you holding there?” “It’s a Calvinoesque romp through an unnamed metropolis much like New York, narrated by an armadillo.” “Such imagination!” Show and Tell, followed by a good nap.

My Verdict On Books I Haven't Read

Morven Crumlish, The Observer
To avoid wasting time on bad books, I employ a complex algorithm of past reading and pure prejudice.

Sun, Jul 29, 2012

Janet Cardiff, George Bures Miller And The Power Of Sound

John Wray, New York Times
The husband-and-wife artists have been “trying to escape reality for, like, 35 years.”

Hawthorn & Child By Keith Ridgway – Review

Killian Fox, The Guardian
From the first page, however, things seem slightly out of sync. Amid the commotion, one of the detectives – Hawthorn – is fast asleep. He wakes up en route to the hospital but cannot easily shake off his dream. And its atmosphere lingers.

Sat, Jul 28, 2012

The Piano

Alexandra Thom, Boston Review

Who’s The Man?

Henry Alford, New York Times
Modern man, it’s possible to contend, has grown effete. Between the country singer Keith Urban’s buttery highlights and the average suburban dad’s struggle to program his DVR, the current state of masculinity does not exactly produce a froth. Indeed, as life’s gradually constricting walls close in on the contemporary male, threatening to crush him in the manner of Marcel Marceau’s shrinking box, some of the other mimes in the audience have started to lift their gloved hands and wail, “Où sont les hommes d’antan?”

How To Blurb And Blurb And Blurb

A. J. Jacobs, New York Times
My friend, the writer Andy Borowitz, sent me an e-mail that said: “I had the strangest experience today. I went into Barnes & Noble and saw a book that you didn’t blurb.”
I have a reputation.

“Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle Of 101 Remarkable Meetings” By Craig Brown

Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
This deliciously clever and amusing book is an extended riff on that old chestnut of cocktail-party conversation, “Small world, isn’t it?” or, of slightly more recent vintage, “Six degrees of separation,” or from no less than Shakespeare, “Strange bedfellows.” This last, it turns out, is also the name of a parlor game, as we learn from one of the many strange encounters (all of them true) that Craig Brown has assembled here.

Fri, Jul 27, 2012

Let’s Hear It For The C Train

Anthony Dejarnette, New York Times

In Singapore, Vitriol Against Chinese Newcomers

Andrew Jacobs, New York Times
Tensions over immigration bedevil many nations, but what makes the clash here particularly striking is that most of Singapore’s population was already ethnic Chinese, many of them the progeny of earlier generations of Chinese immigrants.
The tenor of the debate has unnerved some Chinese immigrants, and angered others.

Don’t Wear Yum-yum Yellow

Theo Tait, London Review Of Books
‘Many scientists don’t like to talk about shark sex,’ Juliet Eilperin writes in her entertaining study of sharks and their world. ‘They worry it will only reinforce the popular perception that these creatures are brutish and unrelenting.’ In as far as we understand the subject – only a few species have been observed mating – the business is ‘very rough’.

Grief, Rage, Cognac, And A Computer

Alan Hollinghurst, The New York Review Of Books
Peter Carey is an astonishing capturer of likenesses—not only in the sense of the portrait (the “good likeness”), but of the teeming similitudes with which a sharp eye and a rich memory discern and describe the world. Simile and metaphor, which are at the heart of poetry, are a less certain presence in prose fiction, in some novelists barely deployed at all, but in Dickens, for instance (with whom Carey is repeatedly compared), they are vital and unresting elements of the novelist’s vision.

Thu, Jul 26, 2012

The Teleportation Accident By Ned Beauman – Review

Joe Dunthorne, The Guardian
Living in Berlin just before the second world war, everything goes wrong for Egon Loeser, and it has nothing to do with the Nazis. In Ned Beauman's terrific second novel, longlisted this week for the Booker, his protagonist, a German set designer, is too sex-starved, self-pitying and, usually, hungover to notice that history is happening all around him.

Tue, Jul 24, 2012

Betrayal By The Beloved

Alicia Ostriker, Slate

Does Quantum Physics Make It Easier To Believe In God?

