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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July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

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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).