Displaying articles for: March 2011

Blood, Bones & Butter

Gabrielle Hamilton, chef-owner at the celebrated Manhattan restaurant Prune, has written a memoir which eloquently withstands the heat of the many kitchens she has found herself unable to get out of. It is also filled with the flavors of her intimate memories of childhood, family, and travels in France, Greece, and, especially, Italy, making it a satisfying meal for readers of literary as well as culinary interests.

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Galore

Storytelling is one of humanity's great luxuries, and you're likely to find no contemporary novel in which the storytelling is more luxurious than Michael Crummey's mythic novel of real and supernatural doings in a 19th-century Newfoundland fishing village. The award-winning fiction's characters and narrative ingenuity evoke Bible tales, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and—well, all the best rewards of being lost in a book.

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The School of Night

Readers like me who've become quietly addicted to Louis Bayard's historical novels of suspense—the first, Mr. Timothy, imagined Dickens's Tiny Tim as a Victorian-era sleuth; the second, The Pale Blue Eye, detailed the adventures of Edgar Allan Poe as a West Point cadet—will welcome this new one, about a disgraced scholar in modern-day Washington, D.C., who follows the trail of a missing letter into the secretive world of Elizabethan intrigue, with perilous results.

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Monsters of the Gévaudan

In 1764, as the Enlightenment dawned over Paris, a series of terrible killings in central France gave birth to a mystery that has endured for centuries.  Jay M. Smith's penetrating work of history revists a cultural turning point in which stories of werewolves competed for attention with groundbreaking works of science.

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The Information

From birth announcements carried by drum in 19th-century Africa to the invention of the idea of the "bit" by a Bell Labs researcher, James Gleick -- the author of cerebral yet addictive works such as Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and Chaos: Making a New Science -- charts the ocean of data we are now struggling to navigate.

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I Was a Dancer

The autobiography of Jacques d'Amboise—who was born Joseph Ahearn in Dedham, MA, grew up on the tough streets of Washington Heights in NYC, and found his métier in the dance, under the tutelage and inspiration of George Balanchine—is, like the man himself, down-to-earth and transporting at the same time.

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From the Land of the Moon

In 1940s Sardinia, a single woman approaching 30 was a liability. In Milena Agus's book this is one of the many things the narrator learns about her grandmother—a captivating, enigmatic, largely forgotten family figure that this captivating and graceful debut novel brings to vivid, and haunting, life. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

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All the Time in the World: New and Selected Stories

Ragtime, World's Fair, The Book of Daniel—E. L. Doctorow's novels animate American history with a creative power that places readers in the mysterious currents of character and culture that shape it. His marvelous and unduly neglected shorter fiction exhibits more concentrated journeys into the same imaginative landscape, as this volume of new and collected stories reveals.

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Conversations with Scorsese

In a series of in-depth interviews conducted over several years, film critic Richard Schickel directs the director of Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and many other stunning cinematic creations in a performanceilluminated by Scorsese's insight, intelligence, and preternatural alertness.

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The Universe in Minature in Miniature

A brilliant techno-gimmick--"The Machine of Understanding Other People"--allows the hero of this novel to dip into the minds of a random assortment of unique souls, taking us along for a voyeur's fun, as we inhabit the consciousnesses of beings ranging from a typical adolescent to some visiting ETs.

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Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life

The career of the great Russian poet Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) was marked by personal courage and literary achievement in the shadow of ominous authority and  sociopolitical turmoil. Biographer Loseff, an intimate of the Nobel Laureate, illuminates his extroardinary life and times.

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Pictures of You

You'd think you'd know where a novel that begins with a fatal highway collision is headed, but, in the case of Caroline Leavitt's hypnotic novel about how the inscrutibilty of fate is humanized by love and forgiveness, you'd be wrong—and glad to be proven so.

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She-Wolves

"She-wolf" is what Shakespeare called Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482), who wielded power over England in the vacum created by the infirmities of her husband, Henry VI. In this superb royal history, Helen Castor chronicles the life of Margaret and other formidable queens who paved the way for the rule of Elizabeth I.

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The Last Brother

A compelling, poignant novel set on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius toward the end of World War II, when two boys—a nine-year-old native and a Jewish refugee—discover the powers of both friendship and fate. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

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The Immaterial

French social philosopher Gorz, idealogue of innovative leftist thought, pins our current economic woes solely on our misunderstanding of the radical transformations engendered by "the knowledge economy." Proposing an overhaul of copyright and patent law to encourage creative cooperation, Gorz proves himself a utopian to the end—and a lyrical, inspiring one.

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The Philosophical Breakfast Club

If, like me, you loved Jenny Uglow's The Lunar Men or Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonder, prepare yourself for the pleasure of further intellectual pursuit in this lively group biography of four men—Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones—who met at Cambridge University and spurred each other on to pioneering achievements in crystallography, mathematics, computing, astronomy, and economics.

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Three Stages of Amazement

Set in San Francisco, this rich book by Carol Edgarian evokes all the promise inveterate readers invest in the word "novel." Portraying the "post-blush" of love in a marriage weathered by financial crisis, grief, and the humblings of middle age, Edgarian animates real characters and identifiable lives with uncommon generosity.

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The Complaints

Although he retired Inspector Rebus, one of the most captivating figures in crime fiction, in 2007's Exit Music, Ian Rankin has been unable to keep himself off the mean streets of Edinburgh. Here, in his second novel featuring Malcolm Fox, a cop who investigates other cops, he holds readers riveted with his usual combination of mystery and moral query.

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Paris Was Ours

32 writers—including novelists Diane Johnson and Edmund White, biographers Stacy Schiff and Judith Thurman, and humorist Joe Queenan—contribute their private perspectives to this charming celebration of the City of Light and its special way of illuminating lives.

 

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Scenes from an Impending Marriage

A wedding favor that turned into a comic book on what, after all, is the perfect subject for the form: the intricate, intimate, and often absurd process of getting married. 

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The Truth About Grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's theory of the five stages of grief may be among the most powerful received ideas of our era. But in this well-researched, illuminating book, Ruth Davis Konigsberg uses both science and sympathy to argue against the five stages and toward a more rounded understanding of this fundamental human emotion.

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Among Others

Jo Walton's tale of a 15-year-old Welsh girl whose imagination is animated by fairies, haunted by her dead twin, and nourished by her prodigious reading of fantasy and science fiction novels is the most surprising, compelling, and life-enhancing novel I've read in five years. Even though I am unfamiliar with the science fiction canon the young narrator traverses in these pages, I've found her voice bewitching, her passionate affirmation of reading entrancing, and her character wholly unforgettable.

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Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric

A catalogue of rhetorical devices—with abundant examples of each figure of speech culled from oratory and literature—Ward  Farnsworth's sparkling compendium is a handbook of eloquence that will delight readers of a certain ilk (you know who you are). Anaphora, epistrophe, isocolon, chiasmus, asyndeton, praeteritio, litotes, and other ghosts of linguistic glory are explained and resurrected in the words of writers like Edmund Burke and Winston Churchill, Herman Melville and Charles Dickens, Chesterton and Conan Doyle. Priceless.

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Open City

His previous book, Every Day is for the Thief, told the story of an expatriated Nigerian returning uncomfortably to Lagos. This time around, Teju Cole follows a German-Nigerian protagonist on long walks through Manhattan. The reader follows the trail of the walker's (and the writer's) wandering intelligence—which evokes the sentences of Naipaul and Sebald but adds its own clauses of alertness and sensitivity—with increasingly enriched attention.

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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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