Stephen M. Barr, Big Questions Online
Quantum mechanics, however, throws a monkey wrench into this simple mechanical view of things. No less a figure than Eugene Wigner, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, claimed that materialism --- at least with regard to the human mind --- is not “logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.” And on the basis of quantum mechanics, Sir Rudolf Peierls, another great 20th-century physicist, said, “the premise that you can describe in terms of physics the whole function of a human being ... including [his] knowledge, and [his] consciousness, is untenable. There is still something missing.”

Every Woman Should Travel Alone

Sarah Hepola, Salon
At 27, I took a road trip across the country by myself. It was foolish and lonely and the best thing I've ever done.

Mon, Jul 23, 2012

Poem Of The Week: Night Subway By Katha Pollitt

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

The Risks Of Using Asterisks In Place Of Swearwords

David Marsh, The Guardian
Omitting letters can confuse. How is the poor reader expected to differentiate between b******* and b*******?

Sun, Jul 22, 2012

Does Money Make Us Write Better?

Tim Parks, The New York Review Of Books
Let’s talk about money.

A Final Message From My Mother

Josiah Howard, New York Times
From the day that I first tucked that sliver of paper into my mother’s change purse, she and I wrote each other clandestine notes. They would be placed in the refrigerator or freezer, under a lamp, by the TV remote controls, or would peek out from under an ashtray. I even found one stuffed in my shoe. From the outside, our notes may have been banal summations of our days, thoughts, wishes or observations. But to my mother and me, they were a lifeline — a communication with each other that no one else shared.

“Fear Of Food : A History Of Why We Worry About What We Eat” By Harvey Levenstein

Bonnie S. Benwick, Washington Post
If we lived in a world where fresh fruits and vegetables were suspect and fast-food hamburgers were considered pure and healthful, would we be carefree and content? Sadly, no. Americans have suffered through such times. And if we’re condemned to repeat the history we cannot learn from, we’ll be reassessing white bread in the near future.

Swimming Studies By Leanne Shapton – Review

Kate Kellaway, The Observer
This book is not – as its publishers would have it – a love letter to swimming. It is far more complicated. At times, it comes closer to being the opposite. It is brilliant, eccentric and moving – an immersion in a life.

Sat, Jul 21, 2012


Angela Leighton, The Guardian

A Life Aquatic: Every Swimsuit Tells A Story

Leanne Shapton, The Guardian
I can't find a swimsuit in Toronto the day before my wedding reception. All the stores stock in mid-February are skirted, padded, backless styles in tropical patterns. Finally, I find a two-piece outfit designed for Bikram yoga.
"It's designed to get wet," the sales clerk explains, "but it hasn't been tested in chlorine, so it might lose its colour."
It's black. I take it.

We’ve Seen This Movie Before

Roger Ebert, New York Times
That James Holmes is insane, few may doubt. Our gun laws are also insane, but many refuse to make the connection. The United States is one of few developed nations that accepts the notion of firearms in public hands. In theory, the citizenry needs to defend itself. Not a single person at the Aurora, Colo., theater shot back, but the theory will still be defended.

Fri, Jul 20, 2012

The Demon-Haunted World By Carl Sagan – Review

Tim Radford, The Guardian
Carl Sagan may have believed in extraterrestrials, but he knew that belief is meaningless without testable evidence.

Roger Loves Chaz

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Wednesday, July 18, is the 20th anniversary of our marriage. How can I begin to tell you about Chaz? She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she has my love, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone, which is where I seemed to be heading. If my cancer had come, and it would have, and Chaz had not been there with me, I can imagine a descent into lonely decrepitude. I was very sick. I might have vegetated in hopelessness. This woman never lost her love, and when it was necessary she forced me to want to live. She was always there believing I could do it, and her love was like a wind forcing me back from the grave.

Thu, Jul 19, 2012

Hiking The Grand Canyon In A Day

John Ore, The Awl
Signs posted at the rim of the Grand Canyon warn you not to attempt to hike to the river and back in one day: it's too strenuous, and you need to be prepared with food and a gallon of water per person. Apparently, there are several deaths (especially in the summer months) and 250 rescues made each year, so the National Park Service is serious about this. Typical warnings exhort: "DO NOT attempt to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day, especially May to September."
I arrived at the Grand Canyon in late March. It was Spring Break, 1990.

There But For The By Ali Smith - Review

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
I know more than one person who, when picking up a book to see if it's worth reading, turns to page 62 and, if that's any good, buys it. This is a sound technique, as far as it goes, but I prefer to start as the author wished me to. So I hurled a copy of The Da Vinci Code across the room in disgust before I'd even finished the first sentence; and I clasped this book to my bosom also before I'd even finished the first sentence.

