Thursday, 31 October, 2013
Stuart Kelly, The Guardian
The Man Booker judges are always in a strange situation, provided they do the work as assigned. We will have read the winner more frequently and more stringently than the so-called average reader. I should, for the record, say that no reader is average. Each has a unique engagement with a text, and every one of those responses is valid, if not right. But let's face it, not many of the slightly fictitious reading public are going to read any Man Booker winner three times.
Wednesday, 30 October, 2013
Ben Crair, New Republic
Standing desks are taking over, so I worked from bed to protest.
Tuesday, 29 October, 2013
Catherine Rampell, New York Times
When major innovations remain out of reach, and degrading durability threatens to tick off loyal customers, companies like Apple can still take a cue from the fashion industry. If you can brainwash consumers into developing new tastes that make the old stuff look uncool for aesthetic rather than functional reasons, you still have a shot at harvesting more sales from your existing customer base. But it seems Apple may have already figured this out too. Just check out the wait times for the iPhone 5S in that shiny new gold color.
Colin Fleming, The Smart Set
By the 1960’s listening to stories on the radio might have seemed square, but not if it was the wonderful and weird terrors of the work of Erik Bauersfeld.
Miriam Cosic, The Guardian
McCalman's tone shifts from the boy's own adventure, scientific excitement and scamming of early encounters, to dizzying disaster-epic suspense. But never for a moment does his literary skill falter. His detailed explanation of marine science is a model of translation for the layman.
Monday, 28 October, 2013
David Barboza, Graham Bowley And Amanda Cox, New York Times
When the hammer came down at an evening auction during China Guardian’s spring sale in May 2011, “Eagle Standing on a Pine Tree,” a 1946 ink painting by Qi Baishi, one of China’s 20th-century masters, had drawn a startling price: $65.4 million. No Chinese painting had ever fetched so much at auction, and, by the end of the year, the sale appeared to have global implications, helping China surpass the United States as the world’s biggest art and auction market.
But two years after the auction, Qi Baishi’s masterpiece is still languishing in a warehouse in Beijing. The winning bidder has refused to pay for the piece since doubts were raised about its authenticity.
David Fricke, Rolling Stone
Reed talks about the Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol and his new album, the scathingly brilliant "New York".
Shmuly Yanklowitz, The Huffington Post
Powerful novels demand that we slow down and process how we are creating and destroying in our lives. The rabbis taught that amidst so much destructive behavior we must stop and reflect upon the world we exist in.
Thomas McGuane, New Yorker
Laura Miller, Salon
From the first five pages of “The Luminaries,” it’s evident that Catton’s model is the Victorian “sensation novel,” in which middle-class characters were suddenly confronted with alarming, inexplicable and uncanny events whose true causes and (usually scandalous) nature are gradually revealed in the course of the story.
Scott Porch, Salon
It's aspirational. Says one publisher, we hope "there’s something about genius [...] that can rub off."
James Somers, The Atlantic
Douglas Hofstadter, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, thinks we've lost sight of what artificial intelligence really means. His stubborn quest to replicate the human mind.
Rebekah Higgitt, The Guardian
It's annoying, to be sure, to have to remember twice a year when and which way the clock changes. But be comforted by this: it could have been much worse.
Sunday, 27 October, 2013
Orville Schell, New York Times
While Chang’s admiration can approach hagiography, her extensive use of new Chinese sources makes a strong case for a reappraisal.
John Leland, New York Times
“I can’t count the times I viscerally wanted to attack, deform and maim the language I was taught to hate myself in,” one of the characters said. “The language that perpetuates the notion that causes pain to every black child.” No one else writes like that.
But for Ntozake Shange (pronounced en-toh-ZAH-kee SHAHN-gay), who once made a point of writing a poem every day so she would have fresh material to present at readings, the new lines came laden with an unfamiliar struggle.
Kate Kellaway, The Guardian
Six Bad Poets is written by one good poet. It is a satirical narrative poem that travels light.
