Displaying articles for: October 2011

James Thurber Meets Neil Gaiman: The Thirteen Clocks (Video)

Neil Gaiman narrates an animated adaptation of James Thurber's classic of dark-humored fantasy.

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Adam Kirsch on the Loeb Classical Library

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the Loeb Classical Library, and Adam Kirsch is writing a three-part celebration of the influential series in honor of its centenial. In his first essay, Kirsch examined Socrates from the (sometimes unflattering) perspectives of writers other than Plato. This month, he examines the arresting modern relevance of the Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus. 

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Julian Barnes Takes the Man Booker Prize

The fourth time is, apparently, the charm. With The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes wins the 2011 Man Booker Prize. The multifaceted writer has been shortlisted three times before, for three wildly different novels -- first in 1984 for his innovative Flaubert's Parrot; fourteen years later for  England, England; and then again for Arthur and George in 2005. In The Sense of an Ending, a man in late middle age finds that a secret from his childhood threatens to overturn the careful architecture of his comfortable life.

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The Bible Repairman

The name of Tim Powers has been a secret talisman for a select group of readers for decades. His ardent fans have used that byline as an unfailing compass pointing to contemporary urban fantasies of surpassing elegance, thrills, cleverness, and emotional heft, such as his Fault Lines trilogy or Declare. But Powers has also worked in a historical or steampunk vein, and it is this mode that launched his name into wider spheres of public attention with the adaptation of his novel On Stranger Tides as the latest installment of Johnny Depp's Pirates of the Caribbean series.

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Tomas Tranströmer Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature

The Swedish Academy announced Thursday that the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to eighty-year-old Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. In its press release -- itself an almost poetically compressed document -- the Academy said they chose Tranströmer "because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality." Helen Vendler celebrated his work in a 2009 essay in the New York Review of Books, saying: "He looks deep into the pool of the mind until an image looks back at him, and he holds it steady."

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Cosmic Numbers

For my generation, the gold standard of popular science writing was always Isaac Asimov. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, erudite but layman-friendly books on scientific topics were much scarcer than in this current Golden Age, populated by such giants as Brian Greene, Michio Kaku, Richard Dawkins, and Roger Penrose. So when Asimov began his column of scientific journalism in 1958 in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction -- a feature that was to last for almost thirty-five years, until his death in 1992 -- and thereafter commenced to issue a steady stream of books on a near-infinity of topics, he found an eager audience that adopted him as their helmsman. Jovial, witty, down-to-earth, omniscient, wide-ranging, skeptical, scrupulous, meticulous, and speculative, Asimov always delivered essays that did not so much hold the reader's hand as shine a light ahead while he encouraged you to follow in his bold and brave footsteps. Consequently, for me to assert that a living writer possesses Asimov's virtues is to offer high praise indeed.

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July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

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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.