Friday, February 28 2014
Uncharted puts the "big data" of Google Books through the lens of a tool called Ngram, but the meaning of the results, and even their validity, turn a great read into a cautionary tale.
Tuesday, February 11 2014
Like his protagonists, Thomas Pynchon appears to remind us, in his absence from advising us, that we must rely on our own smarts, arrayed against mystery and cynicism and corruption.
Tuesday, February 4 2014
We all search for escape, and while music, drugs, radicalism, or fame may ease the monotony, the protagonists of so many of these tales find themselves at the end of their narratives still constrained.
Friday, January 17 2014
The year 2013 saw a rash of big new books published, from the likes of Stephen King, Malcolm Gladwell, and David Sedaris; none of whom made this list.
Wednesday, January 15 2014
Art, politics, poetry, food, and global fiction: 2013 year brought in a variety of engaging titles from many genres. Still, non-fiction tops my 2013 favorites.
Monday, January 13 2014
Five books published in 2013 that stayed with me, that I found myself urging on others, that I now say to you, Hey! Read this!
Monday, November 25 2013
Here as in all his works, William T. Vollman sides with the poor and the marginalized, but he tries to remain fair to all he meets, even as he confesses his prejudice, or tolerance.
Friday, November 22 2013
Both Elements of a Life and A Life Worth Living offer concise, eloquent, and learned treatments of the life and work of Albert Camus.
Friday, November 15 2013
Depending on whom you listen to, God, or the devil, is in the details, and that's exactly where John Updike's talent lies, too.
Tuesday, October 15 2013
Robert Slifkin's book on Philip Guston is an incantatory debut work that shows us a compelling new side of the artist's famous Marlborough paintings.
Thursday, September 26 2013
Available again in ebook form, the crime classic Stephen King called "one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century", The End of Night, is ready for rediscovery by a new generation of readers.
Monday, August 12 2013
"I am not by nature cut out for this life, as it's defined in these parts by the chamber of commerce and our bishop, who is devoted to Christian family living, as everyone knows." This deadpan tone suits J.F. Powers and his conflicted, capitalist, Midwestern, mid-century priests well.
Sunday, August 4 2013
Marty Beckerman talks about his hilarious new novella, '90s Island, the "infantilizing" nature of nostalgia, and why the truly cool people never got frosted tips.
Monday, July 8 2013
New York Times best-selling author Caroline Leavitt discusses her new novel about a family who must brave the hostile status quo of '50s American suburban life while being as different from their neighbors as possible.
Monday, June 24 2013
Best-selling author and transgender activist Jennifer Finney Boylan discusses her new memoir in a conversation that explores the transformative power of storytelling, the redefinition of family values, and the radical potential of love.
Monday, May 20 2013
New York University art historian Alexander Nagel talks with PopMatters about how art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is tied to modern and contemporary art in more ways than we might think.
Monday, April 29 2013
Renowned cultural critic and historian Richard Slotkin discusses his new book, The Long Road to Antietam, and shares his thoughts on the future of American Studies. He indulges us with his favorite movies, too.
Sunday, April 28 2013
Grove was the hippest and most important publisher of books that broke sexual taboos, plotted revolution, and kept millions of young intellectuals across the US in touch with the avant-garde and revolutionary politics throughout the world.
Monday, April 22 2013
Norman Ball’s How Can We Make Your Power More Comfortable? and The Frantic Force are stalked, ever so subtly, by the fraught subtext of a father and daughter’s haltingly convergent kinship. Surely this is a writer Dad and I could break conciliatory bread over.
Sunday, April 14 2013
The success of Hugh Howey’s self-published Wool series points to a complete upending of publishing paradigms. Much like Amanda Palmer in music, Howey has created a whole new model of how authors relate to readers.
Wednesday, April 10 2013
This meticulous work of research and analysis attempts something beyond the scope of power-to-the-people flashbacks of Afros, dashikis and raised fists: it takes the Black Panther Party seriously as a political entity taking dead aim on American laws and values.
Sunday, March 24 2013
Betsy Prioleau's Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them provides an enjoyable and eminently readable portrait of consistent and effective themes in seduction throughout human history.
Monday, March 4 2013
Forget Bates the valet and his perfect Windsor knots. Agent Gates wields a gun, kicks ass, and otherwise protects Devonton Abbey from unsavory spies.
