Books

Book Review: The Survival of the Fittest Yarnspinner

July 12, 2012
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Reading “The Storytelling Animal” is akin to listening to a series of terrific humanities lectures given by a polymath professor with a P.T. Barnum streak.

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Poetry Review: The Lyrical Restraint of Mel Kenne’s “Take”

July 11, 2012
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Poet Mel Kenne, like a desert ascetic, has pared away everything that is not essential -— no words have been wasted in the making of this collection.

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Book Review: “The Lair” — The Intoxicating Trauma of Exile

July 6, 2012
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Norman Manea’s compelling novel “The Lair” tracks the ambiguities, contradictions, and confusions of the exile’s psyche as he struggles to find footing in surroundings that are often unintelligible. It is a highly cerebral, labyrinthine book, filled with mystery, paranoia, and illegible codes.

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Short Fuse Commentary: The Skillful Supernaturalism of Glen Duncan

July 4, 2012
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Here you have it: Werewolves are horny, vamps merely thirsty. This, to be sure, is material to work with, as novelist Glen Duncan does. But I can’t help thinking about great nineteenth-century novels of involuntary transformation.

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Cultural Commentary: The Rise of Book Product — Fifty Shades of Blech

June 30, 2012
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Book product, much like food product, is manufactured –- from its very inception, designed to make money by shameless pandering to mainstream taste.

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Book Review: Robert Walser’s Big Small Thoughts — Modest But Miraculous

June 29, 2012
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In his prose and poetry, Swiss writer Robert Walser revolts from the chaos of modernity, engaging in extreme subjectivity only to confess to the heresy that is the self, choosing to revel in the simplicity of the rural life. Not for truth, but for the sake of a fleeting rapture.

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Fiction Review: “Sarah Thornhill” — A Lyrical Song in the Australian Outback

June 27, 2012
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You are hardly aware of the historical facts. Kate Grenville internalizes them so completely in her novel there is not a sentence that “stinks of history,” as a friend of mine once said about whole historical fiction genre.

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Short Fuse Film Commentary: Hello “Prometheus” — Cthulhu Calling

June 24, 2012
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There have been over twenty movie adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft stories, all nearly forgotten. And yet Lovecraft’s sensibility serves as a guide to much of today’s cinema.

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Book Review: “Second Person Singular”—A Powerful Look at Israel’s Tangled Issues of Identity

June 17, 2012
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In his novel, Sayed Kashua paints such a vivid picture of modern Jerusalem that I found myself longing to see that city again; he also portrays a whole spectrum of Arab life in Israel — from the poor families visited by the social workers to the ambitious Arab mothers and their sometimes feckless sons — with empathy and humor.

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Poetry Review: Expanding the Power of Verse — The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry

June 15, 2012
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One feels when reading this anthology of Latin American poetry that editor Ilan Stavans tucks each poet he features into a folder, but that this categorization, while limiting, also encourages an English-speaking readership to appreciate the eye-opening diversity of Latin American poetry.

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