Displaying articles for: February 2010

Snowbound Reading

It's another snow-buried day in the Northeast. And hence that brings to mind some snowy reading. Tove Jannson's The True Deceiver, newly available in English, is the story of a snowbound Scandinavian village and two women -- one an outcast, one a respected citizen, whose paths cross with disturbing results. Jannson is best known for her Moomintroll stories for children (and her Moominland in Midwinter is another perfect snow-day read, about what happens when a Moomin wakes up accidentally from his family's annual hibernation), but later wrote a number of psychologically acute, brilliantly compact novels for adults.

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Jules Feiffer's Unlearning

We are looking forward with pleasure to taking more than a moment's time with Backing into Forward, the memoir from longtime Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer, which publishes officially next month. A passage chosen not quite at random:

'Lincoln Steffens, the great muckraker, had taught me an unforgettable insight when I read his autobiography in my early twenties. Steffens's first job in journalism was as a cub reporter on a New York daily. He was just back from a classical European education, thought he knew everything, and after a month on the job discovered that everything he thought he knew, everything he'd been taught, was wrong. The assignment he took upon himself was to "unlearn."' Read more...

Black History Month: Reading for Kids

Our regular contributor and on-call children's librarian Lisa Von Drasek sent in a few wonderful titles to share with the young person in your life to mark Black History Month. (For additional related recommendations see our Five Books list of Black History Month reading).

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Summer of The Thousand Autumns

After enjoying the narrative fireworks on display in Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten, Number9Dream and Black Swan Green, I've been primed for news of David Mitchell's next novel. I recently learned that The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, set (like Number9Dream) in Japan -- but this time in late 18th century -- is slated to appear in June, and now an excerpt has been posted by Random House. Here's a sample:

Dr Maeno addresses the chamberlain: ‘To help save Miss Kawasemi’s life, I must disregard the Magistrate’s orders and join the midwife inside the curtain.’

Chamberlain Tomine is caught in a dangerous quandary.

‘You may blame me,’ Maeno suggests, ‘for disobeying the Magistrate.’

‘The choice is mine,’ decides the chamberlain. ‘Do what you must, Doctor.’

The spry old man crawls under the muslin, holding his curved tongs.

When the maid sees the foreign contraption, she exclaims in alarm.

‘ “Forceps”,’ the doctor replies, with no further explanation.

The housekeeper lifts the muslin to see. ‘No, I don’t like the look of that! Foreigners may chop, slice and call it “medicine”, but it is quite unthinkable that—’

‘Do I advise the housekeeper,’ growls Maeno, ‘on where to buy fish?’

Click here to read the full excerpt. We're looking forward to more.

-BILL TIPPER Read more...

"It All Went In"

Conversations with Kingsley Amis, new from the University Press of Mississippi, is a welcome reminder of why there's more to Amis's impact than Lucky Jim -- as delightful as that novel is. Nearly all of the interviews and exchanges collected produce surprises. Here's Amis on literary fiction in the 1960s, and what he saw it as missing out on: "One of the interesting things is that the child and adolescent parts of the reader of serious fiction aren't being catered to, as they were catered to by serious novelists a hundred or more years ago. Dickens, for example, got a lot of child and adolescent into his books....trying to horrify you, trying to thrill you, trying to make you feel afraid, trying to divert you even at the most superficial level. One of the reasons why he's better than most of the people around is that the high-brow novel hadn't emerged yet. It all went in." (A more complete quotation follows after the jump.) Read more...

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.