Monday, 30 September, 2013
Sam Leith, The Guardian
Storytelling is everything – and by golly does he know how to carry the reader.
Laura Miller, Salon
Fiona McFarlane’s first novel, “The Night Guest,” is a little bit ghost story, a little bit crime fiction and a whole lot unsettling.
Kate Kellaway, The Guardian
Jean Sprackland's poems are an uncommon pleasure to read. They are defined by their hospitable grace. They're easy to take in yet anything but superficial: they repay return visits.
Sunday, 29 September, 2013
Brian Jay Jones, Salon
Two of the most iconic shows of the '70s have an amazing, awkward linked history -- but needed each other to begin.
Saturday, 28 September, 2013
Keith Romer, New Yorker
They were giving away money. That was the reason I took the long subway ride from Brooklyn to Harlem one Sunday morning in August. Once I arrived, though, it was all too clear that I wasn’t the only one who had heard about the opportunity. The open audition for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” was supposed to run from noon to five, but already, a little after eleven, a line of would-be millionaires snaked out of the lobby of the Apollo Theatre and down the sidewalk. We were a diverse bunch of dreamers. I waited in line behind an effete Jewish guy and an older African-American man who was discussing the pros and cons of Obamacare, and just in front of a petite young Korean woman, who did her best to respond politely to a lady who seemed unable to keep herself from sharing the strange, likely fictitious, details of her own life, most notably the masters degree in reverse psychology that she claimed to have earned from Nassau Community College. Before we were admitted, en masse, to the theatre, the reverse psychologist wandered off, drawn away by another, even more powerful dream.
Jami Attenberg, New York Times
In a recent New Yorker article about his time as a Google Glass Explorer, Gary Shteyngart discussed the challenge of setting a novel in the current moment, given the speed of social upheaval and technological advances. “To write a book set in the present, circa 2013,” he declared, “is to write about the distant past.” Dara Horn’s ambitious fourth novel, “A Guide for the Perplexed,” bears this exact burden: it is set partly in contemporary Egypt, post-revolution, and much of its plot involves a technology not unlike Google Glass itself.
Carmela Ciuraru, New York Times
In 1976, Dr. D. Carleton Gajdusek won a Nobel Prize for identifying a fatal disease in a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. By the time of his death in 2008, Gajdusek had achieved another kind of notoriety, having been imprisoned for sexually abusing one of the dozens of native children he had adopted. Hanya Yanagihara’s suspenseful first novel, “The People in the Trees,” is based loosely on this true story, with a number of horrifying twists.
Friday, 27 September, 2013
Reeve Lindbergh, Washington Post
“The Last First Day” is Carrie Brown’s quietly powerful new novel about a married couple, Peter and Ruth, moving into the last period of their long, shared lives.
Mike Sager, Esquire
1980: Crack was just turning up in the United States. The contras were seeking funds to support their civil war in Nicaragua. And an L. A. kid was looking for an opportunity. The combination would change America.
Thursday, 26 September, 2013
Steven Poole, The Guardian
What the novel lacks in brute fright, though, it makes up for with more subtle pleasures.
Anne Enright, The Irish Times
The residents of Newfoundland don’t like being called ‘Newfies’ or Canadians, but you can call them Irish. And the town of Tilting, on its little-brother island of Fogo, is ‘Irish on the rocks’.
Wednesday, 25 September, 2013
Ruth Graham, Poetry Foundation
For a few years in the 1930s, Ronald Lane Latimer struck gold as an editor, publishing Stevens, Williams, and more. Then he disappeared.
Ramachandra Guha, Financial Times
To understand a biographical subject, we must understand the people around them.
Tuesday, 24 September, 2013
Ralph Keyes, The American Scholar
Soon after they arrived in America, British settlers got busy with an important task: reinventing their language.
Morgan Meis, The Smart Set
What does George Orwell have in common with Edward Snowden? They’ve both been trapped in bad situations.
