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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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.