From The Ruins Of Empire By Pankaj Mishra – Review

Julia Lovell, The Guardian
Debates about the rise of the modern west (and corresponding decline of the east) remain a fertile source of historical polemic. Such oppositional historiography – the idea of a head-on clash of civilisations, with a clear winner and loser – seems to hold a perennial appeal in terms of both its simplicity and its drama of antagonism.

A Man Apart

Robert Zaretsky, Los Angeles Review Of Books
While the Magic Kingdom does not boast an Existential Land — at least not the sort that would be recognized as such by Albert Camus — the author of The Stranger did, rather absurdly, join forces with Walt Disney in 1954. Shortly after the successful release of The Living Desert, Disney published a book version of his documentary film. Along with photos from the film, there were essays from celebrated writers on both sides of the Atlantic, ranging from Julian Huxley and Louis Bromfield to François Mauriac and André Maurois. Yet it was Camus who set the tone.

Wed, Jul 18, 2012

Raw Panic

Julia Moskin, New York Times
What should be a beautiful and inspiring sight — your kitchen, overflowing with seasonal produce — is sometimes an intimidating tableau of anxiety. The knobbly piles and dirt-caked bunches are overwhelming. Already the peak-ripe multicolored peppers are developing soft spots; the chard is wilting and the race is on.

Once Upon A Time

Joan Acocella, New Yorker
Whatever happened there, we all deserve it. A. S. Byatt has written that this is the real terror of the story: “It doesn’t feel like a warning to naughty infants. It feels like a glimpse of the dreadful side of the nature of things.” That is true of very many of the Grimms’ tales, even those with happy endings.

Tue, Jul 17, 2012

How New York’s Love Affair With Starbucks Turned Sour

Jonathan A. Knee, Slate
It started when they took away the comfortable chairs.

A Poet By Any Other Name

Robert Pinsky, Slate
Who is “the speaker” and does it matter?

Mon, Jul 16, 2012

Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death And Hope In A Mumbai Slum By Katherine Boo: Review

Bryony Gordon, Telegraph
At Mumbai airport they do their level best to show you the new India – the one whose economy is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world, the one where men can afford to build 27-storey homes with three helipads, several swimming pools, a ballroom and space for 600 domestic staff. And yet you can’t help but notice another India – the one in which people live on top of each other, in slums that practically spill on to the airport’s runway. It is this India that the New Yorker writer Katherine Boo has chosen to document in Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum.

Friends Of A Certain Age

Alex Williams, New York Times
No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.
But often, people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move, say, or a divorce.

A Table To Eat And Write On: The Joys Of A Studio Flat

Emily Gould, The Guardian
Micro-apartments may well raise New York rents sky-high, but they are perfect for young independent strivers.

Sun, Jul 15, 2012

A World Without Coral Reefs

Roger Bradbury, New York Times
It's past time to tell the truth about the state of the world’s coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation. There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world’s poor — will cease to be.

Commuting To Disneyland

Will Doig, Salon
As going carless turns cool, our new train stations are becoming magnificent public gathering spots.

What Is Real Is Imagined

Colm Toibin, New York Times
As night falls, I watch from the window as flashes from Tuskar Rock Lighthouse become visible. It does its two flashes and then stops as though to take a breath. Until I was 12 and my family stopped coming to this remote place on the coast of Ireland in the summer, I watched the lighthouse too, from a different window not far from here. Every day now as I walk down to the strand I pass the house we lived in then. Someone else is there now, but no matter what happens, the room that I can almost peer into from the lane remains my parents’ bedroom, with the iron bed and the cement floor. I suppose it must seem smaller now that I am bigger.

Sat, Jul 14, 2012

A Perfect Storm

Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal
The rest of the number shows him to be superhuman, executing perfect steps mere mortals can only dream about, but that gasp communicates to us that he's just a regular Joe who is empowered by the force of love. That one little trick with his throat gives what is already a masterpiece an extra dimension of believability.

A Friend Of The Family

Jonathan Dee, New York Times
One of the most venerable plots in British literature is that of the young person who tries to vault the class divide by infiltrating someone else’s family. Few characters have gone about it as remorselessly as Frances Thorpe, in this highly entertaining and squirm-­inducing short novel that Frances herself might reductively pitch to her boss in the books department as “Howards End” meets “All About Eve.”