Flies may seem short-lived to people, but from a dipteran point of view they can thus live to a ripe old age. Remember that next time you try (and fail) to swat one.
Monday, 23 September, 2013
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Sunday, 22 September, 2013
Clive Thompson, Salon
I doubt the ambient broadcasting universe is making people more trivial. What it’s doing is revealing how trivial we’ve been all along, because it’s making conversation suddenly visible.
Saturday, 21 September, 2013
Emma Brockes, The Guardian
Stephen King has written a lot of books – at 56 novels, he's closing in on Agatha Christie – some of which have been great, some of which less so. Still, he says, when people say, "Steve, your books are uneven", he's confident "there's good stuff in all of 'em". Now and then, a story lingers in his mind long after it's published. When fans ask what happened to Charlie McGee in Firestarter, for example, King isn't interested. But when they ask what happened to Danny Torrance, the boy from The Shining, he always found himself wondering. Specifically: what the story would have looked like if Danny's father – mad "white-knuckle alcoholic" Jack Torrance – had "found AA. And I thought, well, let's find out."
Friday, 20 September, 2013
David Kirby, Washington Post
Henson was a genial workaholic, and his attention to his empire was so all-consuming that neither he nor anyone else noticed that he had become ill from the rare streptococcal infection that would kill him. At the time, he was in negotiations to sell his company to Disney, a process so stressful that some of his intimates say it may have compromised his immune system. When family and employees gathered to mourn him, they saw a hand-drawn card sent by the Imagineers at Disney that showed a disconsolate Kermit sitting on a log, head in hands, as Mickey Mouse sits next to him, his arm over Kermit’s shoulders.
When I read that passage to my wife, she sniffled and dabbed at her eyes. Oh, come on, I thought. Kermit, Mickey: They’re not real. But aren’t they?
Thursday, 19 September, 2013
Noah Berlatsky, The Atlantic
A recent speech at Yale inadvertently sums up what's wrong with the art form these days: Its gatekeepers believe poetry matters because it's poetry, not because of what it says.
Ralph Keyes, The American Scholar
We have long invented language to fill gaps in our vocabulary, but not all coinages are created equal.
Wednesday, 18 September, 2013
Jon Negroni, Slate
The Grand Unified Theory of Pixar is a long tale, spanning centuries, of a struggle for the domination of Earth among humans, animals with humanlike consciousness, and sentient inanimate objects—AI machines. The theory begins and ends with Brave, the studio’s 13th feature film and one that falls at the very beginning of the animated universe’s chronology as we know it. It’s in Brave, set in the Middle Ages, where moviegoers find a character that they first met more than a decade before in a seemingly unrelated film set several millennia in the future, at the far end of the Pixar timeline. But we’re getting several thousand animated years ahead of ourselves.
Tuesday, 17 September, 2013
Paul Redding, The Guardian
I remember a cartoon from the 1960s: a man in an office is leaning back in his chair, feet crossed on the desk, staring at the ceiling. The sign on the half-open door reads “philosophy department”. A passing colleague asks: “Dan, don’t you ever stop working?” A nice joke, having the right combination of absurdity and half-truth. Philosophy is an activity that can look like inactivity. But let’s not get carried away. Philosophising is, like all intellectual work, work.
Lizzie Widdicombe, New Yorker
A young man’s adventures in women’s publishing.
Elad Nehorai, The Huffington Post
No, love isn't an emotion or even a noun. It's a verb. Better defined as giving. As putting someone else's needs above your own.
Emily Tamkin, Slate
Which is, for Atlantis-bound adventurers, the whole point: People love mysteries and the idea that they can be the ones to solve them. If Atlantis could be anywhere, that means it can be everywhere. If anyone could stumble upon the true Atlantis, then everyone can.
