Displaying articles for: August 2009

Stupid Hope

When poet Jason Shinder died last year, tragically young -- he was 53 -- no poet in America was unscathed...

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The One-Straw Revolution

Six decades ago in postwar Japan, long before Michael Pollan or Alice Waters, Masanobu Fukuoka, a laboratory scientist who had studied plant enzymes and rhizomes in Tokyo laboratories... Read more...

Breathing Water

I used to think that John Burdett's terrific books... about Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep...were all I needed to know about the darker, sadder side of that popular tourist site... Read more...

Blast 1

R.E.M.'s "I Believe." Kelly Link's little magazine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. Marilyn Manson's entire career... Read more...

Knickerbocker: The Myth Behind New York

These days the word "knickerbocker" represents "little more than a comical handle, a Dutch-inflected sound -- or a heartbreaking season at Madison Square Garden" Read more...

The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom

The acceleration of the global news cycle and the boom in its consumptionthe Al Jazeera effect, if you will, have assured that these are inescapably political times... Read more...

Naming Nature

Carol Kaesuk Youn wants to puzzle out an important question: How did science, a discipline rooted in human hunger to make sense of the known and felt natural universe, paradoxically make ordinary people feel more distant from it? Read more...

The Lion and the Mouse

The award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney exceeds all expectations with this almost wordless retelling of Aesop?s fable about a mouse who repays a lion's mercy by gnawing the fibers of a snare that entraps him. Read more...

American Classic

In 1978 Willie Nelson released Stardust, an album that drew, deeply and unexpectedly, from the repertoire of the Great American Songbook. Read more...

The Last Days of Disco

That a movie with a get-happy soundtrack, a toothsome cast, a stockpile of zingers, and a gentle plotline should outfox popular tastesas demonstrated by its modest box office returns seems counterintuitive. Read more...

The Lost Origins of the Essay

What do you call literary works that defy the conventions of ordinary prose or poetry? John D'Agata, in this hefty anthology, prefers to call them "essays" rather than the more popular "creative nonfiction." Read more...

The Bolter

Say you're 13 years old and reading the Sunday paper when you're transfixed by the story of Idina Sackville, a woman so wild, so daring and dazzling and decadent that it seems sinful to let your little sister see it. Read more...

The Seven Lives of John Murray

Oh for the days when publishing books was a matter of pride and taste! At least that?s the impression one gets from this witty and opinionated history of the house of John Murray, the longest-lived independent publisher in history. Read more...

Darwin's Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution

Ah, the Age of Sail: the tempests, the salty dogs, the derring-do. Befouled in the rigging of myth and nostalgia, the stories of the tall ships and the men who rounded the Horn in them are awash with the flotsam of parody and the jetsam of cliché. Read more...

Rupert: A Confession

Scout's honor: On a purely linguistic level, there was something about Pfeijffer's sentences with their direct, unbuttoned elegance that reminded me of Philip Roth. Read more...

The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election

Political junkies who've had to get by lately on stories of stalled health care reform, used car trade-ins, and beer at the White House will find the fix they crave in The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election. Read more...

Prince Valiant

Since its demise, the Golden Age of newspaper comic strips has never been more accessible than now. Read more...

Fred Hersch Plays Jobim

Fred Hersch is a smart musician, and he commences his solo piano tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim in a typically smart way. Read more...

Sir John Soane's Museum London

At 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, facing the largest square in the city, an elegant small house conceals behind a modest facade the most remarkable and personal museum in London, perhaps in all the world. Read more...

Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation

To read Ray Bradbury's chef-d'oeuvre, Farenheit 451, some 56 years after its original publication is to be gobsmacked all over again by its proleptic acuity, passion, poetry, and polish. Read more...

Voices of the Desert

The re-imagining of fictional characters as a literary trope has given us startling new perspectives on a host of supporting players. Read more...

One Day You'll Understand

The monumentality of the Holocaust can understandably bring out the inner epic maker in a director -- look no further than Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List or Edward Zwick's recent Defiance. Read more...