Night Workers

Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

Fri, Jul 13, 2012

I Was An A-List Writer Of B-List Productions

Stephen Harrigan, Slate
Reflections on a career writing made-for-TV movies.

Thu, Jul 12, 2012

Poets In Federal Government Issue

Barbara DeCesare, Beltware Poetry Quarterly

Wed, Jul 11, 2012

Does Infinity Exist?

John D. Barrow, Plus
This is a surprisingly ancient question.

Reading Each Other

Sarah Skwire, The Freeman
It is tragic. I wasn’t wrong at 15. And it is hilarious. I wasn’t wrong at 20. But it took time and life experience for me to realize that Alice’s dinner party could be both of those things at once—and that when it was, it was a better, richer, more realistic piece of fiction than my earlier readings had indicated.

True Crime

Caspar Melville, New Humanist
Campaigning death row lawyer Clive Stafford Smith’s latest book is a gripping real-life thriller, but the ending remains a mystery.

Desert Sounds

Howard Altmann, Slate

The Lost Art Of Losing By Gregory Norminton – Review

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
Ah well. You can't get this kind of thing spot on every time. But Norminton should be saluted for trying, and he hits the nail on the head much more often than he hits his thumb. After all, human beings – I forget who said this – will do almost anything to avoid thinking; and aphorisms, more than any branch of literature, force us to do just that. No wonder they are out of fashion.

My Living, Yet Lost, Father

Kyanh Tonnu, Zócalo Public Square
In the spring of 1975, when I was eight years old, my family, which included my parents and younger sister, moved from Vietnam, our native home, to Singapore. My father was a war correspondent covering Southeast Asia for Reuters, and he believed Saigon was no longer safe. He was right. In the last days of April, as Saigon fell to communist rule, he would lose his job, his country, and his father. And I would lose the father I’d known.

Tue, Jul 10, 2012

Poem Of The Week: Departed By Grahame Davies

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

The Big Higgs Question

Steven Weinberg, New York Review Of Books
It is often said that what was at stake in the search for the Higgs particle was the origin of mass. True enough, but this explanation needs some sharpening.

Mon, Jul 9, 2012

Is The Web Driving Us Mad?

Tony Dokoupil, Newsweek
Tweets, texts, emails, posts. New research says the Internet can make us lonely and depressed—and may even create more extreme forms of mental illness.

Sun, Jul 8, 2012

My Stephen King Problem: A Snob’s Notes

Dwight Allen, Los Angeles Review Of Books
So, why didn’t I read King’s fiction? Was I simply an elitist, anti-populist literary snob who felt he would be soiled by reading stuff that sold? I do have some snob in me — it’s my sense that a lot of the books read by practically nobody are often good, whereas a lot of the books read by millions are often crap — but the term doesn’t fully describe my resistance to King’s fiction.

My Fabulous Boring Book Collection

Bruce Handy, New York Times
I collect boring books, which probably even sounds boring. I assure you it’s not.

The Audition

Jennie Dorris, Boston Magazine
Mike Tetreault has spent an entire year preparing obsessively for this moment. He's put in 20-hour workdays, practiced endlessly, and shut down his personal  life. Now the percussionist has 10 minutes to impress a Boston Symphony Orchestra selection committee. A single mistake and it's over.  A flawless performance and he could join one of the world's most renowned orchestras.

Sat, Jul 7, 2012

The Extras Get A Life

John Schwartz, New York Times
A comic riff on the lives of the expendable and luckless, “Redshirts” plays off a phenomenon that science-fiction fans have long recognized. In the original “Star Trek,” Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty were very dangerous men to stand next to if you were wearing the ensign’s red shirt.
Like a space-based “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” the book takes these peripheral characters and puts them at the center of the tale. “All these people in all these stories who are just cannon fodder for a 10-second or 20-second dramatic moment — they have lives of their own, they have thoughts of their own,” Mr. Scalzi explained. It is up to them to take charge of their lives.

Thank You For Killing My Novel

Patrick Somerville, Salon
The New York Times panned my book, then had to correct the review to fix all their errors. So why am I not angry?

