Sun, Sep 30, 2012
Anthony Gottlieb, New Yorker
How much do evolutionary stories reveal about the mind?
Krys Lee, The Guardian
Historical breadth and a narrative momentum are the novel's greatest strengths.
Melvyn Bragg, The Observer
Rowling has spoken of the sense of risk in embarking on this novel. The Harry Potter series must have been a tough act to follow. What she wanted to do here, I guess, was to seize on the world we can all see without going through Platform 9¾. She has done that to stunning effect.
Sat, Sep 29, 2012
Robert Skidelsky, The Times Literary Supplement
Turner’s conclusion echoes his oft-quoted remark that a large part of financial activity is “socially useless”.
Nathaniel Rich, New York Times
Stern’s trick is to translate these stories into a modern context.
Steve Poole, The Guardian
Western industrial civilisation is eating itself stupid.
John Fuller, The Guardian
Fri, Sep 28, 2012
Samuel Arbesman, Wired
Not only were people spreading incorrect information, but the collective internet consciousness didn’t even recognize the return of the same error.
Mark Jacobson, New York Magazine
What does the Brooklyn of the new Barclays Center have to do with the Brooklyns that came before it? A native son walks among the ghosts.
Thu, Sep 27, 2012
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
It’s easy to understand why Ms. Rowling wanted to try something totally different after spending a decade and a half inventing and complicating the fantasy world that Harry and company inhabited, and one can only admire her gumption in facing up to the overwhelming expectations created by the global phenomenon that was Harry Potter. Unfortunately, the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that “The Casual Vacancy” is not only disappointing — it’s dull.
Allison Pearson, Telegraph
The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling’s first adult novel, is sometimes funny, often startlingly well observed, and full of cruelty and despair.
Theo Tait, The Guardian
The Casual Vacancy is no masterpiece, but it's not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny.
Wed, Sep 26, 2012
Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian Magazine
Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living.
Charles Kaiser, The New York Review Of Books
If you were born after 1970, I think it is nearly impossible to imagine how it felt to open up The New York Times Magazine on a Sunday morning in January 1971 to discover “What it Means to be a Homosexual,” a deeply personal and beautifully written piece in defense of homosexuality.
Tue, Sep 25, 2012
Jackson Landers, Slate
At least once a week, someone tells me that some food other than chicken “tastes like chicken.” People throw the analogy around constantly. Virtually any meat that is pale in color, firm in texture, and lacking a strong flavor is subjected to the chicken comparison.
Mon, Sep 24, 2012
Lawrence Norfolk, Telegraph
And when I think of any dish that hovers between disaster and triumph, part of me still finds it magnificent.
Carl Rumens, The Guardian
Lauren Weiner, The New Atlantis
Truth be told, the proportion of greatest hits among his more forgettable works is not high. Yet the effect Bradbury has had is as potent as that of creators like L. Frank Baum, Rod Serling, and Steven Spielberg — probably as potent as all three combined, considering the large swaths of American popular culture he is father to.
Tanya Marie Luhrmann, The Wilson Quarterly
In the 1990s, scientists declared that schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses were pure brain disorders that would eventually yield to drugs. Now they are recognizing that social factors are among the causes, and must be part of the cure.
Sun, Sep 23, 2012
Dale Bailey, Los Angeles Times
When Mary Shelley wrote "Frankenstein" in 1816, she could not have conceived of the cultural landmark it would become.
Daniel Krieger, Salon
A year after my mother's uncomfortable decline, it's a question with which I'm still wrestling.
Steven Poole, New Statesman
The “neuroscience” shelves in bookshops are groaning. But are the works of authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer just self-help books dressed up in a lab coat?
Aaron Leitko, Washington Post
Everybody hurts, sometimes. And when they do, it helps to know that there’s a song called “Everybody Hurts” and who wrote it. In “This Will End in Tears,” Adam Brent Houghtaling attempts to assemble a field guide to musical melancholy — a volume that catalogues every sad sack in the record store, from David Ackles to Townes Van Zandt.
Mohsin Hamid, New Yorker
Tim Page, Washington Post
This is a decidedly generous book — welcoming, informal, digressive, full of ideas and intelligence — and one has the pleasant sense that Byrne is speaking directly to the reader, sharing a few confidences he has picked up over the years. It is part autobiography, part how-to guide, part history and part prognostication — all engaging but none really complete.
Sat, Sep 22, 2012
John McWhorter, The New Republic
The irony of this antique-seeming controversy is that in many ways it is still relevant.