Monday, 16 September, 2013
Larissa Pham, Full Stop
I am standing on a dirt trail that winds up a lushly forested hill, somewhere in Wisconsin, holding my iPhone in one hand and my friend Cameron’s car keys in the other. I tap the screen, pointing the camera at my white sneakers and the red dust that’s beginning to settle on them, then pan to the trees and the trail, recording my halting progress up the hill until it gets too steep and I have to use both hands for balance, scurrying like a mountain goat up the overlook. Cam is waiting at the top, hand shading his eyes surveyor-style, his phone out, too.
“Sorry it took a while,” I tell Cam, handing him the keys. “It’s steep, and I was vine-ing.” The six-second loop is still playing in my hand, while we’re talking. My feet, the trees, the path, the achingly blue sky. “There’s no service up here, though.”
Nathan Bomey And John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press
Detroit is broke, but it didn’t have to be. An in-depth Free Press analysis of the city’s financial history back to the 1950s shows that its elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
“Doctor Sleep” is on the long side, but it tells a very quick and nimble story. It makes up in suspense what it lacks in nuance, and its special effects are easy to visualize.
Sunday, 15 September, 2013
Alex Preston, The Guardian
The Deaths gives us a glimpse into the lives of the 1%, showing all the unhappiness that money can buy.
Saturday, 14 September, 2013
Sara Wheeler, New York Times
The culinary memoir has lately evolved into a genre of its own, what is now known as a “foodoir.” But Anya von Bremzen is a better writer than most of the genre’s practitioners, as this delectable book, which tells the story of postrevolutionary Russia through the prism of one family’s meals, amply demonstrates.
Michael S. roth, Washington Post
Henry Molaison (1926-2008) lived a long life, but as it turned out, he experienced most of it in a very short time segments. His seizures started early, and by the time he was in high school they had become frequent. Medications to control epilepsy had a variety of side effects, and still they didn’t eliminate the seizures. The terrible blackouts were always a possibility.
Jonathan Franzen, The Guardian
The thing about Kraus is that he's is very hard to follow on a first reading – deliberately hard. He was the scourge of throwaway journalism, and to his cult-like followers his dense and intricately coded style formed an agreeable barrier to entry; it kept the uninitiated out. Kraus himself remarked of the playwright Hermann Bahr, before attacking him: "If he understands one sentence of the essay, I'll retract the entire thing." If you read Kraus's sentences more than once, you'll find that they have a lot to say to us in our own media-saturated, technology-crazed, apocalypse-haunted historical moment.
Friday, 13 September, 2013
Janet Maslin, New York Times
In “Dissident Gardens,” a novel jampacked with the human energy of a crowded subway car, Jonathan Lethem attempts a daunting feat: turning three generations’ worth of American leftists into a tragicomic tale of devolution.
John O'Connell, The Guardian
Murder seems almost an afterthought in this sharp and very funny social satire.
Alex Williams, New York Times
Even the world of publishing, it seems, is not immune to the whims of fashion.
Christopher Beha, Slate
It doesn’t need to review more popular fiction. Or lit fiction, either. It needs to review holy crap fiction.
Thursday, 12 September, 2013
Phyllis Rose, The American Scholar
A mystery exists at the heart of all literary biography: How does the mush of experience get turned into glittering artifact?
Wednesday, 11 September, 2013
David Denby, New Yorker
Did the studios collaborate?
Julia Moskin, New York Times
“Cooking was not considered a respectable or profitable profession,” said Maria Guarnaschelli, an eminent cookbook editor and the mother of Alex Guarnaschelli, who is the chef at Butter, in Greenwich Village. “We never thought our daughter would be a chef.”
Now, a generation of chefs and entrepreneurs who grew up in the kitchen are shaping American food.
Tuesday, 10 September, 2013
Paul Bogard, Slate
I sometimes try to imagine living in a city before electricity. How quiet pre-electric nights would have been without cars or trucks or taxis, without any internal combustion engines at all. No radios, televisions, or computers. No cellphones, no headphones, nor anything to plug those headphones into if you had them. How deserted the city with most of the population locked inside their homes, the night left to fears of crime, sickness, and immorality, and best avoided if one could. Finally, and most strangely—the biggest difference from that time to ours—not one single, solitary electric light.
