Before he became the superstar talk show host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah was working the comedy circuits in the US, building up his resume as one of comedy’s most incisive and curious contenders. Incisive because his brand of comedy explores racial topics from an insider’s deeply personal point of view, and curious because, as a South African who lived during apartheid—an experience of which much of his comedy is based on— he was unlike any other up-and-coming stand-up comic out there.
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Subtly violent, at times quite bizarre, Alfred Döblin’s stories of romantic futurism reinforce fairly everything that one has come to assume about German literature. The author, most known and best-loved for his modernist masterpiece, Berlin Alexanderplatz, a darkly epic tale of a convicted man’s struggle with the criminal underworld, is celebrated today as one Germany’s most important figures of the European literati. His stories are often Faustian, disturbing probes into the darker recesses of the psyche which turn up many unpleasant truths.
After Donald Trump’s human smokescreen Kellyanne Conway famously announced that the president was simply presenting the world with “alternative facts”, the connection was quickly made to George Orwell’s 1984. There’s good reason for this. (And while one should be happy for any resulting increase in sales of the book, we shouldn’t presume that it will be any guide to the remaining years of the Trump presidency. More on that below.)
Don’t mistake The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs, written by Padma Laksmi with Judith Sutton and Kalustyans, for an advertisement. Yes, Lakshmi is a Food Network star with model looks, a high-profile divorce, and tell-all memoir. And yes, Kalustyan’s is a specialty market in New York City, famed for its spices.
As for Judith Sutton, hers is a name sharp-eyed cookbook readers come to recognize: the writer who often works the hardest, earns the least, and whose name tends to appear in the smallest print. An experienced cookbook author and co-author, Sutton’s name is reassurance that The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs is a serious work. At no time does the book push Kalyustan’s as a marketplace.
As I wrote this, from the corner of my eye, I could see CNN providing coverage of a gargantuan hurricane, racing resolutely towards the eastern coastal arc of the US, extending from Florida all the way up to the Carolinas. The footage shows fierce winds roiling the waters of the Atlantic; wave after wave, crashing against the shore, slopping out over the edge of the sea wall. It could have been an event such as this that prompted J.G. Ballard to write The Drowned World—a forerunner of a genre, dubbed in the 21st century as “climate-fiction”—in which he paints a nightmare landscape, where the seas have swelled and swallowed up the land.