Displaying articles for: April 2012

An Edgar for Michael Dirda

Congratulations to Michael Dirda! His On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling has won this year's Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Critical or Biographical Work. The Pulitzer Prize winning critic and author, whose "Library Without Walls" column appears monthly in the BNR, has penned a fascinating and unique book that weaves together Arthur Conan Doyle's life and work -- which included, in addition to the Sherlock Holmes stories, wonderful works of historical fiction and adventure -- with a memoir of Dirda's own boyhood, a peek into the world of the "Baker Street Irregulars," and a meditation on the power of fiction.


The Sincerest Form of Parody

When a wild, irreverent, and brash publication named Mad debuted in August 1952, it did so as a standard-issue comic book, employing the traditional format which today has come to be retronymically called a "floppy" or "pamphlet." With issue 24, Mad retooled, becoming an actual magazine, and not long thereafter birthed a legion of imitators. This second-stage horde of competitors -- Sick, Crazy, Trash, Cracked, among others -- constitute a well-known phenomenon, and sample work from their pages, as well as actual issues, have been generally available for discussion among afficionados.


Notes from L.A.

Miwa Messer writes from L.A. "After the 2012 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, one of my favorite events of the year -- it's marvelous to see so many readers of all ages and authors together on the campus of USC."


A Conversation with Rajesh Parameswaran

In an exclusive Q&A, Rajesh Parameswaran, the author of the Summer 2012 Discover Great New Writers selection I Am an Executioner, talks about the ideas, books, and writers who influenced his dazzling, often outrageous stories about appearances, power, and love.


Stephen Greenblatt's Swerve and Other 2012 Pulitzer Winners

Today the 2012 winners of the Pulitzer Prizes -- an award keenly anticipated in the journalistic world, but only slightly less so among writers and publishers of books -- were announced. On the literary side, winners included Stephen Greeblatt's The Swerve: How the World Became Modern in General Nonfiction, Manning Marable's Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention in History -- not, as might have been expected, in Biography. That honor went to John Lewis Gaddis's George F. Kennan: A Life, which also recently won the National Book Critics' Circle award for Biography. Tracy K. Smith's collection Life on Mars took the Pulitzer for Poetry.


The Sugar Frosted Nutsack

The inimitably demented and lapidarily hilarious Mark Leyner returns in fine fettle with a rollicking new meta-fictional novel, his first paraliterary excursion in fourteen years. The affect of the book? Drunken sagaciousness, manic sobriety, crazy wisdom, hieratic gossip. Perhaps if you smooshed together Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics, Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine, Will Self's Walking to Hollywood, Thorne Smith's The Night Life of the Gods, and Michael Moorcock's An Alien Heat, you might decant something similar -- but only after creating a hell of a mess for an inferior brew. So why not just go straight to Leyner?


Available Dark

It's a shame, in a way, that Graham Greene brilliantly and decisively utilized the title A Burnt-Out Case for his 1960 novel about a hapless, wounded antihero whom passion and art have abandoned. The title would have been so perfect for an installment of Elizabeth Hand's ongoing saga of Cassandra "Cass" Neary, burnt-out, middle-aged ex-punk photographer, who, in this second installment, after her debut in Generation Loss, finds herself again far from her comfortably sleazy New York digs and involved in shady doings in Helsinki and Reykjavik. After her previous scary outing in cold, provincial, and brutal Maine, you'd think she'd know enough to steer clear of northern climes. But that's Cass: all guts and no instinct for self-preservation at all.


July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

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.


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).