Fri, Jul 6, 2012

The Stupidity Of Computers

David Auerbach, n+1
Computers are near-omnipotent cauldrons of processing power, but they’re also stupid. They are the undisputed chess champions of the world, but they can’t understand a simple English conversation. IBM’s Watson supercomputer defeated two top Jeopardy! players last year, but for the clue “What grasshoppers eat,” Watson answered: “Kosher.” For all the data he could access within a fraction of a second—one of the greatest corpuses ever assembled—Watson looked awfully dumb.

Time To Rise

Smauel Fromartz, AFAR
An amateur baker apprentices with a Paris boulanger and learns the secret of artisan bread.

Thu, Jul 5, 2012

Writers Gathering Round New York’s Village Green

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
In a sprightly new collection, “Central Park: An Anthology,” edited by Andrew Blauner, the park is celebrated by a bevy of talented writers.

The Woman Reader By Belinda Jack – Review

Hermione Lee, The Guardian
A history of women's reading, and those who opposed it.

Wed, Jul 4, 2012

My Fourth Of July

Charles Simic, New York Review Of Books
Summer is the time when memories of other summers flood back. You lie on the beach, take a swim in the sea, or toss and turn at night unable to sleep because of the heat, and recall yourself doing the same in years past, or surprise yourself by remembering a half-forgotten, entirely different summer experience. The year is 1963. I’m on an army ship playing poker for high stakes in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. None of us has any money, but once we arrive in Brooklyn, get discharged and receive our pay, we’ll settle what we owe and collect what we have coming to us. I don’t believe this will happen, but I pretend I do and win and lose fortunes with the composure of a dissolute prince in a nineteenth-century Russian novel.

Tue, Jul 3, 2012

Marilyn Monroe And Truman Capote Dance

Patrick Ryan Frank, Slate

Canada By Richard Ford: Review

Lucy Daniel, Telegraph
Richard Ford’s magnificent, compassionate, strangely languorous new novel begins with a crafty come-on: “First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” That’s quite some opener. What follows is not a Bonnie and Clyde-style adventure, but a far more ruminative affair about the imperceptible slide from normal to not normal, edging towards the point of no return. If that’s mildly disappointing, he more than makes up for it in the bitter fallout from physical actions.

The Same Old Song

Richard Howard, The New Republic

Karantina Massacre, 1976, East Beirut

Ruth Awad, The New Republic

An Abduction

Tessa Hadley, New Yorker

Extreme Eccentrics: Modern Art And Its Collectors

Barry Schwabsky, The Nation
The solution must have the doctor rolling in his grave. Having reopened this past May in a handsome new building (designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects) just down the street from the Philadelphia Museum of Art—Barnes’s bête noir—the Barnes Foundation is now a museum like any other. Visitors don’t even need to make an appointment. Dilettantes may entertain themselves without fear of the doctor’s furious invective, and I suspect that tea parties and musicales may eventually transpire. Has Barnes’s egalitarian and exclusive vision of art finally been betrayed, or has it been preserved to the extent that history and circumstance allow?

Poem Of The Week: Of Many Worlds In This World By Margaret Lucas Cavendish

Carol Rumens, The Guardian

“The ‘Busy’ Trap’s” Class Problem

J. Bryan Lowder, Slate
While both sound like lovely ways to relax and focus on writing, respectively, the likelihood that most readers will be able to join Krieder in his charmed indolence is low; so low, in fact, that his waxing romantic about the spontaneously chill life smacks of a kind of obnoxious classism which unfortunately undermines an otherwise provocative point.

Mon, Jul 2, 2012

The ‘Busy’ Trap

™ Kreider, New York Times
It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this; it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

The Best Of Cities, The Worst Of Cities

The Economist
London is a “great cesspool” into which the loungers and idlers of life irresistibly drain, wrote Arthur Conan Doyle in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories. But it has proved to be a fertile dumping ground, an inspiration for each generation of novelist and every genre of fiction.

Sun, Jul 1, 2012

Why Does Fifty Shades Of Grey Turn British Women On?

Vanessa Thorpe, The Guardian
Fifty Shades of Grey is now the fastest selling paperback in history. Its success has generated a debate about sex, fantasy and the nature of desire.

Every City Needs A Brand

Will Doig, Salon
A catchy nickname isn't enough: A city needs a persona. But how do you brand a place that's simply nice to live in?