Tuesday, February 19 2013
Lawrence Wright’s devastating, impeccably researched history of Scientology’s “Prison of Belief” vividly illustrates the ability of this “Church” to successfully prey upon nearly every dark strain in the modern American psyche, from celebrity-worship to ego-mania and the lust for power and money.
Thursday, January 3 2013
Back when Martha (Reeves) and the Vandellas and the Marvelettes would have one big hit and then nothing much for months, and the Supremes didn’t have a hit among their first nine releases, Mary Wells was Motown’s reigning pop star, queen and cash cow.
Wednesday, December 5 2012
James Wood's new collection of essays and reviews, The Fun Stuff, at once subverts the critic's elitist persona and fortifies it.
Thursday, November 15 2012
Because history can be seen to be a malleable artifact, it’s a useful tool to employ when writing fiction. Because history is often chaotic, fiction can be the best way to approach it.
Tuesday, November 13 2012
The world around us is the world of the book, says Vanessa Veselka. In Zazen, there's a highly fetishized identity politics world that someone is getting lost in.
Tuesday, November 6 2012
Claire Vaye Watkins' first short story collection, Battleborn is winning well-deserved rave reviews. Here, she discusses monkeys in chinaberry trees, Yo La Tengo, and what it's like to be a putter-inner.
Sunday, November 4 2012
Michael Chabon writes with empathy, with earnest reflection and self-consciousness, pervaded by sepia-daubed nostalgia.
Wednesday, October 10 2012
Salon editor Joan Walsh’s half-brilliant and half-confused memoir / manifesto posits that many white Americans have historically taken out their frustration over declining opportunities on minorities … and Democrats.
Tuesday, June 19 2012
Jack Kerouac’s greatest achievement is the creation of the most compassionate of 20th century literatures; not just the adolescent fraternalisms or calls for equality, but the glee of rushing down the mountain with the good news, or as the good news, curious about humanity, forgiving, ready to report well and true.
Thursday, May 17 2012
Britain’s pop culture knight, Christopher Frayling, offers the definitive biography and interpretation of the Spaghetti Western maestro, Sergio Leone.
Sunday, April 29 2012
Stranger Magic is an exhaustive compendium of the various tales in the Arabian Nights collection, as well as a robust and energetic investigation into how these stories of “Oriental” myth and folklore have seeped into the European imagination from the 18th century onward.
Wednesday, April 18 2012
James Brown – an untrained musician, mind you, operating on not much more than feel, instinct and desire – revolutionized black pop music, setting off depth charges that would still be exploding a decade hence.
Tuesday, April 10 2012
"Spanish majas wearing traditional peinetas made-in-Spain enhance their legs with imported French stockings; dark Spanish beauties leave Andalusia to sit in front of American typewriters in an office in Barcelona or Madrid; sexy middle-class señoritas speed away on German bicycles."
Monday, April 9 2012
Grunge: Music and Memory casts grunge as the unsure middle weight stepping into the ring against one pop music brawler after another. Down goes Michael Jackson, down goes Guns 'n' Roses, and while Springsteen is putting the finishing touches onHuman Touch/Lucky Town, Nirvana and Pearl Jam release the most influential albums of the decade.
Thursday, March 29 2012
This is a three-dimensional map of intellectual terrain, marked hastily but with enormous detail and vividness in the course of a conversation between two well-regarded historians. They have spread the map out on the hood of your car—or perhaps, in honor of Tony Judt, the map has been handed to you in a train station.
Tuesday, February 28 2012
Dead Stars Tell No Tales: Whitney Houston’s Death Casts New Light Onto Memoirs by Two ‘70s Pop Stars
Just as the winners of the war tend to write the history books, only survivors write memoirs. Nile Rodgers' Le Freak and Gil Scott-Heron's The Last Holiday.
Monday, February 20 2012
Pulitzer Prize winning author Jennifer Egan discusses her unique combination of influences, the role of genre and satire in her work, and the importance of distance in her creative process.
Thursday, January 26 2012
War is a science, science is an art and art, as Library After Air Raid attests, is everything.
Sunday, January 22 2012
Caroline Moorehead's A Train In Winter, like Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost, leaves nothing to the imagination, a decision that makes reading it simultaneously engrossing and deeply disturbing.
Thursday, January 12 2012
Rather than searching for ways around death and disappointment, the queer art of failure involves the acceptance of the finite, the embrace of the absurd, the silly, and the hopelessly goofy.
Thursday, December 15 2011
As "Bill" explores the meaninglessness of celebrity, "Shatner" embraces the shallow and the superficial like an Andy Warhol soup can come to life.
Tuesday, December 6 2011
Apparently seeking to account for every important rock act of the '60s, Greil Marcus turns his critical attention to the Doors.
Tuesday, November 29 2011
What is espionage if not getting into bed with people -- physically or ideologically -- for purposes of betrayal?
Thursday, September 29 2011
Buy this infuriating and brilliant book. But get it in softcover. You'll be throwing it against your wall.
Thursday, August 11 2011
While the practical experiments of laboratories bent on superhuman creations failed as surely as did the subversive aims to spark revolt on the Mongol plains or in the Tibetan monasteries, the lesson of this unbelievable plot lingers in this thoughtful, instructive, and sad testament of grand hopes and puny fates.
Sunday, August 7 2011
A been-there-lived-it-attitude and street-level redemption, all propelled by a songwriter's/storyteller's lyrical and narrative knack.
Thursday, August 4 2011
Jason Zinoman argues that the fantastic, Gothic monsters of the first half of the 20th century were replaced by a New Horror -- the monster right in front of your face.
Thursday, June 30 2011
Most of these films have been studied to death, then autopsied, buried, exhumed, and autopsied again, but Malcolm Turvey unearths some fresh perspectives and in the process, provides a nice corrective to long-misguided notions.
Tuesday, June 28 2011
A contemporary analysis of the main IRA force in its 40 years "from insurrection to parliament", from a participant not in a seminar but a cell, as an operative and not as a professor, a volunteer and a leader of the IRA -- not a reporter.
Wednesday, June 22 2011
This is Bob Dylan as shifting text, not just layered like pages, back or front, or over-laid like a palimpsest, but cross-wise and motile as a termite.
Monday, June 6 2011
The problem with The Pale King is not that it killed a great writer, but that a great writer’s own problems became the narrowing factor for what might have been his greatest work.
Sunday, June 5 2011
All the expertise in the world doesn’t prepare a parent to face the vagaries of American culture that lays itself pink, shiny, and bejewelled at the feet of a young girl.
Friday, May 6 2011
What happens to America's higher education system when humanists meet industrial (and now post-industrial) knowledge managers and technocrats?
Wednesday, April 27 2011
This brisk study encompasses vast learning, marshaled with much wit, considerable venom and steady argument, all doled out in differing amounts.
Wednesday, April 20 2011
Rob Young, editor at The Wire music magazine, conjures up the contradictions of sound technology harnessed to rural moods, and an urban audience longing for antiquarian lore.
Sunday, April 10 2011
Upon this ethical foundation for an entertaining tale, Kevin Holohan follows a satirical tradition which questions authority, undermines cliché, and upends the social order.
Thursday, March 17 2011
When halal turkeys sell for Thanksgiving, "Happy Holidays" drowns out "Merry Christmas", Easter egg hunts replace Mass celebrating the Resurrection, and sacred Catholic terms in Quebec serve only as swear words, culture has parted ways with religion.
Thursday, March 10 2011
Like J.M. Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year, Ill Fares the Land and The Memory Chalet reveal the diverse cross-pollination of public and private speech. Ill Fares the Land ostensibly contains the strong opinions, The Memory Chalet the "soft" opinions.
Thursday, February 17 2011
The essays included in this fine, wide-ranging, thought-provoking volume take pains to remind the reader how every instance of urban dystopia – whether in Mexico, India, Africa or the United States – is shadowed by the particular history and legacy of its geography, culture, and society.
Monday, February 14 2011
While Disintegration contains its share of frank, bracing, straight talk that dispels long-held notions about black Americans, one of Eugene Robinson’s underlying assumptions — that America persists in seeing black people as an experiential monolith — is not the defining absolute it used to be.
Tuesday, February 1 2011
I’ve finally met somebody who possibly loves books more than I do, and certainly knows more about them.
Tuesday, January 11 2011
The Sentimentalists has all of the hallmarks of a book published in Canada circa 1972, full of purple prose, a seemingly anti-American tract, and a classic rural setting, aka: Can-Lit.