Justine Jordan, The Guardian
"Kings built their castles. Bishops raised cathedrals. Yet there were cooks before either. What was their monument?" For his first book in 12 years, Lawrence Norfolk, historical novelist extraordinaire, inhabits the 17th century through its food.
Sharon Olds, The Guardian
Wed, Sep 19, 2012
Ariel Sabar, Smithsonian Magazine
According to a top religion scholar, this 1,600-year-old text fragment suggests that some early Christians believed Jesus was married—possibly to Mary Magdalene.
Chris Jones, Esquire
Stealing magic has become a commonplace crime. Teller, a man of infinite delicacy and deceit, decided to do something about it.
Tue, Sep 18, 2012
Georg Klein, The Guardian
The future to be found in good fiction is stranger, larger and grander than anything you can find in three dimensions.
Jerry DeNuccio, The Smart Set
Is slang the natural evolution of language, or just a ginormous trickeration of all that is sensible?
Mon, Sep 17, 2012
Rick Archbold, The Literary Review Of Canada
The rise of literary self-publishing.
Matthew Yglesias, Slate
How a ballot initiative, a visionary mayor, and a quest for growth are turning Los Angeles into America’s next great mass-transit city.
Sun, Sep 16, 2012
Jason Wilson, Washington Post
Few consider the faith of the food writer. And this is probably a good thing. I won’t say that to worship food and drink is to pray to a false god. But even with all the high-minded talk of farm-to-table or Slow Food movements, of molecular gastronomy or urban gardening, of locavorism or fruitarianism or whatever-the-latest-ism, in my experience it rarely leads one down the shining path of enlightenment.
Or at least that’s what I believed until this past spring, when I spent one of the most glorious weeks of my life eating my way through Copenhagen, capped off by a 25-course, five-hour lunch at Noma, considered by many to be the best — and most thought-provoking — restaurant in the world.
Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times
Burt is 41, a professor of English at Harvard, heir to the intellectual mantle long held by giants like Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler. He is also an avid science-fiction fan, the founder of a short-lived indie-pop zine, an authority on women’s basketball, the husband of Jessie Bennett, with whom he has two sons, and an unabashed cross-dresser.
Steven Strogatz, New York Times
Infinity can be mind-boggling.
Will Doig, Salon
Waterways surrounding cities were once filled with toxic industrial sludge. Now they're the new recreation frontier.
Sat, Sep 15, 2012
William Saletan, Slate
You’re living in the age of the Internet. Your religion will be mocked, and the mockery will find its way to you. Get over it.
Stefany Anne Golberg, The Smart Set
When did we start choosing over-the-counter over DIY witchcraft?
M. G. Lord, New York Times
“Breasts” is less a primer on anatomy than a catalog of environmental devastation akin to Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic “Silent Spring,” which detailed the impact of industrial chemicals — notably, the pesticide DDT — on animal life. But Williams, who cites Carson as an inspiration, has written a far scarier book. Carson examined birds and fish. Williams looks at us.
Sam Leith, The Guardian
We quite often talk, colloquially, about the written language having "evolved". As the linguist David Crystal's new book demonstrates with some panache, almost exactly the opposite took place.
Christopher Reid, The Guardian
Jennifer Howard, Washington Post
Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men” drops into this siegelike atmosphere like a grenade — at least its title does. Whatever the headlines say, however beleaguered we may feel, Rosin argues that females are gaining the upper hand. That’s why the “war on women” rhetoric fails, in her view. “A society that has become utterly dependent on the unfettered ambition of women cannot possibly, with a straight face, reopen the debate about contraception,” she writes.
Mark Berman, Washington Post
Frank Partnoy’s fascinating, engaging new book offers a wonderful counterargument, summed up in his title: “Wait.” The key part of making a good decision, he believes, is to wait as long as you can before acting. “The longer we can wait, the better,” Partnoy writes.
Rob Dunn, National Geographic Magazine
Sometimes a masterwork hangs in a museum. Other times it hangs from the branch of a tree or rounds out a slender stem.
Thu, Sep 13, 2012
Lucy Beresford, Telegraph
James Meek's The Heart Broke In is blackly comic study of human weakness and narcissism.
Daniel Gross, Slate
Why pick-your-own orchards are a wasteful scam.