Maureen Orth, Vanity Fair
Grounded in her human-rights work, Mia Farrow can look back at another triumph—the loving home she created for 14 adopted and biological children. But she must also continue to deal with the wreckage from the sensational scandal that almost rent it apart 20 years ago.
Elizabeth Grice, The Telegraph
Today, the OED is not just a hefty collection of reference books but a dynamic online resource that tells the story of human history through the words we use. Simpson has masterminded that revolution. “Maybe it’s time to see what happens outside the windows,” he muses of his impending retirement.
Robert McCrum, The Guardian
Paradoxically, the most reliable autobiography might be the work of a third party, a ghost.
Tim Kreider, New York Times
“Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors...” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.
Nick Mount, The Globe And Mail
I know it feels good to see something of yourself in the books you read, the way Seth and I can in Sunshine Sketches. I know it would be a mistake and a sadness if we only looked to books for people just like us. And I know I hope you think there’s room in our literatures and our classrooms for both.
Saturday, 26 October, 2013
Garrett McGrath, Narratively
A college student is stoked to land a summer gig as a union-wage doorman—until he learns the job description includes everything from hauling out hoarders to discovering dead bodies.
Beverly Gage, Washington Post
Rather than attempting to offer the Ultimate Truth of the Kennedy Assassination, Shenon presents a persuasive, deeply researched account of why, 50 years out, that truth still seems so hard to find.
Darrin M. McMahon, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
The democratization of genius represents a victory for human equality. But if everyone can be a genius, then what does it mean?
Robert Wright, The Atlantic
Squaring recent research suggesting we're "naturally moral" with all the strife in the world.
Friday, 25 October, 2013
Kyle Minor, Salon
"Jim Henson: A Biography" wonderfully tells the story of the man, his creations, and his care for others.
Thursday, 24 October, 2013
Thomas Jones, The Guardian
Mmm … pi: the cult TV series is deeply in love with numbers.
Brian Switek, Nature
Even one of the best known dinosaurs has kept some secrets. Here is what palaeontologists most want to know about the famous tyrant.
Tuesday, 22 October, 2013
Paul S. Braterman, Salon
A new understanding of radioactive decay has answered a question that's puzzled scholars for centuries.
David Sedaris, New Yorker
In late May of this year, a few weeks shy of her fiftieth birthday, my youngest sister, Tiffany, committed suicide. She was living in a room in a beat-up house on the hard side of Somerville, Massachusetts, and had been dead, the coroner guessed, for at least five days before her door was battered down. I was given the news over a white courtesy phone while at the Dallas airport. Then, because my plane to Baton Rouge was boarding and I wasn’t sure what else to do, I got on it. The following morning, I boarded another plane, this one to Atlanta, and the day after that I flew to Nashville, thinking all the while about my ever-shrinking family. A person expects his parents to die. But a sibling? I felt I’d lost the identity I’d enjoyed since 1968, when my younger brother was born.
Catherine Price, Slate
Monday, 21 October, 2013
Abigail Haworth, The Guardian
Japan's under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren't even dating, and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex. For their government, "celibacy syndrome" is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world's lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060. Aoyama believes the country is experiencing "a flight from human intimacy" – and it's partly the government's fault.
Emma Jacobs, Financial Times
Trent Reznor, the frontman of Nine Inch Nails, the industrial rock band, gets it. Björk, the creative Icelandic singer-songwriter, known for her outlandish outfits and innovative music, does not.
Cara Tabachnick, New York Magazine
“Are you going to be rich?” That is the first question people ask me upon finding out that in the wee morning hours of October 17, the famed street artist Banksy painted a mural on the side of a building my family owns in East Williamsburg.
Sunday, 20 October, 2013
Zadie Smith, The New York Review Of Books
When my father was old and I was still young, I came into some money. Though it was money “earned” for work done, it seemed, both to my father and me, no different than a win on the lottery. We looked at the contract more than once, checking and rechecking it, just like a lottery ticket, to ensure no mistake had been made. No mistake had been made. I was to be paid for writing a book. For a long time, neither of us could work out what to do about this new reality. My father kept on with his habit of tucking a ten- or twenty-pound note inside his letters to me. I took the rest of my family (my parents having separated long before) to a “resort” back in the “old country” (the Caribbean) where we rode around bored in golf carts, argued violently, and lined up in grim silence to receive a preposterous amount of glistening fruit, the only black folk in line for the buffet.