Katie Hafner, New York Times
“Thinking in Numbers” is an interesting collection of ideas, and worth reading if only for the suspenseful description of an extraordinary man in a room, conveying to a rapt audience his pure love of one very special string of digits as it stretches to infinity and beyond.
Monday, 9 September, 2013
Patrick Anderson, Washington Post
Sarah Weinman’s short-story anthology, “Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives,” honors an earlier generation of American women crime writers who she believes have been denied the recognition they deserve. Her book contains stories by 14 writers who were publishing mostly from the early 1940s through the mid-’70s.
David Mitchell, Slate
When you know that your kid wants to speak with you, when you know that he’s taking in his surroundings every bit as attentively as your nonautistic daughter, whatever the evidence to the contrary, then you can be ten times more patient, willing, understanding and communicative; and ten times better able to help his development. It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship with our son. Naoki Higashida’s writing administered the kick I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself, and start thinking how much tougher life was for my son, and what I could do to make it less tough.
Sunday, 8 September, 2013
Tim Flannery, The New York Review Of Books
Most jellyfish are little more than gelatinous bags containing digestive organs and gonads, drifting at the whim of the current. But box jellyfish are different. They are active hunters of medium-sized fish and crustaceans, and can move at up to twenty-one feet per minute. They are also the only jellyfish with eyes that are quite sophisticated, containing retinas, corneas, and lenses. And they have brains, which are capable of learning, memory, and guiding complex behaviors.
Saturday, 7 September, 2013
Nicole Gelinas, City Journal
Some thoughts on cycling around Manhattan.
Andrew Sean Greer, New York Times
What a joy it is to see Margaret Atwood taking such delicious pleasure in the end of the world. And it is nothing but flowers.
Roxane Gay, Salon
Their stories of the 1 percent are gruesome real-world fairy tales -- and I can't look away.
Tom Vanderbilt, Nautilus
Algorithms: Transportation optimization starts with math, but ends in understanding human behavior.
Thursday, 5 September, 2013
Natalie Serber, Salon
I was shocked when I saw her nipple. The next months taught me I wasn't in charge of her body -- or my own.
Wednesday, 4 September, 2013
Peter Wilby, The Guardian
This book will make you gasp in disbelief and stamp your feet in rage, and quite frequently reduce you to helpless laughter. It will also make you tremble in terror at the realisation that the people in charge of our destinies are, in many respects, idiots.
Tuesday, 3 September, 2013
Elizabeth Jensen, New York Times
Simple ABCs and 123s? So old school. In the last four years, “Sesame Street” has set itself a much larger goal: teaching nature, math, science and engineering concepts and problem-solving to a preschool audience — with topics like how a pulley works or how to go about investigating what’s making Mr. Snuffleupagus sneeze.
Wayne Koestenbaum, Salon
Matias Viegener's high-concept "2500 Random Things About Me Too" echoes Joyce and Artaud.
Adam B. Vary, BuzzFeed
That a high-concept, fast-talking farce based on a board game was a box office bomb in 1985 is no huge mystery. But figuring out how it became an enduring favorite is a Hollywood whodunit for the ages. (The prime suspect: You, in the living room, with the remote control.)
Monday, 2 September, 2013
Martin Fackler, New York Times
But now, in an era when lifelike digital effects have made the use of small models and suited actors look quaint and kitschy, tokusatsu is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The last Godzilla movie shot in this style, the aptly named “Godzilla Final Wars,” was released almost a decade ago, after a half-century span during which the creature appeared in 28 films, sometimes every year.
John Lahr, New Yorker
Where do Claire Danes’s volcanic performances come from?
Sunday, 1 September, 2013
Charles Bethea, Atlanta Magazine
How Bernie Marcus and a Yale scientist are revolutionizing autism treatment.
Ghezal Hamidi, Salon
Shelley’s contribution to the genre has been immense, but women are still, most certainly, changing things in sci-fi.