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal

You have to admire Ben Mezrich?s chutzpah. To write The Accidental Billionaires: Sex, Betrayal and the Founding of Facebook, a supposedly nonfictional narrative about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, without ever actually speaking to Zuckerberg, reveals an enviable nerve. Read more...

Mama Rosa

Known for his ability to propel and shape improvisational flow through expressive permutations of groove, tonality, texture, and dynamics, drummer Brian Blade carries a uniquely high hardcore jazz profile as the chameleonic sideman for such diverse jazz heroes as Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett, and Bill Frisell. Read more...

What's the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate

This lively, jaunty, yet ultimately serious-as-cancer little book about global climate change strikes me as evidence that the quintessential American spirit of the Founding Fathers and the Greatest Generation is alive and well. Read more...

Trouble

Josie's at a Christmas party, flirting up a storm with a sexy stranger, when she catches sight of herself in a mirror across the room. Read more...

Asterios Polyp

Even the superior work done by artist David Mazzucchelli on such icons as Batman and Daredevil, and in his graphic transliteration of Paul Auster's novel City of Glass, fails to adequately prepare the reader for the magnificence of his first-ever solo graphic novel, Asterios Polyp. Daring, engaging, insightful, and gripping, this tale intertwines brutality and compassion, arrogance and pity, the quotidian and the ethereal. The eponymous protagonist is a hopeful monster if ever there was one. Just 50, Asterios is a "paper architect," one who's never had any of his concepts reified, and his personal life mirrors his career: all head trip, no outreach. We meet him on the skids, with gracefully interspersed flashbacks revealing his whole sad history. To his own consternation, he allows a chance catastrophe to propel him on a painful journey of self-discovery, repentence, and reconciliation, which culminates in a shocking conclusion. Mazzucchelli's tremendously variegated art pays homage to any number of greats: Los Bros Hernandez, Abner Dean, Will Eisner, Saul Steinberg, David B. all register. But his unique page compositions and the color palette are not imitative but endlessly clever and diverse, as the tale oscillates between naturalistic and fantastical. Cubist touches, cross-hatching, and "clear line" drawing contribute their flavors, and nearly every detail, down to the word balloons, is open to innovation. The character designs themselves are revelatory: the scribble-swirl eyes of Asterios' wife, Hana, betray all her inner confusions. Recurring motifs, such as the lightning bolt that sends Asterios on his quest, provide a sense of rich patterning. Mazzucchelli has layered in depths of visual and prose multiplexity that will reward rereadings in ways that the average graphic novel simply cannot sustain.

City of Strangers

In the opening pages of his first novel, Ian MacKenzie's New York City is "exhausted, somnambulant," a place where "the crowd is a tessellated sea of backs" and, on the streets, "the cholesterol of automobiles clogs every lane." The stage is set for a story of loneliness, brutality, and failure. MacKenzie's City of Strangers is a debut impressive not only for the rich, evocative language of its sentences but also for the way the author charts the troubled path of his alienated characters across the cityscape. Paul Metzger is a man full of turbulent emotions and unresolved family issues. His father, whose past as a Nazi sympathizer has resurfaced, is dying in a Brooklyn hospital; his estranged older brother is under investigation for insider trading; and his ex-wife is still a lover he can't exorcise from his heart. MacKenzie brings all of these characters, plus a menacing mugger who stalks Paul throughout the book, to a boil in a novel that is one part Albert Camus, one part Philip Roth, and one part Martin Scorsese. Paul, anxious to understand his father's past and desperate to reconnect with his brother and ex-wife, walks the mean streets of a city where strangers collide in a cold universe, mere "flakes of incidental matter." As Paul soon learns, violence -- both physical and psychological -- is a force that's impossible to resist in the unstable world of this bleak, beautiful novel.

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29

You know the underdog-comes-from-behind ending before you even take the disc out of the box, but Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is somehow stuffed with surprises. Read more...

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.