Andrew Jacobs, New York Times
Chinese readers of Ezra F. Vogel’s sprawling biography of China’s reformist leader Deng Xiaoping may have missed a few details that appeared in the original English edition.
Linda Buckley-Archer, The Guardian
Dark, with unexpected twists and a strong – if disturbing – ending, the narrative has a relentless emotional charge.
Saturday, 19 October, 2013
Will Oremus, Slate
Should Starbucks replace its baristas with robots?
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
What most distinguishes Picker's book from innumerable other insiders' accounts of Hollywood doings is its first-hand look at the moment of inception of so many famous films.
Blake Morrison, The Guardian
Willy Staley, New York Times
Balthazar may look like a rustic bistro, but behind the scenes, it’s a highly efficient, well-oiled potato-chipping machine.
Friday, 18 October, 2013
Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not.
Thursday, 17 October, 2013
Marnie Hanel, New York Times
Under the dark water, the teenagers looked around with the help of a diving light. At 45 feet, they passed a sunken ship, the Honey Bear, and at 85 feet, beneath the buoy line, they saw further evidence of the former marina — steel beams, pilings and sunken watercrafts. Marine life thrived in this haven of junk, and for this reason, Cove 2 was a popular dive site. According to the permit he had just purchased at Walmart, Mayer was allowed to catch this sea life and cook it, which is exactly what he set out to do. He wasn’t much of a chef, but he had experience foraging for his dinner. Mayer had attended a high school known for its Future Farmers of America program; he also knew how to slaughter cows and castrate bulls. Now he was going to community college, where he was asked to draw something from nature. He figured that he might as well eat it too. And as he scanned the bay, he could already imagine searing the marine morsels on high heat and popping them, rare and unctuous, into his mouth. He soon spotted his prey. “That’s a big [expletive] octopus,” he scribbled on his underwater slate.
Dwight Garner, New York Times
In part, “Ninety Percent of Everything” is an adventure story. Ms. George — she is a vegetarian teetotaler with little experience of the sea — is permitted to catch a ride on a giant container ship, the Maersk Kendal. She resembles a cat that has sneaked aboard the Starship Enterprise. The ship carries her from the “southern English port of Felixstowe to Singapore, for five weeks and 9,288 nautical miles through the pillars of Hercules, pirate waters, and weather.”
Neil Gaiman, The Guardian
So I'm biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen.
Wednesday, 16 October, 2013
Bethany McLean, Washington Post
“Explosive.” That’s how the cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek bills “The Everything Store” by journalist Brad Stone. That’s an overstatement — but the meticulously reported book has plenty of gems for anyone who cares about Amazon, Jeff Bezos, entrepreneurship, leadership or just the lunacy it took to build a company in less than two decades that now employs almost 90,000 people and sold $61 billion worth of, well, almost everything last year.
Dean Burnett, The Guardian
Think about that for a second. The most popular TV show in history, an animated comedy, had a writing staff packed with maths experts. If you can work out the odds of that happening by chance, they'd probably give you a job. But whatever you make of this, the fact that mathematicians are behind the most successful comedy in history does somewhat annihilate the stereotypical view that maths, and by extension mathematicians, are no fun, or "humourless".
Tuesday, 15 October, 2013
Jay Greene, The Seattle Times
It is the definitive account of how a tech icon came to life.
Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian
New technology makes simple ebooks look flat, but will new, immersive stories find favour with readers?
Brad Leithauser, New Yorker
I was seeking a replacement for “unfathomable.” I thought of “depthless,” but, feeling a bit iffy about it, I consulted my old Webster’s Second. Yes, it was a synonym for “unfathomable” (“Of measureless depth … unsoundable”) but also for “fathomable” (“Having no depth; shallow”). The word was what I think of as an auto-antonym (a term that doesn’t appear in Webster’s Second): it’s its own opposite. Which is to say, it’s a mostly unusable word.
