Displaying articles for: October 2010

The Lost Art of Reading

Prove Philip Roth wrong in his prediction that in a few decades serious readers will be nearly extinct. Take up the torch of thoughtful literacy argued for so capably and passionately by David Ulin, in this expansion of his potent Los Angeles Times essay.

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Hate: A Romance

Arriving on English-language shores after taking the French literary world by storm, this debut novel by a French writer born in 1981 sympathetically examines the  decade of his birth through the lens of interlocking love affairs among three men and one woman in the era when AIDS first made itself known.

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In Ghostly Japan

Lafcadio Hearn's folktale- like "kwaidan" (the Japanese word for ghost stories) aren't as well-known as they should be. You can rectify this lapse in your reading with this delightful volume.

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The Planet in a Pebble

The poet William Blake endeavored to "to see the world in a grain of sand," and his metaphoric effort finds precise and metric reality in Jan Zalasiewicz's inspired scientific biography of a pebble as it persists through the history of the universe, illuminating all processes and events in its path.

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Nashville Chrome

Award-winning novelist Rick Bass riffs on the real-life saga of the Brown siblings, two sisters and a brother who experienced a brief flare of country music hits in the early 1950s. Digging into their commonplace yet sensational lives, he creates a melange of fact and fiction that is a Louisiana Hayride of the mind.

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The Best American Comics 2010

Coraline's Daddy, comics guy Neil Gaiman, curates a year's best collection which focuses on indy and "alternative" titles, leaving the capes-and-cowls crowd in the dust. Familiar names such as Carol Tyler consort with newcomers like Fred Chao, whose Manhattan-centric protagonist Johnny Hiro could be the next Scott Pilgrim.

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The Confession

Back in 1993, a critic writing in The New York Times said this about John Grisham's The Client: "Once again, as he did in The Firm, Mr. Grisham enraptures us with a story that has hardly any point. What's most irritating is how deeply the plot hooks us." Well, as Donna Rifkind put it here in her review of Grisham's last novel, The Associate: "The point is that you keep turning the pages. That's it. And while Lord knows John Grisham will be just fine with or without critics, isn't it possible that critics need John Grisham, or at least an invigorated way of including him and his legions of readers in the great national conversation about books?" We welcome Mr. Grisham back, with a new batch of pages to turn.

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Best American Mystery Stories

A box of chocolates for any mystery aficionado, with a wide variety of flavors from whodunnit to thriller, this fourteenth installment of the annual series features such big names as Dennis Lehane and Phillip Margolin, as well as lesser-known writers consistently working at the top of their suspenseful games.

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The Museum of Innocence

Now in paperback, just in time for me to tell you that this generous novel, by the 2006 Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk, remains the most captivating fiction I've read in the past year. An exploration of time and desire told through the enduring devotion of a businessman to the object of his youthful infatuation, it is also a poignant love letter to the author's native Istanbul.

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The Insufferable Gaucho

If you've been meaning to read the Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, but have been daunted by the ambitions of his masterpieces The Savage Detectives and 2666, let me recommend this collection of seven playful prose pieces—stories, essays, and some writing falling in between—as a perfect invitation to his intriguing and marvelously idiosyncratic work.

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The Wave

Our planet's oceans are the original font of mysteries, one of which is the origin and lifespan of monster waves some one-hundred-feet high. Susan Casey's dual focus blends the science of such anomalies with a Tom Wolfean examination of the madmen who would surf these enormous mountains of water.

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Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

Turning his hand to one of the oldest forms of allegory, the beast fable, ultramodern humorist David Sedaris produces the anticipated blend of eternal humor and fashionable wryness as his animal cast reflects human foibles and virtues.

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When French Women Cook

A welcome reissue of a classic: in this marvelous book, Madeleine Kamman celebrates the women (from her great-grandmother Marie-Charlotte to Magaly Fabre, matriarch of a wine domain) from whom she received, and with whom she has shared, the blessing of her culinary vocation. Packed with recipes and affectionate recollections.

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Reading Between the Wines

Imbibers who've learned to look for the name Terry Theise on the back of German bottles as a mark of quality and value will be delighted to find it now on the cover of a memoir of his life in the wine trade.

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Blood-Dark Track

Now resissued in paperback, this fascinating family history by Joseph O'Neill, the author of the acclaimed novel, Netherworld, details his investigations into the World War II imprisonments of his grandfathers, one an Irishman active in the IRA, the other a Turkish hotelier suspected of being an Axis spy.

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Bandit Love

Massimo Carlotto's taut noir novel features an ex-con turned private eye who gets entangled in nasty doings while investigating a drug heist from the laboratories of the University of Padua.

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Why Mahler?

In his own lifetime, Gustav Mahler was a celebrated conductor whose massive symphonic works were tolerated with barely veiled embarrassment by the musical cognoscenti. Norman Lebrecht explains why they were wrong, and how Mahler's musical imagination has informed and changed our culture in the century since his death.

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Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

The Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has just been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. While his historical saga The War at the End of the World is generally acclaimed as his masterpiece, this extraordinarily entertaining comedy about a young man's heady love affair with his divorced aunt, which unfolds at a radio station under the influence of a soap opera's manic scriptwriter, is sheer delight. If you've never read this great author, start here.

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World and Town: A Novel

The author of Typical American and The Love Wife returns with a novel about a 50-year-old Chinese-American, Hattie Kong, who has lost both her husband and her closest friend to cancer. She moves to a small New England town and—as Gish Jen's rich prose and generosity of understanding describe Hattie and her varied neighbors—discovers a new world as absorbing and satisfying for her as it is for Jen's readers.

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The Book of Leaves

Just what its subtitle advertises: a leaf-by-leaf guide to six hundred of the world's great trees. From alder to ash, birch to beech, maple to oak, and scores more both familiar and exotic, Allen J. Coombes's illustrated guide helps us indentify and appreciate the character and variety of nature's leafy wonder.

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The Morning Star

Beautiful, haunting, and gripping, this posthumous novel by Andre Schwarz-Bart, author of The Last of the Just, one of the great novels of the 20th century, follows survivors of nuclear war, who, having escaped to the stars, return to Earth in the year 3000 to recover the past.

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Another Fine Mess

From the Marx Brothers to the Coen Brothers, Charlie Chaplin to Woody Allen, Mae West to Will Ferrell, Billy Wilder to Judd Apatow, film critic and historian Saul Austerlitz takes us on a smart, encyclopedic, and appreciative tour of American movie comedy.

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Mao's Great Famine

Mao's ambitious and ruthless Great Leap Forward, designed to vault China into the twentieth century, tramples tens of million of lives, as Frank Dikötter meticulously details in this gripping work.

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April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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