Displaying articles for: March 2011

The Cardboard Valise

Perhaps you recall the famous story by Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius."  In that fable, the steady  accumulation of thickly detailed invented descriptions and faux encyclopedia entries relating to an imaginary place eventually results in the literal instantiation of the fictive world.  Well, in The Cardboard Valise, Ben Katchor's latest graphic novel, which consists of an intricately interwoven yet loosely collated collection of one-page strips (some of which do cohere to form more extended shaggy-dog narratives), artist and storyteller Katchor has achieved the goal Borges only imagined.

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The Wise Man's Fear

It's easy to see why Patrick Rothfuss's sumptuous, soft-spoken, understated debut novel caused a stir upon its appearance in 2007 and went on to become a fantasy bestseller and engender a passel of fans clamoring for the sequel, which arrives now in the form of The Wise Man's Fear.  Not only was it thoughtfully conceived, well-written and cleverly presented, but it also stood out thematically and stylistically from the competition, that crowd of hairy-chested, brawling, gore-splattered, epic-fantasy lager louts more at home on the battlefield and in decadent court chambers than in Rothfuss's chosen fresh-faced University setting.

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How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks

Why are we the way we are? That simple question has bedevilled humanity since the dawn of recorded history, provoking various answers from philosophers, mystics, theologians, fabulists, humorists, cynics, politicians, and, only in the last 300 years or so, from naturalists and scientists.  The latest discipline that seeks to unriddle the mysteries of human behavior and mentality, abilities and customs, is that of evolutionary biology, or evolutionary anthropology.  Taking a thoroughly up-to-date Darwinism as their core set of tenets, these practitioners seek to tease out the formative influences from our hominid past—and beyond—that endowed us with ingrained behaviors and modes of thought that often translate directly into the institutions and cultural practices of our everyday lives.

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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).