• across the desk

Snowbound Reading

It's another snow-buried day in the Northeast. And hence that brings to mind some snowy reading. Tove Jannson's The True Deceiver, newly available in English, is the story of a snowbound Scandinavian village and two women -- one an outcast, one a respected citizen, whose paths cross with disturbing results. Jannson is best known for her Moomintroll stories for children (and her Moominland in Midwinter is another perfect snow-day read, about what happens when a Moomin wakes up accidentally from his family's annual hibernation), but later wrote a number of psychologically acute, brilliantly compact novels for adults.

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  • across the desk

Jules Feiffer's Unlearning

We are looking forward with pleasure to taking more than a moment's time with Backing into Forward, the memoir from longtime Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer, which publishes officially next month. A passage chosen not quite at random:

'Lincoln Steffens, the great muckraker, had taught me an unforgettable insight when I read his autobiography in my early twenties. Steffens's first job in journalism was as a cub reporter on a New York daily. He was just back from a classical European education, thought he knew everything, and after a month on the job discovered that everything he thought he knew, everything he'd been taught, was wrong. The assignment he took upon himself was to "unlearn."' Read more...

  • across the desk

"It All Went In"

Conversations with Kingsley Amis, new from the University Press of Mississippi, is a welcome reminder of why there's more to Amis's impact than Lucky Jim -- as delightful as that novel is. Nearly all of the interviews and exchanges collected produce surprises. Here's Amis on literary fiction in the 1960s, and what he saw it as missing out on: "One of the interesting things is that the child and adolescent parts of the reader of serious fiction aren't being catered to, as they were catered to by serious novelists a hundred or more years ago. Dickens, for example, got a lot of child and adolescent into his books....trying to horrify you, trying to thrill you, trying to make you feel afraid, trying to divert you even at the most superficial level. One of the reasons why he's better than most of the people around is that the high-brow novel hadn't emerged yet. It all went in." (A more complete quotation follows after the jump.) Read more...

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
The People's Platform

Why is the Internet - once touted as the democratizer of the future - ruled by a few corporate giants, while countless aspirants work for free? Astra Taylor diagnoses why the web has failed to be a utopian playing field, and offers compelling ways we can diversify the marketplace and give voice to the marginalized.

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.