Wed, Sep 12, 2012
Lee Havlicek, Slate
Sometimes when I’m asked what the secret is to a dish I’ve made, the answer is a specific little trick I’ve picked up from my mother or a cookbook. But more often than not, the big secret is not a secret at all. It’s lemon.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012
James Longenbach, Slate
Jay Ruttenberg, New York Times
I was a recovering rock critic; a music nerd at rest. It was oddly liberating. For the first time in my adult life, I felt no pressure to seek out unheard sounds or keep pace with the prevailing trends of the teenage class. It is difficult to convey the bliss experienced when I realized, one golden August afternoon, I did not have to figure out what a Lana Del Rey was. I spent that summer playing tennis, reading novels and working on a book filled with toilet jokes and gratuitous references to Harpo Marx. Life was sweet.
Mon, Sep 10, 2012
Salman Rushdie, New Yorker
How the fatwa changed a writer’s life.
Sun, Sep 9, 2012
Nate Silver, New York Times
Perhaps the most impressive gains have been in hurricane forecasting.
Jessica Roake, Slate
The triumphant return of Captain Underpants, hero to hyper, school-hating 8-year-olds.
Sophie Mackenzie, The Guardian
It was a good death – the kind of death I think most people would choose if we could: free from pain and surrounded by love. She wasn't hooked up to tubes or monitors; she was even wearing her own pretty nightdress rather than a hospital gown. I suppose it's what you'd call a natural death. But in one way Mum's death was exceptional, shocking even. She had decided to die, about 10 days before, and for the previous six days had had no food and almost no water. She had chosen to die of thirst.
Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
"Telegraph Avenue" is so exuberant, it's as if Michael Chabon has pulled joy from the air and squeezed it into the shape of words.
Sat, Sep 8, 2012
Colin Fleming, Washington Post
There’s a streamlined premise here: Danza loses a TV gig, wonders what to do with himself, contemplates a difficult family situation — he’s separated, with two kids — and decides to make up for past transgressions against his former teachers and, touchingly, his earlier, more reckless self. And so it’s off to teach 10th-grade English in Philly’s hardscrabble Northeast High, a school that has its students pass through a metal detector each morning.
Meghan O'Rourke, New York Times
Paul Auster was a novelist in Brooklyn before there were novelists in Brooklyn.
Katha Pollitt, The Guardian
Robert MacNeil, Washington Post
For anyone interested in the evolution and power of broadcast news, this book is a tremendous read, minutely documenting TV journalism’s most remarkable phenomenon, Walter Cronkite.
Jennifer Egan, New York Times
“Telegraph Avenue,” Michael Chabon’s rich, comic new novel, is a homage to an actual place: the boulevard in Northern California where Oakland — historically an African-American city — aligns with Berkeley, whose bourgeois white inhabitants are, as one character puts it, “liable to invest all their hope of heaven in the taste of an egg laid in the backyard by a heritage-breed chicken.” The novel is equally a tribute to the cinematic style of Quentin Tarantino, whose films its characters study and discuss, and whose preoccupations pepper its pages: kung fu, cinematic allusions and the blaxploitation films of the 1970s; and an interest in African-American characters and experience.
Fri, Sep 7, 2012
Zoë Heller, The New York Review Of Books
One might reasonably argue that the occasional outburst of snowflakery is a tolerable price to pay for liberation. But Naomi Wolf would counsel against such complacency. In her new “biography” of the vagina, she warns that her subject is in danger of being trivialized by its cultural ubiquity.
Kaid Benfield, The Atlantic Cities
As you view them, consider what’s appealing about each street in the photo, what might be transferable to other communities.
Thu, Sep 6, 2012
Gerald Jacobs, Telegraph
Once again, Jacobson shows that the true humorist is among the best kinds of novelist. His humour is neither cheap nor chirpy but addresses fundamental mysteries. For, as he has his narrator argue here, “novels are born out of misery”.
Lawrence Norfolk, The Guardian
To cook for someone is an intimate act. To prepare food that another will place in their mouth, that will be tasted and swallowed and then pass through that person's body, is a primal exchange. We care about food in literature not when it is deployed as a symbol but when it becomes a language.
Simon Doonan, Slate
We’re trapped in an era of sincerity. Let us out!
Wed, Sep 5, 2012
Alexei Sayle, Telegraph
You never know you are in a golden age until it’s no longer golden. Howard Jacobson’s new novel, Zoo Time, is set against the collapse of the world authors, publishers and agents have been familiar with for at least a century.
David Spiegelhalter, BBC
Our cat is old. Old, deaf and a bit daft. But, as I steadily head that way myself, I've started to consider him as a role model.
