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Wednesday, March 23 2011

‘Reading Jackie’: When Literary Choices Become Biography

Despite her love of books, Jackie Kennedy Onassis spent a lifetime trying to prevent people from writing about her, sometimes with the accompanying threat of legal action. Her entire life was led with one arm thrust outward, eyes cast downward, keeping the world at bay.


Thursday, February 3 2011

Lynd Ward and Walt Disney: Illustrators of America’s Tumultuous History

Much as Walt Disney would do with his famed television programs of the '50s and '60s, Lynd Ward used his talents with watercolor, oil, brush and ink, mezzotint, and lithography to illustrate hundreds of inspiring historical biographies of true-life American heroes for children to admire and emulate.


Thursday, June 10 2010

The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney: A ‘Suspicious’ Literary Biography

Marion Meade's new book begs the question: Are literary biographies necessary? Somewhere in the afterlife, Nathanael West is having a good chuckle.


Thursday, February 4 2010

Orson Welles: A Man of a Certain Ego

“The chief proof of a man’s real greatness lies in his perception of his own smallness. It argues... a power of comparison and of appreciation which is in itself proof of nobility.”


Thursday, December 17 2009

The Big Nowhere: Rudy Wurlitzer’s Rediscovered Trilogy and Bob Dylan Revisited

The myths of unspoiled frontiers and the freedom of the open road, lives played out on the margins of society, attachment and detachment, wrestling matches with the ghosts of Samuel Beckett and Louis L’Amour…


Wednesday, November 18 2009

Strange Muse: Jack London and Ernest Gallo

One bad novel, gallons of cheap red wine, and spring-fed creeks of sweat.


Thursday, October 22 2009

The Name of This Land is Hell: Mexico in Literature

When the author of a sitcom-styled novel about Mexican heritage cannot resist mentioning the modern-day carnage, then it's fair to assume that the murders have become a significant part of the national identity.


Thursday, September 24 2009

Hal Ashby: Hollywood Rebel

Films and books strive toward a common goal: telling a story. And very few modern filmmakers are as good at spinning a yarn as the late Hal Ashby was.


Thursday, August 27 2009

Rabid and Rascally Creatures: Richard Brookhiser’s “Happy Darkies”

Familial or political, conservatives in America actually have no moral boundaries whatsoever.


Thursday, July 30 2009

Rudy Wurlitzer, Bob Dylan, Bloody Sam, and the Jornado del Muerto

Dylan’s beautifully simple ballad captures the paradoxical fear of and longing for death that is the hallmark of Wurlitzer’s narratives and what lurks at the heart of the human experience.


Tuesday, June 16 2009

Out of Tune and ‘Amplified’

As George Orwell said, “Nearly every book is capable of arousing passionate feeling, even if it is only a passionate dislike.”


Thursday, May 28 2009

Depression 2.0: Sunday in Kerouac Alley

Scott Thorson rang, flat broke and disabled, in chronic, horrendous pain from a botched murder attempt and an even more botched plastic surgery, hoping that I would serve as his conduit for another lucrative laundry airing.


Thursday, April 23 2009

Sherlock Holmes and the Shanghai Gesture

“We have become archetypes,” laments Holmes to Watson, “we were created and published before the year 1923, which places us and many of our adventures into the realm of public domain.”


Thursday, March 19 2009

Little Murders: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

This is not Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation but, rather, Hunter S. Thompson’s Generation of Swine, the urban home front during the waning days of World War II, gritty and unvarnished, and chillingly reflective of modern sociology.


Wednesday, February 25 2009

Blind Man with a Pistol: Ishmael Reed’s Misguided Pow-Wow

Anyone who has witnessed affirmative action policies in play can tell you that bad apples are chosen to fulfill a quota, not unlike a cop who harasses every citizen who bears a vague resemblance to a wanted suspect.


Thursday, February 5 2009

Conversing with Rudy Wurlitzer: ‘A Beaten-up Old Scribbler’

My conversations with Rudy Wurlitzer were not unlike a road journey itself with plenty of unplanned side trips along the way.


Thursday, December 18 2008

The Vast Immensity of it All: Fear and Loathing on Sunset Boulevard

Faces of Sunset Boulevard is, without a doubt, one of the strongest statements about man’s dark fate in the West ever committed to paper in the author and photographer’s chosen form.


Thursday, November 13 2008

The Hardest Work Imaginable: Bukowski’s Wine-Stained Notebook

Fear, one must understand, is the lubricant that keeps the wheels of human progress greased. Charles Bukowski understood this concept all too well.


Monday, September 29 2008

Reinventing the Southern California Novel: Marisa Silver’s The God of War

Silver took the vital ingredients of a regional novel and composed an L.A. tale, but set many miles east -- at the edge of the desolate Salton Sea -- a wasteland that would have held tremendous appeal to T.S. Eliot.


Thursday, August 14 2008

The Panting Maniac: Chasing Lolita on a Grim 50-Year Anniversary

What the author finds on the bottom end of American pop culture in 1958 is an environment ripe and primed, no matter how subconsciously or keep-it-in-the-family quiet, for the sexual exploitation of youth.


Sunday, July 20 2008

Samuel Fuller, “The Poet of Potboilers”

Fuller was a playful but hard-bitten cynic who imposed his sometimes weary, whistling-past-the-graveyard worldview on all those people sitting in the dark.


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