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Unlikely as it may seem, this year’s champion recipient of critical plaudits and book blog buzz is an unfinished 900-page novel in translation. 2666 is the posthumous masterpiece of the Chilean-born writer Roberto Bolañ. At the book’s dark heart is the story of the murders of hundreds of women in the Mexican bordertown of Santa Teresa—a thin fictionalization of real events in Ciudad Juarez. But 2666 also ranges over a dazzling kaleidoscope of other settings,  from postwar Germany to contemporary Detroit. A fine gift for English majors, aspiring writers, globetrotters, expatriates, and anyone with lots of free time.


Eight years of Grace’s ruffled shirts, Will cooking up a storm in the kitchen, Karen’s pill-popping, and “Just Jack”. It’s hard to compare Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace’s (Debra Messing) roommate relationship to any other comedy duo on television; the gay lawyer and straight interior designer have a logic all their own. Mood-swinging wildly from intensely supportive of each other to irredeemably depressed and cranky, without the physical comedy and snappy one-liners this series wouldn’t have lasted for eight years. It was clear from the start, the unusual premise worked because these two actors have fantastic charisma together. Any fan of the long-running series will covet this cleverly packaged 33-disc set, covered in pictures of the fab four pushing the boundaries of the metaphorical box itself, stretching TV comedy in their own special way from 1998 to 2006.

If, like yours truly, you came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there’s a special place in your heart for the crazed combination of marketing and imagination that was Saturday Morning kid’s programming. Amid all the cartoons and chaos, CBS pulled a trio of “next big thing” wannabes out of club gigs and gave them 30 minutes of variety hour vaudeville. The results remain something akin to watching a Borscht Belt comedian drown in a sea of silly string. And just to make matters more insane, the Hudson’s would perform their own massively muzaked version of a rock and roll ‘classic’. Hip… or hopeless? You decide.


“With love to…”, “For whom I couldn’t have written this without…” those touching but oftentimes oblique dedications in novels that may pique our curiosity but go unexplored are a launching point for this dedication to the love of—and the loves (and other things) that inspire—iconic literature. Wagman-Geller delves into dedications in 50 books and comes up with personal and historical influences that may surprise the dedicated reader. Give to the true literature lover in your life, without whom you couldn’t have…


A few weeks ago, Nicholas Carr wrote a post about the end of the blogosphere as an independent, open field in which new writers can bypass the need for vetting by corporate media and rise in popularity through sheer merit.

While there continue to be many blogs, including a lot of very good ones, it seems to me that one would be hard pressed to make the case that there’s still a “blogosphere.” That vast, free-wheeling, and surprisingly intimate forum where individual writers shared their observations, thoughts, and arguments outside the bounds of the traditional media is gone. Almost all of the popular blogs today are commercial ventures with teams of writers, aggressive ad-sales operations, bloated sites, and strategies of self-linking. Some are good, some are boring, but to argue that they’re part of a “blogosphere” that is distinguishable from the “mainstream media” seems more and more like an act of nostalgia, if not self-delusion.

He’s probably right about that, but we should be grateful the old blogosphere was around long enough for Tanta at Calculated Risk to find a wide audience. She was absolutely one of the most lucid and engaging writers on the housing bubble and the mortgage industry, without whom even fewer people would have much of an idea of what happened to our economy in recent years. Tanta, whose name was Doris Dungey, died over the weekend, and will be sorely missed.

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