Displaying articles for: March 2010

Whispering Books

We celebrate the advent of National Poetry Month with the first in a week's worth of poems from Coffee House Press. Read more...

Imaginary Eating with Ann VanderMeer and "Evil Monkey"

In the world of cutting-edge speculative fiction, Ann VanderMeer (the award-winning fiction editor of Weird Tales) and her husband Jeff (the author of the bestselling City of Saints and Madmen and Finch, among others) loom large as an editor/writer power duo. In their new book The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, Ann and Jeff (under the nom de nonsense "Evil Monkey") tackle questions which have plagued the unhealthily curious for ages: can you serve a phoenix to your rabbi? What about a manticore? What about...E.T.?

With the feeling that there were a few questions left unanswered by their book, we reached out to Ann and Jeff (in his Evil Monkey guise), for further illumination.

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Corruption

Lord Acton famously insisted that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Turning that aphorism inside out suggests that "Absolute corruption empowers absolutely."

And whom might be empowered, exactly? That's easy: novelists and historians, who for centuries have been stirred by the gaudy potential of all the sins that flesh is heir to.

Corruption is social malaria, always burbling within the immune system. Then at moments it explodes with the vengeance of all those suppressed genetics. And it's feeling like that's exactly what's ailing us right now, since it's more than the tabloids that brim with news of corruption in all its flowerings -- political, personal, moral, social. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite books on the subject, our First Annual Lord Acton edition of Reading the Headlines.

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Billy Collins

Last week in Grin & Tonic, we featured a week of poems from former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, whose verses demonstrate with wit and brio that poetry -- which we too often think of as a vehicle for reverently beautiful meditations on lofty things -- can make you laugh out loud as readily as anything Jon Stewart might have said on cable last night. But don't take our word for it. Try "Hangover." Read more...

All Must Have Prizes -- and Reviews

When we posted the winners of the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award, we neglected to mention that Eulsa Bliss's Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays was praised in this space by Tess Taylor in May of last year.

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All Must Have Prizes

I am delighted to learn that Richard Holmes’s The Age of Wonder, his lively and deeply intelligent study of the pursuit of science in the Romantic era, has been awarded the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction. Read more...

Works Complete, and in Progress

It’s impossible to spend one's days immersed in conceiving, assigning, and editing book reviews without wondering what effect the constantly running engine of assessment has on the reading experience. What I mean is, how does the impulse (or the need) to describe, detail, and evaluate a book’s contents infect, and perhaps diminish, our reading? If you’re looking for an answer to that question, stop reading now. But two items related to this theme are circling in my head. Read more...

Memo to William Maxwell: Read Balzac

During William Maxwell’s tenure as fiction editor of The New Yorker, one of his favorite and most frequently published authors was Sylvia Townsend Warner, whose stories became a staple of the periodical. Maxwell and Warner’s happy and profound literary friendship is chronicled in their copious correspondence, collected in The Elements of Lavishness. It’s a feast of intelligence and expression that will delight any devoted reader, even one unfamiliar with the works of the authors. From descriptions of hurricanes, blackouts, and other dramatic occurrences to accountings of mundane matters of domestic aggravation, from rites of private passage to painstaking tinkerings with the nuts and bolts of literary work, it’s a marvelous testament to a friendship.

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Best Friends Forever

Coming in May is a new work in a genre I particularly love: books by scholars whose broader interests happily distract them from finishing their dissertations. Daisy Hay's engrossing Young Romantics is a "group biography" of one of those powerhouse collections of intellect and imagination that comes along every so often: in this case, the circle of early-19th-Century writers that included Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, John Keats, and Leigh Hunt. Read more...

July 26: On this day in 1602 "A booke called the Revenge of Hamlett Prince Denmarke" was entered in the Stationers' Register by printer James Robertes.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

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).