Displaying articles for: October 2009

Happy Samhain!

With Halloween in mind, I was thinking back over books we reviewed this year that fulfill the seasonal need for a "chilling" read. One stands out: White is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi.

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Do Great Political Novels Exist?

Over on one of our favorite websites, Crooked Timber, there's a been a fascinating discussion going on, inspired by Christopher Hayes' recent review of Ralph Nader's "practical utopia" Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! [Click here to see the conversation on Crooked Timber]. Crooked Timber contributor Henry Farrell, in commenting on the review, raised the question " of whether there are any genuinely good, genuinely political novels out there." Read more...

Plum Assignment

Christopher Byrd writes: "In my reading life, I seldom encounter contemporary novels that impress me as natty candidates for a high school curriculum. Hang it on to the fact that I'm partial to both complex, stylistically-challenging books which I'd be reluctant to inflict on overly-scheduled, poorly-rested young people, and to narratives packed with bad role models e.g. the Philip Roth stand-ins of the world who are ill-equipped to put parents at ease." Read more...

War Crimes and the Karadzic Trials

Karadzic on trial: War crimes tribunals are a public theater of accountability, retribution, and hoped-for healing. Victims and survivors bear witness as metaphorical, and often metaphysical, Greek choruses.

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The 2000-Year-Old Man

Reading Rolfe Humphries's very fine translation of Lucretius's ancient epic of physics, philosophy, and Epicurean wisdom, De Rerum Natura (The Way Things Are in Humphries's rendering), written in the first century BC. In addition to the poet's didactic and imaginative survey of atomism, the senses, death, sex, the development of the universe, and pestilence -- the work ends with an unforgettable evocation of plague-ridden Athens -- The Way Things Are exudes a bracing familiarity with the apprehensions of our own age of anxiety. Read more...

Richard Powers on Reading, Writing, and the Genomic Code

Richard Powers on his latest novel: "Generosity is a pure fiction and something of a social satire, one that traces how evolutionary genetics and the idea of determinism propagate through society with lots of errors in transcription at every step. But I wanted to be informed enough about the real science behind the story’s genomics to write meaningfully about a society that continues to move farther along from chance to choice... " Read more...

Annals of Translation

Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, recently reviewed Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonder for The B&N Review, noting that it swept her into "riding happily with its heroes through a blaze of adventures and ideas." [See her full review here.] She sent us this enlightening note recently about the passage of a reviewer's work into other languages Read more...

Studs Terkel in Springfield

There are certain projects that set a fan's heart afire. The Simpsons : An Uncensored, Unauthorized History is one of them. John Ortved's ambitious undertaking is to piece together the history of one of the few programs that's been both a global hit and a monument to how smart and satisfying television can be. Read more...

Twitter-view? Tweet-a-Tweet?

Are you ready to join in a little experiment? Then come along with me on Twitter as I interview David Pogue -- the prolific author, New York Times technology columnist and maker of occasional music videos. Read more...

The Word from Stockholm

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Herta Müller, the Romanian-born German novelist. We are, sadly, unfamiliar with her work, which frequently dealt with the experience of totalitarian oppression and exile. Her novel, The Land of Green Plums, a tale of youth corroded by the oppressions of Ceausescu's police state, is issued by Northwestern University Press. Other works include The Appointment.

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Who Needs the Olympics? Consolation Reading for Chicago Lovers

Despite the continentally-correct judgment of the Olympicrats in Copenhagen, Chicago is an Olympian city when it comes to literature and the arts. And what better time than now to remind us? Here's a sampling of some of those triumphs of the sedentary, each of which required sweat, struggle, and, of course, the building of stadiums of the mind.

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Toon Time

My neighbor this weekend was having a yard sale, and local comics buffs were snapping up battered but still readable (and possibly Ebay-able) copies of everything from Conan the Barbarian to The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. That brought to mind a few wonderful comics titles that have crossed the desk of late.

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Personal Geographies

Katharine Harmon's You Are Here, an ingenious exploration of the border-bending speculative capabilities of mapmaking, was published six years ago, and remains a book I love losing myself in from time to time. Gathering a few score exhibits-an estate outlined from a dog's perspective, a map of success, and assorted "personal geographies" -- created by artists and cartographers, it is nourishing food for one's imagination.

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July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.