Attica Locke, The Guardian
Michael Chabon's new novel skilfully challenges America's attitudes to race.
Tue, Sep 4, 2012
Kristin Fogdall, Slate
Charlotte Mathieson, Open Letters Monthly
When is a book a book, and when is it something more? What is it that matters about books, and where is that meaning made? Why, and how, do we value books? And how has the meaning of books changed: what did books mean in an era experiencing the rapid rise of print, and what do they mean to us now as we shift into the digital age?
Cornelia Dean, New York Times
Now Felice C. Frankel and Angela H. DePace are offering some help. They bill their new book, “Visual Strategies,” as a guide to graphics for scientists and engineers, but it will be useful for anyone who wants to make clear presentations of data of any kind.
Mon, Sep 3, 2012
Daniel Lametti, Slate
Few people spend 11 years in college. Most stay for four or five before the urge to leave campus and earn a salary kicks in. Barring a thesis defense meltdown, I'll be one of about 50,000 graduate students across the United States and Canada to get a Ph.D. in science this school year. After seven years in graduate school, I'm left wondering if the time and effort was worth it. What do scientists do these days, anyways?
Naomi Wolf, The Observer
Words, when deployed in relation to the vagina, are always more than "just words". Because of the subtlety of the mind-body connection, words about the vagina are also what philosopher John Austin, in his 1960 book How to Do Things with Words, calls "performative utterances", often used as a means of social control. A "performative utterance" is a word or phrase that actually accomplishes something in the real world. When a judge says "Guilty" to a defendant, or a groom says "I do", the words alter material reality.
RObert Provine, The Observer
Plato and Aristotle saw it as a tool to topple the mighty. It often accompanies gruesome acts of cruelty. Most of us will use it more routinely – to win friendship and love. So what lies behind the apparent spontaneity of laughter?
Sun, Sep 2, 2012
Heather Havrilesky, New York Times
He pushed for a “Teletubbies” movie but couldn’t persuade Anne Wood, one of the show’s creators, to get onboard. Eventually, he decided to build a movie around a new set of characters. Enter “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure,” which features three excitable, pear-shaped creatures who break into song and dance at every turn.
Minxin Pei, Foreign Policy
Are we obsessing about its rise when we should be worried about its fall?
J. Bryan Lowder, Slate
Can grilling inside an apartment ever compare to the real thing?
Sat, Sep 1, 2012
Christopher R. Beha, The Millions
In those early days of writing, I thought often of Valéry’s remark. I wanted to write fiction, but I didn’t want to write that kind of bluntly functional sentence. I wanted each sentence to be a thing unto itself, self-sufficient and entire. Needless to say, these sentences were all a long way from “The Marquise went out at five o’clock.”
Alison Arieff, New York Times
Facebook headquarters are located at One Hacker Way: It’s a shame Facebook couldn’t have expressed that hacker ethos architecturally.
Martin Amis, New York Times
In his 1973 book on Joyce, “Joysprick,” Burgess made a provocative distinction between what he calls the “A” novelist and the “B” novelist: the A novelist is interested in plot, character and psychological insight, whereas the B novelist is interested, above all, in the play of words. The most famous B novel is “Finnegans Wake,” which Nabokov aptly described as “a cold pudding of a book, a persistent snore in the next room.” The B novel, as a genre, is now utterly defunct; and “A Clockwork Orange” may be its only long-term survivor. It is a book that can still be read with steady pleasure, continuous amusement and — at times — incredulous admiration. Anthony Burgess, then, is not “a minor B novelist,” as he described himself; he is the only B novelist. I think he would have settled for that.
Charles Nevin, Intelligent Life
I, however, shall contine to use, and fairly often lose, one, fortified by a fine remark from Major Tatham-Warter when a comrade counselled caution against a concerted mortar attack: "Don't worry, I've got an umbrella."
Christopher Buckley, New York Times
He was a man of abundant gifts, Christopher: erudition, wit, argument, prose style, to say nothing of a titanium constitution that, until it betrayed him in the end, allowed him to write word-perfect essays while the rest of us were groaning from epic hangovers and reaching for the ibuprofen. But his greatest gift of all may have been the gift of friendship.
David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
On the one hand, that's Hitchens being Hitchens — combative, macho, a critical thinker to the end. And why not? Illness doesn't change us; it hones the essence of who we are. Still, the great, transcendent moments in "Mortality" come when, by virtue of urgency or attention, Hitchens traces the broader textures of his diminishment.