Displaying articles for: November 2011

Stacy Schiff Picks Her Favorite Biographies

When we asked Stacy Schiff  to share a few favorite reads, the author of Cleopatra obliged with a revealing look at the bookshelf of a biographer -- packed with the lives of  literary and political figures seen up close.

 

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The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick

There can be no more dependable indicator that we now all inhabit (or delude ourselves into believing we inhabit) a Philip K. Dick universe (or the shoddy simulacrum thereof) than the appearance of this mammoth volume of Dick's journals, letters, and private stream-of-consciousness essays, which he voluminously generated for a full eight years following his infamous mind-blasting, soul-shattering, paradigm-upsetting cosmic epiphany of 1974. Only waves of patented PKD-style reality distortion could have landed us in our contemporary situation.

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The Phantom Tollbooth: 50th Anniversary Edition

This handsome new edition of the classic children's fantasy novel The Phantom Tollbooth comes stuffed with extras in the form of various introductions and appreciations, by such intelligent, perceptive, and young-at-heart literary folks as Maurice Sendak, Michael Chabon, and Philip Pullman. These tidbits are all savory. But the real meat of the package remains Juster's inspired skylarking in the pages of this eternally silly-yet-wise novel, with its pitch-perfect original bramble-bush illustrations by Jules Feiffer. Having an excuse to enjoy this book again, and to introduce it to a new generation of readers, more than justifies investment in a bright, fresh copy!

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The National Book Awards: Jesmyn Ward, Stephen Greenblatt, Nicki Finney and Thanhha Lai

On Wednesday night, November 16th, the 2011 National Book Awards winners were announced: Jesmyn Ward’s novel Salvage the Bones took the award for fiction, while Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern received the award for nonfiction. Nikky Finney's Head Off and Split won for poetry; Thanhha Lai took the award for young people's literature for Inside Out and Back Again.

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The Death-Ray

Right now Daniel Clowes is voyaging through the prolonged and impressive midpoint of his career, an era which began with Ghost World in 1997 and shows no sign of diminishing. Everything he produces at this juncture is rich with mastery, fertile with invention, and stamped with his ineffable individual touch. The Death-Ray originally appeared in 2004 as issue number 23 of Clowes's periodical comic Eightball. Limited in availability and impact by this format, the story has been rescued by current publication as a luxuriously oversized hardcover. 

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Physics on the Fringe

Any reader who loved The Men Who Stare at Goats or Sex and Rockets will derive similar joy from this finely wrought survey of gonzo ingenuity in the service of science. These "discoverers" or "paradoxers," as they were called in Victorian times, firmly endorse science's claim to represent an objectively true taproot into the numinous substratum of creation. So these outsider physicists are simply seeking to participate in the same consciousness-raising enlightenment which all the great scientists have experienced. But, bereft of any actual talents and training demanded by the academic and corporate "hegemony," they are forced to perform a kind of "hedge science," like the second-string wizards who can't make it into Hogwarts. 

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

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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.