Displaying articles for: June 2011

Some Day This Will Be Funny

Lynne Tillman's stealthy stories exhibit a quiet, composed delicacy that conceals a titanium armature and a burning fusion reactor core. Her work reminds me of the sculptures of Charles Krafft: elegant porcelain representations of deadly hand grenades and pistols.

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Disease Maps

Disease wants to be information--specifically, visual, spatial information. That's the best way our brains can ingest the scientific facts and reach fresh conclusions. Whether it be the symptoms afflicting an individual projected onto the schematic of a single body (such as we see in the groundbreaking work of Vesalius, with his De Humani Corporis Fabrica), or the agglomerated cases of a rampant disease charted across a geographical region, the most efficient and useful way to comprehend, control, and forecast sickness is to establish a relation between biology and cartography. Such is the thesis of Tom Koch's Disease Maps, a fascinating historical study of how humanity has come to understand epidemics in terms of maps.

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Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth

Alex Toth was no Jack Kirby. He never achieved fame through the creation of world-renowned superheroes. No legion of fanboys ever followed his byline. He was no fount of cosmic ideas. He disdained most publicity, and was more prone to morbidly dwell on what he saw as his failures, rather than boast of any triumphs. And he was not a team player or a happy camper when he felt slighted or misunderstood, which happened more and more often as he aged.

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The Rogue Crew

Ah, the faithful and grateful audience of a beloved author of books for young readers! The favorite books of childhood remain part of our souls forever, unlike those respectable tomes we amuse ourselves with as adults. And the deaths of YA creators can hit hard. Notice of the death of YA fantasist Brian Jacques (he died in February 2011 at age 71) evoked remarkably emotional responses, unanimous in their praise and shared sense of anguished loss.

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April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."