Annelisa Stephan, The Getty Iris
William’s capture of the English crown from Harold II was a turning point for history, politics, literature, and art—but also for language. It began the transformation of English from an orderly Germanic tongue into the sprawling, messy hybrid we speak today. In short, the Battle of Hastings is the reason we talk funny.
Scott Adams, Wall Street Journal
So forget about passion. And while you're at it, forget about goals, too.
Monday, 14 October, 2013
Alok Jha, The Guardian
How Isaac Newton's encounter with that apple ended up helping send rockets into space.
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Compressing the great myths of resurrection into vignettes, questions of life and death are here reanimated in tangible form.
Laura Miller, Salon
Donna Tartt's masterful, enveloping feat of storytelling about an orphan who steals a celebrated artwork.
Thomas Frank, Salon
The creative class has never been more screwed. Books about creativity have never been more popular. What gives?
Sunday, 13 October, 2013
David Fleming, ESPN
Runner No. 3694 in the Chicago Marathon was known as Superman. Runner No. 21385 was nine months' pregnant. At Mile 26, their paths diverged. And there's no explaining why only one crossed the finish line.
Joshua Rothman, New Yorker
“Doctor Sleep” underscores an interesting fact about King: he’s not really, or not exclusively, a horror writer.
Raveena Aulakh, Toronto Star
Meem is 9 years old and works as a sewing helper in a garment factory. For a few days this summer, she was also my boss.
She taught me the tricks of trimming. She taught me to smile when my back ached. She taught me some Bengali words.
Sab bhalo. It is all okay.
James Owen, The Telegraph
The fatal charm of China’s unsung empress has beguiled even her biographer.
Saturday, 12 October, 2013
Marie Arana, Washington Post
Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, “may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.”
Nowhere is that lesson more evident than in the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pashtun girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley who was born of an illiterate mother, grew up in her father’s school, read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” by age 11 and has a gift for stirring oratory.
Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal
Highly readable and never long-winded (even at nearly 600 pages), "Jim Henson" joyously documents its subject's knack for combining old-fashioned puppetry with the world's newest entertainment medium to forge a kind of furry, felt-covered vaudeville.
Friday, 11 October, 2013
Edward Docx, The Guardian
Although Eggers is saying all the same things as Franzen (and so much more), he makes his case not through the often tetchy medium of the essay, but in the glorious, ever resilient and ever engaging form of the novel.
Thursday, 10 October, 2013
Noah Berlatsky, Salon
Most people wouldn’t necessarily look at my amalgamation of cobbled together gigs and say, “That’s the writing career I want.” It’s natural that you’d turn to more successful writers, and just as natural that those folks tend to talk about writing as a craft and a calling. But I think it’s valuable, too, to know that writing, for most people, most of the time, is less like an art and a craft and a calling than it is like a job.
Christine Gross-Loh, The Atlantic
The professor who teaches Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory claims, "This course will change your life."
Wednesday, 9 October, 2013
Katharine Viner, The Guardian
A newspaper is complete. It is finished, sure of itself, certain. By contrast, digital news is constantly updated, improved upon, changed, moved, developed, an ongoing conversation and collaboration. It is living, evolving, limitless, relentless.
Kevin Fixler, The Daily Beast
Are you a football fan? This one book will change the way you view the NFL and the price players pay for your enjoyment and dollars.
Tuesday, 8 October, 2013
Lawrence Krauss, Slate
The discovery of the Higgs boson particle puts our understanding of nature on a new firm footing.
Jessica Gresko, Associated Press
In "From Scratch: Inside the Food Network," Allen Salkin guides readers through the history of the network, from its start in the 1990s to today. Along the way, Salkin serves up plenty of stories that will surprise and entertain.
Daniel Engber, Slate
Do puny readers stand a chance against his latest book?
Sunday, 6 October, 2013
Elizabeth Day, The Guardian
The Signature of All Things, Gilbert's sixth book and her second work of full-length fiction, is quite simply one of the best novels I have read in years.
