This month, a series of developments has revived a long-disfavored argument that dark matter doesn’t exist after all. In this view, no missing matter is needed to explain the errant motions of the heavenly bodies; rather, on cosmic scales, gravity itself works in a different way than either Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein predicted.
The social elite and scholars did everything they could to obtain and collect books—no matter the price. Some collectors spent their entire fortunes to build their personal libraries. While it was never medically classified, people in the 1800s truly feared bibliomania. There are several written accounts, fictional and real, of bibliomania, but the most famous and bizarre documentation is by Reverend Thomas Frognell Dibdin, an English book lover and victim of the neurosis. In 1809 he published Bibliomania; or Book Madness, a series of strange, rambling fictional dialogues based on conversations and real collectors Dibdin had encountered.
Paul Anderer, who teaches Japanese literature and film at Columbia University, has written a well-researched study that is part biography of Kurosawa, part cultural history of modern Japan and part film monograph. He is previously the author of two scholarly works, but his prose in “Kurosawa’s Rashomon” is energetic, straightforward and free of academic jargon — if rhetorically overheated, at times, seeming to mirror his subject’s excitable style. He has chosen to focus on “Rashomon” as the fulcrum of Kurosawa’s career, emphasizing what he regards as the early influences in the filmmaker’s life that fed his thematic vision — specifically, its mixture of the appalling and the redemptive, the apocalyptic and the humanistic.
Despite its seriously restrictive title, “Corsets and Codpieces” is an extremely expansive, often jolly book. Karen Bowman is the writer’s equivalent of a magpie, her beady eye alert for the oddest of details and the weirdest of facts in her brisk romp through a millennium of fashion’s victims. I won’t soon forget her description of the mortified lady who attended a Dickens reading in an inflatable rubber bustle and found that it farted when sat upon — or of the hungry horse who dined off the stuffing in a fashionable racegoer’s bran-enhanced behind.
Before Oprah Winfrey anointed bestsellers with her book club picks, there was the Book of the Month Club. And now it’s coming back for another round.
The Book of the Month Club, a pioneer of book distribution and marketing, relaunched late last year with a new approach and new attitude. The reboot makes a nod to the storied firm’s 90-year history in mail order book sales but concentrates more on the future rather than its, at times, controversial past.