Displaying articles for: September 2011

Life Itself

The first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, Roger Ebert has been reviewing movies since 1967, and his writings on cinema have been collected in volumes that range from The Great Movies to Your Movie Sucks. Here he chronicles his own life and career -- from an idyllic childhood in Urbana, Illinois, to his ascendancy at the Chicago Sun-Times -- tracing the evolution of journalism and film over the last four decades (and providing an unflinching account of his recent ordeal with thyroid cancer). A public life described in a profoundly -- and profound -- personal testament.

Read more...

An Emergency in Slow Motion

You know Diane Arbus's work: Her arresting, often disturbing, black-and-white photographs examine people on the periphery of the "ordinary" world, hinting at dark inner lives and finding the freakish in the normal and the normal in the freakish. This illuminating "psychobiography" by William Todd Schultz puts the focus on Arbus's own life, exploring the idea that her photographs said as much about the enigmatic woman behind the lens (a suicide at age 48) as the subjects in front of it.

Read more...

Pirate King

Sherlock Holmes in Hollywood? Not quite. But the legendary sleuth does fall into a baffling case involving the British silent film industry, on location in Portugal, in this eleventh installment of the delightful series, which finds Holmes married to the stalwart Mary Russell. Laurie R. King once again proves a blessing to those of us who long to follow the Great Detective beyond Baker Street.

Read more...

Bogeywoman

Reissued now in paperback after her prizewinning novel Lord of Misrule brought the author well-deserved notice, this 1999 novel by Jaimy Gordon is the solemnly hilarious, off-kilter tale of Ursula Koderer, lover of "girlgoyles" and rebellious sanitarium patient. Ursula's distinctive voice draws readers in to wonderfully wild three-ring circus of psychiatry and lust.

Read more...

Nairobi Heat

Mukoma Wa Ngugi's sizzling thriller follows detective Ishmael Fofona from his usual beat in Madison, Wisconsin -- where a white woman's body has turned up on the doorstep of an African peace activist -- to Kenya, where he searches for answers and finds that the terror of past genocides casts a long shadow. Fofona's quest for the truth turns into an action-packed cross-cultural ride, crackling with detail garnered from the author's experience reporting on the African communities in which this story is set.

Read more...

The New Kids

Forty-five different home countries, twenty-eight spoken languages, countless challenges, and a widespread commitment to overcoming them. That's what Brooke Hauser found when she spent a fascinating -- and instructive -- year chronicling the lives of the diverse students and dedicated educators at the International High School in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood where the immigrant dream struggles to come true.

Read more...

Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman

She's been a celluloid sex symbol and a serial trophy wife, a protester and a pariah, a feminist and a fitness guru, a daughter and a mother: Jane Fonda has arguably slipped into more roles off-screen than on. Patricia Bosworth examines Fonda's many incarnations in this colorful, clear-eyed biographical page-turner, and brings us closer to the core of this shape-shifting actress than we've ever gotten before.

Read more...

The Language of Flowers

A young woman raised in the foster care system makes her first shaky foray into adulthood and struggles to learn the language of the heart. Standing out among the season’s new offerings, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel is a gorgeously written, absolutely absorbing, and deeply affecting story -- as enticing (and thorny) as a freshly plucked bouquet.

Read more...

Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works

Whether you think health care reform is the best thing since Superman's cape or America's kryptonite, chances are you could stand to understand it better. MIT economist and health care policy expert Jonathan Gruber to the rescue! Gruber, whose work in Massachusetts paved the way for 2009's sweeping national health care overhaul, breaks it all down (Pow! Bam!) for even the most easily confused among us, teaming up with illustrator Nathan Schreiber to bring us a lively, opinionated explanation in the form of, yes, a comic book.

Read more...

Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories

Combining Jim Thompson-level darkness with Richard Ford-style insights into character and place, Frank Bill delivers a set of stories that dive into an economically depressed Midwest-via-Dante, chronicling a desperate realm of drug deals, murders, and familial bitterness. These are the rural noir tales behind the missing headlines the mainstream media won't print.

Read more...

Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce's unfortunate absence from the canon defined by the Library of America series is hereby remedied. The famed cynic and speculatively brilliant writer -- see "The Damned Thing" as an example -- displays all his glorious wit and outsider's perspective, fostered by the tender editing of scholar S. T. Joshi. Perhaps Bierce will now emerge from his fabled and unexplained vanishing to undertake a signing tour with extensive media coverage.

Read more...

The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress

At the time of her death in 2010, beloved author Beryl Bainbridge was working on this rollicking tale of a young Englishwoman who, in 1968, joins a man on a cross-country road trip through a turbulent America. Bainbridge's long-time friend and editor, Brendan King, picked up where the author left off, based on her manuscript and notes. This farewell offers us just what readers of novels like The Bottle Factory Outing have longed for: Bainbridge's sparkling wit, nuanced characters, and an engrossing story.

Read more...

Caravaggio

Certain classical-era painters speak to our current moment more forcefully than others. Sporting a transgressive biography -- in which sex and violence loom large -- to match a virtuosic, naturalistic style, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is one such epoch-leaping renegade. The four-hundredth anniversary last year of his mysterious death brings out fresh ruminations from Andrew Graham-Dixon, who casts his scholarly eye on the artist's headlong life and work.

Read more...

An Accident in August

The unsettling ambiance that still surrounds the death of Princess Diana is distilled down into the person of one imagined spectator in this tenth novel from French author Laurence Cossé, who posits the existence of an enigmatic female witness to the infamous crash. How one woman's life is upended by this chance happening forms the basis of this suspenseful and surprising page-turner that evokes the works of David Cronenberg and J. G. Ballard.

Read more...

This Beautiful Life

Ripped from current headlines, yet artfully enhanced, Helen Schulman's novel about the dire outcome of an adolescent sexting incident transcends mere journalism to become a Dreiserian examination of privilege, parenting, scandal, and cyberculture. One boy's mistakes reverberate throughout his family, community, and the interconnected global culture.

Read more...

White Heat

Set on Canada's remote Ellesmere Island, this novel of suspense and intrigue follows Edie Kiglatuk, an Arctic guide by trade, half Inuit/half white by birth, who is forced to deal with several murders that conceal a plot to despoil the land she so loves. M. J. McGrath's portrait of Inuit society is rivaled only by Edie's thrilling adventures and the lush depiction of a starkly beautiful terrain.

Read more...

Blueprints for Building Better Girls

Don't be fooled by the playful title, there's a master architect at work here. Following up her searing debut, Use Me, with another sharp, smart collection of interconnected short tales, Elissa Schappell digs deep into the lives -- the concerns, conflicts, and complexities -- of women at various ages and stages. Honest, unflinching, and deeply affecting.

Read more...

The Great A&P

Anyone over a certain age automatically feels nostalgia at the sight of the fabled logo for A&P supermarkets. But behind the patina of yesteryear simplicity is a complex story of the one-time largest retailer in the world, forerunner of all the big-box enterprises that dominate commerce today. Marc Levinson tells the saga of A&P's birth, rise, dominance, and decline under the assault of many small legal woes.

Read more...

The Lantern

Reading like a blend of Daphne du Maurier, Umberto Eco, and Peter Mayle, this overstuffed gothic romp prompts hasty page-turning to discover whether lovers Dom and Eve will make a go of their relationship, and whether they will ever solve the many spooky mysteries of the house in southern France known as The Junipers, where ghosts roam and errant shadows cluster.

Read more...

The Sugar Barons

The history of the world can be traced through its most valuable commodities, one of which, for a time, was simple cane sugar. "White gold" funded the rise and fall of empires, shaping our modern geopolitical landscape and establishing the economic promise of the New World. The not-so-sweet nexus of all this greed and chicanery was the Caribbean, its history of slaves and masters, fortunes and failures portrayed brilliantly here by scholar and former West Indies citizen Matthew Parker.

Read more...

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

This latest installment in the exploits of Alan Moore's band of immortal protagonists from literature -- Haggard's Allan Quatermain, Stoker's Mina Harker, Woolf's Orlando, among others -- finds the crew far from the Victorian era of their birth and stranded in Swinging London circa 1969, at the mercy of a wicked, dying sorcerer looking to leap into a young body.  The vivid, Day-glo counterculture captured in Kevin O'Neill's brilliant art proves as deadly as any black magic in the Altamont-style climax.

Read more...

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement