Displaying articles for: April 2013

The Annals of Unsolved Crime: The Submerged Spy

I became interested in spies after I met James Jesus Angleton, the legendary head of CIA counterintelligence in 1976.  We met in Kensington Nursey outside of Washington DC. Orchids were, as I was to learn,  Angleton’s living metaphor for deception. I also learned from Angleton that intelligence services  have been known to engage in what he termed  “surreptitiously-assisted deaths.” 

 

Edward Jay Epstein on The Annals of Unsolved Crime.

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Who Was Dracula?

The lives of most authors -- even, or perhaps especially, the great ones -- are necessarily a catalogue of tedious inwardness and cloistered composition. Globe-trotting Hemingways and brawling Christopher Marlowes are the exception, not the rule. In many respects, a cursory overlook of the life of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, fits this milk-mild template, albeit in a slightly divergent and commercial fashion.

 

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Celebrating World Book Night

On Tuesday, April 23, I'll be handing out twenty copies of Jesmyn Ward's National Book Award–winning novel, Salvage the Bones, as part of World Book Night. What began in Spain circa 1923 as a festival to celebrate the anniversary of Cervantes' death was adopted by UNESCO in 1995 as World Book Day. The tenuous association between the date and world literature was strengthened by the fact that April 23 is also the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death. (Never mind the discrepancies between the Gregorian and Julian calendars, according to which the death dates of Cervantes and Shakespeare were respectively recorded.)

 

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Hand-Drying in America

The front and back covers and the endpapers and the indicia and title pages of Ben Katchor's sumptuous new collection of strips from Metropolis magazine (appearing originally from 1998 to 2012) constitute a "bonus" story of sorts, seemingly coextant only with this project. The topic of the new piece? How wasteful, environmentally unsound and generally unworthy is the production of books in general and large, glossy art books in particular. The nearly criminal charges are leveled through the intermediary of one of Katchor's great obsessive amateur experts, Josef Fuss, who inveighs against many offenders, including "a deluxe full-color edition of an esoteric literary comic strip."  In other words, against the very book the reader now holds.

 

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April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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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.