Thursday, December 23 2010
Marcus Gray's book about London Calling inspires a journey around the London of the Clash. There's a huge sense of disaffection in this city, a feeling that the government protects only the rich and will leave the poor to suffer the recession – it’s like 1979 all over again, and London is still calling, calling out into an atmosphere of impending catastrophe.
Tuesday, November 23 2010
Because Keith Richards lived the book he’s written, he’s written a book that lives on.
Tuesday, November 16 2010
Rosanne Cash’s lyricism plays on the page as if she’s on stage with guitar in hand. You can hear the music as you read. PopMatters Jaime Karnes talks with this gifted writer of songs and stories.
Thursday, November 11 2010
What the world really needs is a straight-up account of one of the most important rock groups of all time. Now we have it in the form of music scribe Andrew Earles.
Wednesday, November 3 2010
Two new books on the Obama presidency make clear that the dream, such as it was, is over -- though not necessarily in the way you'd think. Whether or not something has actually died, the obituary has already been written for Barack Obama's promise of progressive reform
Monday, October 25 2010
In a conversation with Jerry Robinson, the man who created the Joker, we learn he is much like the superheroes with which he will forever be identified; his career reflects a lifetime of pushing boundaries, challenging conventions, and fighting for artistic integrity.
Sunday, October 17 2010
The 24-hour News Cycle Rhetoric Yields to Something Far More Human in ‘The Promise: President Obama’
This book works because it doesn't skimp on details: the reason behind every major Obama Year One decision is explained, and the result is fascinating. If only Alter toned down the declarative statements...
Monday, October 11 2010
Here is Philip Roth in his familiar, brutal finery, his most biting and honest eloquence: the great existential wondering which has tormented so many of his characters.
Thursday, September 9 2010
In the beginning, Mark Zuckerberg was a socially-awkward teenager, a computer science major at Harvard University, who arrived toting an eight-foot-long whiteboard as a brainstorming tool...
Thursday, August 26 2010
With energy and a candor reflecting a veteran journalist unworried whether she'll eat lunch in that town again or not, author Nicole LaPorte reveals the parallels between the DreamWorks story and that of any dream's road to either reality or perdition.
Wednesday, July 28 2010
The speed of technological change is unprecedented. Author Anna Jane Grossman finds that it has imbued her "with a kind of odd nostalgia for right now.”
Tuesday, July 20 2010
Kerouac and Ginsberg are cosmic twins borne from Whitman’s Universal skull, bonded as comrades, cerebrally-joined as poets -- but it will sour for Kerouac when Ginsberg uses his poetic voice as a political trump card.
Sunday, June 27 2010
Hitchens often remarks here on his being a late bloomer, and so it is that some will see the core of Hitch-22 as the story of the author’s inner journey in adulthood from firebrand '60s campus radical to geezery Tory of the Anglo-American variety.
Monday, May 3 2010
In Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch, she experiences an exclusive corporate culture in America that is disturbingly similar to India's privileged genetic intelligentsia; also know as the caste system.
Sunday, April 18 2010
This is the story of a burly monk in shades, of flesh chasing the divine, of a voice ecstatic in southern blues and gospel and Celtic mysticism.
Thursday, April 8 2010
These guys were geniuses at life: living fully on their own terms, and after all the broken glass, bludgeoned livers, and wrecked relationships, the sum shined brighter than the scattered bits and pieces.
Thursday, April 1 2010
This book comes very close to being a faithful mirror of the endlessly fascinating Harry Smith and, like its subject, will provoke, educate, and entertain in equal measure.
Monday, March 22 2010
This book is part cultural analysis of ‘80s youth films, part trivia, and whole bunch walk down memory lane.
Monday, March 15 2010
Part raucous credo, part comic pilgrim’s progress, this is George Carlin’s celebration of his own human condition and how he became not just a comedian, but a conscience.
Sunday, March 7 2010
The German Issue provides us with a time capsule from a very different era, but so much of its content remains pertinent.
Monday, March 1 2010
We so want our geniuses to be perfect people. Or at least nice people -- and so often they aren’t.
Thursday, February 25 2010
Sociologist Sharon Zukin looks at the forces at play in some of the cooler neighborhoods of New York in this update of Jane Jacobs and the principles of urban revitalization for the 21st century.
Sunday, February 21 2010
A tribute to the signature interwar polymath: the historian, activist, dramatist, dockyard worker and teacher Howard Zinn.