Anne Champion, The Rumpus.net
No matter how inspired Darling may be, her work never serves as a copy: Darling delights in the formal experimentation within her work.
Saturday, 5 October, 2013
Jessica Sidman, Washington City Paper
It’s still rare for such young restaurants to close after only a few weeks or months in order to make things right. Sure, it’s not uncommon to shut down for renovations and reopen with a new look, new menu, or even a new concept. But typically, that happens after the place has been around at least a few years, and the carpet has grown dingy and the menu outdated.
D.J. Taylor, Wall Street Journal
Sir John Betjeman once wrote a poem called "How to Get On in Society" ("Phone for the fish-knives, Norman, as Cook is a little unnerved. . . .") The advice it tenders is, of course, ironic. An upper-class Englishman of the time would have "telephoned" rather than "phoned," and fish-knives were for parvenus. To David Plante, a young American arriving in the London of the mid-1960s with that age-old ambition of being a writer and meeting interesting people, the challenge was not so much to crack a linguistic code (although the "lunch" versus "luncheon" debate needs careful handling) as to find a reliable sponsor. Guide books are clearly important, but how much more satisfactory to meet the man who wrote them.
John Williams, New York Times
As Deborah Eisenberg once put it, “The anatomical possibilities are limited, so a poorly written sex scene can be a little like hearing an 8-year-old describe the plot of his favorite movie.” Even John Updike won a lifetime achievement award for bad sex writing. Yet, as Sam Lipsyte wrote in The New Republic earlier this year, “We delight in the comedy of bad sex writing, probably because it corresponds to the comedy of our bodies, which are, minus the most gorgeous 1 percent, not nearly as delectable and confident as we might fantasize.”
Natasha Geiling, Smithsonia.com
The history of popcorn is vast, and it intersects with movies in the relatively recent past–a symbiosis of taste and place created to save the fledgling movie theater industry from near collapse during the Great Depression.
Friday, 4 October, 2013
Lara Feigel, The Guardian
Plante has come to Europe seeking promiscuity; instead, he is surprised into monogamous happiness. "Is this love?" he asks. "Is it love to want to be with him when he dies, and close his eyes?"
Gavin James Bower, The Guardian
Max Perkins: Editor of Genius is reissued this month, 35 years after it was first published – but what can the man who told Ernest Hemingway to "tone it down" and lived to tell the tale teach us about publishing today?
Sarah Rodman, The Boston Globe
The fairy tale of WBCN may not have had a happy ending, but Alan tells it with the kind of flair that does its original free-form spirit proud.
Wednesday, 2 October, 2013
Laura Miller, Salon
Stephen King has always disliked Stanley Kubrick's film of "The Shining," and he has a point.
Richard Williams, The Guardian
A Bond book is a tough gig, but Boyd's authentically written attempt entertains more than it exasperates.
Tuesday, 1 October, 2013
Dennis Overbye, New York Times
“Gravity” opens this week, but it has already won rapturous reviews at film festivals in Venice and Toronto. So when the distributor, Warner Brothers, offered me a chance to watch the movie with an actual astronaut, I happily tagged along.
Brian Jay Jones, The A.V. Club
The creative force behind The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth did a tremendous amount of living for someone who died in his mid-50s. On that count alone Brian Jay Jones’ book earns its 600-page heft—as portrayed in the words of Jones and his sources, Henson’s perpetual sense of momentum could’ve generated enough anecdotes to fill a volume three times that length. But the book’s comprehensiveness is also a function of Jones’ onus as biographer: For a pop-culture figure who had as tremendous an impact as Henson did, such a penetrating look at his life is long overdue. Much has been written about Henson—during his life and after—but nothing with the same sense of authority and access as Jim Henson: The Biography. Clearly, Jones didn’t want to leave anything out.
Nancy Jo Sales, Vanity Fair
“Social media is destroying our lives,” a 16-year-old girl from L.A. tells contributing editor Nancy Jo Sales. But without it, she says, she “would have no life.”