Stories in Stone

Humans have built with stone since -- well, since the Stone Age. In the process we've gone from living lightly on the land to covering it up with our cities and works. But as David B. Williams shows in Stories in Stone, the edifices we cobble together don't only erase or obscure; if seen aright, they tell the story of the earth as well. Fuming rivers of magma, the tides and currents of ancient shallow seas, the life and death of teeming generations of long-extinct creatures of the deep -- these tales are legible in the bedding planes and patina of the building stones found in skyscrapers and old filling stations alike. Generating a broad palette of stones of varied colors and characteristics, those ancient conflicts and confluences made certain kinds of quarrying and building possible. Williams is an engaging writer, able to to mobilize both geology and the pathetic fallacy, as when he points out that the granite boulders used by the famously alienated poet Robinson Jeffers in building his aerie, Tor House, were themselves strangers of a kind, forged in isolation from the surrounding bedrock by the kind of seismic caprice that still rules the California crust. Pursuing the economic and architectural history of brownstone, revealing the tectonic violence that made the garish pinks and greens of Minnesota's once-popular Morton stone, or explaining the tidal forces that made Carrara marble a building material both sublime and fragile, Williams coaxes us to remember the sentiment of Duke Senior in As You Like It, to listen more intently for "sermons in stones, and good in every thing."

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.