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Sunday, May 1 2011

88 Highly Debatable Statements About ‘Reality’ in ‘Reality Hunger’

When I review a book, I like to dog-ear pages that contain interesting passages or noteworthy statements. By the time I was done with Reality Hunger, my paperback was so puffed up by pages that were doubled in width from dog-earing that it looked like I'd dropped it into a hot bath filled with Calgon and then left it to dry on a radiator.


Tuesday, February 22 2011

The Librarians and Barbarians of Laura Bush’s Memoir

Laura Bush largely avoided the public slanderings that Nancy Reagan endured and that, to a lesser extent, Michelle Obama is now enduring, even though George W. Bush himself was perhaps the most excoriated President in recent American history. The reasons have something to do with Laura Bush's literary sensibility.


Sunday, December 12 2010

None Are So Blind As Those Who Will Not See: ‘The Mind’s Eye’ by Oliver Sacks

In this telling of his own encounter with blindness, the neurologist and author Oliver Sacks reminds us that there are few human failings worse than taking for granted life and its manifold hidden miracles.


Thursday, October 7 2010

‘A Cambodian Odyssey’: Haing Ngor Was Among the Most Consequential Actors of His Time

It isn't often that a brutal personal account of mass murder, slavery, torture and the obliteration of a sovereign nation causes a reader to meditate on the art of acting, but then, Haing Ngor's was no ordinary life.


Wednesday, July 14 2010

‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’: A Child of Israel and the Children of Palestine

Reading narratives of the seemingly intractable Arab-Israeli conflict is like trying to follow the plot of a novel that has had every other page ripped out. Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness has fewer missing pages than most.


Sunday, June 6 2010

Viewing the World at the Level of the Snail’s Lowly Trail

"... I have crawled most of the way through life. I have crawled downward into holes without a bottom, and upward, wedged into crevices where the wind and the birds scream at you until the sound of a falling pebble is enough to make the sick heart lurch."


Tuesday, May 11 2010

We Are Fueled by the Fat of Their Land

The "monstrous steel molochs" of industrialized civilization are fueled by petroleum and not literally by the "fat of the natives", though for the Achuar people, the subject of this classic narrative, that might be a distinction without a difference.


Sunday, April 4 2010

My Times in Black and White

Gerald Boyd's memoir illustrates that sometimes, those who preach the loudest about diversity and tolerance are in fact the least capable, when it comes down to it, of tolerating any diversity at all.


Wednesday, February 24 2010

A Common Pornography

As in any existence, there are themes that become fully apparent only in retrospect; in Sampsell’s case, as with most of us, these overwhelming but at first hard-to-discern influences are embodied in family.


Sunday, January 31 2010

The Lives of Others

There's a higher ratio of disposable schlock in the memoir than in other literary genres, but the best memoirs permit access to lives strange, twisted, wasted, brave, and glorious -- lives, in short, other than our own.


Wednesday, December 16 2009

The Inevitable Death of Julian Barnes and Everyone Else

According to Julian Barnes, the fear of death is "the most rational thing in the world." But denying the certainty of death also can be a rational act, at least until that time when it is not.


Sunday, November 15 2009

A Cat’s Triumph and the Midlife Crisis of a Dog

The popularity of the “pet memoir” can be traced to a lot of factors, ranging from honest sentiment to rank anthropomorphism. But our pets, and our books about them, reflect spirit of our age, as well.


Thursday, October 15 2009

Looking for the Lost: Memoirs of a Vanishing Japan

With its narrow streets and dark and hidden infoldings, there’s a distinctly feminine, mysterious, and inexplicably magnetic aspect to Japan that exists in few other places in the world.


Thursday, September 10 2009

She and I: A Fugue

Slapping the word 'Fiction' on the cover of a book is not a "get out of jail free" card or, more accurately, a license to kill – just because memoirs have to be true, it doesn’t follow that novels should be allowed to be false.


Sunday, August 16 2009

Is Alyse Myers’ Life More Important Than Yours?

Ding dong! Ding dong! Another dysfunctional-family memoir bearing a terrible secret is at the door!


Monday, June 22 2009

Augusten Burroughs: The View Through a Saltine Cracker

As a memoirist, Burroughs is highly skilled at the art of aestheticized self-pity.


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