Displaying articles for: December 2010

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This new collection of poems by 1996 Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska illuminates private memory and the wider world with the piercing, reflective light of her seemingly casual glance. She can ponder the cosmos, then add a side of fries, with an ease and artistry that evokes the meaning human beings eternally chase.

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

This is the first book in a planned ten-volume series of Jacques Tardi's irresistible graphic novels depicting the adventures of a female Victorian occult detective—think Hellboy meets the Mummy films, with a dash of Gallic insouciance.

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The Thin Man

Dashiell Hammett's 1934 delightful detective confection was left under the tree for somebody else, but how could I resist taking another tour of my favorite of all mystery stories? The couple at its cocktail-laced center, Nick and Nora Charles, may just be the most charming married pair you'll ever come across in a novel, and Hammett's original book (his last) is even more winning than the entertaining William Powell-Myrna Loy movie.

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Catherine of Aragon

The first of Henry VIII’s six wives came to England betrothed, in a carefully wrought political alliance, to the unlucky prince Arthur, who died shortly thereafter.  She would eventually ascend the throne as Henry's queen in a tumultuous era.  Even readers familiar with the divorce that shook England's religious foundations may not know much of Catherine's eventful reign -- which included a battlefield victory while Henry was abroad.  Giles Tremlett is alive to the interplay of  Spanish and English history that makes Catherine's life an engrossing tale.

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Do Sparrows Like Bach?

The editors of the New Scientist magazine offer a sampling of the latest in stranger-than-fiction scientific research. Scientists who trip their subjects, academic debates over the temperature of the afterlife, and researchers who don moose suits.  Informative -- and addictive -- browsing for the intellectually curious.

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Moominland Midwinter

Tove Jannson's Moomintroll books are among the most unique and charm-laden works of literature ever created for young people, and the adventures of the Moomins and their friends unfold with wry humor and unexpected turns that make reading them aloud a cozy pleasure.  In Moominland Midwinter, young Moomintroll awakens from his family's customary hibernation to find a perplexing -- but exciting -- world of snowy activity all around him.  Ages 9+

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One Hundred Portraits

Barry Moser's wood engravings are eloquent commentaries on the characters of the writers, musicians, artists, and other notables who have been his subjects across the past few decades. His portraits—100 of which are collected and beautifully reproduced here—are telling visions of complexity and attention. From John Keats to e. e. cummings, Charles Dickens to Joyce Carol Oates, Moser's faces speak volumes.

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The Poet Laureate Anthology

"It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there," wrote William Carlos Williams. This rich anthology, the first to collect representative works from all of America’s poet laureates, is filled with poetic news from Robert Frost to Rita Dove to Billy Collins to Kay Ryan, which make it life-affirming in a profound way.

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The True Memoirs of Little K

A century-old former prima ballerina of the Russian Imperial Ballet narrates her life story—in particular her intense and doomed love affair with the equally doomed heir of the Romanovs. Adrienne Sharp's prior novels have taken readers into the fascinating world of ballet, and her latest unfolds with the grace and power of that delicate, muscular art.

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Punch

What could be more appropriate for the season of convivial gatherings than this illuminating, amusing, and recipe-filled history of "the flowing bowl"? David Wondrich, whose celebration of legendary barkeep Jerry Thomas (Imbibe!) earned him a James Beard award, here serves up an intoxicating brew for readers and for their guests.

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Fabergé's Animals

Crowned heads through history have given artists some strange commissions, but when Edward VII in 1907 had Carl Fabergé create tiny bejeweled replicas of the animals the king and Queen Alexandra kept on their Norfolk estate, the result had its own majesty. This volume brilliantly matches photographs of these delicate miniatures (a terrier in agate and rose diamonds; a pig of aventurine quartz; a cow with ruby eyes) with the stories of their real-life counterparts.

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Shakespeare's Freedom

Stephen Greenblatt, the peerless critic and biographer of Shakespeare, is at his most incisive in this slender collection of essays. Discussing beauty, power, hatred, and—most crucially —the artist's own special freedom, Greenblatt takes us on a journey that sheds new light on the world of Cymbeline, The Merchant of Venice, and The Tempest.

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In a Strange Room

A young man—who happens to share his first name with author Damon Galgut—journeys across three continents in an enigmatic quest for communion with others.  This tense, philosophical page-turner builds in power as seemingly random encounters in Africa, Greece, and India culminate in a tragic climax. A 2010 Man Booker finalist.

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The Hammersteins

The youngest Oscar Hammerstein—grandson of peerless lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame), who was in turn grandson of Oscar Hammerstein I, the legendary  impresario who brought both American musical theater and opera to maturity as the 19th century grew into the 20th—here celebrates his family's storied legacy in a lavishly illustrated volume.

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The Memory Chalet

His body failing due to the ravages of a degenerative motor neuron disease, his prodigious mind still intact, Tony Judt, in the months before his death on August 6, revisited his past to furnish a memory palace whose rooms are among the most bracing and resonant imaginative chambers I've entered this year. This posthumous volume is a remarkable legacy.

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Music

In this large-format, striking volume, Andrew Zuckerman combines words and pictures to evoke the power of music. With stunning photographic portraits and telling interviews with 50 musicians—including Fiona Apple, David Crosby, Philip Glass, Herbie Hancock, Ozzie Osbourne, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop, and Itzhak Perlman—Zuckerman examines the meanings and mysteries of creating, performing, and listening.

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The Best Technology Writing 2010

Noted techno-savant Julian Dibbell assembles potent, persuasive, and sometimes peculiar pieces from a wide range of contributors who explore, ponder, and illuminate the way our lives intersect the cybersphere and gadgetzone.

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Best European Fiction 2011

Editor Aleksandar Hemon's selection for this year's edition of one of the most rewarding anthologies around includes writers as well-known as Hilary Mantel, author of the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, and as unfamiliarly dazzling as Lucian Dan Teodorovici (Romania), Anita Konkka (Finland), and Olga Tokarczuk (Poland). With contributions from 37 countries, and a preface by Colum McCann.

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Chocolate Wars

This engaging history of the 150-year rivalry among the world's greatest chocolate makers—the English firms Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury (to which the author, Deborah Cadbury, is an heiress), their European competitors Lindt and Nestlé, and the American upstarts Hershey and Mars—is delightful, especially for its fascinating portrait of the 19th-century success of Quaker capitalism, built quite remuneratively on the ideal that wealth creation entails repsonsibilities beyond personal gain.

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Heliopolis

A fast-moving novel that portrays the economic inequality of contemporary São Paolo with narrative verve and human sympathy. Moving from the city's slums to its penthouses and back again, James Scudamore engages moral themes without ever separating them from beating hearts. One reviewer called this book Dickensian, and it delivers on nearly all the great expectations the comparison inspires.

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July 29: On this day in 1878 Don Marquis was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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