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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

‘Jaws At 35,000 Feet’: The Flight Attendant Whose Thriller Debut Sold For Seven Figures, by Alison Flood, The Guardian

Flight attendant Torri Newman was working on the red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New York when the idea for her debut novel came to her. To be precise, she was blocking access to the cockpit, a security procedure required when pilots take a toilet break. “I was standing at the front of the airplane,” she says, “looking out at the passengers. It was dark and they were all asleep. And I had this thought, ‘All of their lives, our lives, are in the hands of the pilots.’ That’s not exactly new – but the flipside of that also came to mind. With that much power and responsibility, how vulnerable does that make a commercial pilot?”

Before He Wrote A Thesaurus, Roget Had To Escape Napoleon's Dragnet, by Claudia Kalb, Smithsonian

Roget had spent the previous four years since his graduation taking additional courses and working odd jobs, even volunteering in the spring of 1799 as a test subject at the Pneumatic Institution in Clifton, England, for a trial of the sedative nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. With no immediate professional path, he felt unsettled and despondent. Romilly suggested a change of scenery. Accordingly, he introduced his nephew to John Philips, a wealthy cotton mill owner in Manchester, with the plan that Roget would chaperone Philips’ teenage sons, Burton and Nathaniel, who were about to embark on a year-long trip to the continent to study French and prepare for a career in business. Roget had caught a big break—or so he thought. The timing, it turns out, could not have been worse, and so began a telling adventure in the early life of a man now known worldwide for his lexicography in his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, one of the most influential reference books in the English language.

‘Popisho’ Imagines A Magical Realm Teeming With Memorable Characters, by Wendy Smith, Washington Post

Leone Ross’s third novel is so overstuffed with characters and plot that readers will either close it in frustration or embrace it for the author’s verbal gusto and brilliant, kaleidoscopic scene-setting. While “All the Blood Is Red” and “Orange Laughter” were by no means straightforwardly realistic fiction, Ross grounded them in specific real-world landscapes. But in “Popisho,” about a fictional archipelago with echoes to the Caribbean, she emulates the work of Gabriel García Márquez and his Latin American peers by delineating a world in which magic is a matter-of-fact presence in people’s lives.

In A New Story Collection, An Insider’s View Of The Soviet Union, by Ilya Kaminsky, New York Times

By the end of the collection, Iossel succeeds in giving an insider’s view of the Soviet Union, but shared through the outsider perspective of a slightly bemused man now living far away. What distinguishes Iossel as a writer, aside from his obvious talent for atmospheric dramedy, is his lucid, musical prose style. Despite his dark humor, metaphysical asides and absurdist turns — or maybe because of them — his stories are delightfully easy to read; Iossel’s marvelous sense of rhythm dazzles the reader. We can’t stop turning the pages of this book, no matter what kind of tunnel might await us at the end of the light.

The Woman Who Looked At A Forest And Saw A Community, by Jonathan C. Slaght, New York Times

This book is a testament to Simard’s skill as a science communicator. Her research is clearly defined, the steps of her experiments articulated, her astonishing results explained and the implications laid bare: We ignore the complexity of forests at our peril.